Bank Holiday

This bank holiday was one of the best weekends I have had in a very long time. It was an unusually busy weekend filled with socialising, a boot fair, drop off and pick up for sleepovers and ending with a family bar-b-q yesterday. Just as I placed the finishing touches to the table outside, the heavens opened. But I was with friends, it didn’t really matter and within an hour we were basking in sunshine. I was with my family, my husband and our children, his parents and my mother as well as old friends, and some of my team from Charter. It was a sober event, but you would never have known it from the raucous laughter and excited storytelling over a lunch that extended across the afternoon. Later as we sat and talked, the conversations became more meaningful until impatient children urged us onto the lawn to play cricket where we remained at their mercy until it was dark and the rain sent us inside once again. I am so very grateful to be sober, to have connection with others that feels honest, to be able to be there for and with my children and to feel.

Cannibis use affects teen brains

Recent published research proves that Cannabis use affects the teen brain permanently showing a permanent reduction in brain capacity of 20%. The teen brain is vulnerable and growing so of course any chemical will affect its growth and development: obvious really.

Although this is shocking news, and terrifying to those of us with children in particular, I am relieved to have confirmed unequivocably by research what is already many in my field’s experience: we KNOW that cannabis causes long-term detrimental effect because we SEE it in our client population.

What is of concern is that we are speaking against a tide of popular culture where our voices are drowned out and our teen population – our future – continue to use and abuse substances under the banner of a ‘teenage rite of passage’ ameliorated by the denial of a nation that ‘ everybody does it’ and ‘its only a bit of spliff’.

Because the arrogant and bullying approach of those using is to behave as if they are superior because of their drug use, it is very very difficult to stand out in any way, let alone as apparently square, scared, not cool. How high the cost not just to fit in but not to stand out. It reminds me of the experience of many teens I speak to in schools across the country who feel embarrassed and humiliated to say ‘No’! This population need our support.

Taking drugs doesn’t make you clever, cool or brave…it makes you stoned at best, addicted and dependent at worst; and now we know it causes long term brain damage too.

The peer pressure around this culture needs challenging. In my experience – which is extensive – Cannabis is a gateway drug and not only that it is now also proven to be permanently damaging. Wake up parents, siblings, teachers, I think the real power happens in the homes and schools. We have influence and I believe you are either in the solution or the problem; with addiction there is no middle ground: where are you?

Stress and Addiction

The fact that stress is causing an increase in alcohol consumption and prescription/over the counter drug use does not surprise me. Sadly though this is a pattern that becomes increasingly habitual and with trouble usually hot on its heels.  We cannot control what happens in life, but I maintain we are responsible for how we behave in response to life’s curve balls. Drinking or numbing yourself from reality – indeed anything that fosters an attitude of fear, procrastination, deceit and denial – will only delay the inevitable, amplified by that delay.  Drinking should be a pleasure not an escape; prescription drugs should medicate diagnosed mental illness, preferably by a psychiatrist or psychologist; over the counter medications should provide temporary relief for physical symptoms- and counselling provides a forum where you can ventilate your emotions and learn how to live apace with the highs and lows in your life without compromising your integrity – now theres a thought!


Honesty is the best policy. Deviation from the truth is a smear on your integrity no matter what the justification; its a slippery slope. The more you lie (or should I say ‘adjust the truth’) the less accurately you represent yourself, the less others know you, the more likely you are to feel isolated and misunderstood; then its  a short walk to loss of confidence and loss of sense of who you are. Then who knows what you might do to feel better…?   I know that life is not group therapy (sadly!!!) so this is not about marching around saying whatever is on your mind without consequence (by the way in group  therapy there are consequences!) : that would be self indulgent! No, I am advocating the kind of honesty that allows you to be present without shame and for the other person to truly know you.  Its called INTIMACY. This takes self knowledge and of course creates self knowledge too! It takes courage and creates confidence; it means the friends you have actually know you and love you for who you are – gold dust! Take the risk to be honest, recognise your own judgements as you do, and try really hard to welcome the response!

Charter gains a touch of Alchemy…

UK’s top Addiction Specialists launch Charter Adolescents

Have communications with your adolescent broken down? Do they seem unhappy or anxious?  Are you concerned they may be drinking or using alcohol or other addictive substances? 

Then Charter Adolescents can help.

Research shows that Adolescents are more vulnerable than any other age group to developing, alcohol and other drug addictions in fact drug use is higher among young people than the adult population as a whole[1], yet there are a lack of specialist facilities to help them.


Which is why Mandy Saligari, Founder and Director of leading London addiction facility Charter Day Care, Residential and Counselling Centres has joined forces with Stephen Noel-Hill of Alchemy to form Charter Adolescents.

Stephen has extensive experience working with adolescents and young people spanning twelve years working at the Priory Hospital Roehampton and Adolescent Units in Holland.

