Generally college and sobriety don’t tend to go together, yet many teenagers and college-aged kids who abuse alcohol and drugs—as well as those who show signs of having co-occurring mental issues and non-substance related addictions—may greatly benefit from seeking treatment at an early age rather than waiting until they are out of options. Still, there aren’t many rehabs that cater specifically to these people, and trying to get sober at 18 is hard enough without the difficulties of trying to relate to older adults that may have had different experiences such as loss of a wife or husband or home. All of this is why Robert Pfeifer, a social worker with 24 years of experience with young adults in the field of education and addiction treatment, and his wife Mindi Levins-Pfeifer, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) with more than two decades of experience in addiction treatment, founded Sober College.
Located in Woodland Hills, a safe and family-oriented suburb of Los Angeles, Sober College is a specialized treatment center focused on the struggles of young adult men and women age 18 to 26. In addition to the uniquely peer-driven reality of early adulthood, another challenge to early sobriety is that there are simply fewer people under the age of 26 who think to seek treatment. Since support and being able to relate to others with similar struggles are well-known components of successful long-term recovery, Sober College is able to provide a comfortable environment for young people to bond with other people their age.
Another unique aspect of working with young adults in recovery is making sure they are able to keep up with—and complete—their education. That is why Sober College has partnered with Woodbury University to allow clients to complete five courses while in rehab. If clients are able to complete all five courses and maintain a 3.33 GPA, they are guaranteed admission into Woodbury University after their treatment is completed. They are also eligible to receive a merit scholarship, ranging from $4,000 and $9,000 per year.
Accommodations and Food
Sober College is designed to be progressive. With a minimum commitment of 90 days, and lengths of stays in excess of one year, clients move through different phases of treatment—ranging from residential to sober living and aftercare—while at Sober College depending on the amount of time they are there and their progress in the program. All living quarters are gender-specific.
Residents are expected to prepare their own breakfast and lunch, while family-style dinners are made primarily by clients with the help of staff as part of the life skills program. Snacks are available throughout the day.
Treatment and Staff
Sober College is equipped with on-site capabilities for clients who need to detox. It can also refer clients out to a trusted facility. Sober College also aids in arranging interventions, if needed, and offers an alternative sentencing program for kids looking at potential jail time and are also seeking recovery.
Days at Sober College begin early. A morning meditation is followed by group sessions, individual therapy or class depending on the day. Clients have a minimum of one weekly sessions with one of the staff therapists, though those staff members are available on-site to talk throughout the week. The staff psychiatrist and neuropsychologists are on-site weekly for assessments, and to prescribe any medication that might be needed.
Clients meet with their drug and alcohol counselor a minimum of once a week to check in on progress. All clients must attend six 12-step meetings a week in the evenings, which Sober College provides transportation to, and all are encouraged to work their 12-step programs (which includes connecting with other people in recovery and getting a sponsor). During the first 30 days in treatment, clients—who are considered in the “freshman phase”—are not allowed to have cell phones, though calls on the house phone can be arranged for outreach purposes and to connect with family. Internet access is also forbidden during the freshman phase unless required for school but once the 30 day period is up, laptops and cell phones are permitted during specific times.
While clients won’t find any Greek life on the campus of Sober College, there is no shortage of activities available to blow off steam. Each client is given a membership to a local gym and can take advantage of an individualized nutrition plan and personal training, if they are interested. Group outings to local attractions like the mall, the beach, Six Flags Magic Mountain and an indoor rock-climbing gym are often arranged, and Sober College also participates in extramural sports leagues that play against other schools in basketball, lacrosse and soccer.
Most former clients of Sober College say good things about the program and reported having been able to stay sober; most were also grateful for the caring and attentive staff, both for their help and continued support even after graduation. A major advantage Sober College has going for it is that it’s in the Los Angeles area, where there’s a strong presence of young people in recovery from addiction. Recovery groups host sober events for young people in recovery, providing a solid social scene for kids to connect, and to support one another on their journeys. Getting sober at a young age is a unique experience, and peer support will help ensure that it’s a positive one that sticks. Sober College is the place that can tie these threads together.
6022 Variel Ave
Woodland Hills, CA 91367
Sober College Cost: $10,000 – $25,000 (30 days) and works with most PPO insurance providers. Reach Sober College by phone at (888) 392-5064 or by email at [email protected]. Find Sober College on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google+
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