Twenty miles north of San Francisco, Serenity Knolls is composed of 15 squat buildings, an outdoor gazebo and a swimming pool, all situated on 12.5 acres of pine-blanketed hills. Its website reveals a no-nonsense mission statement: “the family at Serenity Knolls believes that there is always hope when there is willingness and determination to change.”
Accommodations and Food
The campus is certainly serene, with facilities reminiscent of a community center. There’s little flexibility in the cabin-style housing arrangements, with everyone required to have a roommate (single rooms available only for those in detox). Each room has two twin-sized beds and little else.
There’s no official nutrition program, but buffet-style meals with a made-to-order breakfast option and snacks are available throughout the day. There’s a gym with basic equipment, along with various sports courts and a sand volleyball area—all available for use at residents’ own discretion. The campus isn’t locked down, though scheduled passes are required to leave the premises.
Treatment and Staff
Recovery focuses on the 12 steps, with an introduction to CBT to tackle psychological issues for residents with a dual-diagnosis. Everyone goes through a psych screen upon admittance, with referrals handled on a case-by-case basis. A minimum stay of 28 days is required, although three months is recommended for those who can afford it. Though residents have individual as well as group therapy, one-on-one time with drug counselors and psychotherapists is arranged on a case-by-case basis.
Family is the important word here. Founded in 1990 by married couple Michael and Louise Neustadt, who together have been sober and in recovery for more than 31 years, Serenity Knolls has put together a staff composed entirely of recovering addicts, all 22 of them, including several doctors and psychotherapists; it also has a dozen or so volunteers.
Through Serenity Knolls’ Family Series program, family members of the addict come in to correct any triangulation that may be hindering recovery; an oft-cited mantra here is “alcoholism is a family disease.” Aftercare follows through on this premise, granting alumni and their families lifetime admission to additional weekend meetings, free of charge.
Serenity Knolls stresses a return to simplicity. Happy alumni sing the praises of Serenity Knolls’s caring crew. In short, it is a fresh start and a return to the basics that may be just what the addict ordered.
145 Tamal Rd
Forest Knolls, CA 94933
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