THE SEX PESTS’ $60,000 REP­U­TA­TION RE­HAB

Horse-hug­ging ses­sions. Teddy bear ther­apy. And NO tight swim­ming trunks. That’s life in­side the clinic for shamed stars. No won­der one ex­pert says it is just PR hokum

The Scottish Mail on Sunday - - Focus - From Danielle Zoell­ner and Caro­line Graham IN LOS AN­GE­LES Ad­di­tional re­port­ing: Peter Sheri­dan

BLACKED-out limos swish silently through the im­pos­ing stone gates and up the wind­ing, mile-long drive that me­an­ders through the pris­tine, cacti-dot­ted Sono­ran Desert. The still air is bro­ken only by the gen­tle sound of splash­ing from one of the mag­nif­i­cent or­na­men­tal mar­ble foun­tains dot­ted around the man­i­cured 14acre grounds.

At re­cep­tion, a smil­ing team is on hand to wel­come trav­ellers with a cool drink be­fore they are whisked away to in­di­vid­ual ha­cienda-style lodges com­plete with sunken gran­ite baths.

Guests can en­joy an Olympic­size pool, state-of-the-art gym, pri­vate t’ai chi, yoga and rid­ing lessons and ‘New Age-y’ pur­suits such as walk­ing through a stone ‘Seren­ity Cir­cle’ at sun­rise.

Wel­come to The Mead­ows, a £28,000-a-month Ari­zona re­hab clinic that feels like a five-star ho­tel but in­stead has be­come the ‘go-to’ place for stars in cri­sis.

This is where al­leged se­rial sex­ual preda­tors Har­vey We­in­stein and Kevin Spacey have come – in both cases re­port­edly fly­ing in by pri­vate jet to a

‘There’s no proof any of this hokum works’

nearby air­port. The Mead­ows has a rep­u­ta­tion as the world’s lead­ing fa­cil­ity to treat sex ad­dic­tion – a con­di­tion de­rided as ‘pseudo sci­ence’ by crit­ics. It isn’t recog­nised as a le­git­i­mate psy­chi­atric con­di­tion in the UK or US.

‘It’s not a real dis­or­der and there’s no proof any of this hokum works,’ says in­ter­na­tion­ally renowned psy­chol­o­gist Dr David Ley, an ad­dic­tions spe­cial­ist. ‘Sex ad­dic­tion has be­come big busi­ness be­cause pre­dom­i­nantly white, rich men put their penises where they shouldn’t put them and then are des­per­ate to seek some sort of so­lu­tion, whether for PR rea­sons, to pla­cate their wives or save their jobs.’

Dis­graced stu­dio boss We­in­stein and dou­ble Os­car-win­ner Spacey are not the first high-profile men who, ei­ther vol­un­tar­ily or urged on by their high­pow­ered PR and le­gal teams, hope a stint in The Mead­ows will help re­store their im­age.

It was here that Tiger Woods fled af­ter be­ing ex­posed as a se­rial phi­lan­derer with a pen­chant for Las Ve­gas cock­tail wait­resses, as did X Files star David Du­chovny and Fa­tal At­trac­tion’s Michael Dou­glas.

Oth­ers who have sought treat­ment at The Mead­ows in­clude pop star Rob­bie Wil­liams (al­co­holism) and the late Tara PalmerTomkin­son (drugs and al­co­hol).

But it is the treat­ment of phi­lan­der­ing men that turned The Mead­ows into a money-spin­ning ma­chine. While the fa­cil­ity guards its own pri­vacy as ve­he­mently as the iden­tity of its su­per­star pa­tients – re­peated re­quests from The Mail on Sun­day for com­ment went unan­swered last week – it was bought in 2016 by pri­vate eq­uity firm Kohlberg & Co in a deal re­ported worth $180 mil­lion (£137 mil­lion).

It is home to what it calls ‘the na­tion’s pre­mier in­pa­tient treat­ment for sex ad­dic­tion’, a 45-day, men-only pro­gramme ti­tled The Gen­tle Path. It uses a mix­ture of group ther­apy, one-on-one coun­selling ses­sions, yoga, art classes and equine ther­apy.

