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Sober College: Unique Melding of Addiction Treatment and Education  E-mail
Written by Ted Jackson   
December 2013

After nearly eight years at the helm of Sober College as its CEO and founder, Robert Pfeifer has a long history of involvement in the addictions industry on the youth treatment side, his roots going back to the earliest days of the therapeutic schools industry at places like CEDU, later at UHS after CEDU's absorption by the behavioral healthcare giant. His preoccupation with aiding troubled youth began in the street trenches helping the most downtrodden of the downtrodden at Covenant House, a critical resource in the Los Angeles area for dealing with the enormous, costly and tragic problem of homeless, mostly addicted, kids.

Highly Affordable Program

Sober College is a highly affordable program - $60K all-in for six months - for 18-26 year-old youth out of Woodland Hills, CA that throws a nationwide net with its marketing and sales efforts. "A central preoccupation for us has always been to develop a program that sets youth out on a path toward success, a path that can be followed long after they have been formally discharged from our care," says Pfeifer, pointing out it's no accident that he chose the name Sober College as education becomes more and more important in today's Post Industrial world. Prior to founding Sober College in 2006, Pfeifer ran marketing at Wickenburg, AZ's Gatehouse Academy - before that property descended into a morass of legal and financial trouble - where he began to work on linking college courses with addictions therapeutics. "We set up a relationship with Rio Salado College in Arizona, but the effort wasn't really at all that integrated", says Pfeifer.

"Key Learning Experience"

"It was, however, for me a first step and a key learning experience." Fast forward just shy of a decade, and pretty much every client at Sober College is very involved in a highly specialized curriculum that Pfeifer says is for the most part taught on the Sober College campus, with teachers and  professors who took a risk. What has emerged,  after a $250K investment on the educational program and its integration into the clinical side - mainly a spend on training clinicians and educators as well as student course fees - is a program that is likely to deliver very seriously strong positive outcomes. "For the young adult census we have made it our business to serve, nothing is more important for them, after six months of treatment, than to have acomplished something that makes them proud outside of just having at least 180-days clean, pride that they have a semester ofreal post-secondary education under their belt," says Pfeifer.

Pioneering Educational partnership

Toward that end Pfiefer has set up what really is quite a pioneering educational partnership with a cutting-edge Southern California private educational institution called Woodbury University, specifically with their School of Media, Culture and Design. "It took some cajoling to say the least to get professors to show up here and start teaching classes," says Pfeifer, adding that his clients have never been charged a seperate fee for the courses and never will. Of course, that's a different story if Sober College alumni, upon successfully completing treatment, decide to continue at Woodbury or even at some other institution of higher learning that might be located closer to home. The "Certificate of  General Studies" that Sober College clients earn from Woodbury is a full semester of coursework that is transferable to many universties and colleages nationwide, says Pfeifer. As founder and CEO of Sober College, Pfeifer's reputation has begun to precede him; and recently he has been approached privately by officials from some of the most prestigious public and private universities, some of whom appear to be at their wits end seeking advice on shocking campus drug and binge drinking episodes. "They really don't want to do anything about it that would bring bad publicity, so they sweep it under the rug for the most part," says Pfeifer, who has emerged hands down in our estimation as the leading private entrepreneurial figure in the key youth specialty addictions sub-market... and his 60+ bed highly affordable Sober College as the one to beat in the fast growing sector focused on treating addicted youth. TJ

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