It is billed as “an integrative holistic residential treatment centre providing specialised support services for individuals struggling with drug and alcohol addiction, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, trauma and co-dependency.”
However, Nungkari (the word means an Indigenous traditional healer) can be described more simply as a touch of paradise in the Byron Bay hinterland where a clinical team can draw on the environment to assist the recovery and sustainable wellbeing of their patients/clients.
Conditions addressed also include Trauma/PTSD, Sex Addiction, and Pain Management.
Although situated in a quiet setting with million-dollar views, the purpose-built treatment centre, whose doors open on 9 October, is not aimed at rich celebrities seeking a luxury detox, according to clinical director David Godden.
David, who has worked at The Buttery, Lismore mental health and other local settings, is well attuned to the diverse demographics of need, whether from local residents or out-of-towners needing support.
“We are extremely conscious of that elitist kind of image and keen to avoid attracting it,” he explained, while workmen laid turf and applied the final coats of varnish to the decking of the pavilion area.
“To ensure equity of access we are in the process of developing an outpatients program that will operate in parallel with our 5-bed residential program. This will enable people who may not have the money or the time for six weeks of live-in to still access the expert multidisciplinary support we offer.”
As well as David, as coordinator, the clinical team includes Consulting Psychiatrist Peter Siefken - also trained in naturopathy - Disordered Eating Program Consultant Jodie Gale, Psychotherapist Isa Pfluger, Family Therapist Maria Dolenc, formerly at Manly’s South Pacific Private Hospital, Cranio Sacral Therapy/ Sound Healing / Equine Assisted Therapy Co- Facilitator Leandra Gurbiel, – Naturopath/Nutritionist Sue Daly, and Yoga and Meditation Therapist Emma Grant.
Regular GP access is available through local practitioners.
“Nungkari Treatment Centre offers a 42-day integrated residential treatment program,” David explained.
“Our clinical team believes this allows for adequate time to detox and physically address the underlying issues that are contributing to your life struggles.
“We address each individual’s needs when developing a treatment plan and understand that each client is unique with their own story to tell.”
From past experience, David believes that some programs risk empowering groups over individuals, with a risk that those who stop attending meetings may feel alone, and be vulnerable to behavioural relapse.
“Our specialised program will help residents address issues holistically while developing the strategies and skills needed to regulate emotions and behaviours, particularly when confronted with difficult situations or challenging environments.”
For instance, clients with eating disorders will be assisted to deal with food related issues such as shopping, storing and preparation. Trips to the local farmer’s markets are envisaged, David said.
A maximum of five residents can be accommodated individually in the simple yet stylish rooms. Daily, they access a range of therapeutic interventions and activities, from personal and facilitated group therapy to yoga and equine therapy (horses brought to the paddock next to the buildings), and organic wholefood nutritional support.
People with substance dependency issues are strongly encouraged to access the relevant 12-step programs. Mobile phones are out, and contact with family is allowed just once a week. Internet can be accessed for one hour per night, upon approval.
After their six-weeks residential clients are encouraged to enter the four-month supported living program ‘Stepping Stones’, a transition program based in a group home in Byron Bay.
“Stepping Stones offers a safe and secure home-like setting for clients who have completed the residential program,” David said.
“Components include house meetings, individual case management, living skills, peer support and 12 step meetings.
“Residents are also encouraged to access supports available to them through the program at Nungkari Treatment Centre.”
The home is situated in close proximity to healthcare and medical supports, beaches, public transport, and 12-step meetings for those who are attending them.
“We understand that the transition back to previous living arrangements can be difficult and daunting. Without proper supports individuals may find themselves back in old behaviours and patterns of addiction.
“Our program is designed to hold clients in a safe, less restricted environment allowing a thorough integration of life skills to better prepare residents for life outside of treatment.”