Foundations of the South Pacific Program

Sydney's South Pacific Private has pioneered a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary treatment approach to addiction and mood disorders in Australia and remains a leader in dual diagnosis, trauma-informed care and clinical best practice.

January 11, 2021

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.

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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.

Careers at South Pacific Private

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.)


12-Step Programs Work

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.

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If you would like more information for yourself or for a loved one, our client care team is available to take your call 7 days a week.

Call 1800 063 332

Our Address

A. 24 Beach Street

Curl Curl NSW 2096

P. 1800 063 332

F. 02 9905 9696

E. [email protected]