Cottonwood Tucson Reviews, Cost, Complaints

Cottonwood Tucson


Cottonwood TucsonCottonwood Tucson Review

Arizona’s Sonoran Desert has long been a popular site for addiction treatment facilities, and Cottonwood Tucson is one of the more comprehensive 12-step programs among them. Just a few minutes from downtown Tucson, Cottonwood got its start in 1987; they expanded into Albuquerque and Austin shortly after that, though those locations have since closed due to financial difficulties.

Cottonwood is a holistic treatment facility that can handle mood disorders, trauma, addiction, process addictions (gambling, sex, shopping), eating disorders, co-dependency and co-occurring disorders. They use only evidence-based treatment modalities, of which there are many; they’re also partnered with the University of Arizona School of Medicine’s psych department as an official training site—which is either a good or a bad thing, depending on the skill of the residents in question.

Accommodations and Food

Their facility is all adobe-style from the outside with blue-shuttered windows, thatched roofs and mud walls with a brick fountain in front. The location is arid and heavily-cactused on 35 acres in the foothills above Tucson, and all rooms are semi-private with four beds in each (for 74 beds total).

Although privacy isn’t one of the features here, each bed is queen-sized and all rooms come with a work table, attached bathroom (with a shower and two sinks) and dressers by each bed. The rooms are pretty plain but still tastefully decorated, with art on the walls of each room. Group therapy rooms are also pretty basic, with circles of cushioned office chairs and plain carpets.

A nice living situation bonus is Cottonwood’s stellar culinary program, headed by executive chef Richard Serna. Meals include fresh seafood and meats, organic produce and exotic rice and grains; on-site nutritionists also have input to ensure meal plans that are recovery-friendly. Breakfast can include omelets or steel cut oats, lunch ranges from hand-rolled sushi to various sautéed offerings and dinner can be brown rice, chicken breast with goat cheese, asian firecracker beef and so on. There’s really no limit here, food-wise—their gourmet team even pays careful attention to the plating of all these offerings. And Cottonwood’s food program won an award from PETA in 2008 for being vegetarian friendly; chefs are also willing to accommodate dietary and religious restrictions whenever necessary.

Treatment and Staff

All programs at Cottonwood begin with a thorough medical and psych assessment as well as a bio-psycho-social screen. On-site medical detox is available, though there are only eight detox beds available (all in the nursing station—this section of the facility has a more clinical feel to it, though the décor is somewhat more homey and Southwestern).

Their treatment program is holistic and stresses an exhaustive list of evidence-based methodologies. Their all-inclusive treatment plan includes group and individual therapy, step work, EMDR, EKG (electrocardiograms to check heart health), acupuncture, nutritional assessments, yoga, experiential therapy (including music, art, psychodrama and equine), educational lectures, off-campus AA meetings, nicotine-cessation groups, psych testing and medication (when necessary). Not included are extra snacks, tests for neurological disorders and any elective beauty options (haircuts, manicures); residents should bring some extra cash for any spending they intend to do.

While religion isn’t emphasized per se, Cottonwood does stress spirituality. Their campus has a 12-step prayer walk that begins with the Serenity Prayer and has stations for each step (so residents can pause for reflection). A typical day at Cottonwood begins at 7 am; between then and 8:30 there’s morning meditation, yoga and breakfast. After that comes “barn time,” where residents can have equine therapy sessions. From then onward there’s quite a lot of variance between the activities mentioned above, but days generally end with a wrap-up meetings at 9 pm; schedules vary week-to-week and day-to-day.

Treatment at Cottonwood also boasts a comprehensive family program composed of five eight-hour days. That week includes educational groups, communication training, multi-family sessions and one-on-one sessions. Aftercare planning is also part of every treatment program offered by Cottonwood.

The employees at Cottonwood are one of its true strong points, and many of them have personal experience with addiction. The staff is approximately 35 not including the administrative end, almost evenly split between medical help (including several on-site MDs, nurses and psychiatric staff) and addiction counselors.

