Tuesday - Sep 26, 2017

Reclaim you at one of Mastermind2.0’s exclusive resorts

Reclaim you at one of Mastermind2.0's exclusive resorts

Kicking any kind of addiction from drug abuse to alcoholism or suffering from mental health issues, social phobias, burn out or even dealing with work-life balance challenges is a major accomplishment. However, for many people, it can become a long-term battle every day against craving and the emotional impact their addictions have on their lives.

Today, we talk to Dirk Stikker, a Family & Systemic Psychotherapist and Addictions Expert, who is also the founder and director of Mastermind2.0, which offers exclusive addictions treatment and psychological wellbeing programs located at luxury resorts around the world.

First of all Dirk, could you tell us a little about your background and what inspired you to initiate Mastermind2.0?

Reclaim you at one of Mastermind2.0's exclusive resortsWell, I am from the Netherlands and grew up in a village. As a child, I was painfully shy and always felt I was not good enough. When I was 15, I had my first drink and I was immediately hooked on the effect of alcohol. It made me feel free and super confident. Over the years, my drinking spiraled out of control and I was in real bad shape physically, mentally and psychologically. Despite alcoholic fits, blackouts, fights, accidents, legal and financial problems, I still believed alcohol was my life line. At the age of 31, I joined a Therapeutic Community in the Netherlands.

It was a very unusual place because there was a bar serving alcohol and I had to work behind the bar as part of my therapy. Many of the residents were there for personal growth and other non-addiction related programs. So it was a real mixture of residents. Life within this community resembled very much “normal” daily life with social interactions and with all the temptations and challenges we face in society.

After I successfully completed the recovery program, I was asked to stay and be trained as an addictions therapist which I did. I lived and worked there for 5 years and then moved to the UK, where I worked for 13 years for the NHS at a Drug and Alcohol agency which was a center of excellence. I worked with people on the extreme end of the addictions spectrum. Eventually, for personal reasons I moved to Greece in 2008 and set up a successful Private Practice for individuals, couples, families and young adults.

In 2015, a client who lived abroad asked if he could come and live with me for 3 weeks for intensive therapy and soon after I received a similar request from somebody else living overseas. This combined with my own experiences at the therapy community in the Netherlands inspired me to initiate MM2.0.

Can you explain what your unique concept “Therapy-on-the-go” means?

Reclaim you at one of Mastermind2.0's exclusive resortsTherapy-On-The-Go describes 2 things. Firstly, it means we take therapy out of the limiting and sterile environment of a rehab into a more open and challenging setting. It can take place anywhere and in this case at luxurious resorts.

Secondly, it means that therapy happens in real life and in real time. We work on the spot with any issues and events as they happen. The resort becomes the “therapy room” and daily life itself becomes the therapy. This will provide the therapist with invaluable information and insights about our clients, which in turn will help us to help them in the most effective and meaningful way.

The real beauty of our programs taking place at luxury Spa resorts is that it paradoxically provides complete anonymity. Client and therapist blend in whilst other guests are none the wiser as to the reasons. Furthermore, our therapists work very discretely and without attracting any unwanted attention to our client from other guests.

What kind of programs do you offer and where are the health resorts located?

Reclaim you at one of Mastermind2.0's exclusive resortsMASTERMIND2.0 provides exclusive addictions and psychological wellbeing programs. For our signature addictions program, we offer therapy for both substance and process addictions and dual diagnosis.

For our bespoke wellbeing program, we offer therapy for other mental health problems, eating disorders, weight management issues, comfort eating, social phobias, anxiety, stress burnout, work-life challenges and relationship/marital/family issues.

Our programs also include a Bio-molecular and Genetic Nutrition Program to restore any neuro- and bio-chemical imbalances. Programs also include daily spa treatments, Mindfulness, and complementary therapies.

What is also different from other programs is that we only accept 1 client or 1 couple or family at a time into our programs. In other words: there is only you in the program and nobody else. Clients can choose from 7 luxury resorts in the UK (4 resorts), Corfu, Greece (1) and Phuket Island and Hua Hin, Thailand.

Why do you think it is important for an individual to have counselling at an exclusive spa resort rather than in a traditional specialized facility, and how effective do you believe this is?

Reclaim you at one of Mastermind2.0's exclusive resortsThe resorts are safe and controlled environments but with all the challenges and temptations we encounter in normal daily life. Here we get to see our clients in real life situations which we could never replicate in the “sterile” environment of a rehab. Clinics are void of these and it can be overwhelming to return to all this “noise” after a program and it should come as no surprise when somebody relapses.

I always compare it with learning to drive a car. You don’t learn how to drive by sitting and talking about it in a comfortable room for a month or longer and then hand over the car keys and wish them good luck with driving. Is it really such a surprise that people have accidents when they have never practised driving? When a client has a car accident they are invited to come back and talk more about how to drive a car. That just doesn’t make sense to me. That is why with our programs, we do not just talk about how to “drive” but also practice it in a safe and controlled environment.

