Chess as a therapeutic medium in a substance abuse rehabilitation centre: A Narrative study by Denis

This research project is a narrative study on the use of chess as a therapeutic medium in a
substance abuse rehabilitation centre. Stabilis Treatment Centre served as the rehabilitation
centre where the data was collected and the therapeutic sessions conducted.
In this research report I introduced Stabilis Treatment Centre by exploring and providing
an overview of their existing programmes. I have stated the research problem and the
subsequent research question and goals. A literature review is included where
information with regards to drug abuse, exercise psychology and the use of chess in
various contexts is provided. The research methodology is examined and narrative
practice is introduced and explored.
The three participants in this research project are introduced and their experiences of
playing chess are explored and extended to their experiences of life and relevant
situations. This process is documented in letter format where I as researcher wrote letters
to each participant reflecting on their experiences of using chess to narrate their personal

This research project concludes where I summarize the results of this study as well as
providing recommendations for future studies.
1.1 Problem
This research project started as a small seed of thought about new ways of doing research and
conducting therapeutic sessions. It therefore involves a growth pattern that is different from the
standard process of research.

In order for the reader to develop a full grasp of what gave rise to the proposed study, the
problem identification will consist of three parts wherein the specific treatment centre and its
therapeutic and activity programmes will be discussed in separate sections.
1.1.1 Stabilis Treatment Centre
Stabilis is a substance abuse rehabilitation centre in Pretoria, South Africa. The Centre provides
detoxification facilities, an in-patient programme and after-care services for people with alcohol,
medication or drug dependency. Stabilis accommodates people between the ages of 10-65 from
both genders and all nationalities and religions. It provides a multi-professional service,
including highly qualified psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses, dieticians, a minister, doctors and
social workers (Stabilis, n.d.)
A break down of the daily schedule at Stabilis is as follows:
• Breakfast every day: 07:30
• Group therapy: 8:00 – 11:00
• Lunch on weekdays and Saturdays: 13:00
• Individual therapy and free time in the afternoon: 13:30 – 17:30
• Dinner every day: 17:30
• Sunday lunch: 12:00
Visiting hours for people in the drug programme are as follows: Monday to Friday: 17:30 –
18:30 and Saturday – Sunday from 09:00 – 10:00 and 14:30 – 15:30.
1.1.2 Stabilis Therapeutic Programme
Apart from marital counselling, telephonic counselling, individual and group counselling and
religious programmes, the centre also provides adventure therapy for the 1
patients in the drug
rehabilitation programme. High and low rope courses are used as part of the adventure activities
through which individuals can experience personal growth. This activity takes place once every
five weeks.
Treatment services at Stabilis also include information services and motivation counselling,
training courses, seminars and workshops. Relaxation therapy is provided on a weekly basis
where patients learn and enhance their skills of relaxation. Marriage groups focus on improving
and healing the relationship between the patient and his/her significant other. If the person is
single, a close friend or relative is invited to participate. New ways of dealing with problem
situations are explored and attention is given to the understanding of everyone as an individual
(Staanvas, n.d.).
Counselling focuses on the patient identifying and expressing feelings and regaining self-respect.
Emphasis is also placed on discovering and establishing meaningful communication. Learning to
enjoy a ‘sober’ life and gaining peace of mind are important aspects of counselling, which also
aims at the empowerment of the patient so he/she can start to live fully.
On Sundays, patients are required to listen to, watch or attend a church service of their choice.
Stabilis bases its intervention and rehabilitation on religious routes and therefore highlights
participation in this form of activity. The religious programmes are based on Christian principles
but also accommodate patients with other religious convictions. The Centre encourages visits
from the patient's own spiritual leader. Voluntary devotional meetings are held in the chapel each
day and personal pastoral conversations emphasize the importance of faith, forgiveness and the
integration of the patient's lifestyle.
The aftercare programme entails the patient and significant other being provided with telephonic
and individual counselling as well as relevant literature. The duration of this programme is
eleven months. The minimum duration of the in-patient drug programme is 35 days.
The Centre also provides the following activities which can be enjoyed during leisure times:
Snooker, darts, volleyball, table tennis, watching television, gym equipment and board games.
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