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Gay Men's Institute

67580 Jones Road, Cathedral City, California, 92234
At Gay Men’s Institute, we understand the unique challenges of growing up gay in a predominantly heterosexual culture, in particular, the challenges of accepting one’s own sexual orientation, coming out to parent, friends, and others, and dealing with internalized feelings of shame and separateness. These challenges are considered when developing your treatment plan. Individual therapy, group therapy, and psychoeducation groups will be structured around affirming your sexual orientation, developing DBT skills, exploring personal and social triggers, and helping you find joy in recovery. Process groups will openly discuss topics of concern to gay men, such as social media, online (Apps) dating, HIV/AIDS, PrEP, monogamous and open relationships, healthy sexual behavior, and phase-life-transitions for gay men and our community. Our Family program allows you to invite your family of choice to assist your journey to recovery. Gay Men’s Institute staff is committed to creating a safe and supportive environment for you to promote acceptance and healthy recovery.

Facility Highlights

  • Detox
  • Residential Treatment
  • Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)


  • Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity

    Gay Men's Institute works exclusively with gay men seeking treatment.
  • Trauma Release

    Gay Men's Institute staff is experienced in working with patients with a history of many types of trauma. Specializations include sexual trauma, military trauma and early life childhood experiences that must be addressed in therapy in order to attempt to overcome it and truly recover from addiction.

Facility Settings

  • Private/Secluded

Meet the Staff

  • Alan Downs, Ph.D.
    Alan Downs, Ph.D.Executive Director
    Alan Downs is a clinical psychologist, sought-after speaker, and author of several books, including the groundbreaking, The Velvet Rage: Overcoming the Pain of Growing Up Gay In a Straight Man’s World, which is one of the leading self-help books for gay men. Dr. Downs earned a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Nebraska in 1989. He has spent numerous years working as a clinical psychologist in private practice in Beverly Hills, CA as well as former CEO of Michael’s House Treatment Center in Palm Springs, CA where he also conducted weekend workshops for families of those struggling with addictions. Dr. Downs has been a guest on many media programs including, THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW, TODAY SHOW, and NPR’s MORNING EDITION. He has also been a contributing writer to Mother Jones magazine and his work has been quoted numerous times in a variety of media, including The New York Times,[5] The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Chicago Tribune, Attitude, San Francisco Chronicle and many others. He has made appearances on such programs as CBS Sunday Morning, Good Morning America, NBC Nightly News, and NPR’s Morning Edition.
  • Gaetano Vaccaro, Ph.D.
    Gaetano Vaccaro, Ph.D.Clinical Director
    Gaetano Vaccaro is a licensed Clinical Psychologist and an expert in Program Management, Organizational Change, and Optimal Performance. Dr. Vaccaro has over twenty-five years of experience as a psychotherapist, clinical program director, workshop facilitator, life coach, and management consultant for program design and implementation. Dr. Vaccaro is a multi-disciplinary psychologist who received his doctorate at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Jungian Depth Psychology, and his Master’s degree in Positive Psychology & Spiritual Psychology from the University of Santa Monica. Dr. Vaccaro’s experience includes holistic multidisciplinary treatment of psychological disturbances and addictions as well as HIV/AIDS treatment and education, sexual compulsivity, addictive behaviors, and mood disorders.

Financial Details

  • Up to 100%

Treatment Center Links

Rehabs 360 Guide


Located 15 minutes outside of Palm Springs, Sunspire Health Desert Palms is a residential alcohol and drug abuse treatment center serving men and women. The Southern California facility emphasizes what it refers to as "tough" rehab work in a serene setting, with special care for LGBTQ individuals, young adults, and clients who struggle with chronic relapse. Detox services and integrated treatment for co-occurring substance use and other mental health disorders is provided. Sunspire Health also operates men's and women's treatment centers in Palm Beach Gardens (Recovery Road) and Tampa (Hyde Park), Florida. Sunspire Health Texas offers a professionals track, and additional centers include ones in South Carolina, Oregon, Massachusetts, and Illinois.


A typical stay at Sunspire Health Desert Palms is 30 days and follows a structured schedule of psychotherapy and holistic practices. Most days begin with movement, such as a serenity walk or yoga, and go on to incorporate multiple group process sessions, individual counseling, 12-step work, and expressive or recreational therapies. Personalized treatment plans are adjusted to address any co-occurring concerns that come up in the rehab process. Some clients remain for up to 90 days.

Several therapeutic modalities are used, including cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, motivational interviewing, mindfulness meditation, and trauma-oriented practices. Group sessions address such topics as grief and loss, sexual orientation, gender identification, social media addiction, the biological nature of addiction, and coping and life skills. Art, music, and equine therapy are also all available, along with nutritional counseling.

After completion of residential treatment, clients can continue treatment in the facility's intensive outpatient program (IOP), which also offers transitional housing support. Aftercare provisions take the form of an active alumni network with regular meetings.


The treatment team at Sunspire Health Desert Palms includes a clinical psychologist, several master's level therapists, and nurses.


Desert Palms accommodates up to 36 clients in a former hotel with a swimming pool and jacuzzi. Residents share sunny bedrooms with another resident of the gender they identify with. Chef-prepared meals can accommodate any dietary restrictions.

The facility is surrounded by palm trees and mountain views, and group meetings are often held outside. Residents have access to a local gym and hiking trails.


To date, Rehabs.com has received feedback for Sunrise Health Desert Palms from 26 former clients. Of these, 22 shared highly favorable reviews, three were critical, and one expressed frustration with financial arrangements and communication, but did not comment on the effectiveness of treatment.

The facility's staff received the most praise, mentioned in about two-thirds of alumni reviews and frequently represented as empathetic and knowledgeable. Two reviewers noted the value of some staff members being in recovery, while one expressed concerns about some staff over-sharing in groups. The staff's level of training and experienced received 4.5 out of five stars on average from 16 alumni polled.

Several reviewers also mentioned the value of the Desert Palms alumni program, the preparations for discharge and aftercare arranged, or their continued contact with facility staff.

Accommodations were commonly cited as an area of strength. Around one-fifth of reviewers favorably mentioned the center's location, view, or activities. Meals and nutrition received a 4.1-star rating on average, the facility's cleanliness and upkeep was rated 4.7 based on 16 responses, and exercise and leisure activities received 4.1 stars. One alum commented that although the facility was very comfortable, the focus was on recovery.

Metrics measuring holistic therapy offerings and counseling options revealed more moderate satisfaction, perhaps reflecting a more tightly focused approach than anticipated. Reviewers agreed strongly that programming was 12-step-focused and adequately equipped to address co-occurring disorders (with a 4.7-star rating).

Criticisms generally were not repeated, and included overly relaxed rules, finances, and not enough to do.

Fourteen alumni contributed to a 4.4-star rating for family participation.


All seven loved ones who submitted feedback for Sunspire Health Desert Palms to Rehabs.com shared positive opinions.

In fact, all metrics measured received four or more out of five stars or above on average. The lowest ratings were for family participation and holistic therapy. Loved ones repeatedly praised the center's staff, using such terms as "accommodating" and "focused," although one reviewer noted that programming was not as individualized as expected.

About half of loved ones' reviews concluded in one way or another that the most important thing about Desert Palms was "it worked."

Sunspire Health Desert Palms does not publish its costs, but more than 80% of 11 individuals polled on the affordabtility of treatment granted four or five out of five stars. The facility accepts many private insurance plans and, according to information provided to Rehabs.com by Sunspire Health, financial assistance is available.

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