Burning Tree Reviews, Costs, Complaints

Burning Tree


[block]0[/block]Burning Tree Review

Founded by David Elliott in 1999, Burning Tree is a long-term rehab intended to break the cycle of chronic relapse. The average stay is eight to 12 months. Described by some as “The Navy Seals of treatment,” Burning Tree doles out tough love and discipline for addicts who have failed to recover in more lenient rehabs where time can be measured in days.

Accommodations and Food

Texas is home to both of Burning Tree’s long-term centers. Burning Tree Ranch, located near Dallas in Kaufman, has 36 beds. The aesthetic is 100% Lone Star State, with steers’ heads decorating the wood-paneled walls of the “great room.” Actual horses browse the gorgeous grounds, though equine therapy is not part of the treatment protocol. Just east of Austin in the town of Elgin, Burning Tree Lodge has 30 beds and grounds that include a small gated pool, a garden and a basketball court. Both facilities feature big skies and sprawling green surroundings. Residents are assigned to a facility based on their treatment needs, as there is slight variation in staff specialization between the two centers. It’s not uncommon for clients to begin at the Lodge and transfer to the Ranch. The clientele skews male and a little bit white-collar, and bedrooms are shared.

There are no chefs—residents switch off cooking dinner for the group, with guidance from a staff member.

Treatment and Staff

Treatment is firmly rooted in 12-step philosophy, though there are therapists on hand and psychiatrists on call. Clients must detox before arriving, and those using Suboxone or methadone (which are never prescribed at Burning Tree) will be promptly weaned off. Psychiatric medications are permitted and prescribed but strictly regulated. Co-occurring disorders, including PTSD, ADHD, panic and mood disorders, are treated with an “integrated” approach that incorporates CBT, EMDR and neurofeedback (for an extra charge). Still, evidence-based treatment is often superseded by the Big Book. Residents undergo two phases of treatment. Before graduating from the more restrictive Phase 1 to the expanded freedoms of Phase 2, residents must demonstrate “self motivation and internalization of recovery-sustaining values and habits.”

The daily schedule at Burning Tree is highly regimented, with a heavy rotation of 12-step meetings, group sessions, and quite a bit of serious cleaning.  Entertainment is on a tight leash. Books and music are screened and confiscated if they don’t gel with spiritual principles. Internet use is not allowed, and TV is limited to weekends. Residents get two five-minute phone calls per week—one to their sponsors and one to their families. However, the mandatory three-day family program ensures that families are involved in the treatment process.


Fitness opportunities include yoga, swimming and the gym, and regular massages are available for an extra charge. On Saturdays, residents who have progressed to Phase 2 can venture offsite for service trips or even to Six Flags.

In Summary

Burning Tree has spawned a solid network of alumni who go back for reunions. It’s not for the faint of heart, but addicts who have tried cushy, holistic and empowering and found that none of them have worked may find Burning Tree to be the spiritual boot camp needed.

Burning Tree Location

PO Box 1178
Elgin, TX 78621

Burning Tree Cost

$9,000 (30 days, 8-12 month stay). Reach Burning Tree at (866) 287-2877 or by email at [email protected]. Find Burning Tree on Twitter and Facebook

Do you have a complaint or review of Burning Tree to add?  Use the comments area below to add your Burning Tree review.  



  1. Burning Tree saved my life. After countless attempts at other rehabs, I felt hopeless and so did my family. Thought I was just going to die of this disease. Burning Tree treats this disease as it is…..something that can kill any one of us at anytime. Don’t get me wrong—Burning Tree is very tough, but only because I came in selfish, manipulative, dishonest, stubborn/resistant, in self pity (we all do…it’s how we get by in the drug world) and obviously that all had to change if I were to live sober. Burning Tree is a program of honesty, integrity, accountability, structure, discipline, community, and support…all that I lacked and all that every one of these people who are posting lacked. It’s hard to change.. hence why some of them are leaving hate responses. It doesn’t feel good to change and make changes, everyone can understand what I mean by that. My solution to feeling better had always been drugs and alcohol…and I didn’t have that anymore. Burning Tree gave me the possibility and support to change; I didn’t always like it or enjoy it because it was hard and uncomfortable work, but I did change and through that change I gained 30 or so friends who were in there with me and going through the change with me. Some of the staff are alumni and all of the staff are in recovery. They do this because they want to help save lives, not to trap people for money that is just ridiculous and a resentful statement.

    I now have over 4 years sober from addiction and from alcoholism that was quickly killing me. I now feel comfortable in my skin. I now have an amazing relationship with my family and best friends I confide in and support. I’m getting married this year and have an amazing job. My life has drastically changed for the better, and I never thought this was possible.

    I wanted to leave this post so someone who is seeing the hate mail below can read some truth from someone who isn’t resentful and from someone who stayed and changed as a result of Burning Tree. Please don’t let the negative, resentful comments of people deter you from sending your loved one if they are a chronic relapser who cannot stay sober.

  2. My God do not got too this place, they will ruin your life and lie to you and your family! they bank on telling desperate families on what they want to hear…David Elliot is a spoiled old fat rich kid gone wild …it is a cult/scam out of 30 or so people i was there with only 2 made it and they are totally devoid…they will make you homeless with no remorse…they literally tell your family to never contact you again if you don’t jump threw there hoops, all they do is shame you and its 2 years not 12 months … these guys have destroyed peoples lives…ide rather go back to marine bootcamp .

