North County Serenity House (NCSH) is a nonprofit organization in northern San Diego County, California that offers women and mothers residential, outpatient and Intensive Outpatient (IOP) services for substance abuse treatment. It was founded in 1966 by six female alcoholics in recovery through AA. The women first opened a 27-bed home in the early 1970s. The residential program eventually expanded to four homes by 1990.
There are currently two child development centers, one learning center and a transitional care residence for women known as Serenity Village. NCSH offers sober living for women at their Serenity Friendship House. The facilities provide a safe environment for women who are court-mandated for treatment and for those who are experiencing homelessness and unemployment in addition to substance abuse disorders. The philosophy at NCSH is that success in recovery depends on the support of a client’s personal network, in conjunction with her participation in the therapeutic community.
Accommodations and Food
Serenity House is a former hotel in Escondido that houses up to 120 clients, some of whom have children. A typical stay at the residence is 120 days and one year is the maximum length of residence. Rooms hold up to four clients. There are several common rooms and group rooms for meetings. The common spaces have TVs (though no cable) and computers that are reserved for school projects and job hunting. They will soon have Internet access.
Clients share chores, including two meal shifts—lunch and dinner. An on-site staff person serves as kitchen coordinator and prepares a weekly menu for the clients. A continental breakfast is available every morning, offering cereal, fruit, coffee and juice. Lunch and dinner are typically health-oriented and salad bars are available intermittently throughout the week.
Treatment and Staff
The NCSH residential program offers four phases of treatment and an aftercare program. The treatment model is based on the 12-step method of recovery and services are also offered for clients with co-occurring disorders. Clinicians and counselors are on the premises every day.
In the first phase, clients are assigned a “big sister” from the residence to help stabilize them in their new environment. Additionally, each client is assigned to a group that focuses on safety, chemical dependency, relapse prevention and parenting. The second phase of treatment is oriented toward AA/NA. Clients integrate themselves in the program and begin to attend meetings off-site. The third phase offers clients the time and resources to find a steady job. During the fourth phase, clients may stay at Serenity Village or Friendship House. Clients who have children also have groups available to them that specialize in parenting and provide guidance from other mothers in the program.
North County Serenity House also offers IOP and outpatient treatment. The IOP program is designed for clients who are pregnant and/or parenting. Clients attend programs for five days a week, six hours a day. The outpatient program has sessions three nights a week, three hours a night. Each client works with her own case manager and counselor, who assists her by developing an individualized treatment plan. Counseling services include guidance on nutrition, relapse prevention, parenting and anger management.
Children’s services include two developmental centers for children who are up to five years of age.
North County Serenity House serves a high-risk population of women. Clients who have fallen on hard times receive the support they need, including childcare and housing. This program relies heavily on 12-step based treatment, so clients who are looking for more evidence-based treatment may have a difficult time adjusting to that approach. All in all, there is a wealth of opportunity for clients to rebuild their lives with the help of their sober therapeutic community.
North County Serenity House
1341 Escondido Blvd
Escondido, CA 92026
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