The back story story behind Washington-based rehab The Clearing is a unique one: Back in the 90s, Betsy Koelzer was struggling with addiction. She tried 12-step, hated it and went to a Malibu rehab. Though she chose to work with the spiritual counselor there as a joke, her experience with Dr. Scott Alpert was life changing—so much so that years later, she, her husband Joe and Alpert opened this anti-12-step center on San Juan Island.
Accommodations and Food
Residents are housed in an eight-bed rehab in a renovated farmhouse (and ex-bed-and-breakfast) on a working 64-acre farm. House chefs prepare three home-style meals and two snacks daily with locally sourced food, and, with only one shared bedroom, most residents get private rooms with desks, easy chairs and attached bathrooms.
Treatment and Staff
The Clearing has a selective and in-depth admissions policy for their 28-day program, which means that they only accept those with “willingness and ability to authentically participate” in what they offer. Their dual diagnosis program treats everything from addiction to eating disorders, though there’s no on-site detox; in fact, the center has no on-site medical personnel at all besides staff psychologist Dr. Alpert.
Staff-to-client ratios are high, though the counselors have some strange qualifications, including being able to take clients on Inner Journey Adventures and, most uniquely, helping them to communicate with “Light Beings from the other side.” The Clearing puts a high premium on openness and love, but it’s sure to be a quirky experience when the founder lists “being the only student [at her university to]voluntarily repeat the first year to deepen her experience” as an accomplishment.
Also unusual is the fact that each group of residents enters and graduates together to avoid disrupting in-group bonding; in addition to all that togetherness, each patient gets 120 hours of workshops, group and individual counseling. They’re heavy on psychotherapy—modalities include CBT, RET and gestalt therapy as well as neuro-linguistic programming. There are also therapy projects like animal care and gardening, though farm work isn’t expected or mandatory.
The Clearing’s opaque spiritual psychology program is based on 21 principles adapted from the work of Drs. Ron and Mary Hulnick of the University of Santa Monica (which The Clearing’s founders all attended); though if all that sounds a bit dicey, it’s not too different from the inner-child work of the Meadows’ John Bradshaw and new-age authors like Gary Zukav—essentially, it’s psychology that stresses perception checking, gratitude and “positive self talk.” The end goal is meant to unlock what Joe Koelzer calls spiritual-level emotions: unconditional love, forgiveness and harmony.
While laptops and phones are prohibited, residents can check out both from the center to stay in contact with loved ones. The last three days of the program are the family workshop, where residents and their families come together to heal any triangulation.
All esotericism aside, the Clearing offers a guarantee: if participants relapse (or their psychological issues return), they can repeat the program for free (fine print: space permitting, with alternative therapies still extra). Though The Clearing expects payment up-front, they offer scholarships and loans and claim to work aggressively with insurance companies for reimbursement; unlike many treatment centers out there, The Clearing is also fully transparent about their cost.
Daily life from Monday to Saturday means active sessions and therapies while Sunday is free for visitors and residents to hike, kayak or day trip to picturesque local towns. In addition to heavy doses of some of the esoteric therapies listed above, The Clearing offers (for an extra cost) more standard alternative therapies like acupuncture, yoga, Reiki and nutrition counseling.
While an undoubtedly unique and loving program, The Clearing’s track record is still unproven. Addicts might want to look elsewhere unless the approach described here profoundly resonates.
2687 West Valley Rd
Friday Harbor, WA 98250
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Photo courtesy of By Jelson25 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons (resized and cropped)