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Why is St Jude Retreats defined as a Non-Treatment Program?

Core Differences, and how our model is more successful than Treatment.

A Non Treatment Program to Overcome AddictionYou have seen that we are a non-12-step program throughout our site, but it is important to note that we are also a "non-treatment" program.

Treatment programs are designed to treat pathology or illness. The act of using alcohol or drugs is not an illness; it is a behavior and a choice. Using medications and therapies to treat behaviors is not effective because all people maintain their power of choice over their own behaviors at all times.

At Saint Jude's we developed a comprehensive curriculum with three primary goals: 1. To debunk the mythology surrounding addiction and provide accurate information supported by the most rigorous research; 2. To provide people with practical exercises designed so they will become fully self-aware of thoughts, behaviors, motivations, interpersonal relationships, virtually all aspects of themselves; and 3. To encourage and assist people as they begin to envision their future life and ultimately make a plan for their personal fulfillment and success.

Where treatment seeks to control and is based on lies, distortions and bad science; our non-treatment method is rooted in personal freedom, the latest research in neuroscience and common sense.


  • Knows the fact that brain tissue can be re-mapped through mindfully changed habits and changes in thinking patterns.[+]
  • Teaches the fact that addiction is not genetically inherited.[+]
  • Uses no labels or judgments, ever.[+]
  • The fact that addiction is not a disease, instead it is a series of repeated choices, habits and behaviors.[+]
  • Uses a freedom and choice based educational model, with no control or judgment whatsoever.[+]
  • Uses education as basis of program.[+]
  • Non-Religious Program, but accepts all personal beliefs as valid for the individual.[+]
  • Implements a completely Personalized Program with small class sizes and one-on-one education when requested by the guest.[+]

Non Treatment, Saint Jude's


  • Believes you have a brain disease.
    You Are Powerless.
    The Disease of Addiction is Incurable
  • Believes you genetically inherit an addiction gene.
    All Family Members are Diseased
  • Uses labels such as addict, diseased and alcoholic.
  • Believes that people have a chronic disease of addiction.
  • Creates limits & boundaries throughout treatment and in therapy sessions.
  • Uses therapy as basis of program.
  • Religious Affiliation Incorporated In Treatment.
    You Can Not Change and Only God can Save You
  • Implements Group Therapy Sessions and 12 Step Group meetings.
    In Treatment and Forever After

Treatment Centers

Success Rate 65%UNDISCLOSED
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The Brain can Change:

Brain tissue is "plastic," meaning that the brain can always change in structure through relearned thought patterns and choices. While many treatment centers will say that an addiction is impossible to break, this is simply not true. The science behind this educational method is called Neuroplasticity, and is one of the main results of the program lessons. Right now the brain is wired to relate happy feelings and pleasure with alcohol or drugs and their use, simply because the individual reinforced this as a learned habit. But, the brain can be taught to re-learn these associations no different than learning to speak or drive a car - all learned behaviors! (Schwartz, Doige)

Take for example a teenager who gets food poisoning after eating chicken wings. The episode of being violently sick is neuroplasticly driven into the brain tissue as memories attached to this unhappy event drive this physical rewiring. Now, every time chicken wings are served, the brain will process the thoughts that associate that particular smell and/or taste with those bad memories of vomiting, headache and sickness. This is why people will commonly say "I can't eat that anymore, I got really sick from it". The individual's brain continues to process those thoughts of chicken in this negative view and does so quite efficiently until the brain is given a new direction by the individual's mind. Once the person decides that chicken is no longer sickening to them (maybe a few years have gone by since the food poisoning event), that new decision rewires the old circuit into a new circuit that supports the new view of chicken. Once this new circuit is formed (by the person enjoying chicken repeatedly) the new thoughts become that much easier to process. This, of course can also occur with an active substance user. Once they feel the "high" and enjoy it, this reinforces that neuronal circuit thus reinforcing it. The individual chooses to continue the behavior to experience the high and continues to repeat the behavior, in turn creating a strong neuronal pathway; or habit. Our feelings, thoughts, choices and behaviors drive these circuits to be built within the brain. Since our choices and thoughts create habits, they can also change them. This means that thoughts drive physical changes in brain tissue, not the other way around as treatment would have you believe. You are in control - even in control of brain rewiring!

That is exactly what the educational processes of the St. Jude Program are designed to accomplish; showing a seemingly hopeless person how to become self aware, regain personal power and control and effect lasting self change. It's possible to create new experiences and behaviors that are more rewarding than the habits of drinking and drugging. And in the process of making these new choices you will be creating a brain that supports your new way of living and thinking!

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The Addiction Gene:

Many people have beliefs and pre-determined ideas regarding drugs and alcohol. Becoming habituated to the use of substances involves much more psychologically than either biological makeup or a supposed addiction gene. (Peele) The truth is an individual's beliefs about how the use of drugs or alcohol will affect them are the most accurate predictors of whether or not they will develop a substance use problem. Environmental learning and culture shape our beliefs; and these beliefs then lead to thoughts and behaviors. What this means is those who believe they have a genetic predisposition to becoming "alcoholic" or "addicted" may be more likely to struggle with alcohol or drugs. While much research has been done with the goal of linking behaviors to genetic coding, no causation has been shown. And finally, despite several decades of research, no addiction gene has ever been found. And even if one is found, all research has shown that genetics does not supersede personal choice with respect to behaviors.

