A new programme offered by a Chiang Mai rehabilitation centre helps young gaming addicts adapt to a healthier digital lifestyle
ONE OF the most respected rehabilitation centres in Southeast Asia, The Cabin Chiang Mai boasts a high success rate in helping addicts of any age kick their habits. Now open for nine years, it spread its wings a couple of years ago and opened a parallel centre known as Edge, which offers activity-based programmes for young men and gaming addicts aged 18 to 26.
Edge is the brainchild of the professional clinical team and Cam Adair, founder of GameQuitters, which now has more than 500 members from 95 countries including the US, Singapore, China and South Korea.
“I was bullied so much that I shifted to online schooling. I got hooked on gaming when I was 16. By 2013, I was suicidal and when I actually wrote a suicide note. I realised I had to stop and step out into the world,” says Adair, a recovering game addict from Canada.
“In 2017, I shared my story online and later opened a space for those suffering addiction and wanting to quit. Gaming addiction is a big problem. I used to get lots of emails asking me the same question – ‘What should I do?’”
Located in Mae Rim district, the luxury 120-room resort occupies 37 rai and is divided into four villages for general addiction, LGBT, young men and women. Each community keeps the guests connected to urban living with such modern facilities as swimming pools, well-equipped fitness centres and executive lounges, plus a hospital.
“Addiction is a disease, generally caused by a state of low dopamine in the midbrain, which results in the positive feeling of reward [happiness] being hijacked. The key idea is that we need to move addicts from their familiar surroundings to reduce the impulse,” says Andy Leach, clinical leader and counsellor of The Cabin.
Head counsellor of the Edge programme John Logan is responsible for conducting motivational interviewing, cognitive behavioural therapy, mindfulness and the 12-step model of addiction recovery.
Focusing on being physically fit and mental health issues, it combines traditional therapy (group and one-on-one), with physical activity (muay thai, gym and triathlon training), wilderness sessions, cognitive behavioural therapy, holistic treatment (art therapy and meditation), social responsibility, sober fun, family work and continuing care.
“The addicts, who get treatment when their brains, are still not fully developed – so in the 18 to 26 age group – have a far better chance of reversing their behaviour than those aged 40. For the Edge programme, the first 45 days focus on electronic detox and addiction, while the second 45 days are about retraining and reteaching how to use technology in a healthy way and how to reach a healthy relationship with technology,” Logan says.
“Group therapy is key to all addiction treatments. Clients come to share their lives and everyone can learn from their experiences. Cardio exercise can help generate natural dopamine. That’s why we’ve added muay thai and triathlon training to the programme.
“The wilderness session is designed to bring clients closer to nature. There are many outdoor activities like hiking up a mountain to watch the waterfall. They can spend time admiring the beauty of nature.”
Fitness coordinator Steve Jenkins offers three two-hour muay thai classes a week at the Bangarang Gym. Depending on their ability, all young men train together and also have triathlon preparation that involves cycling, running and swimming every Tuesday and Thursday.
“In Thailand, muay thai is a martial art that attracts young men. Here they will learn a new skill that builds up their self-esteem. Self-esteem is one of the first things to go whatever their issue happens to be,” Jenkins explains.
“They are working together as a team and there is a peer pressure dynamic in young men. They are pushing together and tend to be a very cohesive group. They are a tight group who are able to share, laugh, joke and train together. This is something not done in addiction. They enjoy themselves without drugs, alcohol or anything else.”
Keen on physical development, overall wellbeing, fitness performance and rehabilitation, Jenkins helps the youngsters fulfil their physical potential and improve their discipline and mental readiness.
“The fortunate side of the physical activity is that it makes young men more manageable and helps them appreciate what they’re doing in the therapeutic programme. When they’re a little tired, they feel relaxed and listen to what’s coming in,” Jenkins says.
“We try to give people the tools to deal with the problems in their life when they get back to the real world. We allow the families to our camp and some parents are shocked when they see their sons working towards a triathlon. They don’t expect to see their son fit and happy to do that. They have never seen their sons doing any physical exercise.”
Skilled therapist Maureen S facilitates two one-hour art therapy sessions a week and some boys have discovered their talent and become artists.
“Art therapy helps people to release their feelings. One of our patients talked about his mother’s death two years ago through drawing,” Maureen says.
“I can read their mind and emotions by the colours and strokes they use. For example, a person who creates a very light drawing lacks confidence and wants to be invisible.”
The main core of the therapy is to work with the family so they can continue the treatment when the young men return home. The Cabin allows the families to observe and participate in their sessions so that they can learn more about addiction and how to treat their family members.
HELP AT HAND
>> The Cabin Chiang Mai is at 296/1, Mae Rim district, Chiang Mai.
>> Find out more at www.TheEdgeRehab.com.