When The Wave met The Dragonfly.
The Wave was created by a team that is passionate about Global Mental Health and determined to make a difference in the lives of teenagers and young adults who have additional needs.
Our programs are designed to create a life experience for young people and their families that connects the highest standards in medical care and psychiatric treatment with education, dynamic therapeutic practice and an international GAP-year experience. But how did it come to be?
Where it all began
The Dragonfly Days
Sitting on a terrace in the late winter sunshine, the planning stages of creating a mental health ‘plus’ program for teenagers, young adults and families were coming together. It was set to move from a dream to the concept stage.
We began to pool our ideas, hopes, dreams and experience. We became incredibly excited at the prospect of creating something ‘out of the box’, quirky and, most importantly, trauma-focused and evidence-based.
Our vision was to create the most dynamic, forward-thinking treatment programs for young people in the world. We wanted our families to feel supported, cared for and to be able to find solutions for a wide range of mental health and behavioural concerns.
We wanted to create Asia’s first adolescent Eating Disorder Specialist Centre, that would not only provide a launch pad for eating disorder care in Asia but would also provide the first international destination treatment for young people and their families.
We wanted to be able to bring families back together and help young people find a space in the world.
We wanted to create something fun and vibrant, to keep our sense of adventure and help others to find that too. Most of all, we wanted our families to feel loved supported and to know that they were no longer alone with their fears.
Believe in making a difference whilst being different
From Ideas to Reality
The first teenage and mental health program to bridge with education, a volunteer program and skills building for young people was much needed. We wanted to create a special place, where families could heal whilst bringing together all of the parts needed to navigate successful recovery.
Outside the USA, dedicated treatment for teenagers is incredibly difficult to find. Those available have no educational, volunteering or skills-building components. They often provide either short-term crisis care or addiction treatment solutions. There has been a lack of choice for parents and mental health professionals who are looking for truly trauma focused care.
The reality is that short-term treatment for this age group is rarely successful. Stabilisation and orientation take time. Building trust in trauma survivors and complex young people is a longer journey than many programs are able to support. We wanted to change that.
We wanted to create opportunities to support a return to education, contribute to society and find real purpose through connection. We wanted to give back to our local community.
Any country that we made home should really benefit from being our host. We wanted to provide our young people with the opportunity to play a part in creating a community enterprise, taking on all roles from fundraising to video production.
Our vision was to create something that could build a bridge for young people. Something that would not only help them medically and therapeutically but would also provide them with skills for life. We wanted to create opportunities for them to really experience the world. We wanted to offer a ‘Gap Year Plus’ experience with the best therapeutic interventions and psychiatric support possible. We wanted to be anything but ‘clinical’ in our appearance.
We also wanted our young people to remain in touch with us for as long as they needed to, and for our families to be able to reach us day and night to receive support in challenging times.
We wanted to provide long-term, trauma-focused care.
Most of all, we wanted to believe in making a difference whilst being different.
Our love of all things Malaysia remains
Rainforests, Dusky Leaf Monkeys and A New Home
One of the first decisions was to find our programs a beautiful and easily accessible ‘home’. We wanted to be able to reach families from all over the world.
Our vision was to blend our skills and cultural knowledge. We wanted to combine our years of experience from all around the world, with our languages, to reach young people in Arabic and English.
We had visited Malaysia many times over the years, always at Easter and always island hopping before arriving in Kuala Lumpur. We all loved Langkawi. Looking back, we remember watching some rather beautiful villas being built behind ‘The Datai’ in Andaman Bay. A magical place made for spending long, lazy days looking out from a unique place, where the 200-million-year-old rainforest meets the sea. Based on that vision, Malaysia became our home. The Datai is now somewhere that we recommend to our families, for breaks after family therapy.
Some years on, our love of all things Malaysia remains.
We were looking for a name, something with life and movement
The Dragonfly Days
Setting up a new treatment program can be tricky. Setting up a new concept, in a new country, in mental health (with all the hurdles and stigma still experienced in much of the world), with programs for young people and families, was always going to be a challenge. There were days when we were really excited and days when we were incredibly frustrated.
We were looking for a name, something with life and movement. We loved the movement of ‘The Wave’, and as we talked and doodled a creation, a bright pink dragonfly appeared and landed on our writing pad. She was sitting quite still, simply stunning. In that moment, she represented our vision and inspiration. The Wave had come to life.
There were frustrations, setbacks and quite a few moments where we felt despondent. At certain times, we even felt like giving up. In those moments, the dragonfly was there, every single time. ‘Fuchsia’, and her friend ‘Indigo’, would circle the pool or sit at our feet on the wooden decking. We would laugh at the impossibility of being motivated by a dragonfly, particularly as we were creating an evidence-based program with high-care psychiatric and medical facilities. The dragonfly motivation worked and, with lots of help from our friends, The Wave Young Adults was finally created.
Mythical and Magical
How Our Programs Came To Life
Firmly attached to ‘our’ dragonfly, we decided to incorporate the dragonfly image into our logo. There was no way that we could leave her behind. As we began researching dragonflies, we fell in love with them even more. It turns out that the dragonfly has had the same vision as us, only 300 million years earlier!
We brought the program to life, using the dragonfly to keep us connected, and developed our program using the ‘wings’ of the dragonfly for inspiration.
Innovation in Inclusive Education
We believe that every child has the right to receive an education that is appropriate for their needs. We believe that no child should be excluded from education as a result of mental health or behavioural health issues. We believe that diagnosis and accurate treatment planning can inform educators, who in turn can reach teenagers and young adults using the most appropriate channels for engagement. We believe that the education of every child matters.
