Questions and Answers with Juan Lesende


Here we interview the founder of Adaptive Center to learn about the philosophy of the Adaptive Center.

Can you start by giving us a short history and summary of the philosophy of the Adaptive Center?

Juan: The Adaptive Center’s history actually started when I began working in the field of addiction treatment over 20 years ago. One of the first things I noticed when I got into this field is that what many treatment centers were doing was not very effective, and many people were relapsing. After observing for many years what worked and what didn’t work, I decided to open up my own center, and incorporate everything I had learned in my years in this field. On Oct. 27th of this year, we will celebrate our two year anniversary.

Our philosophy at the Adaptive Center is grounded in the Human Potential Movement

Our philosophy at the Adaptive Center is grounded in the Human Potential Movement, which started in the late 1960s in California. The philosophy behind this movement is that we as human beings are born with the potential to be something. Just as a sapling which has the potential to grow into a tree can be bound in its growth by circumstances, so humans can be kept from reaching their potential. Circumstances like trauma, addiction, and mental illness tend to stunt growth and keep people from becoming what they were capable of being.

We use psychology and scientifically validated spiritual practices to liberate people from bindings such as addiction, depression, and anxiety, so that the person can reach their potential. Our goal is not just to help the person stop drinking and using drugs. We want to remove those things so that the person can learn and develop the skills they need in order to reach their full potential in life.

What makes the Adaptive Center unique from other treatment programs?

Juan: The environment we provide for clients resembles real life very closely. We are located in the middle of a city, not a remote, vacation-like location or a campus. Studies have shown that people internalize skills best when they are learning them in the environment in which they are going to use them. We have found that because of this our clients are able to learn skills better and put them into practice more effectively after treatment.

Another thing that makes us unique is that we have a proprietary model. After years of research, we created   a very individualized treatment model. It was created through academic research and real life observations, and is not borrowed from someone else.

We have an entire population of only 12 residents. What this means is we have a lot of time and resources to provide an extremely personalized treatment experience. These people are not just our clients; they get really close to our staff, and we have time and resources to devote to each one’s recovery.

We invest the majority of our resources in excellent treatment, not in window dressing to attract people to a grown-up version of Disney World, disguised as treatment. We are dedicated to the quality of therapists, whom we select very carefully, in their training, and in the research needed to find the tools that will best help our clients.

What specific types of therapies are used during treatment at the Adaptive Center?

Juan: Mindful cognitive therapy: This is a form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which is the most tested and effective system of psychotherapy used in the past 30 years.  In this form of CBT, the added focus is on mindfulness—or increasing awareness. We train our clients in mindfulness through Zen meditation and yoga to the techniques of CBT. Very strong research shows that the increasing mindfulness helps people become aware of themselves, and their environment, in the here and now, and adds great benefits to the actual therapy.

System-based family therapy: We have found that this therapy is essential to recovery. The family can bring background information into treatment, which helps us better understand and reach clients. During this therapy we also work to repair the broken relationships that our clients have experienced with their families, so that when they return home they can have a more peaceful and welcoming environment, which will give them a better chance to stay clean.

Morita therapy: This is a Japanese form of therapy that is based on focusing on the task at hand. What this means is that we teach our clients to abandon themselves to whatever activity they are doing in the moment. For example, while hanging clothes in a closet, clients should pay attention to the details involved in order to do it right, not to other things that are concerning them at the time. This focused attention provides them with relief from obsession, cravings, and anxiety. Because we provide clients with a real-life, supportive environment, we are able to help them put this therapy into practice while carrying out their everyday tasks.

Social rhythm therapy: Through this type of therapy, we help clients create and keep a rhythm of their normal activities throughout the day. We have clients wake up, eat meals, and go to bed at the same times every day, in order to set their internal rhythm. This helps the brain become calm, and instead of having to guess what will happen next, the brain falls into a rhythm and provides relief from anxiety, depression, and cravings for drugs and alcohol.

Physical Fitness: Research in neurology—the science of the brain—proves that 20 minutes of cardiovascular exercise daily promotes benefits to the working of the human brain.

You are located in a “real life” environment. What does this mean?

Everything at our facility takes place in a normal living situation. Residents live in a regular apartment building, in a block of apartments reserved for our clients. The apartments are well-equipped, and residents can cook meals, do laundry, and perform normal every day activities.

For therapy, residents walk two blocks to our treatment center, which is housed in a discrete building. They participate in therapy during normal work hours, and when they finish here every day, they go to the gym across the street to exercise. Next to the gym is a chain grocery store where our clients can buy everything they need. We give them money in the form of a card for food each week. The center is surrounded by stores, restaurants and a mall where clients can go shop, with an approved itinerary from the staff. In the evening, residents do homework and can participate in activities like AA in-house meetings or other therapies.

Our clients live a normal life like you and I, but they do everything within a small radius of their apartment

Our clients live a normal life like you and I, but they do everything within a small radius of their apartment—and with the supervision of our staff. We are always here to support and monitor them. The whole system is simple, protective, and non-constrictive.

Given this freedom for your clients, how do you ensure that active addicts or alcoholics are not using substances or engaging in other behaviors that may negatively affect their treatment?

Juan: Clients live in a real-life setting at our facility, but it is monitored closely. When a client wants to go on an outing, they must fill out an itinerary which tells us where they want to go and what time they will be back. If the person has shown that they are doing well in treatment, we authorize that trip. When clients return from an outing, such as a trip to the mall or to the grocery store, the first thing we do is give them a breathalyzer test to make sure they haven’t been drinking. We also conduct a urine test after each outing

If we do detect that a client used drugs or alcohol, they go into a more stringent form of supervision for one week: they have to be accompanied by counselors at all times. After completing this intense supervision period clients resume normal treatment.

Our system helps clients think ahead and avoid impulses. We have found that by allowing clients this type of freedom, and responsibility, individuals work harder at staying sober and have fewer relapses.

How long is a typical stay at your facility and what types of aftercare do you recommend for clients?

Juan: We ask for a 30 day commitment, because we have seen that this is the length of time that offers the best success. The average stay at our center is 6 weeks. Some clients stay for 30 days, or 3 months, or even a year. We work with each client to establish a program that meets their own needs.

We do believe in the importance of aftercare. Our local clients can come back to our facility for unlimited support from our therapists. For clients that are farther away, we help connect them with professionals in their area before they leave our facility.  In the future, we will establish workshops throughout the country, so that our clients that come from far away can attend these as aftercare as well.


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