Typical Day

I’m an alumnus of Sierra Tucson, and I’ve been asked to give you a snapshot of a typical day in treatment. I’m glad to try to help you understand what life is like in treatment, as it was an extremely powerful, healing experience for me. Here is my recollection …


My alarm goes off at 6:00 a.m. I’m starting to feel more calm, after the intense emotions and anxiety that preceded my decision to come to treatment. I’m actually looking forward to breakfast and my process group this morning.

I can tell that the friendship I’m developing with my roommate will last a lifetime. It’s been easy to open up and relate about what we’ve been through and what has held us back over the years. Our honest conversations are creating a bond between us. After three weeks in treatment, I’m feeling more and more hopeful at what the future holds.

On the path from my lodge to the dining room, I see little rabbits, as usual, munching on the vegetation. The crisp air is invigorating, and I’m starting to notice the beauty of the panoramic mountains and the desert landscape. Although this used to be really early for me, there’s nothing better than starting the day and watching the sunrise over the Catalina Mountains.

The 6:45 a.m. breakfast is filling. (Eating Disorder patients eat 15 minutes earlier to receive special support.) I choose orange juice, eggs, sausage, rolls, and fresh fruit, but there are many choices. Regular coffee is even available for awhile in the mornings.

Weekdays generally start with a Community Meeting or Meditation. A Life Coaching Workshop is also offered, and on Friday patients hear a great series of “First Thought Wrong” presentations. (Wow, does that ever hit home!) Saturdays and Sunday are special, with selections of Qigong, Gym Time, Spiritual Direction, Labyrinth, Grief Group Orientation, Smoking Cessation, Body Image Workshop, Genogram, Expressive Arts, Family Preparation, Yoga, movies, special speakers and meetings, and more. On Sundays, families may visit from 3:30 – 6:00 p.m.

My Primary Process Group, which is Group Therapy, is led by my Unit Therapist and meets Monday through Friday. Primary Groups are separated by program, so I’m grouped with other patients who are here to treat their Chemical Dependency. (Other Groups are for Eating Disorders, Mood and Anxiety Disorders, Pain Management, Sexual Compulsivity, Trauma Recovery, and the Progressions Program.)

In Group, we have time to discuss any business or questions about our treatment. Most importantly, though, this is where we explore the many, many issues that each of us deal with and participate in various types of therapy. The Primary Group rotates weekly through Grief Group and the Therapeutic and Recreational Activities Program (TRAP). TRAP activities include many experiential therapies like Equine-Assisted Therapy and Adventure Therapy.

I learn so much from the experiences, from our Unit Therapist’s counsel, and from each person in the group. The positive transformation I see in the patients who have been here longer encourages me that I can also attain that level of healing. I’m starting to understand myself and trust – this is huge.


Lunch is served at 11:45. I’m happy that it’s lunchtime, as the good food and the break seem to refresh me after a morning of hard work on myself. Three entrées include one vegetarian choice, plus there is soup, bread, salad bar, and various juices, teas, milk, etc. I especially like dining on the outside patio… the mountain view is amazing.

Next there might be an individual appointment (physician, Integrative Therapy, Biofeedback Training, Continuing Care, etc.), a Blessing Ceremony, or Meditation. Each person is scheduled for different therapeutic services, activities, or groups, based on our specific need. Some of these are for 12-Step, DBT Skills Training, EMDR, Psychodrama, Family Group, Anger Management, Somatic Experiencing®, brain SPECT scanning, Aquatic Therapy, Yoga, a leisure activity, or study time. Integrative Therapies can be requested by me or ordered by my Treatment Team.

I get to meet one-on-one at least once a week with my Unit Therapist and also separately with my Medical Provider. I appreciate that they consider my wishes about optional therapies and activities. The entire professional team consults regularly about what is best for me. I feel heard, and I trust the experts in charge of my treatment… I trust the process.


Dinner around 5:15 p.m. is good! Evening activities consist of 12-Step meetings, Relapse Prevention Skills, Meditation, Gym, men’s and women’s groups, Art, Stargazing, and a snack (also available throughout the day).

By the end of the day (lights out at 11:00 p.m.), I’m ready to rest. As you might expect with the work that is done in treatment, I have my emotional ups and downs each day. I choose to close the day by writing in my journal, which helps me relax and reminds me that I’m moving towards a life that is happy, joyous, and free. The combination of physical and emotional energy that I’ve expended and my redirected thoughts allow me to settle myself, knowing that today is better than yesterday, and I can make a difference in my tomorrows.


Note: Each Sierra Tucson program has a separate schedule, and each patient’s treatment plan is individualized, so that every person receives the therapies and services that best meet his/her specific needs. Each patient begins inpatient treatment with thorough assessments and evaluations, including a History and Physical Examination, Psychiatric Evaluation, Psychosocial Evaluation, Nursing Assessment, and Fitness Assessment.

Many programs provide activities and therapies that are not described above. For example, patients in the Eating Disorders Program receive a food preparation demonstration by the head chef and visit a restaurant as part of their therapy. Patients in the Progressions Program have more off-site activities, such as meetings, dinners, and hikes, to practice relapse prevention strategies. The Progressions Program also offers a Two-Day Couple’s Workshop and Life Coaching, as well as Two-Week EMDR Intensives™. Please see our Programs pages for more information about each Sierra Tucson program.

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