HOW WE TREAT Experiential Programs

Life is about experiences. About doing things.
We learn, we grow, and change.
The best way to learn something new –
is to do something new.

Call: 1 (831) 372-4366


The phrase experiential education comes from a movement in the 60s and 70s that stressed a hands-on approach to learning. Educators realized two things:

  1. Not all students benefit from sitting in a classroom reading, writing, and talking.
  2. Students were growing up without direct contact with nature, and without learning nature-based skills.

They fixed this by designing experiences meant to get students out of the classroom and into the natural world, where they could try new things, fail at them, try again, fail better, try again, fail even better, then try again – and learn better.

The experiential model of education has four essential parts: Experience, Reflection, Transfer, New Knowledge. A student – meaning an individual new to a skill – has an experience. Next, they reflect on that experience. Then, they transfer their experience into new knowledge, which they then use to inform their next experience. It’s a virtuous cycle – and it works.

At Beacon House, you become a student of recovery – but you don’t spend the whole time sitting in group therapy or a counselor’s office. To become a student of the recovery lifestyle, you follow the experiential model. You learn through experience. You learn by doing.



Horses are amazing teachers. They don’t know who you are, where you come from, or what you’ve done in your life. They don’t know if you’re a millionaire, a rocket scientist, a schoolteacher, or unemployed. But one thing they do know: exactly how you feel when you meet them. If you’re anxious – they feel it. If you’re nervous – they know it. When you learn to relax, center yourself, and employ the nonverbal cues your equine therapist teaches you, the horse responds immediately. Evidence shows spending time around horses helps teach patience and gentleness – two skills you can transfer directly to your interpersonal relationships with family, friends, and peers.

“Horses are gifted at pointing out when the insides don’t match the outsides of a person. They help to crumble facades or walls without a person even realizing it! Once the participant spends a little time with the horse, they instinctively tune in to the horse and in so doing, become objectively self-aware.”
– Connie Yost, Equine Director, Polestar Farms


The beauty of birdwatching lies in its simplicity. You get out in nature and take a walk for the sole purpose of seeing and appreciating a creature that’s doing nothing but living its life, fully and in the moment. Birding becomes a meditation. The more quiet and still you are, the more you benefit. You hear birdsong, you see colorful plumage, you notice the sunlight through the trees and the feel of the air on your skin. You’re calm and quiet, but all your senses are engaged. You’re still, but you’re completely focused. The bird flies away – but the experience is yours forever.

“Sometimes I think that the point of birdwatching is not the actual seeing of the birds, but the cultivation of patience. Even if we don’t see anything remarkable – and sometimes that happens – we come home filled with light anyway.”

– Lyn Thompson “Birding with Yeats: A Mother’s Memoir”


The Northern California coast – and the Monterey Peninsula where we’re located, in particular – is legendary for its breathtaking natural beauty, its relaxed lifestyle, and friendly people. It’s also known for its world class surfing. We’re lucky to have a true California legend on our team of experiential educators: professional surfer Darryl “Flea” Virostko, three-time winner of Mavericks, one of the most prestigious surf competitions in the world. Along with his co-instructor, licensed counselor and addiction therapist Noah Greenberg, Flea takes Beacon House residents to prime local surf spots to teach the basics of surfing, surf culture, and surf philosophy.

Our surf program is not really about surfing, though. It’s about life. It’s about recovery. It’s about getting out of your comfort zone and achieving something you never thought you were capable of. It’s about discovering something you love. It’s about reconnecting with the part of you that’s alive, vibrant, and powerful. It’s about remembering you’re a strong and capable human being.

And According to Flea, it’s also about something much simpler:

“Surfing is about learning to have tons of fun without alcohol and drugs.”
He should know. Flea is not only our surf instructor, he’s also a Beacon House alumnus. Because of his extensive local knowledge, Flea also takes Beacon House residents on hikes and other nature-based activities on Saturdays.


Yoga, mindfulness, and meditation teach people in recovery practical skills to reduce stress, manage emotions, and develop focused self-awareness. Mindfulness – which includes yoga and meditation – asks you to slow down and pay attention to the world as it is, without judgment. You observe and accept. It asks you to become aware of your body and your physical sensations – also without judgment. You observe and accept your body as it is in the moment – not as it was when you were younger, not as it will be next month, but in the moment. It asks you to become aware of your thoughts – not as they once were, not as you wish them to be, but as they are in the moment. Mindfulness practices reconnect you to your mind, body, and spirit in a kind, thoughtful, and gentle way that fosters compassion and understanding.

Experienced instructors and clinicians at Beacon House teach you how to transfer these lessons to recovery and life. Mindfulness practices such as yoga and meditation are valuable because once you know them, they’re yours forever. When you learn a morning yoga routine, it’s yours. You don’t need a gym membership. All you need is time and a little space. The same is true for meditation and mindful breathing exercises. Once you know them, they’re there for you – and they can help you mange stress and navigate difficult emotions for your entire recovery journey.


Our golf program is facilitated by professional golfers from the PGA Tour. As you master the fundamentals of the game, you internalize the recovery benefits. You learn patience and the value of hard work and practice. You build confidence and improve self-esteem. If you like playing, you can keep it up after treatment. We use a simple approach for playing and enjoying golf. Instructors support your development through four steps:

  1. Get a grip
  2. Set up for success
  3. Find balance
  4. Swing for a lifetime

It’s easy to see how these lessons transfer back to recovery and life. That’s why it’s part of our experiential programming at Beacon House. It’s also a great way to get out of the house, get some light exercise, socialize, and get out in nature – all without alcohol or drugs.