Health Professionals South Pacific Private

A Message from the CEO

Glad to be back

Lynne Fishwick, CEO

Returning to the helm of South Pacific Private after almost a decade with St Vincent's Health Australia hospital group has been a satisfying and invigorating experience. I feel immense pride to be returning to a team which leads the nation in treatment for addiction, trauma and mental health. 

Like many of our staff, the mission of South Pacific Private has personal significance for me. I have loved ones who have struggled with the weight of depression and have turned to substance misuse as a coping mechanism. My family has experienced first-hand the painful cycle of mental illness and addiction as they fuel each other and inflict a devastating toll on the individual, their partner and the entire family. 

The impact of the work we do here at South Pacific is inspiring. Our focus on family systems and relationships remains unique and powerful, and our expertise in identifying and addressing underlying trauma is one of the most transformative aspects of our work. We provide, to those who reach out, the power, knowledge and tools to free themselves to live full, rich, happy and healthy lives – something everyone deserves, but which too often feels out of reach.

My vision for South Pacific Private in the years ahead is to build upon these elements of our program, to refine and formalise our long-term recovery program and to share our framework and expertise with the broader community in Australia. 

We remain committed to being there for the client community every step of the way. 

As leaders in dual diagnosis, sex addiction and complex trauma, I believe we have an obligation to extend our training and education programs to the broader Australian mental health professional community and I’m excited about the opportunity to help shape and inform Australian best-practice.

In the immediate term, we know that COVID-19 has brought its own complex set of challenges not only to our operations as a rehab in Sydney, but to our clients, alumni and the broader recovery community. 

We recognise that the pandemic has had a significant impact. The emotional, financial and social challenges are testing the resilience of even the strongest among us. To help, we have added a suite of face-to-face and online programs, and encourage everyone to contact us if they feel in need of additional support. We remain committed to being there for the client community every step of the way. 

I remember when Lorraine Wood (our founder) first told me that at South Pacific Private, our clients can truly expect a miracle. “Miracles happen here,” she would remind me, and I see proof of this every single day. 

It’s a privilege to be returning to the team at South Pacific Private and to work with Fran Hansen and Fleur Wood to carry forth Bill and Lorraine’s legacy of hope, compassion and excellence into the 2020s.

I can’t wait to see what we accomplish in the years ahead.


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Cutting edge treatment for addiction, trauma and mental health.

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12-Step Programs Work

The evidence is in

In 2006, a headline-grabbing report which collated data from eight studies emerged suggesting the 12-step model for addiction recovery – advanced by groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous – was no more effective than other recovery approaches. The report concluded with a call for more evidence and further study. Those results are now in. 

Released in 2020, a more recent, comprehensive study which collated over 27 studies involving more 10,565 participants has corrected those original findings, concluding that 12-step programs do actually provide a measurable superior chance at recovery. 

“Clinically‐delivered 12‐step facilitation interventions designed to increase AA participation usually lead to better outcomes over the subsequent months to years in terms of producing higher rates of continuous abstinence,” the report concluded. “This effect is achieved largely by fostering increased AA participation beyond the end of the Twelve‐Step Facilitation intervention.”

Studies show that addiction treatments tend to result in 15% to 25% of individuals remaining abstinent, though with Alcoholics Anonymous between 22% and 37% of people studied remain abstinent. 

“For people already in treatment, if they add AA to it, their outcomes are superior than those who just get treatment without AA,” Keith Humphreys, a Stanford University professor and co-author of the study, told the New York Times.



For Alyssa Lalor, Clinical Program Director at Sydney's South Pacific Private, the research is confirmation of the program’s framework and the focus on group therapy and ongoing group participation past the point of discharge. South Pacific incorporates participation with external AA groups into its inpatient rehab program, and encourages continued attendance longer-term. This group-work can bind participants to their recovery, providing social validation, reducing feelings of isolation and encouraging improved relational skills.

“We’re constantly monitoring research and refining our program based on the latest findings, so it’s welcome news to have the 12-step approach backed up by such a prominent study,” Lalor says. “Our experience tells us that maintaining a connection with the recovery community, working through a long-term recovery plan, and incorporating group sessions into that plan are key factors in long-term success.”

“That doesn’t mean AA is for everyone,” she says, “but it’s critically important for all treatment centres to help design an long-term support program for everyone who comes through their doors, and to make sure it’s a plan which works for them.”

“Some of the more complex theories might seem debatable, but when you zoom out, the overall concept of intergenerational trauma is rather obvious,” Lalor says. “If a person has been through severe trauma or is struggling with addiction or mental illness, their ability to parent will be compromised. Their children are less likely to see the modelling of healthy adult behaviour, and they’ll be at a higher risk of challenges stemming from that experience as they progress into their own adulthood.”

Australia’s Leading Treatment Centre

Cutting-edge treatment for addiction, trauma and mental health.

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Foundations of the South Pacific Program

Our clinical approach

In 1993, South Pacific Private’s founders introduced a comprehensive, trauma-informed, parallel-treatment based approach to Australia. Our programs are grounded in abstinence, moulded around the 12-step program and include a strong focus on group therapy and family systems. 

