Santa Barbara resident William Oswald has commuted to Malibu every day for the last 30 years. As executive director and founder of Summit Malibu, the alcohol and addiction treatment center based in the affluent oceanside city, Oswald has helped pioneer new ways to treat addiction.
Oswald began his treatment and therapy work by founding the Avalon Treatment Centers at Van Nuys Hospital and at the Adult Substance Abuse Program of Southern California (ASAP). He was one of the first people to expand the range of addiction treatments in medical facilities.
“The [ASAP] substance abuse program is a program for people with addiction and we treat basically everyone here except for people with extreme eating disorders,” explained Oswald. “We’re more of a therapeutic model than just the typical 12 steps. When people arrive here we already know they have an addiction, and we try to hand-carve people’s treatment and get to the core issues of that self-destructive behavior.”
The Summit Malibu facility, which is located on Pierce Brosnan’s former estate, prides itself on being a more specialized, client-driven location where people can rehabilitate peacefully and undisturbed. Oswald has employed a small but accomplished team to help with the recovery process of the maximum seven people at Summit Malibu at any one time.
“Promises Rehab Center has six houses and about 40 people,” Oswald said. “We take a holistic approach to treatment using Western medicine. I have four total psychologists, a psychiatrist, three of which are PhDs, and a medical doctor. I’m the director of the program so I do some individual work with clients and I make sure they get what they’re paying for here.”
A former addict himself (he was using heroin by the time he was 14 and got sober in 1979), Oswald understands the intricacies of addiction and takes steps to achieve high success rates and diminish chances of relapse.
“If people stay in treatment longer, then their chances are better. Our success rates are really great; I’d say we’re strongly in the 65 to 70 percent range,” said Oswald. “The property has a really warm feel and it’s not institutional at all. I get some really high-end executives sometimes who are afraid they’re going to have to do this cold turkey, but once they’ve gotten here, they just jump right in.”
Oswald measures success as total abstinence from alcohol and drugs once the patient has left the facility. He also notes that the face of addiction has changed today, as many addictions are what Oswald calls “poly-addictions.” The majority of the cases seen at Summit are rarely just alcohol related. Many times their clients have anxiety as well, so they’re taking pain medications like Xanax and especially OxyContin.
In addition to its Web site, Summit Malibu has a blog for anybody interested in learning more about the treatment facility. It can be found here.