Sunshine Coast Health Centre is a private, licensed, residential addiction treatment facility for men. While there are many private treatment centres in Canada, we believe our program is unique. While other programs focus on abstinence or reducing harm, we believe that the recovery process needs to move beyond mere healing. Instead, we help our clients experience personal transformation and full integration into society.
Our Theory of Addiction
The foundation of our programs is in Viktor Frankl’s proposition that the fundamental motivation in humans is the will to meaning. In other words, individuals need to make sense of their lives and pursue a personally meaningful existence. In line with Frankl’s theory, we see addiction as a result of an individual’s persistently frustrated attempts to live a personally meaningful life.
Before coming to us, our clients illustrate what life is like when someone lacks personal meaning. In spite of having the outward appearance of success such as families, social circles, good jobs, and material possessions, our clients describe their inner world as one beset by boredom, anger, depression, loneliness, and a nagging feeling of emptiness (like lost souls wandering without a direction). Our clients also report feeling different, as if they do not fit in the world. This sense of separateness and brokenness lies at the heart of why they turn to drugs, alcohol, or other forms of addiction.
Principles of Our Therapeutic Approach
Our programs are based largely on the theory and practice of Meaning-Centered Therapy (MCT), developed by psychologist Dr. Paul T. P. Wong. Dr. Wong was heavily influenced by Viktor Frankl and used personal meaning as a way to organize different therapies such as existential psychotherapy, cognitive-behavioural therapy, narrative therapy, and positive psychology into a unified therapeutic approach. Most importantly, our focus on personal meaning requires us to make certain assumptions such as:
- Our Clients are Whole Human Beings
We do not treat an addict or an addiction. We treat human beings. We do not believe that a person with an addiction can be reduced down to mere thoughts, feelings, or behaviours. As psychologist Jefferson A. Singer (1997) concluded, we must “take in the full dimensions of their lives – to see them as whole individuals struggling to achieve a sense of identity [and community]” (p. 17).
- Our Clients are Growth-Oriented
Our clients are inherently motivated toward growth where, if they can overcome barriers to the growth process, personal transformation is possible.
- Our Clients are the Authors of Their own Lives
Most of our clinical effort is in helping clients take control of their lives, regardless of circumstances or personal and social limitations.
- Our Clients are Not Their Pathologies
Our staff recognizes that pathologizing addictive behaviours reinforces the stigma of addiction and disrupts our relationship with clients. Therefore, we refuse to pathologize clients.
With these assumptions in mind, we have designed a therapeutic program based on key principles of Meaning-Centered Therapy.
We believe it is important that clients feel free to be themselves. In accordance with Carl Rogers, we treat our clients with unconditional positive regard, meaning that clients are treated with respect and dignity at all times. A Rogerian environment requires that therapists be genuine with clients and appreciate their unique perspective. MCT also emphasizes the relationship between a therapist and client as more important than any school or technique of psychotherapy. Finally, Rogerian principles argue that clients are the best experts on themselves and, given the right conditions, will realize their potential.
In the family program, family members come to understand that they have developed certain coping skills to deal with their loved one’s addiction and that these coping skills may not be helpful. We invite family members to consider the possibility that there’s more to life than being expert managers of another adult human being, such as pursuing their own dreams and goals.
These sessions provide a framework and a language for clients to come to terms with personal meaning.
Existential Coping Skills
Gaining awareness of who we are, how we fit in the world, our strengths and limitations, and the promotion of acceptance, humility, compassion, and forgiveness provide clients with the best protection against tough times and the best chance of pursuing life goals.
Reconstructing a client’s narrative, or story, helps clients find new ways of making sense of life, one more responsive to his authentic values.
Daily life at our alcohol treatment and drug rehab facility, such as meal times and recreational activities, is one of the best tools clients have for putting new skills into action. Treatment is intentionally designed so that clients are challenged by “real life” scenarios so that they are better prepared for the inevitable life challenges that await them at home.
The Therapist is the Therapy
Our approach demands that therapists be self-aware and not fall victim to the client’s (and their own) willingness to give up personal responsibility by blaming other people or life circumstances.
Post Treatment Support
While our staff works with clients to plan for life after treatment (meetings, diet and exercise plan, etc.), we also recognize that is equally important for clients to find a reason to do all these things.
We care about our clients, their family members, the health professionals that entrust us with their clients, our staff, and our community. Over the years, we have thought carefully about what matters most to us and come up with four central values:
Why We’re Non-12 Step
Sunshine Coast Health Centre officially opened in the spring of 2004. Family ownership, having spent the previous 25 years running residential mental health facilities, saw the need for more drug rehabilitation programs and had the land, buildings, and experience in residential care to make it possible. Patterning itself after the largest treatment centres in the United States, Betty Ford Center and Hazelden, we initially opened as a 12-Step treatment centre. Over the next few years, however, ownership found that too many clients weren’t being treated with the kindness and respect they deserved and that 12-Step treatment was not backed by psychological or evidence-based research. As a result, in 2008, Sunshine Coast Health Centre overhauled it’s program, replacing its 12-Step focus with a meaning-centered focus. The following table shows a few of the many changes we made:
Today, we continue to combine the basics of recovery with the latest in innovative addiction therapies:
Having past experience with 12 step programs, I found that one of the first things I notice about SCHC was that it’s not a 12 step. I did a bit reading and talked to some staff before I came here and I felt it was very much a better approach.
In a whole lot of ways SCHC is different. Normal 12 step programs don’t really rely on the individual to make changes to themselves, whereas here I’ve been allowed to kind of poke and prod and see who I am, develop a person for myself, and try things. Like with the different outings, we do different activities and I started to learn who I am here instead of “I’m just an addict”.
Singer, J.A. (1997). Message in a bottle: Stories of men and addiction. Toronto: The Free Press.
Thompson, G. (2011). A Meaning-Centered Therapy for Addictions. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 10(3), pp. 428-440. doi: 10.1007/s11469-011-9367-9
The other place I went was co-ed and it's very hard for people to open up to someone of the opposite sex because there's really touchy things and you have to maintain "being a man" in front of the ladies right? So you can't really figure out what's bothering you and what's not.
The whole meaning and purpose approach really clicked with me and I could really identify with something missing in my life, so I felt, even before I got here, that it was a program that would definitely have something to offer and help me with the things I was dealing with.