Throughout the day, client and therapist anonymously and effortlessly blend in together as guests at the resort. Due to the informal setting and relaxing atmosphere, it may not “feel” as if the therapy is taking place. In fact, this is when the most important therapy takes place.

Reclaim you at one of Mastermind2.0's exclusive resortsOur therapist has the opportunity to watch the client navigating real daily life situations and gains valuable insights and deep understanding about him or her. It is unique that client and therapist get to spend so much time together especially in a social setting and from an exclusive vantage point.

That is why our programs are so effective, relevant and profoundly meaningful. They thoroughly prepare our clients for daily life after the program ends. They enrich clients’ therapeutic experiences and, enhance and accelerate the therapeutic process. One month with us could compare to 3 months at a traditional clinic.

I realize that therapy is very important for someone with addictions, but I was under the impression that group therapy is generally preferred over individual therapy. From your experience, is this still the case?

From my experience the majority of clients prefer an individual approach, but a majority of rehabs provide mainly group therapy. Group therapy is mostly preferred by treatment centers. It is very cost effective and less intensive for the therapist.

How long do your programs last?

Programs are really open ended. Clients can book for one week or for several months. It really depends on their needs and circumstances. For our European programs, clients typically stay for 2-5 weeks. For our Thailand program, clients typically stay for 1-3 months.

Addicts are usually masters of denial. How do you and your team of professionals break down walls to convince them to accept the reality of their addiction?

Reclaim you at one of Mastermind2.0's exclusive resortsLet me first answer this question by saying that we are all masters of denial.  When we focus on labels, diagnoses and symptoms, then we really don’t see the person behind all these labels. The short answer as to how we help our clients is through direct experience.

With most rehabs a client is already labelled and diagnosed even before they have met the client. Most programs follow a rigid and “one size fits all” protocol focused on eradicating the “symptom”. The whole set up is about power and control and forcing a square peg to fit a round hole.

Have you ever tried to imagine the life of an “addict” and help them? Its hard work and demands total commitment and perseverance. You have to be creative and constantly adapt to new and unexpected situations. You have to be able to think quick on your feet and make life or death decisions. You have to be totally focused and goal orientated. These are incredible qualities and could land you a top job.

We help our clients to recognize these qualities, to de-associate these with their preferred drugs (alcohol, prescribed and illicit drugs, gambling, sex and other addictions) and use these for different goals. It is exactly these qualities that kept them addicted and will also get them out of the claws of their addictions.

However, the single most curative factor is the therapeutic relationship. That is why with us, therapist and client spend 10+ hours a day together. We connect with our client on a very personal and deep level. Together, we explore all aspects of their lives to get a better understanding about the person and how best to help them. Furthermore, our clients learn, understand and make changes from direct experiences.

We recognize that everybody is unique and our bespoke programs are genuinely built around our clients’ needs and circumstances and are constantly adjusted to changing needs and circumstances.

Is there a difference.between physical dependence and addiction?

They are interlinked and feed each other in a circular fashion. The physical dependence can disappear within a couple weeks after stopping alcohol or drugs (prescribed medication and illicit drugs). The hardest part is to change the mind; the way of thinking about yourself and the world around you; to change cognitive and behavioural patterns and habits.

Reclaim you at one of Mastermind2.0's exclusive resorts

Do you believe that there is an ignorance and undertreatment of addictions even today?

Yes, there is still ignorance about it. The “addict” is depicted as this morally weak, mad, bad or sick person who drinks or takes drugs 24/7 on the park bench. Nothing could be further from reality. It can happen to anybody at any time.

I do not think there is under-treatment but an over-treatment and use of the disease concept. I don’t necessarily think addiction is a disease and certainly not for every single person. I believe that addiction is the result of very normal human behaviour. Nobody wants to feel pain or depressed or stressed and when we don’t like our reality we try to change it in whatever ways we can.

Addiction of any kind doesn’t only affect the abuser, but the whole family. Do your counseling methods include the spouse and other family members?

We know from experience that addictions affect many people and they all need support. We also know from experience that therapy becomes much more effective when significant others are involved in the program. This could be a partner or spouse, family, friends, and even colleagues.

That is why we also recommend a client to enter the program with their significant other(s). The changes we have seen once others are involved as well, are dramatic and have much higher success rates in the long term, not just for the individual, but for the whole family and wider system.

Our therapists are also highly qualified and experienced Family and Systemic Psychotherapists who are well-versed in helping couples and families.

Especially at our resort on Phuket Island, where we are very well-placed to welcome families with 2,3,4 and 5 bedroom private villas.

Finally. Dirk, do you believe that addictions are the result of genes or the environment?

We really have to look at it on an individual basis rather than a blanket for everybody. There is some research that suggests it is a genetic condition. And for some it is, but it is not good to generalize this. I don’t see it as an either / or situation.

Most rehabs and treatment centers view it as an incurable disease. The beauty of this concept is its simplicity. You have a disease; the only solution is to never touch it again. It bypasses exploring context, underlying issues, and root causes. I don’t necessarily think it is a disease and most certainly not for every single person who has an addiction.



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Dirk, thank you for taking the time to discuss Mastermind2.0.


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