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I’ve been a workaholic all of my life, just like many of my closest friends. I’ve held senior executive positions with some of the world’s most successful companies, in different countries and selling everything from jewellery to fine wine. And I’ve also suffered from recurrent depression for most of life, straight back to childhood. I used to joke that all I wanted for Christmas was a ‘new state of mind‘ as no matter how exciting the work was, no matter how successful I became in my career, if a major life event crept in on me, I’d just choke.
These events would cripple my mind for months and even years, affecting my mood and my ability to concentrate for extended periods of time. I had psychotherapy for the first time in 1998; then again in 2002 and finally discovered cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) on round three in 2010. Since CBT, I’ve never looked back. I truly believe in the power of CBT, provided it is given by an experienced and compassionate therapist.
CBT is a clinically-recommended front line treatment for mood and anxiety disorders – and it’s no wonder. People with demanding jobs can find it difficult (and awkward, lest we forget the stigma still associated with mental health conditions) to pop out for that 1-hour psychotherapy session each week. And let’s face it, if you struggle with a recurrent problem – depression, anxiety, OCD and trauma, for instance – you feel better after your weekly session, but it can slowly fade in effectiveness by the time a week has passed.
And then it occurred to me: if I could do an intensive course of CBT over a short period of time, somewhere warm and utterly relaxing, perfect for mental healing and far away from everyday life, would I do it? Absolutely, yes. And so, the premise of intensive psychotherapy retreats was born and Bali, Indonesia, the Island of the gods, would provide the perfect environment for this type of intensive healing. But that’s not all, add into the mix two holistic therapies, proven to improve mental health (such as mindfulness meditation and yoga) and now you’re talking.
Depression and Anxiety Retreats was launched in Bali in July 2013 and since then, we’ve seen hundreds of clients from around the world for our integrated CBT retreat programme. Each day our clients received two hours of 1:1 CBT with highly experienced clinical psychologists, plus their daily holistic therapies. Over eight days, we provide 16 hours of CBT and the same amount of holistic therapy time each day. That 16 hours of therapy would take four months of weekly sessions and research has proven that learning is best achieved when the teaching is done in a massed, repeated way.
And the very best bit? Our retreat clients are experiencing, on average, a drop in their levels of depression and anxiety of 80–90% after an 8 to 10-day retreat. Once clients return home, should they need or want to check in with their Bali psychologist, online sessions can be booked.
Seeing someone arrive at a retreat, who is struggling with any number of issues, and saying farewell to them when they leave Bali in a state of stronger, positive mental health, provides the greatest feelings of happiness and hope. When it comes to addressing mental health issues, intensive treatment really brings positive results.
Sue Nunley is a mental health entrepreneur who originates from Philadelphia, USA and have lived and worked in the UK for 25 years.
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