CHIANG MAI, Thailand — The Dawn Medical Rehab and Wellness Centre, a luxury facility for people seeking treatment for addictions, trauma and stress, has launched a sublime new property on the banks of the River Ping near Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand.
Once the private estate of an American banker, the two-acre centre references the appeal of a tropical resort as an additional inducement to those on the road to recovery. With a backdrop of rainforest and mountains, rice paddies and orchards, the stunning site trades on a sense of serenity and seclusion.
The centerpoint of the property is a tall sala built in the design of a Thai Buddhist temple. Open-aired and nestled among lush tropical plants, it serves as the main meeting point as well as the dining hall where all clients and staff eat three meals a day together at long tables.
The air-conditioned accommodations cultivate a certain austerity as a reminder to guests that they are here to follow an itinerary of personal challenges, outdoor pursuits and group activities. While rooms may be minimalist, each features a balcony that shows off an estate rich with flora and gardens, crisscrossed by footpaths and fountains.
The Dawn maintains a staff of more than a dozen internationally qualified therapists, medical staff, counselors and trainers, and can host up to 20 clients at any one time.
“It took us a while to find the perfect place,” said The Dawn’s director Ohm Poolsawaddi. “We had seen over 50 properties and knew an ideal rehab center should be located far enough from town for clients to be free from distractions, yet still offer quick access to the airport and major hospitals.”
Ohm and his brother bought the riverside property in December 2015. While construction of a modern facility went ahead, the duo set up a small private rehab facility at another Chiang Mai location until the new site was ready to open in November 2017.
Renowned for a cheap cost of living but high standards of comfort, Chiang Mai has in recent years become something of an expat paradise and now hosts between 20,000 to 30,000 foreign residents. Many of those are retirees from countries such as Australia or Japan who are tempted by the city’s highly regarded hospitals and low-cost healthcare. Indeed, with its high altitude and mild climate, Chiang Mai is quickly gaining popularity as an international hub for medical tourism.
At over US$10,000 a month for an all-inclusive programme at The Dawn, treatment for recovery does not come cheap; however that sum is but a quarter the price one might pay in the USA, Australia or Europe for detox or rehab at a similar retreat.
Twin pillars approach
The Dawn pursues what it calls a “Twin Pillars” approach, a proven combination of modern psychological services and holistic wellness therapies such as yoga, meditation and even Thai boxing. On-site facilities include a medical clinic, gym, meditation temple, swimming pool, and venues for massage and yoga classes.
One of the technologies introduced at the new center is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, or TMS, a non-invasive technique that stimulates nerve cells in the brain to improve mood and relieve cravings and symptoms of depression.
After a full medical examination at check-in, many clients begin their journey to detoxify or go “cold turkey,” which will involve a course of treatment requiring constant medical supervision and medication during their stay.
“First we ensure the client is medically stable,” said Lelani Walters, the head clinical psychologist at The Dawn. “After that, what I refer to as the ‘magic’ happens within the relationship. Our approach is holistic – seeing the entire person, and ensuring we treat them biologically, socially and psychologically.”
Those recovering from addictions are encouraged to stay at The Dawn no less than a month.
Road to recovery
Clients are guaranteed privacy and confidentiality. Counselors and therapists – several of whom have navigated their own journeys to sobriety – help shepherd clients down the road to recovery with nature walks, elephant bathing, and tours of the Thai countryside. The clients interact at group therapy sessions and dine together three times a day with an organic healthy diet – just another step in the path to self-acceptance.
“Recovery is not just abstaining from their drug of choice,” said clinical psychologist Walters. “It is a total lifestyle and behavioral change.”
Walters, a South African, points out that treatment does not end when clients leave The Dawn. “Aftercare and secondary care are just as important, if not more important for clients,” she said. “Having social support from family and friends, who understand addiction through family therapy, yields a much higher rate of success.”