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 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.
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
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