We are excited to share about an international teen and young adult treatment center who just opened their doors this past month in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The Wave Youth Clinic, or just The Wave for short, has a far-from-new team behind it, though. The leadership has a breadth and depth of experiences in treating individuals and families affected by alcohol and drug abuse and mental health disorders.
I had the opportunity to speak to one of the co-founders, Fiona Markham. It’s hard to sum up Fiona’s accomplishments in a one-sentence intro. She’s both highly skilled and incredibly compassionate. (Read her full bio here.)
Fiona mentioned “a massive hole for this age group.” She’s right. For luxury, international treatment dedicated to adolescents and young adults, the selection is quite limited. We recalled The Edge (Thailand), who serves only young adult males, and then, Yes We Can Youth Clinics (Netherlands), who serves adolescents and young adults, both female and male.
Complex issues can leave a family feeling hopeless. Teens and young adults are struggling with high levels of anger, anxiety, fear, isolating; they’re failing or have dropped out of education, abusing drugs or alcohol increasingly, and are often considered a letdown. Parents feel like they’ve done everything and there’s nowhere else to go. They’ve given up and, in a sense, start grieving for the outcome of death or prison rather than a pursuit to medical school for their child, yet weighed down by immense guilt.
This led Fiona and her team to start The Wave—to provide a place where young girls and young boys can go, especially when they seem to be failing other treatment options. Fiona believes it’s the other way around, “Treatment is failing them, not them failing treatment; treatment has to move with them.” She adds, “There has to be someone at some point who’s going to sit with that; they have to have hope.”
Not only does The Wave offer high quality and individualized care for the youth themselves, but also for the family. The program has a family week every 5 weeks, so mid-way and at the end of the 10-week program.
“We’re keen on taking the whole family. We want to offer as much family space and time as needed,” says Fiona. Often, complex issues mean a complex family with everything very intertwined.
She enjoys “putting families back together when everyone has had enough and seeing families being able to re-function.” Fiona shares a story of one family who had sent a little thank you. They were able to go out as a family on a Sunday—something that was not possible a year ago.
I asked her why this age group and why the complex cases, something that she’s gained a reputation for taking on. Fiona’s answer was simple, yet profound. “The potential of hope,” she replied.
“Everyone around them is saying they’re not good enough, not well enough, not going to be successful. Everyone around them has given up hope, thinking they’re going to die or go to prison. And then you can see small changes. First, they don’t want to go to therapy at all. Then, after a week, they’re actually looking for a therapist because have something they want to say,” Fiona continued.
She describes The Wave like a family, a small space, where a teen or young adult cannot hide, but rather they will be seen. Staff is around all the time, so it’s easy to make a connection, which then fuels more connections.
“We do not rely on punishment; it’s about learning to live life in a different way,” says Fiona as she describes the approach. “Life as a teenager can actually be fun. They learn they can do things quite fun and exciting without substances. We’re surrounded by really cool stuff to do, water sports, adventure sports; they’ll get to build other friendships, start short courses for education … It’s a lifestyle option.”
An example of learning to live life differently while at The Wave:
It was inspiring to hear Fiona’s passion first-hand. You can read more about The Wave’s program here or contact Fiona directly for specific questions about the program. It’s an ideal fit for teens, young adults and their families facing complex issues. Treatment is offered in English and Arabic.
NOTE: While the above post is editorially independent, we would like to mention that The Wave Clinic is a paid advertiser on our site.