When I first started writing about the Melbourne Centre of Healing – founded earlier this year by Melissa Hiemann and Ryan Hassan to treat people with addiction, stress, depression and anxiety – I wasn’t thinking about using the services myself.
But a particularly stressful time which left me mentally a bit fragile drove me to search for something different to help myself. I can be a skeptical kind of person, but I was amazed at the results. More to come on that later.
Rewind to earlier this year when I caught up with Ryan and Melissa. I have known Ryan for a few years, and I was interested in the pair’s work, which came about after they both overcame addictions to find a passion for helping others.
They had previously met at a networking event about health and wellbeing, but it was by chance that they reconnected.
Ryan had been going through a divorce, and after dabbling in recreational drugs on and off, last year his use spiraled out of control. At its peak he was smoking a gram of ice a day and taking up to 40ml of GHB. You can read more of his story, as previously told to the Herald Sun, here.
A government-funded home detox program was his first attempt at change and he went 12 days without drugs before relapsing. It was a chance Facebook message from Melissa that prompted Ryan to go and see her.
Melissa, a qualified therapist, uses hypnotherapy and guided meditation, and spent years studying different modalities to come up with a treatment method she says “works on all levels of consciousness at the same time” to provide effective and long-term positive results.After that initial contact from Melissa, Ryan went to see her the next day.
“I had no idea what she did and she had no idea I was a complete mess, I was a drug addict,” Ryan said.
“I had an issue with dealing with negative emotion…I had 30 years of suppressing negative emotions.
“Mel had me then using this method, going back into memories of when I was younger, feeling negative, guilt, shame, and releasing them.
“It’s a light trance. I’m still conscious the whole time. I’m talking but she’s talking to my subconscious and releasing these memories from when I’m (age) 4, 6, 3.
Ryan said in past events, if there was enough emotion attached he may have formed a belief which would stay with him unless he changed it.
“Once the emotion is gone, it’s like a cloud being lifted,” Ryan said.
“All of a sudden I change the belief about myself and see it as purely an event and not an event with all this emotion attached. What it does is it drops the chain of events so now in the future when that situation presents itself, I think I am good enough.”
Ryan stopped using drugs after his first session and saw Melissa once a week after that to remove more blocks. It was during that time he realised his passion and purpose was to help others in the same way.
Ryan had signed up for a diploma in mental health and alcohol and other drugs but decided he couldn’t follow that path.
“Rehab has a 10-15 per cent success rate,” he said.
“The whole system says ‘this is the addiction, let’s change the addiction’. But addiction is merely a coping mechanism – whether it’s drugs, alcohol, shopping, it’s all a coping mechanism to some deeper stress, so it’s going to the root cause.
“I went back to Mel and said ‘teach me everything you know’.”
Melissa trained him over the next five months, he became a practitioner and they opened the Melbourne Centre of Healing, based in Hampton East.
Ryan admits it is “100 per cent different” to traditional drug addiction treatment.
He said the ice epidemic had brought to light a lot faster just how many people were in emotional pain.
“(Ice addicts) are no different to any other addict, they just have a very harsh substance,” Ryan said,
“But it’s just lighting up the same areas of the brain and it’s in the media so people pay attention to it.
“Taking someone out of their environment for one to three months and ticking them off as clean and putting them back in their environment isn’t working.
“It’s about having people, as they’re working though a process on themselves, being able to deal with day-to-day life, which they’re going to have to deal with for the rest of their lives.”
Melissa explained: “The current system is working with someone consciously, talking to them about problems and trying to manage how life is now. Whereas we go to the underlying root cause of why they’re taking the drugs in the first place, removing that, and that enables them to empower themselves so they don’t have to have something to cope with and the root causes or traumas in their past as to why they’re trying to escape with that.
“Over time we have traumas and experiences but we weren’t really taught in school how to manage our emotions. All the emotions get held over time and we keep unconsciously referring back to past experiences to experience the reality we have now.
“What happens is when someone takes drugs, all their issues, all their stresses, past things they’ve tried to cope with get blocked out and they get a sense of feeling joy, peace, love, love for themselves, love for others. It’s a feeling that they chase.
“If we can release these emotions and help someone cope with their past traumas and their perception of that, they can naturally love themselves and others and feel better and peaceful.”
In fact, Melissa likened it to a “mind detox”, like de-fraging a hard drive on a computer.
“You can take on your parents’ beliefs, your grandparents’ beliefs, even in your geneaology. Societal beliefs can stop you from living your full potential,” she said.
“I just guide the client to remove those blocks and limitations and people can make pure and good decisions.”
And they try to make their services as affordable and accessible as possible. Ryan said if a drug addict sought help, they couldn’t wait months on a waiting list for a government-funded rehab spot. And privately, some programs cost up to $40,000.
The centre offers infrared sauna and floating sessions with programs, and also has single sessions covering healing, life guidance and stress management.
Ryan said they’d helped a woman remove emotional blocks before a job interview, which she was then successful in.
And Melissa said a man who had a fear of public speaking came in before he was due to make a speech at a wedding, and ended up conquering the fear.
“I have seen clients over the past few years who have had anxiety for 20 years, depression for 10 years, they had been seeing psychologists over that time and taken medication but haven’t been able to shift it until having one or two sessions with me and they were blown away by the results,” Melissa said.
“Whether it’s people that are very stressed, have an alcohol problem, severe depression, addiction to shopping or prescription/drug addiction the process is the same.”
So that leads me to the sessions I had recently.
Work was hectic. With the closure of a few Leader papers, including one that I worked on, plus a lot of other factors, I was exhausted. I was supposed to take two weeks off in June but cancelled it after the news at work, and just kept going.
I needed a break. I was feeling anxious and unmotivated. My uncontrolled eating habits had resurfaced and I was going along in a fog. I felt disconnected from myself.
I’m not really sure what prompted me to ask if they could help me out. I think I just wanted to try something different. I have done the counselling thing and also take medication for my moods.
Even though I had this overview of what a session would entail, I was a bit nervous as to what it may uncover. And I admit to being skeptical about the whole process.
I had never had any similar treatment before. But I was blown away with some of things that were coming up. I had a pretty normal upbringing, no massive traumas in my life. But some events in my life, for some reason, had attached emotion to them.
Before the session I was feeling anxious, heavy, foggy, disconnected. After, I remember just thinking I had this sense of peace. I felt lighter and happier.
Melissa said to be mindful as sessions could leave an emotional “hangover” but in the following days I had a mental clarity that I hadn’t had in ages, my eating had calmed down and I felt like I was just on a natural high.
I had another session a few weeks later that looked more at my eating issues, and that was intense. The next day I physically felt like I’d been hit by a bus. But again, I have been left feeling a lot more self-aware, and it is actually quite hard to explain the changes. It all might seem a bit crazy but all I do know is that now I am feeling great.
*This is my personal experience, and I am not qualified to offer any sort of medical or treatment advice. I don’t advocate for any particular treatment method and I believe in personal choice, what works for one person may not work for someone else. I would always recommend seeking professional advice for any health-related concerns.