Ibiza wellness: Meet the team: Dr Manuel Rodriguez, Psychiatrist – Ibiza Calm

Qualified psychiatrist Dr Manuel Rodriguez plays a major role in the successful recovery of clients at Ibiza’s sole licensed rehabilitation centre, Ibiza Calm. Born in Almeria, in the south of Spain, he initially trained in medicine in Malaga, and when the time came to choose his specialty, the decision to become a psychiatrist was purely instinctive.

Following his four years training in Madrid at the José Germain Psychiatric Institute, Manuel relocated to Ibiza, not knowing the island would go on to become his permanent home base. He joined the Ibiza Calm team two years ago, where he utilises various models of psychotherapy combined with a holistic approach in line with the clinic’s philosophies.

What attracted you to your current professional field?
The truth is; I wasn’t really attracted to psychiatry. I fancied almost any other speciality! I was keen on joining the intensive care unit and I almost went down that pathway but changed my mind at the last minute. I came to the conclusion with a friend that psychiatry and intensive care were not so different – they are both interventional. It was a feeling more than anything else that led me into the field.

What is your connection to Ibiza?
After I finished medical school, I saw by chance there was a job available in an outpatient clinic in the public system here. So I took it, thinking it would just be a few months, and I am still here! When I arrived, I remember thinking it was really green, and I didn’t expect that. It was really rainy when I came in November and I didn’t know many people so it was difficult at first but then spring and summer came and everything changed.

Why do you think Ibiza is a good location for a rehabilitation clinic?
Here, in Ibiza, you have the dark and the light sides, the good and the bad. Why are we established in a place with drugs and discos and all of that around? It’s a social need. I’ve had patients [in the public system] who were asking me for a place like this, and in the past they had to go to the mainland or to Palma for treatment. So, it was a need that wasn’t covered until Ibiza Calm was created.

How did you become to be involved with Ibiza Calm?
Again, by chance! Founders John McKeown and Stephen Clark met a psychologist and his ex-wife who was a physician, with whom I had some patients in common. They mentioned my name and they called me, and now I have been here two years. Ibiza Calm has really developed and changed in that time. In the beginning, we relied on people in recovery, but now we rely more on the skills of different professionals and what they are presenting to make it work.

What do you see as some of the main issues your clients are facing?
Addictions, to a certain point. People who have bad relationships with substances, with other people, or with activities. In many cases, there are underlying mental health issues like schizophrenia or bi-polar. My role involves assessing every client to find out if there are any underlying mental health problems or addictions and treat them. As a team, we see things in common, but from different perspectives.

How would you encourage someone who was considering treatment?
If someone is thinking about treatment, it’s already a good sign. We just need that slight motivation to work with. I would encourage them just to keep that flame burning and to let them know we can help change things. It’s like when you meditate – the difficult thing is not the meditation itself, but the decision that you are going to meditate is the difficult part. I would encourage the commitment to treatment.

What does your role entail at Ibiza Calm?
Sometimes my role is as a physician to physically examine the clients. Sometimes in psychiatry, it as a psychoanalyst in terms of mental health disorders. And participating in therapy sessions, similar to a psychologist, which I enjoy. Sometimes I see people in groups but it’s mainly one-on-one sessions. I coordinate with Camilla and Kate to make sure we get the whole picture on the clients.

How do you explain your treatment style with clients at Ibiza Calm?
You have to adapt and adjust with each client. My main way of relating to clients is in a gentle, non-directive way if possible. I try to come to a common agreement on clinical decisions with each patient, be it treatment or anything else. I don’t like to impose anything on them – sometimes we have to, to if the client is severely disturbed, but I try not to. When prescribing mediations or treatments it depends on what the client wants to achieve against the chances and the benefits of that treatment.

What is your favourite thing about your work?
The need to be in touch with different professions. In the public system we don’t have the time or the setting to do that. But here at Ibiza Calm, we have the opportunity to speak with different professionals constantly and I really like that. For example, keeping in touch with the nursing staff to be aware of everything that’s going on during the night helps with my treatment of a patient.

What is one of the biggest challenges in your work?
I’d say it’s the short-term treatment. We have some clients who can only stay for a couple of weeks or one month and we need that time to get to know them deeply as a person. Sometimes, when they leave early, we feel we’re just getting started. When we are treating things like past trauma events or something that’s never been touched on, but they have responsibilities back at home, it can be hard. It’s also difficult when you’ve built a strong relationship with a patient by the end of treatment but you can’t have a continued relationship with them. We try to refer them to different therapists in their home countries in this case.

Where do you look for inspiration?
With meditation and yoga, I recharge myself by doing that. By studying and learning new things I find that useful. There are different figures in psychiatry and psychotherapy that I consider inspirational, for example Milton Erickson, who was a hypnotherapist and psychiatrist, Steven Mitchell and Donald Winnicott who are psychoanalysts. There are many different inspiring people to look to.

What is your own preferred method of ‘escaping’?
Reading, running and I love swimming in the sea. Going out with friends… the normal stuff!

What is it you love most about the island?
First, it was the summertime. I really enjoyed being outside, playing sports and enjoying time with friends and family. But I have to confess that now, it’s equally, or even more, the autumn and winter seasons I like, because of the people who live here year round. I like these two sides to Ibiza – I think somehow the island is bi-polar. I wouldn’t be surprised that the reason we have a lot of bipolar patients in the public system here is because of the natural tendency and rhythm of the island being up and down all the time. But I think you can learn to adjust to that rhythm quite easily.

Portrait photography by Maria Simon

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