Alumni of The Clearing praise the non-12 step approach which focuses on “self-counseling skills” and “learning how to love yourself” while you heal in a historic, fully restored farmhouse surrounded by the natural beauty of San Juan Island.
Situated on a sprawling 43 acre estate that’s just a ferry ride away from Seattle, The Clearing is a holistic treatment center on San Juan Island that offers a progressive, non-12 step program to help men and women who are struggling with addiction, trauma, anxiety, eating disorders and many other conditions. Through its 28 day program, experts at The Clearing work to address all the underlying physical, mental, emotional and spiritual issues that contribute to an individual’s specific challenges. Residents at The Clearing (10 at most) stay in a historic, fully restored 8 bedroom farmhouse that’s as intimate as it is unique. San Juan Island itself features many miles of forests and scenic shoreline, dotted with little shops and harbors. While The Clearing manages to be secluded without being completely isolated and inaccessible, its remote setting helps residents remain focused on their recovery.
According to former residents, The Clearing attracts a wide range of ages (anywhere from 25 to 60), with a good mix of backgrounds and personalities. “They were positive, focused, dedicated, and hardworking,” one person said of their fellow residents. “Ours was a diverse group, including retirees, entrepreneurs, musicians, and young professionals. All were positive, supportive, and our close-knit group was a highlight of the treatment experience for me.” Another former client agreed that their group was highly diverse: “We had gay and straight. Atheists and Pastors. Young and old. We all came together to learn the tools The Clearing had to offer to complete it with success.”
Residents stay at the center for 28 days, and traditional 12-step work is eschewed in favor of spiritual psychology—an approach that resonated very well with the alumni who responded to our survey. “Our counselors told us that the 28-day program is basically the ‘crash course’ equivalent of a two-year Master’s in counseling, and I believe them. We learned SO much,” one resident said. “The emphasis is on self-counseling skills, and learning how to apply love to the parts of yourself that hurt in order to heal.”
Several residents added that The Clearing’s staff doesn’t criticize or condemn 12-step programs so much as they simply provided a different path for its participants to take. Religion isn’t an emphasis of the program, either, though some former residents reportedly found it easy to incorporate their faith into The Clearing’s treatment approach.
Accommodations are in the farmhouse, the centerpiece of The Clearing’s estate. Most of the alumni we surveyed said that they had a private room, though a handful did not. Even then, they proved to be positive experiences for everyone. “Most of us had no roommate. I actually did,” one person said. “I am a pastor and he was an agnostic. We had many pleasant conversations. We chose just to love one another.” Similarly, another resident wrote that “I adored my roommate” and “we still talk to each other often.” While The Clearing has a scheduled routine for its residents, chores aren’t a part of daily life—instead, alumni reported that their primary “job” was the recovery program itself. “It felt like school, but a different kind of schooling,” one person responded. “Instead of learning math, you are learning how to love yourself.”
Food options were rated very highly by alumni. They praised the professional chefs for preparing a wide variety of healthy, home-style foods that suited any and all dietary requirements. “If there was anything in particular you wanted or needed food-wise, the chefs would make sure that you got it!” Snacks, drinks and coffee are available to residents 24/7. “Fantastic,” “delicious” and “absolutely amazing” are some of the other adjectives residents used to describe the menu items, with one alumni adding: “I wish I could live there just for the food!”
The Clearing’s staff is “unfailingly kind and gracious,” according to one former resident, while another said they were both fair and firm with everyone. “We are humans and they treated everyone with love. If you had a family emergency and needed to go outside the rules, they accommodated [it] with love and care,” one person said. On the other hand, when asked for suggestions for improvement, one former resident felt staff communication could be improved, noting that “We all have different stories and everybody should respect that.”
Consequences for breaking rules are fair: “If you did not show up for a class your electronics could be taken for the night.” And staff prioritizes the group’s safety. “One guy had to leave about 2 1/2 weeks in to the 4 weeks. He was often disruptive and the staff was more than patient with him. Although I was fond of him it was a relief when he left.”
There are no doctors in residence at The Clearing, but alumni favorably rated the nurses and supervising psychiatrists as “caring,” “competent” and “helpful at all times.”
Former residents agreed that recovery work is up to the individual here—not the staff. “They cared about your healing and it was authentic and real,” one alumnus noted, but “[The Clearing] is a program that you need to be committed to. If you want to come here and play games, not work and such, don’t. The problem you will have is from the other clients. People want to heal here.”
Aside from being surrounded by the picturesque setting of San Juan Island, The Clearing offers a good number of activities and amenities to its residents. The center offers a modest gym with some fitness equipment, as well as acupressure, yoga and Tai Chi. There is no TV, causing one alum to remark that they should allow TVs, at least on Sundays for the people who don’t have visitors. Phones and computers are permitted on a limited basis. Nature hikes are also a regular activity, making use of the many trails in and around the wilderness. Perhaps one of the most distinguishing features of The Clearing is its onsite animal sanctuary. The sanctuary is home to a variety of animals, large and small, giving residents the special opportunity to connect with horses, sheep, goats, chickens, dogs, cats, turkeys, alpaca and more.
Overall, residents at The Clearing were very pleased with almost all aspects of their treatment and most who responded to the survey reported that they’d been able to steer clear of the addiction or problem for which they sought treatment since leaving the facility. Some residents credited the tools they learned during their time in treatment, while others believed the “wonderful” aftercare program was just as critical as residential treatment, as it provided a “road map for continued success” in recovery.
“Going to The Clearing was a turning point for me, and since then I’ve felt increasingly free from depression and anxiety,” one alumnus shared. “The tools they taught have served me well, and the love and support I experienced were truly a gift.” Perhaps the highest praise comes from the former resident who claimed to have been in nine treatment centers before coming here. “The Clearing has been the first to teach ways that can work,” they said. “Coping skills are great but if you can’t acknowledge and work on your core issues, nothing will last.”