The staff has between five to 12 years of experience each on average and because of crossover from Cottonwood’s relationship with the University of Arizona, many of them have also published articles about addiction and the efficacy of various treatment methodologies (too many to include, though here are a few).


Cottonwood has quite a few extras attached; perhaps most notable are there specialized program tracks including their Sweetwater Girls Program, Young Adult track and their InnerPath series. Sweetwater is an all-female adolescent program for troubled and addicted girls which includes four hours a day of schooling, group and individual therapy, a complete wellness plan (with emphasis on nutrition and exercise), trauma therapy, educational sessions, experiential therapies and aftercare planning. The young adult program is similar except co-ed, and also features age-specific 12-step groups.

Their InnerPath series is a set of workshops lasting five days that give clients insight into more generalized life issues on top of addiction; it’s basically a compressed version of their main treatment in the form of a personal transformation seminar. The InnerPath series includes many of the treatment methods listed above, and comes in three varieties: one for women, one for general transformations and one for families.

Bonus therapies and activities spread among all programs include a wooden rock climbing wall, Tai Chi, a ropes course, recreational therapy including martial arts lessons and an acudetox (acupuncture specifically executed to reduce drug cravings). The facility also does some community outreach—they have their own environmental sustainability committee, and facilitate residents helping with the local Salvation Army’s Adopt-A-Family program, which sponsors families who can’t afford Christmas presents.

In Summary

In all, Cottonwood Tucson has basically everything one could want for an addict seeking a 12-step program—from the staff to the food to the treatment, no stone is left unturned here. With a seemingly good reputation in the recovery community and a slew of add-ons, Cottonwood is likely a safe treatment choice for those who can afford it.

Cottonwood Tucson Location

4110 W. Sweetwater Dr.
Tucson, AZ 85745

Cottonwood Tucson Cost

$29,850 inpatient (30 days adjusted). Sweetwater Girls Program $16,500 (30 days adjusted). Reach Cottonwood Tucson by phone at (800) 877-4520. Find Cottonwood Tucson on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube

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



  1. Elizabeth Collins on

    All treatment programs require effort on the part of those participating in treatment. This is why people may go to rehab or seek treatment multiple times, as many studies have proven the efficacy of a treatment program depends on the willingness to accept treatment. That being said, I think Cottonwood de Tuscon really tries their best to provide “holistic” plans for recovery and they are really good about individualizing programs to patients. “Holistic” in the context of treatment generally indicates efforts to improve multiple aspects of participant health beyond typical psych treatment which would involve talk therapy and medication. “Holistic” does necessarily mean homeopathic medicine (e.g. the use of herbal remedies) but rather seeks to improve the livelihood of patients (e.g. by ensuring exercise and proper diet). Furthermore, as someone who has been in and out of treatment for suicide attempts etc., I cannot stress the value of pursuing treatment in a warm and beautiful environment enough. In an ugly hospital setting that smells like Lysol, the focus immediately becomes “get me out of here” rather than focus on recovery. Furthermore, every single treatment center has to have a psychiatrist that prescribes medicine, and it can take up to two weeks for the effects of medicines to be known, and thus why sometimes psychiatrists keep patients on medications that may not be effective. However, this trial and error process is exactly the same outside of a treatment center, and ideally, a treatment center is a safer environment for this process to take place. Furthermore, in the financial packets sent prior to treatment, Cottonwood is very clear about their policies revolving around insurance, particularly that it is your responsibility to receive reimbursement directly from insurance if Cottonwood is out of network (which it probably is because it’s not a hospital). That being said, the admissions office is more than happy to work with you and work out payment methods, and due diligence on the part of the person paying indicates that this should be established ahead of time. Lastly, no treatment program is guaranteed to work, but it is always better to try. Listen to your gut. Cottonwood is widely recommended by psychiatrists and counselors for a reason, and the negative experiences shared here should also be taken into consideration. However, it appears that the vast majority of people who visit this center improve in some way, and the extent of improvement depends on how much participants “put into it.” If you have the funds, give it a shot.

