In 1977, a charitable American couple, Bill and Joanie Yoder, purchased Yeldall Manor, a 38-acre estate in the Berkshire countryside, and began taking in men who were in recovery from drug and alcohol abuse. The Manor was constructed in Victorian times but had been home to various Anglican communities since World War II. The Yoders eventually named their recovery organization Yeldall Christian Centres. And while the program at Yeldall is indeed Christian, it remains open to men of any faith, or no faith at all—though clients are encouraged to seek a spiritual connection as a component of finding their sobriety on the estate.
Accommodations and Food
At maximum capacity, Yeldall Manor offers 24 beds in the main program and nine in its lodge resettlement program. Residents are men between 18 and 65 years of age and come from all different backgrounds and areas. For residents without access to a car, Twyford is three miles away and has a direct line to London’s Paddington station.
Yeldall Manor is not just a home; it’s an estate. There are 17 acres of woodland, 10 acres of pastureland, and five acres of gardens, which are maintained by the residents and staff. There is a fishing pond, an outdoor swimming pool, a volleyball court and a football pitch—and that’s not all in terms of recreation. Indoors, there’s a gym with free weights and cardio equipment, a living room with television, and a billiards table.
The Manor’s rooms are decorated minimally, with framed black and white photographs and small paintings, high hanging curtains and wooden floors. One group room is set up with a ring of red chairs; a wooden desk, posterboard and an acoustic guitar waiting idly by the window to be used. Twelve of the bedrooms are singles with ensuite bathrooms and six are shared rooms with two beds each; time in residence and the census determine where clients are placed. A chef who claims to be happy to accommodate special diets prepares all meals for the Manor clients.
Phase two clients living in the lodges (one of two flats on the estate grounds), shop, cook and clean on their own schedules. Once a week, they are given a lift into town to procure all necessary groceries and supplies.
Treatment and Staff
Yeldall Manor’s residential treatment program could last for nine months or more. This time is divided into two phases. Residents usually complete the first phase of treatment between the three and six month mark. For some, the first phase of treatment is medically managed detox. Yeldall partners with a local pharmacy and doctors who are on call 24/7. Incoming residents should alert Yeldall that they need to detox; otherwise they are expected to be sober on arrival. Once these first few days of detox are complete, clients transition into the residential program.
The residential program consists of a full schedule of individual and group therapy and the campus work program. Groups meet twice a week and are guided by a counselor; the discussions are often open-ended, focusing on relationships, how to prevent relapse and addiction histories. Clients spend a good deal of the week working in the house and on the grounds: in the kitchen with the chef and in the woods and gardens. Some residents work in the local community on school grounds. The work program gives structure to the week and endows residents with confidence by giving them new skills, from machine operating and forestry to food hygiene and computer literacy education.
For the first three months of treatment (most of phase one), clients are required to attend Christian workshop on Sunday. Yeldall Manor also takes clients to different local churches so they can experience different denominations. After the first 12 weeks, attendance at church on Sunday isn’t required, but residents still attend two Christian activities a week, an Exploring Faith workshop and an informal Fellowship group. The program encourages residents to seek a spiritual connection, but doesn’t mandate anything; it also teaches the 12-step method and encourage clients to get involved with local 12-step programs.
Apart from their commitments, residents have down time for meals, watching television, and using the Manor’s amenities, like the outdoor pool, football pitch, and gym. In the second phase of treatment, clients move out of the Manor house and into one of the lodge flats. This phase lasts between three and five months; residents attend therapeutic groups, one-on-one counseling and work. Residents in this phase have more personal responsibility (meals and household chores), but also more latitude—more opportunity to socialize in the community, including 12-step fellowship, and more opportunity to reconnect with family members.
After phase two, all clients move off campus. Clients can elect to apply for a third phase program and in this third phase program, clients live locally but continue to work for six to 12 months on Yeldall Manor’s grounds, participating in recovery groups and mentoring other men in recovery. Other clients choose the standard aftercare course: they move out, stay in regular touch with their peer counselor, follow up for appointments with their individual counselor and continue to fellowship with other ex-residents at formal and informally scheduled events.
As one might expect, the Yeldall Manor staff is mostly men, but there are both male and female counselors. The client-to-staff ratio fluctuates with the census, but there are generally between three and six clients for every staff member. Supporters from the community often participate on the grounds on a voluntary basis, especially for events. And although Christian faith isn’t a prerequisite for residents, Yeldall’s staff and volunteers are all Christian.
As mentioned above, the Manor estate provides all kinds of recreational activities; a fishing pond, an outdoor swimming pool, a volleyball court and a football pitch; a gym with free weights and cardio equipment; even a billiards table.
The work program is another significant extra; gardening, forestry and culinary skills training could even be considered forms of experiential therapy. Yeldall Manor partners with local businesses, facilitating job placement in fields like retail, catering, tree surgery and garden maintenance.
Yeldall Manor is also invested in fostering a sober network. Alumni and their families, supporters, and members of the community are invited to monthly prayer meetings and to quarterly celebrations. In the spring, Yeldall raises money by hosting a 27 mile Walk of Freedom—check out pictures from last year on their Facebook page. In the summer, Yeldall hosts an Open Day (like an open house), where there are games, a hog roast and strawberry tea.
Expansive grounds and recreational opportunities, fellowship and community; a work program that engenders self-esteem and provides a baseline for recovery; there’s lots to love about Manor life. This is not a program for men who are looking for a short-term program; clients are expected to live sober here. It would better suit people who are willing to, at least for a while, live in the greater Reading area. If it’s true that getting sober is easy, but that staying sober is the real challenge; Yeldall Manor seems to recognize this truth and runs its long-term program accordingly.
Hare Hatch, Reading RG10 9XR
Yeldall Manor Cost: 1,938 Euros [$2,973 per publishing day exchange rate] (30 days). Reach Yeldall Manor by phone at 44 11 89 40 10 93 or by email at [email protected]. Find Yeldall Manor on Facebook and Twitter
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