    • Patrick,
      Do they really keep people there for two years now? I am a former client, too, and six years later, I still have nightmares about that place. It was like Dante’s 10th circle of hell. If only I could forget it. I’m still not convinced that some of their practices were legal. It was also a big red flag for me that staff cut clients off from family members and friends, sometimes even those who were supportive. Burning Tree liked to say that us clients were the “classic manipulators,” but in reality, I think they are the real experts. They preyed on families’ vulnerability and concern for their loved ones. They manipulated family members and preyed on their fears, so that families would team up with staff against the client and sign on to keeping them in-house for as long as possible. Never mind what the client wanted. Never mind if the program was even helping that person. All they saw was a paycheck. Dollar signs danced in their eyes. Clients who disagreed with staff were deemed “classic manipulators” who “can’t be trusted.” This became an old tired line after a while. Clearly, it was the one trick they relied on to shame clients into submission. They also used this line whenever they couldn’t rationally defend their position. It’s how they discredited dissenting clients, no matter how valid their argument may have been. Anyway, I left there early. The program was a joke. It wasn’t working. I never received quality therapy, only Big-Book-thumping nonsense. It was like some kind of twisted church that substituted the Big Book for the Bible. I had to get out. I put in my request to leave early, and in the meantime, I played by the rules just so I could get my driver’s license back. I relapsed right away, but only because it was a long time in the making. After months of enduring shame and humiliation from BTL staff (and some brainwashed clients), alcohol seemed to promise the only relief in sight. In part, I drank to forget the three months of hell I had endured.
      Staff used to say that Burning Tree was the only way and that anyone who left early would wind up homeless, dead, or in some ghetto prostituting themselves for drugs. Well, that didn’t happen. What did happen was that, about a year later, I finally got sober. And I stayed sober DESPITE Burning Tree, not because of it. Despite the three months of hell I went through at Burning Tree, I made it out alive. And I was able to get the quality treatment I needed that they simply could not provide. I even got sober without A.A.. Now, that doesn’t mean that my way would work for everybody. But, it does mean that different things work for different people, and anyone who suggests otherwise is a fool. The rage I felt from my experience at Burning Tree has motivated me to reclaim my power and take charge of my life, though. I realized that, if I was ever going to have any say in my life, and live any kind of life worth living, I had to straighten myself out. I had to get sober – and stay sober. Now, I am in graduate school, and I hope to use my experience to help others and to advocate for them the way I wished someone had advocated for me.

  3. Justin D. Toney on

    I want to echo all the negative sentiments about Burning Tree. It’s abusive, dishonest, and negligent — by design. I will write more when I get a chance. But do NOT send a loved one to this facility.

  4. Absolute dump and cultlike. Should be illegal. Shamed and screamed at for no reason, shamed on appearance and causes ptsd. Won’t allow residents to pick out their own food trays. Psychotic and should be shut down

  5. Whatever you do, DO NOT SEND YOUR LOVED ONE TO BURNING TREE!!! I was there for almost ten months.
    The mind games, manipulation and fear tactics make it a place of horror and stress, not of recovery. There are so many other options in Texas and across USA, there is no need for you to punish your loved one with the Burning Tree regime.

    I have been back home for 5 months now, and my current counselor has indicated I surely have PTSD from the Burning Tree experience. Dot be fooled by the propaganda and fear mongering, there are much better ways to treat any addiction than to submit your loved one to the Burning Tree Program.

    They are so poorly run that their treatment costs could easily be reduced by 25-30%, but that would take $$ out of the owners pocket. The facilities are dated, the food is horrendous and the daily requirements of the clients lend NOTHING to long term recovery.

    While I was there, there was a breach of health information privacy, not good for a Treatment Centre.

    The treatment team does the best they can, but there is an override from the owner, who believes he deserves to be directly involved with clients (EVEN THOUGH HE IS NOT QUALIFIED) just more fear and intimidation when he is in the room; and the staff just have to support it or loss their jobs. What a joke!

    There are other options, please explore them.

  6. My sister went to Burning Tree. She started out in Elgin and then moved to the Kaufman ranch. She was there for almost a year. I was so relieved to finally find a place, other than jail, that my sister could go to and have enough time to learn how to live a sober life. I can honestly say that Burning Tree employees take their client’s lives very seriously. Let’s remember that the individuals that attend Burning Tree are “CHRONIC RELAPSERS.” This means that the clients have already experienced a variety of sobriety techniques… and guess what, they didn’t stay sober! These people are literally fighting for their lives, so yes, if people decide not to follow the program, they may have consequences like not talking for one day. It may sound cold, but I was happy to see a place actually keeping my sister accountable, and not letting her completely manipulate the situation by playing the victim (she is very good at this). The “tough love” technique, that everyone is bashing, helped my sister to stop being defensive/resisting everything, and to start being more honest and willing.
    It was a long journey that was not easy. But it gave my sister another chance at life, and she’s still sober.

  7. My name is Joanne, and I was in the residential program at Burning Tree, Dallas from 2011 to 2012. The dedicated staff always told me the truth and took the disease I almost died from very seriously.
    the tools I was taught and allowed to demonstrate have enabled me to be sober, productive and happy. I have an awesome life today and restored relationships with my family. Thank you Burning Tree for giving me a life I never could have imagined

  8. Judy Roscher on

    I,too, went to Burning Tree! My time there was horrid. I left the facility after constantly being lied to. Once I left I returned to the court system. At that time Burning Tree came to court and lied under oath about my performance while I attended there. I was shocked!! I was sent to prison( thank God). Upon my release I went to Starlite rehab. I now have been clean and sober for 8yrs. I tell all who will listen not to go to Burning Tree!!!

  9. Burning tree needs help in every aspect a treatment could possibly require. Do not go there the ceo is a midget and the staff are horrible human beings.

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