Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Trend Alert: Voluntary Relaxation Rehab

Travel Agent Melissa Newman has received some rather bizarre inquiries of late. According to Newman and others in her field, people have begun inquiring about rehabilitation facilities when planning their vacations.

One of Newman’s first clients to make the unconventional request explains, “I wanted to take a relaxing getaway to Florida or the Caribbean, somewhere on the ocean. But the thought of going anywhere with my family really stressed me out. They are no walk in the park, trust me.”

Newman responded by suggesting that her client take her loved ones on a family-oriented cruise, where children are often immersed in daily activities, thus allowing the parents to have time on their own. She also talked to her client about the possibility of sending the children to regional summer camps. None of the options placated her client’s intense vacation anxiety.

Newman began to dig deeper in her research and found a few vacation venues offering “extended relaxation therapy.” Follow-up conversations with her client eventually led to the perfectly planned vacation.

“When you think about it,” says Newman, “it makes a good deal of sense. These [rehab] facilities are luxurious, quiet, and located in stunning physical settings. They are admittedly expensive, but the traveler’s vacation costs include meals, housing, fun activities and intense one-on-one therapy sessions.” The promise of focused, daily therapy usually seals the deal for uncertain travelers.

And it’s not just families who are taking advantage of these therapeutic getaways. They are fast becoming popular among young professionals who struggle to find time within the work day to seek counseling. One added bonus? Most mental health patients are single.

A number of mental health professionals have questioned the wisdom of sending healthy patients to facilities reserved for those individuals facing depression, substance abuse, or other, more extreme mental health problems. Dr. Pagoda, head psychologist at Happy Endings in Tucson, Arizona, warned that “average persons” who are merely experiencing “marginal stress” could end up compromising the important work being done for the “real” patients at his treatment center.

When asked for further information on this effect—given that all patients are treated individually—Dr. Pagoda offered, “I’m not at liberty to discuss the private actions of our patients, but, well…there have been a number of alcohol-related relapses over the past few months.”

Despite his and others’ warnings, several online travel companies, including Orbitz and Expedia, are planning to incorporate “mental health getaways” in their vacation offerings.

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