Q&A with George Andrawis

Programme Director & Ambassador of Salam Programme at The Cabin Group

BA Criminology & Applied Psychology, Foundation Certificate in Psychoanalysis, PGDip Intercultural Psychotherapy, MA Psychodynamic Psychotherapy, Registered Member of the mBACP


George Andrawis is Programme Director and Ambassador at Salam, one of the five specialist treatment programmes offered by The Cabin Group. We caught up with him recently in Thailand to discuss his role and to find out more about Salam; a bespoke addiction treatment programme for diverse clients from the MENA region.

Please tell us a bit about yourself, George?

I am a British Arab psychotherapist, and founder of Clarity Therapy. I am bilingual and have lots of experience working interculturally with my patients.

I work privately, but have a history of working with the National Health Service (NHS) and various charities. I have experience working with both clients and refugees living with depression, terminal illness, learning disabilities, low mood, anxiety, poor anger management, and personality disorders.

I like to work psychodynamically, which means I focus my sessions on the unconscious, early relationships, and development as a way of understanding your current moods, behaviour, decisions and patterns. Clients undergoing psychodynamic psychotherapy often express that it has taught them to be more reflective and have a greater sense of awareness in their everyday lives.

When and why did you join The Cabin Group?

I joined The Cabin Group at the beginning of this year as I felt drawn to their clinical and holistic approach to mental health and addiction. Having spent the last 14 years training and developing my technique in the UK, I felt a longing and a responsibility to give back to my MENA community. When the opportunity arose to develop and run a bespoke Middle Eastern and North African service, I felt that this would be my way of giving back to my community.

Could you tell us a bit about The Cabin Group?

The Cabin Group is a well established, world leading addiction and behavioural health treatment centre, based in Thailand. We offer treatment for drug, alcohol and process addiction at our

in-patient luxury facility in Chiang Mai. We also have outpatient facilities and referral partners internationally.

Please tell us more about the soon-to-launch Salam Programme?

Salam is a specialist treatment programme created for Arabic speaking clients. All therapists are bilingual and can therefore liaise with their client and their families in fluent Arabic. The bespoke 8-10 week programme integrates MENA traditions and values. Our treatment programme also pays consideration to common MENA region-based pressures such as traditional gender roles, religious pressures and also identifying as queer. Clients need not worry about terms, nuances, and cultures being lost in translation.

Clients stay in an international five star facility, with an onsite medical and therapeutic team made up of Western-trained clinicians . Clients will be able to enjoy our spacious and tranquil facilities, which include swimming pools, gyms and onsite restaurants. Our model provides a space free of all societal & religious pressures so that clients are able to process and understand their addictions. Once clients feel ready, we address family dynamics and relationships using a structured approach. When clients have completed our programme, we offer them ongoing support and care. Through our international partners and links, we can carefully match them to outpatient groups and one-to-one therapists where appropriate.

What sorts of clients do you expect to see on the Salam Programme?

We believe that our programme will attract a diverse range of clients from the MENA region. We accept clients from all walks of life, educational backgrounds, religious beliefs, sexual preferences and ages. We pride ourselves in developing a service that is both encompassing and inclusive.

Could you explain why working with addiction clients from the MENA region is important to you?

Addicts in the MENA region often feel excluded from society. Although this is not a unique experience to addicts, there’s another level of complexity around it within our region. We still have a lot of urban myths around what it means to be an addict and what an addict looks like. The belief is that they are not everyday folk like you and I; they are dysfunctional individuals that do not have families nor homes. So often the perception is an addict can only be homeless, desolate, diseased, and a crazy individual - often beyond help. It’s this very exclusion that fascinates me, an exclusion that I too felt for identifying as queer in the MENA region.

This exclusion persisted when I came to the West. My sexuality had been tolerated, but I quickly came to realize I was a man of colour (and the implications that come with that). There were implications for being an immigrant, and more specifically for being Arab. Having personal experience of this discrimination allows me to relate to my clients, and to use our joint experiences to build an alliance.

