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Stepping Stone of San Diego, Inc.

3767 Central Avenue, San Diego, California, 92105
Stepping Stone, a non-profit alcohol and drug recovery organization, primarily serves the LGBT community, focusing on inclusion and acceptance to promote recovery from addiction and co-occurring conditions in a safe and healing environment. Stepping Stone uses evidence-based treatments such as 12-step programs, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Motivational Enhancement Therapy, Seeking Safety (trauma-informed) Curriculum, and Discovering Sexual Health in Recovery.

Facility Highlights

  • Support Groups
  • Recreational Opportunities
  • Discovering Sexual Health in Recovery


  • Residential Treatment

    Residential treatment programs provide housing (food and meals) in addition to treatment for substance abuse. Some facilities offer only short-term residential treatment, some offer only long-term treatment and others offer both, ranging from a few days to many months, based on patient needs.
  • Aftercare Support

    Addiction recovery does not end with discharge after completing a rehab program. Facilities that offer aftercare planning and/or support work with patients to ensure sustainable recovery by helping to plan and make arrangements for transitional or sober living, help with housing, vocational counseling, etc.

Facility Settings

  • Average Location/Amenities

Meet the Staff

  • Catherine Aquino, MD, BS
    Catherine Aquino, MD, BSChief Executive Officer
    Catherine began her work in the drug and alcohol field in 2008 with Stepping Stone of San Diego, Inc. She was a Ryan White case manager and shortly after was promoted to Director of Support and Outpatient Services. Catherine continued her work with Stepping Stone and in 2011, took on the role as the Director of Operations. She was responsible for the oversight of program contractual service deliverables and overall daily operations. Currently, Catherine is the Chief Executive Officer for Stepping Stone. She is responsible for the overall program operation, monitors all contractual service deliverables, acts as the liaison between the County of San Diego Department of Behavioral Health Services - Alcohol and Drug Services and Health and Human Services Agency.
  • Chris Mueller, MSW, ASW
    Chris Mueller, MSW, ASWProgram Manager
    Chris Mueller was born in Omaha and was raised in Ogallala, Nebraska. He attended Stepping Stone's Outpatient in 1998 and was awarded the Stepping Stone Alumni Recognition Award on June 9, 2000. Chris has volunteered for Mama's Kitchen, New York City and San Diego AIDS Walk, Homeless Outreach in Davis, California, and New York City and mentored students at Sherman Heights Elementary School and The Institute for Collaborative Education in New York City. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California at Davis in 2005. After graduating from UC Davis Chris moved to the East Coast and received a Masters of Social Work degree from New York University in 2007.

Treatment Center Links

Rehabs 360 Guide


Founded in 1976, Stepping Stone of San Diego is a nonprofit organization designed primarily to serve the LGBT community while still offering services to non-LGBT clients. From a campus in the City Heights neighborhood of northeast San Diego, the facility offers long-term residential treatment for substance use and co-occurring mental health disorders, plus sober-living facilities. Only 25% of facilities in California offer similar LGBT-centric treatment. Medical detox is not available on-site.


Programs are personalized for every individual patient. Each client is assigned a counselor who provides case management and substance use counseling on a personal basis. The residential program is six months long, and includes 12 weeks of aftercare.

Clients participate in daily group therapy on a variety of topics designed for the LGBT population. For example, the center uses evidence-based treatment, including the Seeking Safety curriculum, to address trauma. The facility also utilizes a Discovering Sexual Health in Recovery program that offers an empowering alternative to the traditional abstinence approach, and integrates relapse prevention into all aspects of treatment, helping clients recognize precursors to relapse.

Treatment is divided into four phases: Orientation (which lasts 45 days), Stabilization (60 days), Supportive Recovery (45 days), and Extended Recovery (30 days). A weekly family program offers education, referrals, and optional individual family therapy sessions. Stepping Stone runs two local sober living facilities, and can also provide referrals to additional local sober living resources.


According to Stepping Stone’s website, staff includes master’s and Ph.D.-level clinicians, an HIV therapist, and Alcohol and Other Drug certified counselors. The eight individuals polled on the matter by Rehabs.com to date appreciated the aptitude of staff.

Staff’s level of experience and training: 4.3/5


Stepping Stone is a 30-bed facility. Residents prepare breakfast and lunch; the kitchen staff serves dinner. Clients must complete chores every morning. The eight individuals polled on the matter felt the facility was clean and well-maintained.

Overall cleanliness and upkeep: 4.25/8


All six alumni polled by Rehabs.com at the time of this writing gave positive feedback, with one or two minor caveats. Alumni tended to give the facility high ratings for adequate staff support, the cleanliness of the facility, and the respect shown to clients. Two reviewers gave the facility lower ratings for the overall quality of its group counseling, and most reviewers gave low ratings between one and three stars for holistic offerings.

Respect shown to clients: 4.5/5
Availability of staff support: 4.25/5
Holistic offerings: 1.75/5

“I really learned a lot about myself,” alum Ronn wrote. J.M. added: “They still care and they still check on me after 3 years.” However, alum Stacey was less satisfied with the aftercare provisions, reporting she could not continue to see her therapist after treatment.

Reviews left on secondary review sites were also unanimously positive. On Facebook (which the facility has the ability to manage), 29 reviewers all gave the facility perfect five-star ratings.[1] On Google reviews, 11 reviewer have given the facility an average rating of 4.9 stars.[2] On YellowPages.com, the facility has received two reviews, both awarding the facility with perfect five out of five-star ratings.[3] Reviewers tended to praise the facility's staff and treatment approach.

“I owe my amazing and blessed life to the Stone. It is an amazing recovery program cutting edge, it offers amazing foundation of recovery for those who are fortunate enough to seek it,” alum Wayne posted on Facebook in a representative review.


The three loved ones polled by Rehabs.com at the time of this writing also gave positive feedback, giving the facility four or five stars for its family program and counseling options. “Offered family night meetings, BBQ, and social events,” D.M. wrote. One reviewer felt that there was insufficient staff to work effectively with clients, though admitted they would still recommend the facility to others.


According to the facility’s website, clients are charged on a sliding scale, and both private payment and insurance are accepted, though insurance details are not specified.

[1] https://www.facebook.com/pg/steppingstonesd/reviews/

[2] https://goo.gl/Mr7Ca5

[3] http://www.yellowpages.com/san-diego-ca/mip/the-stepping-stone-of-san-diego-admin-offices-6867966?lid=6867966

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