Michael Gillis (MSW, Clinical Social Work; BA Psychology) is Chief Clinical Officer at The Cabin Group. He joined The Cabin in August 2018 and is primarily based in Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand.

We caught up with him recently in London to discuss his new role and to find out more about The Cabin’s facilities and treatment programmes.

Tell us a bit about yourself, Michael?

I have 28 years of experience in the behavioural health industry, having worked previously as Chief Clinical Officer and Chief Operating Officer at Sunspire Health in the US (a private behavioural health care organisation with 260+ residential beds), as well as being the Executive Director and Director of Admissions and Marketing at Lifeskills South Florida. I have managed multiple professional teams including amongst others, Physicians, Nurses, Psychologists, Social Workers and Licensed Mental Health Counsellors.

What is the official mission statement of your treatment facility?

To be the leading addiction treatment and behavioural health service provider, dedicated to improving the lives of addicts and their families.

What is the vision of your treatment facility?

To be the world’s leading treatment and rehabilitation centre – the first choice for clients, families staff and referring professionals.

Tell us about your in-patient facilities in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

For many, successful rehabilitation is often about their treatment environment. The Cabin is perfectly secluded in the peaceful mountainous surrounds of Chiang Mai and currently comprises of 120 luxury rooms over 17 acres of resort-styled grounds with private villas, tropical flora-fringed swimming pools, a fully equipped fitness centre and open-air restaurants serving fine fusion-cuisine. Clients are far from their stressors and triggers, making it conducive for them to make the changes they need.

What makes you different from other treatment facilities and what is unique about your programmemes?

The Cabin is the only purpose-built rehabilitation centre outside America, the largest in Asia and the only rehabilitation facility in the region with an onsite hospital, comprised of the highest international standard, with an 8-bed detox facility and 24/7 medical care. We take the best of western clinical methods, including evidence, abstinence, holistic-based practice along with Eastern mindfulness practice. As a result, our clinical product is very strong, substantial and unique.

We have differentiated villages within The Cabin that offer such speciality treatment programmes including; Salam Centre, treatments are offered in either Arabic or English, tailored to cultural sensitivities of Islamic heritage and values, The Edge, a revolutionary young adult male programmeme (18-26) with an emphasis on experiential/physical activity, R12, the only LGBTQ+ addiction programme outside the U.S as well as other specialist addiction programmes, such as our Women’s programme which launches in January 2019. These programmes are very cost-effective compared to Western Europe and the US.

What types of therapeutic approaches, skills, and processes can a client expect to encounter?

The Cabin works with some of the world’s most renowned and experienced psychiatrists, psychologists, counsellors and therapists to prescribe a full range of programmeming including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT), Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing (EMDR), Family Work, Mindfulness Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (MCBT), Motivational Interviewing (MI), Seeking Safety Trauma Resolution and Self-help. We use a combination of group and individual therapy and adhere to "abstinence-based" treatment and recovery. The clinician may use a number of modalities in conceptualizing the treatment to include: Attachment theory (trauma), Psychodynamic, Behavioral, Person-Centered, Gestalt and Family Systems Theory.

What type of peer support meetings are available to the clients, and how frequently?

At The Cabin we offer weekly self-help meetings both onsite and offsite, at a frequency that supports our client’s long terms recovery. Clients participate in AA, NA, SLAA and SMART Recovery.

Located in Thailand how do you blend ‘east meets west’ therapeutically at your treatment facility?

Individuals participate in a number of holistic therapies as part of their treatment, including art therapy, massage, mindfulness and meditation practice with a Buddhist monk, Tai chi and yoga.

What scheduled activities are available to the client.

Our holistic approach emphasises movement, capitalising on our beautiful natural environment and resort setting clients can improve their physical fitness in our fully equipped fitness centre and outdoor swimming pool. Experiential therapy is also incorporated into group hikes and half-day excursions every Sunday.

Is this a multi-disciplinary team? Please can you describe?

We have assembled a team of Western trained and licensed professional rehabilitation counselling specialists. Our rehabilitation counselling team has many decades of combined experience in treating addiction and co-occurring disorders. This team is complemented by a full-time medical staff; a combination of addiction medicine specialists, psychologists, social workers, nursing, substance abuse counsellors, holistic practitioners, eastern mindfulness practitioners and family therapists.

Representing 22 countries, you won’t find a more diverse, experienced, better qualified or more compassionate team anywhere in the world.

How important is a Family Programmeme in your treatment method?

At The Cabin, we have seen tremendous gains made by both the client in treatment and their families by participating this programmeme. We are one of only a handful of centres worldwide that uses a truly integrative clinical process to involve the family and includes them, from the start, into the client’s continuing care plan. 50% of our clinical work is family work therefore in parallel with the client’s inpatient therapy, we provide a dedicated family therapist to work with the family for the duration of the inpatient treatment. This integrative approach enables a much deeper understanding in the family of our clinical intervention, systemic health, what family behaviours need to change moving forward, as well as continuing care and ongoing relapse prevention. The Salam Centre family programmeme is uniquely tailored to Islamic cultural, religious and spiritual values and related sensitivities, heritage and traditions along with the principles and framework of living in an Islamic world.

Our Family Programmeme is mandatory and includes a family clinical assessment and weekly family therapy sessions (available by telephone and/or Skype) culminating in a three-day intensive programme in Chiang Mai and an effective continuing care plan.

What is your staff to patient ratio? Day / Night

We have no more than 6 patients to one clinician. Our total staff count over all disciplines is over 120 meaning our staff to client ratio is 1:1.

Do you offer scholarships?

Yes, we offer a combination of financial need and motivation to change scholarships. The Cabin Foundation offers 12x 30-day stays per year.

Please can you describe your Continuing Care process?

We use the term ‘continuing care’ because aftercare is an afterthought. We offer flexible 28-day, 60 and 90-day recovery programmes and the length of stay depends on the specific needs of the client. During the admission process we start discussing a Continuing Care plan working with the client, family and referent to create an individualised treatment plan. Detox, inpatient or residential is just one part of the treatment experience. When formulating the Continuing Care we then look at the resources required to maintain the client and their family.

The Cabin’s Continuing Care programme offers ongoing support at 3 global outpatient centres across Asia and Australia, namely The Cabin Hong Kong, The Cabin Singapore, and The Cabin Australia. It includes free online group therapy, one-to-one sessions, face-to-face individual and group sessions. Peer support and access to our extensive global partner referral network.

Do you have an Alumni Programme, local or international?

We organise weekly alumni meetings, monthly dinners and charity functions. Alumni programmemes are currently active within our IOP centres.

Are you planning any additions/expansion or other big changes?

The Edge recently launched a gaming addiction treatment programmeme and in 2019 we have further exciting plans; a new Women’s Programmeme, Men’s Programmeme and Professional’s Programmeme. We are also looking at enriching and expanding services at all our IOP centres.