Circle Tree Ranch Curriculum

Amity Circle Tree Ranch uses innovative, evidence-based approaches and is recognized as one of the few formal curriculum-based, comprehensive care, rehabilitation, teaching & therapeutic communities in the United States.

The Circle Tree Ranch curriculum includes topics on issues which may contribute to substance abuse and co-occurring disorders such as childhood experiences, family dynamics, gender accountability, violence, prejudice, trauma and relationships. The Circle Tree Ranch curriculum fosters emotional intelligence and encourages the development of authentic friendships. Students learn and work together on a 60 acre ranch in a variety of settings including group circles, vocational work readiness experiences, team-building, seminars, parenting classes, as well as weekly family/parents gatherings and family weekend workshops.

At Circle Tree Ranch students are exposed to a wide range of cultural experiences, learn emotional literacy, tolerance and moral development. Through daily practice, students are able to change their emotional reflexes to situations, people and more importantly to themselves. Longer residential rehabilitation treatment is encouraged for the dedicated student who wishes to reconcile, re-member and re-solve life issues and significantly expand her/his repertoire of responses. Families are included in the process of addiction recovery and change. Parents with young children residing with them on campus are welcome to extend their substance abuse treatment services.

Circle Tree Ranch utilizes the Extensions, LLC. Curriculum, a holistic approach to addiction treatment services authored by Naya Arbiter and Fernando Mendez. The Extensions curriculum represents six decades of cumulative work with Therapeutic Communities and enables the recovering  client (students) to become enthusiastic participants in their own evolution. Throughout the curriculum, students study topics including family dynamics, trauma, prejudice, violence, individual strengths, moral development and emotional literacy. Students identify the underlying issues that contribute to their substance abuse, the negative emotional reflexes that they developed which promote relapse, learn antidote messages and behavioral patterns to practice which expand both their mind and spirit.

Circle Tree Ranch is a therapeutic community providing residential substance abuse treatment services where students explore the root causes and consequences of their drug addiction, alcoholism and other addictive behaviors. We are unique among drug and alcohol rehab programs, utilizing “community as method” as treatment for substance abuse. The drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs provided by Circle Tree Ranch emphasize the crucial role of community, friendship, and family in recovery. In the therapeutic community assumptions that promote global changes in lifestyle and identity include the individual developing new roles, being public, becoming a participant, and developing personal accountability.

Curriculum volumes have been successfully used in therapeutic communities for two decades to effectively motivate students to pursue growth and learning. Circle Tree Ranch helps individuals to explore all realities, causes and contributing factors which result in chemical dependency and addiction. The whole-person or holistic treatment approach focuses on a person’s physical, behavioral, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. Positive outcomes from drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs that have utilized the curriculum have been extensively published in book chapters and professional publications. Much of the material contained in the series has been successfully used by authors and training professionals in 21 states to implement and/or improve treatment.

The curriculum addresses many of the factors contributing to substance abuse including trauma, grief, domestic violence, assault, dysfunctional families, abandoned children, disease, loneliness, failure and more. The intent of the curriculum is to help students accept and reconcile the reality of their life experiences. Students build bridges back toward a healthy lifestyle and healthy relationships. The curriculum does not merely lead students to live successfully in a treatment center but to live successfully in the world.

Curriculum Domains:

Self-help Restorative Paradigms: Includes introductory 12-step and basic family work and reduces prejudices regarding the variety of recovery paradigms so that students can avail themselves of all useful recovery systems. Family Dynamics: Promotes an awareness and understanding of social and emotional development, especially in the context of family networks. Moral Development: Identifies conditions necessary for moral growth, conscience development and personal responsibility. Exercises urge participants towards personal growth. Emotional Literacy: Promotes development of emotional intelligence so participants can authentically and successfully navigate through “normal” social situations and relationships. Students study the negative emotional reflexes that they developed that promote relapse and identify antidote messages and behavioral patterns to practice.

Available Curriculum Courses

  • Origins of Restorative Paradigms
  • Circles for Beginners
  • Family Dynamics
  • Resentment, Rationalization, Resistance, Reaction & Perseverance
  • Vocabularies of Violence & Affection
  • Emergence
  • Tending the Hearts Garden

Origins of Restorative Paradigms

The concepts of paradigms, paradigm shifts and paradigm paralysis are explored first in general and then applied to personal recovery. Each participant must examine, challenge and experience a shift in their own paradigms regarding addiction, criminality and the recovery process.

Circles for the Beginner

The objective of this curriculum is to introduce participants to the basic theory of encounter groups in a non-threatening manner prior to their participation in group circles.  This curriculum defines a common language for encounter groups amongst participants.

Basic Assumptions

Students are introduced to the “basics” of community, including being public rather than private, a participant rather than a spectator, and inclusion rather than exclusion. Other concepts include jobs versus roles, and the relationship of personal authority rather than vested authority in a community context. The norms established in this curriculum are foundational for developing prosocial behaviors, healthy peer groups, and good citizenship.

Family Dynamics

This curriculum is intended to begin the introspective process of examining how current social skills (or lack thereof) were formed and developed in the context of the social environment during formative years.

Resentment, Rationalization, Resistance, Reaction & Perseverance

The curriculum explores both personal and global rationalizations (i.e. destruction of the rainforests) and identifies positive and negative uses for resistance. The lives of Malcolm X, Chico Mendez, Henry David Thoreau and Gandhi are studied for their positive demonstration and the contributions that they made to society. Perseverance is studied from the perspective of character development.

Vocabularies of Violence & Affection

This curriculum develops the theme of emotional reflexes that result from stress and conflict. Violence and violation wear many masks and stand in stark contrast to the vocabularies of validation and affection that we are capable of. The material is divided into two parts: 1) Conflict and violation and 2) Reconciliation and restoration.


Frequently addicts are assigned labels laden with emotional rhetoric. Declared to be “hopeless,” these people often have as much faith in what they have been labeled by strangers as the strangers have in the labels given. This curriculum examines the issues of fear, promises and clarity which invites the emergence of the authentic self. It is for people who have hurt others and hurt themselves. It is for people who have run away and never gotten far enough. It is for those engaged in the struggle of moving from Winter to Spring and for those who help them.

Tending the Heart’s Garden

This is a woman-centered curriculum for both women and men. Tending the Heart’s Garden examines the changing roles of women in the last hundred years, as well as the need for role development in the feminine aspects of character. It aids in the identification of past negative roles and helps students examine sexual stereotypes. The curriculum uses Springtime as a metaphor for the growth and re-birth process that takes place in transformation and recovery after the “winter” of addiction.