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There is No Disease of Addiction:

Accordingly, there is no need for a harmful diagnosis or label. At the Saint Jude Retreats, we don't compartmentalize your personal problems by labeling you an addict or alcoholic. There is no evidence that addiction (i.e. using alcohol or drugs) was or is a disease. This idea of addiction as a disease first started with the use of alcohol and drugs but today it is widely accepted that people can become addicted to any behavior; such as video gaming, surfing the internet and Facebooking, watching television, having sexual affairs, shopping, gambling and even using lip balm. The disease theory states that these behaviors become involuntary once a person is "addicted", however all evidence points to the fact that people never lose the power of choice over their behaviors including using drugs and alcohol. Consider that if people actually did lose control no one would ever stop their addiction, not even to seek help, but millions of people spontaneously stop their addictions every day. While those struggling with drug and alcohol use may feel powerless due to their habitual thinking, they are never actually powerless over their thoughts or behaviors. Treatment programs and those who tout the disease theory actually harm substance users by stripping them of any responsibility or accountability for their actions. Once a substance user buys into the notion that they are suffering from a progressive, incurable disease that renders them forever powerless over their thoughts and behaviors, this can create a state of hopelessness and severe depression. The more someone believes they are diseased, the less control they feel they have. These labels and beliefs can create self-defeating thoughts and lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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The Freedom Model is nothing like treatment:

Our program allows our guests to create and map out their own futures. We don't seek to control our guests or manipulate their thoughts as do treatment programs, because these methods are ineffective. We have concluded after more than two decades of helping people with serious alcohol and drug problems that people will always do what they want to do, and no one can ever control another person. In other words, all people always maintain free-will and choice. As treatment programs are based on the erroneous idea that people lack personal control, rehabs are set up as severely limited and overly controlling environments (i.e. no contact with family/friends, no personal music devices, no cell phones, no laptops, no personal books, etc.). All addiction treatment therapy is used to subtly manipulate the individual to believe in their own powerlessness so that they will choose to abstain from the substance or substances over which they have no power. It's a strange concept on its face, and is quite confusing to those seeking help. The Saint Jude Program is rooted in the truth, that all people maintain control over their personal thoughts and behaviors at all times. Once substance users realize the control for their own lives is in their hands and then they learn and implement new options that can replace drinking or drugging, the desire to use fades away. As new more fulfilling activities and options are tried and repeated, neuroplastic changes begin to form in the brain that replace the previous self limiting and damaging habits of the past.

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Religion Affiliations In popular treatment programs:

A higher power is frequently included in the treatment model as a requirement for the patient to attain a sober lifestyle. Also, in traditional court ordered rehab cases, the individual will be referred to a 12 step program that carries the belief that the only path to remain sober is if they surrender to this higher power or God. Not only is this forcing religion on people, who may otherwise have different beliefs, it is causing people to feel like they don't have complete control over their own lives. This belief in a lack of personal control is the reason those methods are so ineffective. While the Saint Jude Program bears the name of the Catholic patron saint of hopeless causes, we are not affiliated with any religion, nor does our program contain any kind of religious dogma or teachings. You will never be asked to believe in anything except your own innate personal power to overcome your substance use problems. If you are religious, you may continue to believe as you wish, as that is a highly personal choice. Personal, spiritual beliefs are held in high regard at St. Jude's as is your natural autonomy as an individual. To learn about how our name came to be the Saint Jude Retreats, click here.

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Education is the basis of our program:

Many treatment centers offer talk therapy in conjunction with various holistic therapies such as, equine therapy, acupuncture, meditation and yoga as their "treatment methods." While these therapies may be great for relaxation there is no proven correlation between gaining and maintaining sobriety and holistic therapy. The Saint Jude Program is based on a method that has been shown to be effective for centuries, education. Each guest is guided through a comprehensive curriculum that is comprised of three stages; Self-Empowerment, Self-Analysis, and Self-Actualization. Various social activities are offered to reinforce interpersonal skills such as trust, motivation, confidence and forgiveness. The education and social components work together to create a personalized plan so each guest can learn the truth about addiction, become fully self-aware and build a plan for their future. Rather than sitting in therapy simply talking about their problems, our guests learn effective methods to identify and overcome problems as they arise, providing them with practical solutions long after they have completed the program.

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Group Therapy Vs Personalized Program:

At Saint Jude's we offer small classes with just one to three people meeting with a certified program presenter. The primary method used in treatment programs is group therapy where patients sit around in a circle talking about problems and handing out advice to each other. These large group meetings have been shown to be ineffective and wholly unproductive which is why the St Jude Program does not use this method. Your journey at St Jude's will be about you, creating your own path through our proprietary method of Cognitive Behavioral Learning (CBL). (CBL) is the methodology where you engage in a process to create your own self-directed change, which includes new decisions on drug or alcohol use based on your wants, desires and goals for your own life. Our (CBL) Certified Instructors will help you map out your personalized program in which you pick the goals you wish to pursue.

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