Learning to help others

Learning to help others

Ali Murtaza Lakhani has completed his second year with CPPD Counselling School Pakistan, studying a Diploma in Humanistic Integrative Counselling.

In May, Ali joined the team at Lanna Rehab for a three-month internship. 

“When I told my friends I was going to do an internship abroad they all said ‘be prepared for the worst’, describing photocopying duties and very boring tasks. I didn’t know if my time would be respected and it’s been the complete opposite in fact,” says Ali with a big smile. “I’ve really felt like a valued member of the team for the past 3 months.”

Learning to create healthy functioning lives

In part, Ali describes his time with Lanna Rehab as an intensive learning experience because he hasn’t seen this recovery model in action before.


Ali the intern learning to help others

Ali will return to Pakistan to continue his career in addiction therapy.


“Rehab is very different at other places. It’s in fact totally different from the rehabs I’ve been before. The approach here is very holistic: which comprises of working on mind, body, and soul, not just therapy, it’s about creating a healthy functional life which in the end is the ultimate goal for every person struggling with addiction. So that means nutrition, exercise, yoga, reiki and excursions. 

Many people who go through addiction find it easier to relate to a therapist or practitioner who has experienced it themselves. 

“I’m 37 years old, I experienced active addiction myself for 20 years of my life,” says Ali.

“One thing I learned here was how to know when it’s appropriate to relate my own addiction to the clients. In a therapy session, it is always all about the client, not about the therapist, so understanding boundaries are important. When working with addicts the areas I see value in focusing on are shame, trauma, and boundaries. My learnings from Lanna Rehab mean I am better equipped to help clients through these sensitive subject matters.”

Leading minds in addiction recovery

Clinical lead Dr. Hanan J Whelan Al-Said has been Ali’s supervisor, but he has had time to learn and work with each of the therapists.

“Over time working with the whole clinical team at Lanna I have experienced that every therapist who has their own counseling style and a set of skills. Learning from each of them all was a life-time experience,” says Ali.

“Everyone has made time for me and answered all of my questions. For example from therapist Henry [Magnus], I’ve really learned a great deal about relapse prevention.”

Carol Gordon, Group Treatment Manager, set Ali a subject matter to present on weekly.

“Presenting to the clients for 90 minutes, with a staff member present was really great because they would give me very valuable feedback. It would be both appreciating my strengths when they say things like ‘you’re doing this really well’, and offering constructive feedback ‘ you need to work on this.’ It’s all very important to hear,” says Ali. “The presentation standard at Lanna Rehab is a lot higher than other rehab facilities where you can just have an idea in your head and wing it.”

In addition to weekly presentations, Ali joined the team regularly for day to day work and had the benefit of staying on-site while observing and learning other therapeutic activities such as reiki, fitness trainers, yoga, excursion and learning all the admin work from the highly qualified CSR Team.

Rehab experience from a client’s perspective

“I had no idea how nice it would be before I got here. I have been staying in the luxurious accommodation the clients get, enjoying the amazing food. I’ve attended the weekend excursions with them, for example, a boat trip to floating restaurants, and had some great fun. I’ve had access to the same gym and that’s great for me, I really enjoy working out.”

Ali has seen rehab from the client’s perspective when he was in treatment, as well as having worked in rehabs. 

“I think the way they do things at Lanna Rehab has a more successful outcome because it’s a more holistic program than other rehabs I have seen. And, as a client, I have seen a lot. It does make me think if I came here many years ago I would have been able to lead a better more functional life. Now I want to go back and contribute all this learning into the rehab systems back home.

Ultimately rehab is a place to heal

Ali didn’t attend Lanna Rehab when he was struggling with addiction, but he wishes he did.

“If I want to explain it in one line where did my recovery began after 20 years of active addiction and quite a few in-client treatments: I would say I got through it with a good support system and for me, that sums up what rehab should be. That’s what people get at Lanna Rehab.

If you have a good support system with a good program. That’s where the process of healing starts. I don’t think it’s good to say addicts need to be ‘fixed’, because it implies they are broken, its just healing needs to be done emotionally and mentally. This is a safe place for people to get the help they need.”

From the entire team at Lanna Rehab, we thank Ali for his contributions. He has been regarded very highly by the team. We wish him all the best in his future career.


Anne Lazarakis joined the Lanna Rehab team in 2019, from Sydney, Australia. She writes about addiction and mental health as a global issue, often focusing on our own client experiences and linking these to broader social trends. Before joining our team, she worked for several health services with a focus on equality of care, including the Royal Flying Doctor Service and the Royal Hospital for Women Foundation. Mental health - particularly addiction - is often stigmatised. Stigmas associated with these areas prevent people from seeking help and recovering. Barriers can be gender, religion, or culturally-based. In some parts of the world mental health is not even recognised as a health condition. By sharing people's stories, and making information more readily available, Anne advocates for accessibility of care for all.

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