George Joseph scoured a vast Texas landscape to locate a treatment site with the peacefulness and luxurious amenities that would keep Texas-based clients from going west (namely, to California) for rehab. He became familiar with virtually every bed and breakfast and small hotel around before settling on a lodge-like home nestled on a private 8-acre plateau. Spirit Lodge has been open for business outside Austin since the fall of 2008.
The site's transformation from a family home to a holistic treatment center proved no small feat. The former master bedroom now serves as an exercise facility. A loft area for the former owner's children houses offices. Group rooms are stationed in a former three-car garage structure. About all that didn't have to undergo change were the property's panoramic views of the Texas rolling hills.
“It became a vision of mine three or four years ago to establish a more exclusive [treatment] environment in Texas,” says Joseph, CEO of Spirit Lodge and also chief administrator of The Right Step and its 20 treatment locations. “This setting is very serene, peaceful, private.”
Spirit Lodge's website describes the campus as conveying a “soothing, healing energy.” The comprehensive treatment program involves a commitment of a 35-day treatment stay (typical stays range from 35 to 60 days).
Clients must be at least 25 years old (“Most of our guests have been in their 40s and 50s,” says Joseph), and they are assigned a recovery coach who remains connected to the individual for a full year. The one-year commitment from Spirit Lodge includes a pledge for a free restabilization period for individuals who complete the primary treatment program but later experience a relapse.
“The residents are bonding better, which encourages a longer sobriety.”
The amenities available at Spirit Lodge reflect the maturity of the targeted treatment population. Guests have access to computers and are allowed to use e-mail. Three full-time chefs offer cooking classes out of a fully equipped kitchen. An on-site gym facility employs the services of a personal trainer.
“People who have been to other rehabs are blown away by this,” Joseph says.
Reinforcing a home-like atmosphere, Spirit Lodge even has a house pet, a collie that was given to the center by a neighbor.
Most residents are private-paying clients, with some accessing out-of-network insurance coverage.
“The residents are bonding better, which encourages a longer sobriety,” Joseph says. “They have the benefit of a strong community here.” He adds, “The majority of our guests have come from Texas; we're very pleased.”
Joseph describes Spirit Lodge's overall look as conforming to a Southwest style common in the Austin area. In furnishing the site, he benefited from the design expertise of a sister-in-law who owns a custom furniture business in New Orleans.
Spirit Lodge has a capacity of 24, with eight residents located in the main house and 16 in a separate structure. Men and women are housed separately.
Joseph says he has a number of additional plans in process or on the drawing board to enhance the site's appeal in a highly competitive private-pay market. These ideas range from an outdoor trail to a sport court to a playground where clients could take their visiting children. “We talk about having fun in sobriety, and paying attention to body/mind/spirit,” he says.
Addiction Professional 2011 January-February;9(1):32-33