Stigmas, Atypical norms, and Confidentiality: Why the Ultra-Wealthy Require Specialised Treatment

Paracelsus Recovery
5 min readMay 10, 2022

People often think that high-end rehabs are nothing more than the monetisation of poor little rich kids expecting luxury. In reality, stigmas and stereotypes have alienated UHNW so much that isolated treatment became their only viable option.

We all know that the lifestyles of the rich and famous are different. However, we focus on freedom, hedonism, power, and luxury. We can fail to see the loneliness, terror and loss of self. For example, our research shows that Oscar winners are almost seven times more likely to struggle with mental health issues. Instead of empathy, people tend to respond with shock and contempt.

These stigmas have crept into the healthcare industry too. At Paracelsus Recovery, we believe that everyone deserves competent and empathetic treatment. To that end, here are a few reasons why the ultra-wealthy require a specialised rehabilitation centre.

Image Description: An Infographic wheel summarising why ultra-wealthy clients require specialised treatment. The wheel is spilt into four sections and each explains a different aspect of why ultra-wealthy clients have different healthcare needs.

i. Confidentiality Issues

The ultra-wealthy require treatment centres that can provide absolute and 100% confidentiality and discretion. That usually means they need a private treatment centre that only caters to one client at any time.

C-suite executives or royalty cannot even consider a traditional rehabilitation centre because they cannot afford the privacy risks. For example, imagine if the CEO of a multimillion-pound company checked into a traditional treatment centre for alcohol dependency. If anyone in that centre leaked it to the press, the company’s share price would plummet, and people would lose their jobs.

Alternatively, you might be a celebrity who could survive the press leak theoretically. Most treatment centres are built on the 12-step model, meaning group therapy and connection govern the recovery programme. While that is well and good, most celebrities will struggle to openly share, and it can interfere with the work.

For instance, their pain and suffering are worth money. How can they know that someone in the room won’t leak it to a tabloid? Do they ask everyone to sign a confidentiality waiver? These kinds of issues can be stressful at a time when peace and ease are crucial.

ii. Cultural Competency

Cultural competence refers to a healthcare professional’s ability to understand, appreciate and interact with people from cultures or belief systems that are different from their own. While most mental health experts are acutely and empathetically aware of their CC, they can fail short when it comes to the ultra-wealthy.

For example, you will need to give up your devices in most rehabilitation centres. But that CEO we mentioned earlier cannot hand over his devices or disappear from his work for months at a time. Another common task is learning basic self-care techniques such as making your bed every morning. But again, that CEO will never have to make his bed when he returns home. His energy is directed elsewhere, and these self-care tools are out of touch with his actual day-to-day reality.

However, when he tries to explain this to his team, he is often deemed selfish, childish, or difficult. These reactions can be highly damaging. They are born of stigmas and set the stage for a failed recovery.

iii. Stigmas and Biases

As Dr Paul Hokemeyer poignantly explains in his book Fragile Power: Why Having Everything Is Never Enough; Lessons from Treating the Wealthy and Famous (2019), celebrities have a fragile sense of power that can break at any point. This sows the seeds for numerous mental health issues, including anxiety and depression. For example, celebrities work in one of the most toxic work environments out there. They face constant harassment, online bullying, and public stalking, to name just a few of the fame side-effects.

But then, they are told that they are immeasurably lucky to achieve what they have. We almost gaslight them into thinking that this stressful life is incredible. Celebrities are implicitly told that if they are not happy 24/7, then they are ungrateful, and there is something wrong with them. Situations like these would make anyone doubt themselves and live in a state of constant fear. This contradiction is perfectly echoed by Mary Kate Olsen, who once said, “I would never wish my upbringing on anyone…but I wouldn’t take it back for the world.”

These contractionary and cruel messages can become internalised by both client and clinician. As a result, stigmas and biases can unconsciously cloud the relationship. That can create hostility and alienation, which hinders the clients’ chances for a successful recovery.

To conclude, while these are a few of the reasons the ultra-wealthy require a unique treatment experience, it is not an exhaustive list. But, most importantly, while reading this article, do thoughts pop into your mind such as ‘why are we treating them as though they are so special?’.

If yes, we would encourage you to reflect on whether those thoughts are coming from a place of envy or disregard. This is particularly important if you work in the therapeutic field, regardless of your client’s economic status. Our work is dependent on the strength of our empathy which, like any skill, requires training. Recognising that wealthy and successful people are people and that their pain and suffering are, while different, no less real than yours or anyone else’s, is part of that empathetic skillset.

Paracelsus Recovery

At Paracelsus Recovery, our treatment programmes focus on each client and their unique health needs. We use a multidisciplinary approach (our 360-degree treatment model) to address all the underlying issues, not just the symptoms. A thorough assessment is carried out to determine the exact treatment and therapies required and identify any physical, medical, and psychological issues requiring special attention. We will design an individual treatment plan based on the results of these assessments.

We work exclusively with UHNW clientele, and our team understands the specificities of this work. We help our clients develop tools for dealing with the actual stressors and responsibilities they face.

Finally, we adopt a harm-reductionist approach to addiction and mental health. This means that, in the case of alcohol abuse dependency, whether your alcohol abuse problem requires drinking less than before or giving up alcohol entirely is a decision that remains with you. We will provide the tools needed to regain control over your relationship with the addictive substance or behaviour.



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