Mandy has a well-established presence in independent schools lecturing on addiction, parenting for prevention and self-esteem. She has long since wanted to set up a service especially for adolescents addressing the issues that are brought to the surface in these school talks.

“Adolescents are particularly vulnerable to self-defeating coping mechanisms, our main aim with this service is to encourage a valuable sense of self, working with the young person and their parents – many of whom just don’t know how to cope with the issues their children are raising or the behavior they are presenting.”

Both Mandy and Stephen understand that that early intervention and prevention are fundamental to successful outcomes. It is this common vision that led them to merge Alchemy into Charter.

Charter Adolescents is an exciting new service that will do what Charter does best: intensive non-residential treatment and multi-disciplined counselling and therapy. The focus is on early intervention, education, emotional development and appropriate referral to give the adolescent and the family a new lease of life.

With a counselling team who are specialists in this area and experienced in work with young people, alongside Stephen’s expertise and Mandy’s guidance, this service will be dedicated to young people.

Working in groups, individual and family sessions and workshops, after school hours and at weekends, Charter Adolescents is an intensive and brief intervention and counselling service targeted to work with addictive disorders and emotional disturbance.

Charter is well established as a leading London addiction facility offering focused, flexible and effective day care for all addictive disorders at competitive rates.

For more information visit or call 020 73234970 or email

Charter Day Care, 15 Harley Street, London W1G 9QQ


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Addiction Experts, Spokespeople, Advice Columns, Latest Research, Case Studies and Images available.

Enquiries: Jenny Rose, M: 07957 551 697.







My son introduced me to a movie last night called Repeaters about 3 addicts in rehab on Step 9. It was brilliant and displays a real understanding of recovery. I found it both shocking (possibly because I  was watching it with my son) as well as deeply reassuring and exciting that such a clear interpretation of Step 9 is out there from mainstream Hollywood – and WATCHABLE, gripping even! I won’t say much more apart from advice NOT to watch it if you are in early recovery as may well trigger craving…but otherwise it was brilliant.

Place in Fiction

The ancient Willow tree stood sentry at the mouth of the tarmac drive that once shone its gleaming route, liquorice black and definite, to the house. Now with edges crumbling into the ditch the drive was over grown and potholed, like stale biscuits forgotten in a tin.

I stood motionless in the unseen footprints of my youth beneath this great tree where giant branches draped like patient arms in play, as gates to a castle where childish battles could be fought and won; where as I grew I had lain hidden in deep cool grass, looking up through fluttering green to the watercolour skies and dreamed of love.  It was here beside the gnarled trunk too wide to reach my arms around, that I had sought protection and cover when later love too had proved fallible.

Looking up in the breathless August evening I could see my old home, nestled amongst extensive orchards where trees stood like children, arms aloft in play.  Dark red tiles sat like a warm hat over the pleasing symmetry of this Sussex house, and English roses climbed the sunny whitewashed walls in an embrace before stretching their myriad ways unpruned towards the skies where white trails crossed and petered out into the endless blue. It was as if summer never left this place for even in the depths of winter when clouds like dark fortresses launched their stormy attack, Orchard House sat calm and square puffing gentle coils of smoke from the Aga that lay at her warm heart, unmoved by centuries of Nature’s temper.

And yet this was her greatest tragedy for despite her protection against the elements, Orchard House had provided no defence against the storm that raged within. The windows were all dark now, with glass that reflected back the steely light of dusk like eyes in death.  I could go no closer but watched as the tendrils of willow hushed and soothed around me until the night cast her cloak of impenetrable darkness, releasing me from the spell.

Parenting for Prevention Workshops

I have been presenting Parenting for Prevention workshops in schools across the UK for around 10 years and am now planning to bring this material into the treatment environment as a workshop targeted towards helping parents whose children suffer from addiction.

Every parent with a child of any age who is acting out in an addictive way needs to be aware of their boundaries, be able to present a consistent response to any demand or behaviour, and to feel that their decision is seated in respect and self esteem.

I often get asked where the line is drawn between good parenting, ie the duty to love, guide, punish and teach, and unhealthy enmeshed parenting where there is often an over involvement and overt sense of responsibility and resentment. Although the age of the child is relevant in this discussion, the core principles are the same and a big question is who is in charge?

In a family where addiction is present it can often appear as if the addict is running the show, able to hijack any interaction or event and frequently create worry and drama. But of course it is not the addict per se, it is addiction itself that is operating within the family system. Once parents and family members start to behave in a coordinated and healthy way, changes always happen.

This workshop is specifically designed to illustrate adolescent reactions that can feed conflict and splitting which are instantly recognizable. There is usually a lot of laughter in this workshop before parents get down to working on understanding and then practicing the simple responses that can make all the difference.

These patterns always exist in addictive relationships and it is vital that those close to the addict know how to navigate them, to feel confident that they are supporting the solution not feeding the problem.

Please contact the office if you are interested in attending any of our workshops in the future: 020 7323 4970