Being a queer Arab psychotherapist, I often felt excluded and under-represented in my professional training. I felt as if there were a lot of theories, and approaches that were not culturally and sexually sensitive to me. I found the world of Western therapy to be clinically strong, but rather presumptuous. I have learnt to examine exclusions and racism as a natural and intrinsic phenomenon. This has allowed me to further understand the difference I had always been feeling, but also encouraged me to use it in a useful way with clients.

Please mention the types of addiction you will be working with.

We treat drug and alcohol as primary addictions, however we also work with individuals who have concurrent addictions which are related to body image, food and sex. Further information on alcohol and drug addiction is provided below.

ALCOHOL: Contrary to popular belief, alcohol withdrawal can be the most dangerous of any substance withdrawal. We support clients who may need to detox before starting recovery in our fully equipped hospital with 24-hour clinical and psychological expertise

DRUG: Our clinicians are highly experienced and have well-documented success in treating dependencies on substances including methamphetamines, cocaine, yaba, MDMA and marijuana

What is the official mission statement of the Salam programme?

To continue being the leading addiction treatment and behavioral health service provider, dedicated to improving the lives of Middle Eastern and North African addicts and their families. Our focus is around community and sharing. The program aims to promote the importance of good mental health, to explore what it means to have an addiction and to dispel myths surrounding these two issues. Our approach will be educational and inclusive; a stance that is culturally and orientally sensitive whilst practising western clinical excellence.

What makes the Salam Programme different to other Arabic treatment facilities, and what is unique about your programmes?

There are a few facilities available in the Middle East and North Africa, but not quite of this calibre. We recognize that the region is vast, and our approach is reflective of this. We are composed of a varied bilingual team who come equipped with different modalities and techniques. Psychological techniques are then combined with physical training, yoga, meditation and mindfulness. Clients’ development and treatment will be addressed holistically.

You are currently recruiting for BACP Bilingual Therapists for the Salam Programme. Tell us more?

We are currently recruiting for BACP registered bilingual therapists, who speak English and Arabic, to support the expansion of our Salam programme. We are looking for family therapists, individual therapists, and group therapists, with a wide selection of clinical approaches and ideas. We aim to offer an inclusive & diverse service that will be reflective of not only our treatment approaches but also our staffing.

What perks are available to therapists working at The Cabin Group?

The Cabin Group is a world-leading addiction and behavioural health treatment centre, and we are invested in our employees career progression, health and wellbeing. We offer competitive salaries, support with relocation, ongoing CPD and clinical supervision, all in the beautiful and scenic settings of Chiang Mai, Thailand. Where better to practice mental health treatment than the home of mindfulness!

What would you say to a therapist who is interested in working at The Cabin Group, but is unsure about relocating to a new country?

Firstly I would argue that stripping away from all things familiar and repositioning yourself in a foreign country is extremely healthy for one’s growth and development. But we aren’t just talking about any new country, we are talking about Thailand! People save all year in order to be able to fly out and enjoy Thailand’s wonderful islands, daily massages, warm weather and abundance of local fruit. By joining the team at the Salam Programme, this can become reality!

Finally, what are the most rewarding aspects of your job?

It gives me great pleasure to help someone through their journey. To experience their hardship with them, to process it together, and to see their new self confidence emerging. It’s an incredibly intimate and moving experience to share with someone. I’ll never be a millionaire in this line of work, but what I get from it is so much more rewarding.

About The Cabin Group:

  • Salam is part of The Cabin Group, a world leading addiction treatment provider with a collection of inpatient and outpatient treatment centres around the world.
  • Treatment at Salam is administered by a multidisciplinary team of highly experienced, licensed addiction specialists. Staff include behavioural and mental health therapists, as well as onsite medical staff, fitness trainers, holistic therapists and nutritionists.
  • For more information about joining the Salam team, please contact: George Andrawis at george.andrawis@thecabin.com