The Edge is an addiction programme for young men, aged 18 to 26, that not only tries to achieve recovery from a substance or process (like gambling and gaming) addiction, but also attempts to instil in addicts a new perspective and zest for life.
The programme was researched and designed by the clinical team at The Cabin Addiction Services Group, after discovering that its young male clients were not responding as well to the traditional “talk therapy” treatment model as their female counterparts or older clients.
The Cabin Addiction Services Group offers inpatient and outpatient treatment for addicts and has facilities in Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, Dubai, Denmark and Dhaka, as well as its flagship addiction treatment and rehabilitation centre, The Cabin Chiang Mai (thecabinchiangmai.com), in the foothills of Northern Thailand.
The treatment centre in Chiang Mai occupies almost 7ha of land in the Maerim district and it is far from a bootcamp/hostel type facility. Instead it’s a 120-room retreat that is akin to a luxury resort, with fitness gyms and swimming pools. The ratio of clinical staff to clients is one to one and overall the centre boasts 120 full-time staff members.
In the last eight years, The Cabin has had a total of 2,574 clients of all addictions, and feels there is a growing need for preventive medicine for young people, especially in areas such as gaming addiction.
The Edge (theedgerehab.com) hopes to provide a turning point in these young men’s lives and an opportunity to steer them away from self-destructive patterns using a holistic approach that combines psychological, physical and social elements.
Irishman John Logan, head counsellor of The Edge programme, is an advocate of motivational interviewing, cognitive behavioural therapy, mindfulness and the 12-step model of addiction recovery and has been working as an addictions counsellor in Thailand since 2013.
“With gaming addiction, we have a 90-day programme here at The Edge. The first 45 days is on electronic detox and focusing on the addiction. The second 45 days is about retraining or reteaching these young men how to use technology in a healthy way,” he said.
He explained in great detail the multi-pronged programme which combines traditional therapy (group and one-on-one), physical activity (muay thai, gym, triathlon training), wilderness therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy, a holistic approach (includes art therapy and meditation), social responsibility, sober fun, family work and continuing care.
Developed in collaboration with recovered gaming addict Cam Adair, the programme addresses the mental health issues at the root of the addiction using clinically-evidenced psychotherapy and practical solutions devised by Adair.
Steve Jenkins, the fitness coordinator who is also in charge of the wilderness programme here, has a background in Britain’s military, so he looks like he means business. But when you see him interacting with the young men at the gym (which we were given access to during StarLifestyle’s visit to The Cabin), you’ll immediately notice that he has a way of motivating and inspiring them without using force.
“The fortunate side product of physical activity is it makes young men more manageable as they are all very tired after, and it helps them to be more open to the therapeutic side of the programme – they are then able to relax and listen to what’s going on,” said Jenkins.
“We bring the guys out here to the Bangarang gym and we all train together – we have three two-hour sessions a week at the gym, and twice a week there’s triathlon training which involves cycling, running and swimming,” he shared, explaining that being physically fit not only helps in the recovery process but also by learning a new skill (muay thai) these young men are able to build up their self esteem.
“Self esteem is usually one of the first things to go when one is going through substance abuse or whatever their issue happens to be. Here they are working together as a team,” he said. “And there is positive peer pressure – they are pushing together, they tend to be a very cohesive group.
“They listen to common music, they have common points of references, they are a tight group who are able to laugh and joke and train together. This is something not normally done in addiction therapy. Here they are enjoying themselves without drugs, without alcohol, without anything else.”
Jenkins finds his work fulfilling.
“It’s a job I like doing. I like seeing the changes that we can affect in people – they become different people. Those who succeed are motivated to exercise – you see guys who never had a background in exercise before going out hiking and enjoying what they are doing sober,” he shared, admitting also that it can be disappointing when they don’t fulfil their potential, as naturally the success rate isn’t 100%.
Here the young men are also taught simple life skills like cooking and making their own beds.
“Many of them have a sense of entitlement – the demographic lends itself to this as most of them have always had someone else do the chores for them,” he said.
And for Jenkins, one of the best parts of The Edge is the family programme which he calls excellent because families are able to be part of the programme as well as witness actual tangible development at the end.
“This part of the programme is for girlfriends, parents and siblings – they come to Chiang Mai and visit their family member at The Cabin. They may not have a good understanding of addiction and think it’s their fault, or their son’s fault.
He said: “So here we try to give people the tools to deal with the problems in their life. Sometimes it is a shock for them to see their son taking part in a triathlon because they don’t expect to see such a thing. They have never seen their sons in any physical exercise.”