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Posted: Aug 31, 2004 15:34


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Adolescent Treatment Centers
Malibu, California
John Lieberman, Director of National Outreach

Visit by: Lon Woodbury April 1, 2004

Located on 12 acres on a ridge up Malibu Canyon, this substance abuse program is a stand alone dual diagnosis program serving up to 10 boys and girls ages 13 to 17. It has a home appearance and the personal and common rooms are very well kept. The grounds were immaculate, with benches here and there for counseling sessions. Just below the main house were small garden plots, and as part of the program, each resident maintains his/her own garden plot. A visitor’s first impression is of a serene setting where nothing distracts the students from the serious business of dealing with their chemical addictions and regaining control over their lives. They purposely choose this property to have a sense of isolation, while at the same time offering easy access to the ocean and making it easier for parents to visit. Family work is an integral part of the program.

We had a chance to visit with the residents in the dining room. They were polite and most openly talked about their experiences and their reasons for coming to Visions. As we talked with the residents’, their reactions were dramatically different, one girl was totally closed off to talking about herself or even talking to strangers, yet others were quite open and looked forward to what they would be doing after completing the program. The residents exhibited a wide comfort range that largely appeared to indicate their length of time in the program and how much impact the program had had on them as individuals.

Residents commit to at least a 45 day stay and often choose to stay longer. While chemical addiction is the main diagnosis, the program screens out those needing detoxification, those with recent suicide attempts, and/or behaviors which include excessive violence, fire setting and severe psychiatric conditions. Those accepted recognize that they have a serious substance abuse problem, but Visions also works with a wide range of other problems including “emotional, developmental, physical, psychological, familial, social and cultural” issues. Their goal is to work with the whole child.

The program is intense, with 36 staff working with the residents. That includes a psychiatrist and a nurse on staff, psychologists, masters’ level therapists, and activity therapists. Upon enrollment, a comprehensive assessment is done, collecting information from all sources including family, schools, and any previous therapists and providers.

The program is designed to work with the whole family and each family member is expected to participate. Part of the enrollment process is to interview each family member and have those family members fill out a “Family Assessment Form,” indicating their perceptions of the problems and areas they would like to see improved.” After all this, a “Family Treatment Plan” is developed. Family members are highly encouraged to attend on Saturdays, which is devoted to this component. These sessions might include individual therapy sessions, family sessions and multi-family sessions when there are common issues among more than one family.

Wake up time is 7 a.m. devoted to breakfast, some kind of quiet meditation and clean up chores. The rest of the morning is spent on academics, with each resident working on their home school curriculum. This allows the student to be caught up on their academics when they return home after completing the program. Below the main building is the academic building with well-equipped classrooms. This building and classrooms, also double for group sessions on Saturdays.

The afternoons are devoted to a variety of therapy components that include individual therapy, process groups, personal reflection time and journal writing. Equine therapy is also one of the tools used by the program.

After dinner, the residents attend AA/CA/NA meetings, with art therapy on Wednesday evenings. Sunday mornings are devoted to a Spirituality group, and the afternoon can include field trips to the surrounding area.

This program began operating three years ago, and is the result of several years of planning by the owners and at the request of the medical and recovery communities for “a comprehensive yet intimate treatment approach.”

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