On the Western side of Great Britain not far from bustling Liverpool is Open Minds, a multi-phase drug and alcohol program that offers abstinence-based treatment to clients 18 years and older. Additionally, those who are sober but need ongoing counseling or relapse prevention can also claim a bed at Open Minds.
Accommodations and Food
Founded in 2003, Open Minds is not a sprawling campus nor a secluded commune. Instead the facility features a main building, the Day Centre, where all treatment takes place. Clients commute there via minibus from their lodgings, which for inpatient residents means the Stanley Villa—a quaint, brick building with a garden in the back. This Victorian house features 12 twin beds but not much privacy; most clients get a roommate (though on the flip side, all rooms have private showers). As residents progress through the program, they move into the extended care house, a boxy building designed in a vaguely Tudor style.
Both lodgings are staffed around the clock by house managers who see to it that clients stay out of trouble and on top of their chores (and yes, there are chores at both residences). On Wednesdays, residents take trips to the supermarket because everyone is expected to do their own cooking. Still, there won’t be Hot Pockets and other junk food on the menu—Open Minds still has control over what gets bought at the grocery store, and home-cooked food with fresh ingredients remains the emphasis here. Dietary restrictions can be accommodated within reason, provided clients speak up at weekly menu-planning sessions.
While neither house has many amenities, Open Minds maintains the location between Cheshire and North Wales provides many “leisure and exercise opportunities” to take advantage of—there are walkabouts to be had in nearby Berwyn and the local Llangollen Railway adds a Harry Potter-esque charm to the environs.
Treatment and Staff
Open Minds submits clients to a rigorous, multi-phase program that can last as briefly as two weeks or long as six months. At its core, treatment is based on a 12-step framework with a mix of group therapy and one-on-one counseling. Each client gets their own counselor, and families are welcome to participate in free addiction seminars at the facility as well. It’s a no-frills approach, but the numbers are encouraging: from 2013 to 2014, 95% of Open Minds completed detox and 92% finished the full program.
These numbers can perhaps be partially attributed to a qualified staff. Open Minds has six counselors, many of whom are in recovery themselves; though usually only three are around at any given time, professional attention remains intimate. The support staff includes a general practitioner, specialist and nurse who visit the detox clients daily—they also remain on call during this time.
The multi-tiered journey to recovery at Open Minds begins with assessment and admissions phases. Clients meet with a doctor who helps them chart out a plan of for the coming weeks. Those who need ongoing medical treatment are advised to register with a local practice and bring a month’s supply of prescribed medicine. Of note is that those in need of dental care should seek it before enrolling as well; as Open Minds grimly warns, “dentists are in very short supply in North Wales.”
Primary care begins shortly after, composed of mainly group and one-on-on sessions, lectures, workshops and other activities; residents are also introduced to AA and NA meetings during this time. Weekdays are generally full of treatment with chores and homework at night. Still, Wednesdays are a respite from the rigors of the daily grind as clients head into town for some shopping (with £23.50 provided a week for toiletries and other necessities). After shopping, it’s off to a community center for an afternoon activity.
After 9 pm, residents are free to do whatever they please: watch TV, play board games, draw, paint or simply hang out. Clients can also place phone calls three nights a week (aside from the first two weeks); lights out is at 11 pm.
Things at Open Minds are a bit more relaxed on the weekends. Friday nights are movie nights at the facility. Residents then spend a good chunk of Saturday working on life skills training before receiving a stipend to go out and use on the “leisure of their choice.” On Sundays, there’s a weekly walk, but more importantly up to two close family members may come and visit.
As they progress (and if they choose), clients move into extended care where they take on greater responsibility and complete volunteer work. The focus here is recognizing personal triggers and learning how to deal with them, with the goal of long-term recovery. After graduation, alumni are offered 18 months of complimentary aftercare.
Open Minds’ focus isn’t on leisure; residents endure a structured process of personal development and rigorous therapy that delivers results—and just might open their minds to the possibility of a sober life.
LL13 9TW, UK
Open Minds Cost: £5,950 (first 28 days, $9,349 [per publishing day exchange rate]); £1,000 per week thereafter [prices accurate as of print]. Reach Open Minds by phone at 011 44 1978 312 120. Find Open Minds on its site
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