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My Journey with South Pacific Private

My Journey with South Pacific Private

Marc Richardson, Psychologist, C&M Psych Solutions

My journey with SPP began as an inpatient participating in the changes program in 1999. We were advised to read Facing Codependence (Pia Melody) prior to attending the program.

Within the first ten pages of the book I found so many answers to the riddle of my existence and knew immediately that my experience of changes and SPP was to be life-changing. At this stage I had completed a certificate 4 in drug and alcohol and the Tertiary Preparation Certificate at TAFE without any real sense of my direction. The connectedness I experienced within the community and the care and professionalism of the staff at SPP really laid the foundation for not just my recovery but my professional development.

I am now a registered psychologist having opened my own private practice in 2008 after spending 10 years working in drug and alcohol treatment in both private and non-private facilities. (We Help Ourselves, Foundation house, South Pacific Private and Sydney Clinic). Furthermore I have a graduate diploma in adult psychotherapy from ANZAP and have been an academic staff member at the Jansen Newman Institute.  I am very passionate about recovery particularly substance abuse recovery.

Personality disorders, particularly those clients suffering with BPD are typically incredibly rewarding to work with. Finally group therapy (Yalom, here and now focus, interpersonal process groups) are such an exciting modality to practice and a highly challenging and rewarding way of working with clients.

Certainly one client that comes to mind presented with a serious drug and alcohol problem, a personality disorder and consequently other associated behaviours. After completion of her inpatient stay she returned to me not just drug and alcohol free, but determined to maintain her recovery via a twelve step fellowship. She also returned to me with a clear sense of how her history was stifling her ability to be intimate, or indeed to be functional. Furthermore she returned to me with a willingness and openness to confront her history via our therapeutic relationship. Added to the processing she had been personally able to integrate through the family week program she was heading home to a husband and a family with a strong sense of not just the issues around my clients recovery and history but an ability to communicate their needs and to be able to healthily respond to the issues they all faced.

Often clients post an assessment, ponder inpatient vs. outpatient treatment. Whilst I see benefits in an outpatient program I see so much richness derived from an inpatient stay. SPP maintains a therapeutic community approach and so much happens outside of what one would consider the therapeutic aspects of the program. Support, care and identification as well as massive relational realizations are on offer when one fully immerses themselves within a therapeutic community. At the end of the day, recovery typically cannot be achieved without making sacrifices and whilst my clients typically like the idea of an easier softer option, this rarely pays off well!  The gifts of taking time away from one’s life (work, family etc.) to fully concentrate on themselves and their care has benefits that I believe are not quantifiable.

A huge part of what I see differentiates SPP from other treatment facilities is that the model (relational development model) seeks to address the underlying causes of their clients struggles as opposed to simply addressing the symptoms. Additionally, the focus on feelings and therefore the need to address affect in a healthier way plays a huge part in preparing clients for the long road ahead. The use of the group therapy modality is also another aspect of SPP’s approach that I believe pays huge dividends as clients seek to understand how their behaviour not only effects their life but also impacts how others see them and therefore relate to/and treat them.

For me the level of distress that an individual reports is the best indicator of the level of crisis in their lives. Hopelessness, helplessness and isolation are great signs of concern. Finally, immense difficulties in affect regulation typically leading to dissociation again which would warrant great concern for me as a health practitioner.

The concept of supporting individuals into treatment is an extremely difficult and sensitive issue.

Establishing trust and safety with our clients is at the top of our list. Expressing my concerns and my fears for a client’s well-being not surprisingly works a lot better than making demands or remonstrating with them. I more typically find myself these days indicating that doing an assessment with SPP can’t hurt  and will help in giving my client a clearer indication of “where they are at” and of the options that are available. Furthermore I tend to appeal to their desire to not “give up their lives for 3 weeks” and use the prospect of inpatient treatment as a motivator of where things may end up if they don’t apply themselves fully and make significant changes in their lives.

I find that an inpatient stay at SPP regularly helps my clients to move from a place of shame and self-condemnation to a place of vastly greater self-acceptance and a deep understanding of the role played by their family of origin and their past experiences in shaping the choices they have made that lead to them seeking treatment. This move from shame and worthlessness to a place of hurt and compassion is a huge step in helping our clients give themselves permission to get well and to find the necessary worth to embark on the road of recovery.

A visit to SPP and exposure to the model is typically a huge step in our clients moving beyond the “self” they created to manage what they saw as a painful and unforgiving world. They move into a place of self-acceptance with an ability to start to contemplate the role that intimacy and connection may play in helping them heal and how this may create space for them to live a healthy, manageable and hopefully happy life.

Should you wish to contact Marc directly you can reach him on 0415163650