The Mead­ows’ web­site pro­claims: ‘In a safe and nur­tur­ing com­mu­nity com­posed of their peers, men are guided on their jour­ney of re­cov­ery by ex­am­in­ing the un­der­ly­ing causes of sex­ual ad­dic­tion.’

Wealthy Cal­i­for­nian busi­ness­man Ralph Paglia, 61, was treated for sex ad­dic­tion at the fa­cil­ity in 2013, and says while it is cushy, celebri­ties still strug­gle with the rules. These in­clude lim­ited ac­cess to mo­bile phones and com­put­ers (just 15 min­utes a day, un­der strict su­per­vi­sion), a sugar-free diet and an anti-smok­ing pol­icy.

‘I saw many celebri­ties in my time there and most didn’t last un­til the end,’ says Paglia. ‘They’re too used to be­ing pam­pered. I’d put money on Spacey and We­in­stein drop­ping out.’

In­deed, We­in­stein has already been spot­ted at a nearby £500a-night lux­ury ho­tel and eat­ing ‘off-site’ at a steak restau­rant.

Last night a spokesman con­firmed that We­in­stein is still be­ing treated but de­clined to com­ment fur­ther.

For a man in­fa­mous for scream-

ing at his min­ions and fly­ing around the globe in a pri­vate jet, life at The Mead­ows for We­in­stein must seem in­ter­minably dull and rather like that hit movie he didn’t make – Ground­hog Day.

Each day starts at 6.15am with an hour of ex­er­cise; pri­vate t’ai chi and yoga lessons are held out­side be­fore the bru­tal Ari­zona sun flares up, fol­lowed by break­fast in the com­mu­nal din­ing hall cooked by a team of pri­vate chefs.

Meals are mostly plant-based. Pro­cessed white sugar and caf­feine are banned as ad­dic­tive, and choco­late and sweets are con­fis­cated on check-in. Typ­i­cal break­fast of­fer­ings in­clude a range of gluten-free breads, egg whites, fresh fruit, home-made yo­gurt and smooth­ies.

‘The food is plen­ti­ful be­cause they don’t want peo­ple deal­ing with hunger is­sues along with ev­ery­thing else,’ Paglia ex­plains. Pa­tients wear colour-coded tags in plas­tic badges pinned to their shirts. ‘When you wear the red tag of a sex ad­dict you are not sup­posed to have any fe­male con­tact,’ says Paglia. ‘They have physi­cians, psy­chi­a­trists and nurses watch­ing you but also mon­i­tors who act like se­cu­rity guards, watch­ing your ev­ery move.’

There is a strict dress code, even for pa­tients not in the sex-ad­dicts pro­gramme. Women are banned from wear­ing re­veal­ing clothes such as biki­nis. Trousers that are too tight will re­sult in a staff mem­ber send­ing the wo­man back to her room to change into some­thing ‘less tempt­ing’ to the sex ad­dicts. Men are banned from wear­ing tight swim­ming trunks.

Ther­apy be­gins at 9am, with a group ses­sion last­ing anything from one to two hours in which res­i­dents are en­cour­aged to stand up and an­nounce: ‘Hi, I’m “X” and I’m a sex ad­dict.’

Group ther­apy is fol­lowed by a one-on-one ses­sion with a pri­vate shrink be­fore breaking for lunch at about noon.

Pa­tients are en­cour­aged to carry stuffed teddy bears around as part of sex ther­apy to get in touch with their ‘inner child’.

While res­i­dents can check out at any time, The Mead­ows does not give re­funds. ‘The only time you are al­lowed to leave the prop­erty is on Sun­day to go to church or a tem­ple. A lot of peo­ple sign up for that just to get a change of scenery,’ Paglia ad­mits.

