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 Still, evidence-based treatment is often superseded by the Big Book.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.
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.
PO Box 1178
Elgin, TX 78621
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