Inside London's Five-Star Rehab Clinic ; Yoga, Gourmet Food and Designer Luxury ... How the Plushest New Therapy Centre Treats Alcoholism, Eating Disorders, and Drug Addiction

Article excerpt

THERE'S nothing outside the elegant stucco Chelsea townhouse to indicate the extraordinary things that go on inside.

Nothing to show why the rich, famous and just plain troubled now store this discreet address in their BlackBerries. A peer of the realm and a young woman stand on the pavement chatting. "It's great that you're also dealing with your sex compulsion," she says. He smiles.

"Is that an acupuncture stud in your ear?" he answers.

"No," she responds. "A magnet. I press it to release endorphins and serotonin." These are patients at The Recovery Centre, a private clinic that offers just five clients at any time for 1,200 a day a bespoke treatment for addictions within the walls of a smart residential London house. There is a choice of more than 80 freelance counsellors plus some off-beat "therapies" from playing polo, gokarting and watching butterflies to shopping in Bond Street with a personal shopper, about which more later.

Despite its bizarre approach and high fees, such is the demand that within little more than six months of opening in November last year, the owners have rejected a bid to be bought out and are now planning further centres in Notting Hill, Primrose Hill and the City.

The centre is the brainchild of Charisse Cooke, 29, a south African psychologist, and Robert Batt, 40, a former drug addict and aristocrat who, aged six, inherited his family's Norfolk estate and 24 cottages. He swapped snorting "shed-loads" of cocaine, spending 50,000 on shopping in one day and driving one of his Ferraris drunkenly through a field for eight years of personal recovery, a psychology masters degree and personally financing The Recovery Centre.

Cooke and Batt's brand of therapy attracts aristocrats, rock stars and millionaires.

It has become the treatment centre of choice for one supermodel.

"An estimated one in 10 of the population suffers from addiction," says Dr Robert Lefever, a world authority on the subject and the man for whom Batt and Cooke worked for five years at the Promis clinic.

I'm visiting the centre to experience two days of treatment to top up the regular therapy I've been doing for the past 19 years after successfully recovering from an eating disorder, amphetamine addiction and alcoholism in my early twenties.

I came from a classic dysfunctional family my mother walked out when I was 12 and before that I'd had to deal with her mental illness. When I was 21 and at Bristol University, I saw a consultant psychiatrist in Harley Street. I was so intimidated at having to expose myself psychologically that I would take amphetamines before visits. The psychiatrist helped me but also colluded in my addictive behaviour. "You're not an addict," said the good doctor.

"You don't take pills every day." When I went to work in Fleet Street, I started drinking and bingeing. I appeared to have it all: a good job, nice flat, fast car, friends. But inside I was desolate, lonely and often suicidal. It was after I spent a weekend hidden in my flat alone, crying inconsolably that a friend with whom I'd lived told me about Promis.

She talked openly about her eating disorder which had been such a shameful and secretive disease for me..

She was full of hope and happiness. So I checked into Promis for addiction counselling. After that, I spent five years in psychoanalysis and graduated to a psychoanalytical psychotherapy group.

Treatment at Promis saved my life but it was tough love. So I'm curious to see how different the luxury atmosphere of The Recovery Centre will be.

Cooke greets me wreathed in smiles.

"We were just talking about Treatment Chic," she laughs, sporting a Herms belt. I nip into the bathroom: it's marble with fluffy white towels, Jo Malone soap and luxurious Diptique candles burning. But this is no urban retreatstyle spa. If addicts are recovering here, there will also be tears and hurt aplenty. …