Dur­ing the first week of treat­ment, known as Ori­en­ta­tion Week, pa­tients are mon­i­tored around the clock by a team of nurses who take vi­tal signs (blood pres­sure, pulse, tem­per­a­ture), as many sex ad­dicts are also deal­ing with drug and al­co­hol is­sues. ‘A lot of peo­ple are detox­ing,’ says Paglia. ‘They want to make sure you are healthy enough to carry on.’

He says that while the pri­vate be­d­rooms have gran­ite bath­tubs, they are more spar­tan than the av­er­age ho­tel room. ‘There is no TV or ra­dio – just a small desk and a read­ing lamp. There’s def­i­nitely no mini-bar.’

Pa­tients line up twice a day for med­i­ca­tions. ‘There are two win­dows where they dis­pense medi- cations and there were al­ways long lines,’ he says. ‘You had to take your meds there and then and they watched to make sure you swal­lowed them.’

After­noons are filled with less con­ven­tional ther­a­pies, typ­i­cally last­ing an hour to 90 min­utes.

One fea­tures a Staff Of Knowl­edge, a wooden staff bor­rowed from Na­tive Amer­i­can tra­di­tion – it is passed around dur­ing group ses­sions to de­note who wishes to speak next.

Af­ter­noon classes in­clude equine ther­apy with na­tive mus­tang horses (you are en­cour­aged to hug the horses), acupunc­ture, yoga and more coun­selling from out­side ex­perts brought in to lec­ture on a range of top­ics from drugs to child­hood abuse.

There is also re­gres­sional hyp­no­sis, where men re­call child­hood trau­mas. Art ther­apy en­cour­ages them to paint a his­tory of their sex­ual en­coun­ters.

While the very no­tion of sex ad­dic­tion is de­bunked else­where, The Mead­ows’ lit­er­a­ture brands it a le­git­i­mate men­tal ill­ness.

‘Sex ad­dic­tion is clearly an ill­ness with a def­i­nite set of symptoms and it is treat­able,’ the brochure states. ‘Con­trary to love, this ob­ses­sional ill­ness trans­forms sex into the pri­mary need for which all else may be sac­ri­ficed in­clud­ing fam­ily, friends, val­ues, health, safety and work.’

But ad­dic­tions ex­pert Dr Ley called the the­ory ‘pseudo sci­ence’. He told The Mail on Sun­day: ‘This has be­come the fash­ion­able ex­cuse of the day. I’ve toured The Mead­ows – it’s a beau­ti­ful, high-end fa­cil­ity. They charge a for­tune to give a mish-mash of ther­a­pies. It is ex­ploita­tive. None of it is sci­en­tif­i­cally proven so in­surance com­pa­nies won’t pay.

‘Places like The Mead­ows make a very lu­cra­tive liv­ing from tap­ping into a mar­ket of peo­ple who are des­per­ate.’

Din­ner is at 6pm fol­lowed by more group ther­apy meet­ings un­til 8.30pm. Then there is 90 min­utes of free time – to read, do home­work, re­lax in your gran­ite bath – be­fore the lights go off at 10pm.

The fi­nal week of treat­ment is Fam­ily Week, when wives and fam­i­lies are en­cour­aged to visit and join in ther­apy ses­sions.

For Paglia, the ex­pe­ri­ence was help­ful but ex­pen­sive. ‘I’d hap­pily go back again – if some­body else would pick up the bill,’ he said.

For We­in­stein and Spacey, the $60,000 (£45,000) bill for their 45-day re­hab is a drop in the ocean. But it re­mains to be seen whether the con­tro­ver­sial treat­ment ac­tu­ally works or is merely a fig leaf cov­er­ing a greater ill.

Po­lice in New York have already an­nounced they are pre­par­ing to press charges against We­in­stein for sex­ual as­sault and rape – charges that could be brought as early as next week. If con­victed, he may even­tu­ally find him­self lan­guish­ing in far less salu­bri­ous sur­round­ings than The Mead­ows.

Women can­not wear re­veal­ing clothes ‘I’d hap­pily go back – if some­body else paid’

deSeRt ReFUge: Har­vey we­in­stein, left, and Kevin Spacey are be­ing treated at the Mead­ows

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