Commitment to education for young people challenged by mental health factors can be problematic. The perfectionism associated with eating disorders can be debilitating. Likewise, the difficulty in focusing with ADHD, or the fatigue and lack of motivation in depressive conditions can be challenging. We aim to build confidence through participation in learning that provides the building blocks for success. Wisdom through great decision-making is a skill for life. We develop decision-making skills through psycho-education, mediation skills and conflict resolution. We build responsibility through social awareness, environmental projects, community service and active participation in acts of service.
Wisdom through the continual professional development of our team members is also important. We are committed to recruiting rising stars and offering them supported opportunities to learn from seasoned mental health professionals. We support the development of new evidence-based modalities and add our voice to discussions and research in mental health. We embrace the ‘wise mind’ in DBT, the mindfulness practice of EMDR, the wisdom of the body through dance and movement therapy, together with the expertise in psychiatric medicine.
This year we celebrate our first Pre-U Graduates beginning life at Reading University (with Unconditional offers), first PGCE Primary Maths Specialist (in training), Jewellery Diploma Graduate, Psychology Degree 1st years and Canadian Senior School Graduates. We also celebrate our teams for supporting excluded young adults through inclusion and onto success.
The future is for us to hold.
We built our programs to be experiential. We wanted to support young people and their families through the process of change, providing hope that change is possible. An essential part of building hope is being able to ‘feel’ the difference. We encourage active enquiry, getting involved, trying out new skills and activities, and being part of a community.
We built a program that would use the power of group therapy as cohesive groups provide a reflective experience. They thrive on honesty; they feedback through trust and embrace vulnerability. We built a program that would offer daily ‘process’ groups. A solid 90 minutes of looking at our place in the world, listening, really hearing, and understanding how our behaviours and feelings impact others.
We provide opportunities to change direction, to find a new path through shared experiences. We made sure that the program offered experiences from cookery courses to needlework, from choreography to animal care, from photography to calligraphy.
Our young people leave us having been immersed in experiences that lead to internal and external changes in confidence. They leave us believing in themselves.
We encourage change through trial and error in a safe space. It is often difficult for teenagers and young adults to embrace change. It can be even more difficult for families. We built family therapy into every treatment episode. We knew it was essential to have one family at a time to really facilitate change at home. For families to feel part of the change, we set up communication groups where our teams, our young people and their families can facilitate change together.
We remain in constant contact. We build weekly video diaries, so we can all look back and see how far we have come. We are change-makers.
The process of finding myself.
Teenagers and young adults who arrive in the therapy room will often describe a feeling of emptiness. They will often describe not knowing who they are. Sometimes they have rapidly changing ideas or are easily swayed by their environment. Some young people have created a version (or versions) of themselves, which is not true to self. Some young people report feeling stuck, others look in the mirror and no longer recognise the reflection looking back at them. Trauma, substances, eating disorders, severe psychiatric illness, fractured relationships and family conflict can all leave young people unsure and uncertain about themselves and their future.
Through individual and group therapy, we embrace the possibility of growth through therapeutic connection. Using the concept of service to others, we embrace giving back. Through volunteering and gifting our time and resources to others, we understand the world in new and exciting ways. We experience feeling grounded and connected through our commitment to helping others.
We work through a trauma-focused lens to heal parts of ourselves and find the parts long since forgotten. We create a safe space to transform and heal from the past.
Find humility and kindness in the everyday
Adaptability in Life and Light
Adaptability, flexibility and fluidity are concepts that we embrace and encourage.
Our teenagers and young adults are constantly learning new skills, making new friends, embracing new experiences and learning to meet new challenges head-on, to respond effectively to external and internal changes.
Our young people navigate change by building skills in adaptability, personal strength and courage to ‘give it a go’. Whether that challenge is a new food, confronting an old ritual or walking in the treetops. Adventure, tenacity, flexibility and courage are all encouraged and rewarded.
Rigid, black-and-white thinking, rituals and ‘rule-driven’ behaviours are evident in many of the young people that we meet. This inflexibility is driven by isolation and a feeling of emptiness. Young people come to the programs with a history of conflict, agitation and difficulty in connecting with others. Many teenagers and young adults are struggling with the need to control situations, people and outcomes when they arrive at The Wave.
We work with them to embrace the ‘grey’ area, experience life on life’s terms and find humility and kindness in the everyday.
When The Wave met The Dragonfly.
The Wave Team
As the first young people and their families stepped through the door, we did our very best to surround them with love and the hope that things could be truly different.
We set about building the best teams that we could find.
Moe was our first permanent team member and has been with us since the very beginning. He has been a constant support to our families since ‘almost’ Day 1. Moe has remarkable flair, life experience and a passion for recovery. He has found his niche and continues to grow in speciality treatments and trauma focus.
Dr Rasyid was next to join the team and became solid in structure and medical direction. Our young people adore his patience and understanding. We knew we had found someone outstanding in psychiatric medicine, genuine compassion and a true zest for life.
Mahisha soon followed, having returned to Kuala Lumpur from London. Her dream was to find a space to practice psychotherapy that was ‘outside the box’ but felt that she was looking for the impossible.
She wanted to develop her practice, travel and create cutting edge treatment programs. She found her tribe at The Wave, and four became five.
Of course, we have grown considerably since then and we have met some great people on our journey. The team is now 30 people strong across all departments. We have Mr K, Cath, Yougan, Ash, Jenn, John and his team, Eslam, Vanessa, Mr Gun and many more amazing people who we have met along the way.
We have our international ambassadors, distinguished mental health professionals, psychiatrists and psychotherapists around the world. We also work with Caroline Curtis Dolby and Belgravia Therapy in London. Our international team continues to grow.
Our roof terrace is home to clinical team meetings and Friday night treats for the whole team. It is also home to literally hundreds of dragonflies. The Wave is a place where dreams are realised and dragonflies are cherished.
The Wave Trust
Professional associations and memberships
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