Based on the pioneering developmental trauma framework developed by Pia Mellody and the Meadows rehab centre in Arizona, our clinical approach is focused on identifying and addressing the underlying causes of addiction and dysfunction, and addressing co-occurring issues including mental illness, relational problems and childhood trauma. Our treatment approach is continually refined to reflect research developments, decades of institutional experience and the diversity of lived-experiences in contemporary Australia.

As Program Director, I’m proud of our commitment to compassionate, evidence-based, research-driven care at our 54-bed private hospital on Sydney's Northern Beaches. Below, I’ve outlined some of the key clinical underpinnings that inform our approach to clinical best practice.



Dual diagnosis / comorbidity

Australian health authorities estimate that between 50% and 75% of individuals with substance use disorders have a co-occurring mental illness – with depression and anxiety particularly common  as well as cases of C-PTSD (childhood trauma) and psychotic illnesses. Clinical best practice advice is clear: co-occurring issues should be treated concurrently, and long-term recovery plans must take relapses of both mental health issues and addiction into account. 

As pioneers of dual diagnosis treatment in Australia, our flagship, three-week inpatient program is delivered by a multi-disciplinary team of psychiatrists, psychotherapists, psychologists, GPs, nursing staff and case-workers capable of treating a broad spectrum of relational issues, mood disorders and traumas.

Developmental trauma 

At the core of the South Pacific Private’s approach to treatment is an understanding that developmental trauma, broadly defined, leads to an increased risk of dysfunction in adulthood, including personality, relational and mood disorders as well as substance and process addictions. Through an integrated five-day trauma program (Changes I) our team aims to identify and address the ongoing effects of trauma in a safe, sensitive therapeutic environment. The aim is to raise awareness of maladaptive responses, redirect focus to strengths and successes, build lasting resilience and support long-term recovery and healing. The program is centred around Pia Mellody’s Model of Developmental Immaturity.

The research which has emerged since we developed this approach continues to confirm our ongoing experience. A groundbreaking, large-scale study in the United States found that Adverse Childhood Experiences lead to increased rates of mental illness and substance misuse in adulthood. More recent research has confirmed strong correlations for mental illness, alcoholism and sexual risk-taking, and very strong correlations for problematic drug use, severe relational issues and self-harm. Studies in Australia have confirmed similar prevalence, with 50-72% of Australians reporting ACEs including household mental health issues, substance abuse, divorce, neglect or emotional, physical and sexual abuse. 

A recognition of this risk of intergenerational trauma led to our pioneering Children's Program, aimed at reducing the long-term developmental impact of a caregiver’s substance abuse or mental illness.



A strong therapeutic community

At South Pacific Private, we recognise that a dual-track therapeutic approach, which includes both group and one-on-one therapy, offers the best model for recovery. The research is clear that group work, including 12-step programs, must be a core element of effective addiction treatment. 

By creating a compassionate, open and judgment-free environment, group work can reduce the barriers of fear, shame and isolation, help clients build healthy social skills and resolve relational difficulties. Longer term, group work bonds clients to their recovery, with therapeutic forces within groups rewarding recovery (e.g. optimism, empathy, affiliation, confrontation, support, gratification and identification.)

South Pacific Private has developed a range of strategies to promote healthy communication within a highly engaged client community. Within our therapeutic community, the team facilitates the development of self-awareness, accountability, boundaries, emotional maturity and functional adult skills.

Group modalities within our program include psychoeducational training, skills development sessions, support groups, external AA and NA meetings and interpersonal process group psychotherapy. 


Healing families, repairing relationships

South Pacific Private’s integrated focus on addressing relational dysfunction and treating entire family systems marks a key point of difference. From research and experience, we know that dysfunctional relationship patterns can be a key trigger for relapse and that re-entry into a family system without guided support can be fraught with risk.

Our Family Program – in which partners, family members and friends are invited to participate in an intensive education and support program – is built into our three-week inpatient program and can also be taken as an independent four-day workshop

Our family, partner and children's programs are designed to educate families on addiction and key recovery concepts; to identify and break dysfunctional, self‐perpetuating relational patterns; to build resilience and healthy communication skills; to reduce the likelihood of relapse triggers; and to promote understanding of the maladaptive ways in which relational systems may have adjusted to accommodate or defend against an individual’s addiction or behaviour. Within intimate relationships, additional work may be required to rebuild trust and understanding, and to provide tools and strategies to set the relationship on a healthier course. 


Rehab, Continuing care and relapse prevention

South Pacific Private places a strong focus on continuing care with a dedicated Transitions Program to prepare clients for re-entry to their home, work and social environments. All patients develop a tailored recovery plan which always includes an element of ongoing group attendance.

South Pacific Private also continues to offer a range of advanced recovery Workshops and Day Programs, including family education programs and Changes II, a bespoke follow-up program to build upon the awareness and trauma-resilience skills learned in Changes I. This extended commitment to ongoing care has been evidenced to support better outcomes for long-term recovery and is a critical component of all our treatment plans. 

Our aim is for clients to leave our programs equipped with long-term recovery skills, backed by a resilient support network, armed with deeper insight of the impacts of trauma and ready to pursue a tailored, sustainable long-term recovery plan. 

To speak with South Pacific Private about referrals, or to check whether a particular patient may be suitable for our programs, call us seven days on 1800 063 322. To stay informed, sign up to our newsletter here.

Australia’s Leading Treatment Centre

Cutting-edge treatment for addiction, trauma and mental health.