  2. When it comes to insurance, treatment centers have little to no input on how much (if any) people get reimbursed. Insurance companies are the real scammers! Cottonwood is a small, family-owned business and cannot afford to get “reimbursed” only $30/day for their patients. It is expensive to offer quality, individualized treatment. It is a loving and compassionate environment where people heal. The help I received was life-changing and I will never forget it.

  3. Extremely disappointed! Cottonwood is a waste of time and money. There is no follow through after release. Cottonwood refused to listen to family members and friends to get a complete understanding and history. My family is now suffering and in worst condition than before she entered Cottonwood.

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  5. Cottonwood saved my life. The staff was highly professional. All licensed professionals, doctors and nurses. I particularly liked that they had a pharmacy on site with a Pharmacist who met with me about the medications I was taking. We loved the week long family program. We started to understand that it’s a family recovery. To this day I am still connected with the aftercare staff. The alternative strategies they use and the coping skills I learned help me to live life on life’s terms daily. I was able to get 100% reimbursed for my stay at CW. The fact that I had the courage to invest in myself was a step in the right direction that I will never regret.

  6. Cottonwood de Tucson was a complete scam and waste of time and emotions. I left this facility in much worse condition and quite traumatized. It was a a joke, my 1-1’s, for the most part, were untrained, the nursing unit was completely incompetent. Yes, the facility is lovely and the food and housing is nice but in the end that stuff doesn’t matter; the treatment does. The staff took absolute advantage over having my rights in their possession. They treated me unjustly.

    • Jill,
      My wife has a horrible experience there end of last year, Cottonwood over billed for services never rendered, over medicated, and now are suing me for demand of payment in full. I will make it my mission to prevent anyone else from having to experience this by sharing our story. Cottonwood seams to think they own your experiences and story after you leave. They are in for a big surprise.
      They never even tried to see what insurance would pick up; they indicated they could discount for those who pay out of pocket, and then lied about it. This is but a beginning.

    • Cottonwood is now being sued by the family of a patient who committed suicide while in treatment at the facility. He died after jumping off the roof of one of the facility’s buildings when an unattended ladder was left leaning against the building and leading up to the roof. It is reported that this patient told nurses the morning of his death that he was suicidal and refused to “contract for safety.” After that, the patient was left unattended until he jumped off the building.

  7. Although we were told that the insurance team would be diligent about helping us work through to have claims processed through our insurance, we are out a total of $65k plus as Cottonwood – Tucson dropped the ball from the start by not confirming pre authorization of services although it was well known and advised the treatment was necessary. Cottonwood refuses to help finalize the insurance steps and has moved on now that they have received our money. Unconscionable.

    • My family also got scammed/conned out of close to $10,000 in insurance money there at Cottonwood, Cottonwood ended up keeping all the insurance reimbursement claims. The owner and management of that place are deceitful and they seem to care much more about $$ than helping and treating people. So be very diligent and careful if you submit a loved one there. Read all the paperwork you sign carefully and get everything management/owner(s) tells you in writing.
      On the brighter side the therapists and general staff seem to be very nice and caring.

  8. Although we were told that the insurance team would be diligent about helping us work through have claims processed through our insurance, we are out a total of $65k plus as Cottonwood dropped the ball from the start by not confirming pre authorization of services although it was well known and advised the treatment was necessary. Cottonwood refuses to help finalize the insurance steps and has moved on now that they have received our money. Unconscionable.

    • Andrea,
      Our experience exactly. They never even tried to work with insurance company, indicated they would discount it if I had to pay out of pocked, then proceeded to lie. In addition they don’t have a clue what “hollistic” means. In fact, they would rather sedate and over drug then to use other healthier methods. They are also billing us for days not spent there. I am just starting with what I will call a campaign to educate the poor souls that are sold a bad of crap.

      • can we talk Ed ? Its such a great web site and I want to believe it because my daughter needs help. But I need to do my research so …..

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