Sober House Programme

In our urban recovery house we augment our one to one and group therapy counselling programme Recovery Zones with a programme of body-based therapies including strength training, Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai, Medical Qi Gong, movement coaching, yoga and meditation. Clients can find whatever works for them. We also believe in spending time in nature. On weekends we offer hiking or cycling the mountainous tracks around Chiang Mai. Below are the main models that we use in treatment.


The main psycho-therapeutic model used at the Alpha sober house is Recovery Zones. Recovery Zones is composed of addiction specific CBT exercises, 12 step facilitation (secular model) and mindfulness meditation. Recovery Zones works by placing all addictive behaviours, triggers as well as the solutions, into three recognizable ‘zones’. The Red Zone stands for all addictive behaviours we must abstain from; the Amber Zone stands for all the relapse risks we need to watch out for and the Green Zone includes all the recovery behaviours we need to practice.

Alastair developed recovery zones as Chief Clinician and founder of The Cabin Group. It is specifically designed as a multi-cultural addiction treatment system, and is totally secularized in order to be accessible to addicted clients from all nations and cultures. It is designed to work with process addictions as well as substance addictions.


At Alpha Sober Living we use Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) because we believe it is the best counselling method for men. Specifically, we utilize a techniques called ABC. A stands for activators; B stands for beliefs (that is, negative core beliefs); and C stands for the consequences of negative self-talk which are dysfunctional emotional states and behaviours.

CBT has a strong evidence base to treat anxiety and depression as well as addiction. Mental health issues and emotional disorders like anxiety, depression, ADD and ADHD tend to strongly co-occur with addiction and so CBT is a powerful modality to use in conjunction with other addiction specific counselling techniques.


At the Alpha Sober House we utilize 12 Step facilitation to explore the principles of the 12 Steps within a secular framework. We explore what the neuroscience of addiction is telling us about addiction as a behavioural illness and why working a psycho-social programme works. Clients are encouraged to attend a variety of local recovery meetings which will help you to access the support you need on an on-going basis, long after you have left Alpha and wherever you go in the world. Non-12 step mutual aid groups are also available in Chiang Mai.

Chiang Mai is now blessed with one of the most vibrant 12 step fellowship scenes in the world. With five different fellowships represented and more than fifty meetings a week it surpasses many British and American cities in terms of accessibility to 12 step programmes.


Vipassana has been popularized in the West as ‘Mindfulness’. At The Alpha Sober House we tend to practice the more traditional Thai style of ‘insight’ meditation (which is proper Vipassana). For clients who are interested we can teach both walking and sitting meditation in the authentic Thai tradition.

Authentic vipassana consists of walking, sitting, standing and lying meditation. This is often more amenable to westerners in particular who may find it difficult or uncomfortable to remain seated cross legged for extended periods of time. Walking meditation is also good for people who have mobility issues. At Alpha Sober House we deploy mindfulness and vipassana practice to treat cravings and triggers specifically, according to the Recovery Zones method.


This psychological model at The Alpha Sober House is augmented and brought to life by way of the body, by using Medical Qi Gong, Iron Shirt Conditioning, Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai, Strength Training and endurance disciplines such as running, swimming, cycling and triathlon. Clients do not have to do all of these, but all are available on the programme.


Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) is a combat sport which focuses on grappling techniques with a particular emphasis on ground work. One of the main principles of BJJ is that a smaller weaker person may be able to overcome a bigger stronger person by learning effective grappling techniques. This is a good metaphor for recovery from addiction.

The physical touch and teamwork that is required in BJJ has been found by our Sober House team to be one of the most effective forms of physical therapy for men in addiction treatment. In increases healthy intimacy between men and bonds the peer group together. It is safe and the level of physical challenge can be slowly increased in a measured way. Regular weekly practice in BJJ can initially be done in private groups but later you can join the Alpha team at ‘drop ins’ where we meet other members of the public and build our social network.


Muay Thai (Thai boxing) is the national sport of Thailand. It is sometimes also called the Art of 8 Limbs, because it uses fist, elbows, knees and shins to deliver blows. Clients at Alpha Sober House do not need to participate in full contact sparring in Muay Thai. We use it as a health and fitness discipline. However, those wishing to stay long term may train for fights if they wish and if they have the proper medical clearance.

Muay Thai is a very intensive metabolic conditioning work out. We do everything from regular body-weight work outs to pushing metal cages. From a technique perspective we do pad-work, bag-work, drills, and if you progress, light sparring.


Qi gong is an ancient Chinese health system of breath and movement which helps to build strength and flexibility, especially in the tendons. It can be very useful for people who struggle with sitting meditation. It is in a sense, a ‘moving meditation’. In addition to Qi Gong we also have personal tuition available in Iron Shirt techniques, which are a way of strengthening the muscle tissue and fascia to make oneself physically harder.

At Alpha Sober House we also regularly condition ourselves with techniques particular to Shaolin Kung-Fu. This includes wrist conditioning (which helps with BJJ) and leg conditioning (which helps with Muay Thai).


Strength is the mother of all physical attributes. If you train for strength (not bodybuilding) you will become faster and have better balance, as well as being more injury resistant and able to use sport specific skills with greater precision. Most of all, training for strength is meditative. It increases mental well-being, concentration and a host of other physical and mental health benefits.

At Alpha Sober Living we use the ‘easy strength training’ protocol developed by Russian sports scientists, which emphasizes ‘greasing the groove’ every day rather than burning out. At the Alpha Sober House we do not promote or encourage body-building due to addicted men’s issues with body-dysmorphia.


At Alpha, we provide nutritious food at our recovery hub/outpatient centre in front of the sober house itself. Here clients can eat healthy non-processed whole foods. Most diets are catered for ranging from vegetarian to keto. The focus is on Thai/fusion cuisine made from fresh ingredients everyday by Fihn and our Thai staff. Fresh fruit smoothies (with no added syrup or sweeteners) are blended throughout the day and especially after workouts. Both whey protein and vegetarian/vegan protein supplements are available.


Breathwork has become a popular modality used in various addiction treatments settings such as drug and alcohol rehabs and sober houses. Breathwork refers to breathing techniques that are used for physical, mental and emotional release. They are designed to help you experience a great sense of relaxation and mental clarity. Breathing techniques such as pranayama and tummo have been used in various traditions such as yoga and Tibetan Buddhism for many centuries. Recently, Wim Hoff (who holds several world records for cold exposure) popularized breathwork with his own techniques which have been studied for their beneficial effects on the immune system. At Alpha we follow Wim Hoff’s beginner’s routine as well as some yogic breathing practices.