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It's cognitive-behavioral, but it's not 'treatment'

October 5, 2011
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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Retreats’ educational model allows company to succeed with home-based classes

Traditional addiction treatment centers likely would find it difficult to maintain the continuity of their services if the recipients of their efforts were not physically present. For Amsterdam, N.Y.-based Saint Jude Retreats, a transition to home-based offerings has been easy to manage because their services for people with substance use problems are presented as education, not treatment.

Billing themselves on their website as “the leading, original non 12 Step program,” Saint Jude Retreats recently launched a new version of its home program, which in today’s shaky economy is becoming a desirable alternative to the three retreats where individuals stay for six weeks of classes. The cost of Saint Jude Retreats’ six-week educational program ranges from about $11,000 to $18,000, while books and materials for the at-home study cost $200, explains Saint Jude Retreats co-founder Mark Scheeren.

Scheeren says Saint Jude Retreats was established about 20 years ago as an alternative to the disease model approach. “We teach people how to rebuild their lives,” he says, and this in turn results in alcohol or drugs ceasing to be a component of their existence.

The retreats’ residents are called “guests,” not “patients” or “clients.” The curriculum is described by the trademarked Cognitive Behavioral Education (CBE), but this is not cognitive-behavioral therapy, and the education has a predetermined duration.

“Cognitive-behavioral therapy suggests an implied relationship of parent to child,” says Scheeren. “Here the person’s on the same plane as the educator.”
He adds, “You have to learn this information in six weeks, and then our job is over.”

Saint Jude Retreats is regulated by the state Health Department as a temporary living establishment, not by the state substance abuse agency (since it is not a treatment facility). Scheeren says that at present about 60% of its guests have not succeeded in treatment settings, while about 40% believe from the start that a disease model approach to addressing their problem is not for them.

Saint Jude Retreats’ home program consists of 22 hourlong online classes, while those who attend the retreats receive two classes a day over six weeks.

Data on Saint Jude Retreats’ website include information on a Clearwater Research, Inc. analysis indicating a 62% long-term sobriety rate for the organization’s guests.

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