Celebrities help drive rise in Arizona rehab tourism

Above: Photo courtesy of Sierra Tucson Business News | 16 Nov |

The majestic views of the Grand Canyon, an abundance of intertwined landscapes of the Coconino National Forest in Flagstaff, luxury resorts beckoning you to stay and weather that favors recreational outdoor activities year-round — Arizona is a desert oasis to residents and travelers alike. Recently, Arizona has become a rehab tourism destination for celebrities — including Harvey Weinstein, Selena Gomez, Tiger Woods and Kevin Spacey — who have found themselves in hot water and traveled to Arizona for treatment for everything from alcoholism to drug addiction to sex addiction.

Since Chris Cohn, founder and owner of Scottsdale Recovery Center, created the facility in 2008, it has become a premier drug and alcohol treatment center in Arizona with highly trained professionals that provided top-notch care for about 550 people in 2017.

“I determined that there was a need for a strong and passionate drug and alcohol recovery program in Scottsdale,” Cohn says. “I filled that void by hiring the best, experienced therapists I could find … and I let them do what they’re best at, and that’s creating incredible drug rehab programs.”

Scottsdale Recovery Center assists people in the healing process through diverse programs that help people have long-term success with sobriety — in part to some therapists who are in recovery as well, a few with 20 or 30 years of sobriety, Cohn says.

“They’re not just here to get a paycheck,” Cohn says, “it’s because they’re truly passionate about helping people with their addiction and giving them lifelong sobriety.”

Targeting demographics

The center has two programs for different age groups — one for ages 18 to 35 and another for 35 and older, which Cohn says they designed because people tend to feel more comfortable with others their own age, which creates a more relaxed environment in drug rehab programs.

These programs are unique to Scottsdale Recovery Center and the environment and program is tailored toward each demographic. They help young adults create solid foundations designed to minimize the likelihood for future relapse while increasing quality of living within sobriety on many levels. They also have structured programs for men’s and women’s recovery that include guided meditation classes, recovery-based yoga, fun and adventurous outings and social events for effective treatment on clinical, physical and spiritual levels.

Cohn says he is most proud of their trauma PTSD program, which has shown incredible results with EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), which treats PTSD, addiction, trauma and stress by rewiring the neuropathways in the brain.

According to a survey published by the Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, 41,929 clients received treatment at 341 treatment facilities in Arizona in 2017, making Arizona 12th highest in the country for the number of patients treated.

Cohn says he thinks discretion is a key reason people and celebrities seek and receive treatment in Arizona.

“There isn’t this starstruck feeling when they come here,” he says. “I understand they deserve the same amount of privacy, respect and confidentiality that everyone else does and we take that really seriously.

“It’s great for people who come from out of state because they can get out of their home environment and into a place where they don’t know a lot of people,” Cohn continues. “We can get them focused on their sobriety and it’s great for them to get a change of pace to reset their mind and get their feet on the ground.”

The Arizona air

That feeling of solace in the Arizona air is reflected by Sierra Tucson, which had 83 percent of its residents come from out of state in 2018 and 85 percent in 2017.

“We are located in the Catalina Mountains and so our views are absolutely incredible and there is a lure associated with this land and that we are built on sacred land,” says Jaime Vinck, CEO of Sierra Tucson. “When people come to the desert seeking healing, often times it is associated with depression. With addiction, there’s physical pain that goes along with your emotional pain and the desert can be an extremely healing, nurturing experience.”

Cohn says the state has a reputation for its healing.

“I think that Arizona’s history deeply supports healing, I think beginning with the centuries of Native American tradition such as herbs and prayers,” Cohn says. “We offer a lot of Native American-type treatment modalities … we do a lot of holistic treatments, recovery-based yoga, meditation, equine therapy, energy healing…a lot of that started here in Arizona with the Native American traditions that we honor here. I think the natural surroundings and simple life that Arizona has to offer is great, and obviously the weather here plays a factor. A lot of clients come from the East Coast to get sober for 30, 60 or 90 days, and the weather is usually pretty great.”

Scottsdale Recovery Center also takes weekly outings to Sedona and Flagstaff and people can participate in outdoor therapeutic activities, which Cohn says is always great for their recovery.

Sierra Tucson’s 160-acre campus and breathtaking views of the Santa Catalina Mountains contribute to the healing process in recovery and success with sobriety. Since 1983, Sierra Tucson has been a world-class leader in residential treatment with dedicated staff developing and implementing integrative programs that yield effective outcomes.

Vinck says in the past four to five years, Sierra Tucson has transitioned from being a treatment center for celebrities and people with high net-worth and providing confidential treatment, to offering an integrative model of care for many people.

“We are also dually-licensed, so we no longer just treat addiction, we also treat primary mental health diagnoses,” Vinck says. “We’re finding many people who are struggling with depression, anxiety and trauma, and they deserve a place to go and heal as well.”

Secret of success

Part of Sierra Tucson’s success is credited to its multi-disciplinary approach, where everybody who is admitted to the residential program is assessed by a team of experts, including a physician, psychologist, therapist and often a nutritionist, says Aaron Wilson, chief medical officer, Sierra Tucson.

“The team of providers will meet with them and based on that information, tailor the treatment to them, and that is the model we subscribe to,” he says. “Because the rubber stamp approach to treatment doesn’t work, we create an individualized treatment plan to make sure their needs are addressed.”

Through their program, they aim to reduce a trend that Wilson calls the “revolving door of treatment,” where people receive treatment at multiple facilities during their recovery because underlying problems might not have been addressed previously.

“The sustainability of the change happens in a place like Sierra Tucson because we look at outcomes to measure that progress and we delve into the root of the problem, so looking at trauma, substance abuse, depression, anxiety and grief,” he says.

This integrated approach to treatment through their Sierra Tucson Model involves programs with strong diagnostics, evidence-based techniques, holistic resident-focused care and emphasizes the involvement of family during treatment for lifelong success for recovery.

In addition to thorough and unique treatment for patients, Sierra Tucson provides support through various programs to continue to develop meaningful relationships with patients that help them achieve and maintain sobriety. Sierra Tucson’s Connect 365 program provides a year of continuous support after treatment with access to a nationally certified recovery coach and a mobile app, which Vinck says is customized to reinforce good habits patients learned in treatment, such as setting daily intentions, expressing gratitude and holistic wellness including nutrition and exercise tips.

“We also have a very active and comprehensive alumni program,” Vinck says. “We have an annual retreat in October and 150-200 people come back. We participate in workshops and they get to come back to campus, which is that touchstone of where their healing began.”

While treatment is a process that takes patience, introspection, effort, and support from family and friends, people have found Arizona to be a sanctuary in the Southwest, a place to heal, learn, and have better quality of life and success with long-term sobriety.

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