St. Jude Retreats is an addiction recovery center that focuses on a non-12-step treatment regimen. They opened their doors in 1992, after years of research led cofounders Gerald Brown and Mark Scheeren to the belief that 12-step-based recovery programs weren’t effective and that an alternative approach needed to be developed.

Their approach has three key components: (1) building hope through empowerment, (2) axiom-based self-analysis, and (3) life movements and mapping your future. These components and how they differ from 12-step will be described in greater detail shortly.

Located in upstate New York, St. Jude has three different treatment centers. There are two lower-cost options in the Mountain and Twin Rivers retreats. Out-of-pocket cost for their 30-day program is $14,850. Their Executive Retreat offers more amenities and more private rooming accommodations for a premium price of $25,600.

St. Jude Retreats are regulated by the Department of Health and Attorney General Charities Bureau. Furthermore, all of their instructors are CBE (Cognitive Behavioral Education) certified. The following sections will provide greater details about the pros and cons of this unique treatment center.


The Good

Among the positives of St. Jude Retreats are:

  • A unique, non-12-step approach. A summary of St. Jude’s approach is provided on the Philosophy page of their website ( “All people always move in the direction of what they believe will bring them the most happiness at any given point in their life.” Thus, while some recovery approaches argue that alcohol addiction is a disease that must be treated and battled with throughout life, their belief is that addiction is simply a pattern of repeated poor choices that can be corrected. You will never hear the words addict, disease, or incurable from their therapists. Furthermore, they reject calling their methods treatment, opting instead for words like education and self-empowerment
  • The first step of this approach is simply to help clients understand that they are not diseased or powerless and to instill in them the confidence that they are entirely in control of their ability to change. The second step is to identify thought and behavioral patterns, emotional factors, and all other factors that have contributed to the incorrect behaviors. The final step is to make a personalized plan for how to change these patterns of behavior.
  • Individuals who may have tried 12-step programs in the past and failed, or others who simply don’t believe in that approach, certainly have a great alternative option here. While there are other recovery centers that offer non-12-step options, it’s rare that this is their only focus (i.e., they also offer a 12-step approach and that is their primary focus). However, because this is the only approach offered at St. Jude, clients can be confident that they’re not trying to spread themselves too thin with several different treatment methods, and therefore, it’s very likely that they do this one method very well.
  • Elective courses add some variety. While all clients will receive a large portion of the standardized CBE curriculum, St. Jude does provide some flexibility with its electives. Their electives are intended to prepare clients for postrecovery life, and options are available for individuals at every stage of life. Elective options include career paths, academics, reinforcement of concepts, leisure and retirement, military, personal matters, relocation, and court requirements. Thus clients, can begin to make plans for their future in a variety of ways.
  • Relatively low cost. The Twin Rivers and Mountain retreats have a relatively low price. While there are certainly a variety of price points among different treatment centers, $14,850 is among the lowest out-of-pocket costs you can find. Even the $25,600 price tag for the Executive retreat is comparable to many recovery centers also reviewed on this site. Thus, those who are having to pay out of pocket with no help from insurance may want to explore this comparatively low cost option.

The Bad

The weakness of this company are as follows:

  • Limited options. The counter-argument to their unique and specific approach is that it’s certainly not for everyone. While it seems clear that they do one thing really well here, the St. Jude program also lacks the flexibility and alternative approaches that may benefit many potential clients. This CBE focused approach still appears to be the minority, as most treatment programs seem to focus on 12-step. This may turn away some clients who want a more traditional approach. While several treatment centers boast a variety of approaches to fit the needs of any client (including 12-step, non-12-step, Christian-based, purely holistic, and other approaches), you will find no such alternatives here. Thus, if you’re not interested in the CBE approach, you’re out of luck with St. Jude.
  • No aftercare options. Another feature that may turn away some is that St. Jude only offers limited aftercare options. Their typical program is six weeks, and about 15–20% of clients opt for an additional four weeks of extended care. However, once these 10 weeks are up, there are no further options. Some centers offer extended care for longer amounts of time, as well as outpatient services and sober living homes to aid in the transition back to normal living. Thus, clients hoping for a longer stay may want to look at other options.St. Jude encourages clients to make a plan for sober living. Included in this plan is that clients develop a strong support network of family, friends, and loved ones instead of depending on strangers. While this may work for some, individuals with difficult family and personal situations, or others who simply need more time and professional care may struggle with this approach.
  • Not covered by most insurances. While the out-of-pocket costs may seem attractive to the untrained eye, it’s also important to point out that the alternative approaches offered by St. Jude are typically not covered by insurance. Representatives from St. Jude stated that typically only detox and medical expenses will be covered. While insurance matters can certainly be tricky with any treatment center, many 12-step centers claim to be covered by a variety of insurance plans. You’ll find no such claims here. Thus, individuals who are hopeful for partial or full insurance coverage may need to explore other options.

The Bottom Line

Overall, St. Jude is confident in their conviction that a CBE-certified, non-12-step program is the best pathway toward recovery. They even commissioned an independent agency to analyze their success rates. The agency reported back that 62.5% of former clients remain in recovery. While they didn’t compare these results to other centers, they seem extremely confident that these are superior results.

If you’re confident that this is the approach you need for successful recovery from alcoholism, this is definitely an option worth exploring. However, if insurance coverage, flexibility, and aftercare are important factors for you, there may be better options.

Ultimately, St. Jude is an accredited company with a solid reputation and a potentially refreshing approach to recovery. For the right customers, the programs here can be just what they need to get a fresh start. Whether you choose to go this route will depend on your financial situation and the type of support you want long-term.

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