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The importance of your environment in recovery

Posted by Youssef
on 01 Aug 2022

Photography of Delamere by Nick Harrison, landscape design by Elaine Cresswell

Whether it’s your childhood home, a high-pressured workspace or stressful social situations and events, different environments can be a trigger for any type of addiction. Research shows both your work/school situation, family, peers and the community can all influence your behaviour. Which means it’s just as important to have the right people, places and surroundings to support you in recovery. Finding somewhere safe and comfortable that promotes healthy living is the key to achieving lasting sobriety. 

Two years ago, JDA Architects were commissioned by Delamere to create the ultimate purpose-built wellness retreat for people embarking on an addiction rehabilitation programme. The brief was to create a residential treatment centre for alcohol addiction, drug addiction and other addictions with an empathic design that could fulfil multiple therapeutic uses. 

“We set about finding a site on which we could develop a purpose- built environment – one that would defy the conventions in the market and provide the perfect setting for addiction treatment care. We worked hard to develop a scheme that was in no way institutional, somewhere we’d want to stay ourselves. 

Thankfully finding an architect, who absolutely ‘got it’, helped no end. Before we wrote the brief and before they put pencil to paper, we visited the very best buildings in care and spoke with the people that designed them, built them, worked in them and, crucially, used them. Seeing the Maggie’s Cancer Support centres afforded much inspiration. Step foot in one of their locations and you’re immediately at ease; there’s nothing institutional or intimidating. It’s a place where it’s OK to be you.” – Martin Preston, Founder and Chief Executive

Since opening in March 2020, Delamere has helped over 500 guests grow beyond addiction. As the UK’s only purpose-built addiction treatment clinic, Delamere has won awards for architecture and acclaim from the Care Quality Commission as well as verified reviews from guests. Here’s why every single element, from architecture to lighting, is so important to the recovery process.

Environmental risk factors and addiction

First, let’s begin with how your environment can be a catalyst for addiction. When we talk about environment, we don’t mean the colour of your walls or size of your garden, we’re broadening the term to encompass all aspects of your life. Psychologists believe there are four main domains crucial in recovery. 

Family environment and addiction

Was your home a difficult place to be growing up? Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), such as domestic violence or sexual abuse are linked to an increased risk of developing substance use disorders in adulthood. Family members or parents who influence drug taking or alcohol misuse are also risk factors for addiction. 

Peer environment and addiction

Research shows your social environment and interactions shape the way you behave. We’re conditioned to surround ourselves with likeminded people but that can also mean altering our actions to fit in with the crowd. Many addictions manifest in early adolescence when peer pressure is at its height. Social and environmental factors have shown to be crucial in influencing psychoactive substance use in this age group (1). 

Work/school environment and addiction

People who work in stressful environments are more likely to suffer from mental health problems and in recent years, work burnout has become a major contributing factor to alcohol and drug addiction. Pressure put on pupils in the school environment, ranging achieving certain grades to social participation, also makes people vulnerable to addiction (2). 

Community environment and addiction 

The community you live in is the fourth environmental addiction factor to impact the likelihood of alcohol or drug abuse. Social networks within the neighbourhood, population density, poverty and social or cultural norms are all linked to drug and alcohol addiction. While a supportive community can help you, a fragmented one will take you down the wrong path.

How the right environment can support your recovery

If you’ve taken the brave decision to get help with alcohol, drug or other addictions, it’s important to choose the right environment for your recovery. Trying to detox from substances alone is not only dangerous; it’s almost impossible if you’re surrounded by environmental triggers. Even having to travel to out-patient appointments can pile on extra stress. Residential rehab treatment gives you the space and time you need to recover away from your usual environment. 

Everyone naturally seeks an environment to live and work that is safe, secure, physically and psychologically comfortable. For instance, we might want a space that’s not too dark, cold, noisy or messy. People overcoming addiction require more than these basic needs to be met. As the UK’s only purpose-built wellness retreat, Delamere is joining the pioneering healthcare settings that are taking a person-centred approach to care by considering the environment first.  

“Coming into treatment is often a foreboding prospect for people and receiving people in the right way matters. We wanted buildings that look domestic, not intimidating. We specified lots of wood, glass and natural materials to soften the aesthetic. We showed our designs to people who worked in treatment and had been through treatment.” – Martin Preston, Founder and Chief Executive

Creating a comfortable environment for recovery

Moving away from the old institutions of the past, Delamere has created a calm, inviting space for guests to begin the restorative process. In place of stark walls and perfunctory furniture are vibrant paintings, soft furnishings and comfortable break out zones to help people feel safe and welcome. Beautifully designed ensuite bedrooms provide protection and privacy – sheer luxury in comparison to a sterile hospital bed. Instead of feeling dehumanised, guests are surrounded by their personal possessions helping them to feel empowered and in control.

The role of nature in addiction recovery 

There is strong evidence to suggest physical settings, especially exposure to natural environments, can help people recover from physiological stress and mental fatigue. Natural environments that encourage renewal of personal resources to meet the demands of daily life are restorative and more calming than an urban environment (3). 

Situated on the edge of one of Cheshire’s largest forests, Delamere wellness retreat uses the power of nature to help people cope with psycho-physiological stress. Guests are encouraged to make the most of their natural surroundings, whether through woodland walks, outdoor yoga or symbolic fire ceremonies. 

Family and peer support in addiction recovery

Being surrounded by the right people during a residential rehab programme and beyond addiction is vital to your success. Addiction is a problem that affects everyone, and family conferences can be a useful tool to help you understand the impact of your behaviour. Delamere provides a non-judgemental and supportive environment for people to share their stories with their family, peers and one-to-one therapists in complete confidence. People make lifelong friendships here that provide vital, ongoing support. 

The best social environment for addiction recovery

Entering into therapy for drug or alcohol addiction isn’t easy. There will be days when the whole journey seems like hard work. Delamere offsets the discomfort of overcoming addiction by providing a unique and varied programme of somatic healing experiences and social events such as movie nights, gym sessions, music and art classes. Equine Assisted Psychotherapy gives guests the opportunity to travel offsite and connect through their past experiences and aims for the future. 

Photography of Delamere by Nick Harrison, landscape design by Elaine Cresswell

How can Delamere’s unique environment help your recovery?

While most rehab clinics are a mix of converted old buildings and modern additions, Delamere is the only purpose-built private addiction rehabilitation centre in the UK. This means every element of the design has been considered to perfectly meet the individual needs of our guests and the vast range of holistic treatments on offer. 

Should you need it, you will begin a clinical detox supported by your own 24-hour medical team. You’ll find your private room is the ideal environment to rest and recuperate. This part of the process will help you to Stop craving alcohol or drugs and begin to physically recover. You will then have access to our dedicated therapy rooms to work through the reasons for your addiction in one-to-one and group therapy sessions. 

During the Start phase of your residential rehab programme we will help you to identify what is underpinning your behaviour, whether past trauma or current pressures. This is complemented by activities to stimulate mind and body along the way. We actively encourage our guests to exercise in recovery and our unique forest setting provides the perfect natural backdrop. For those who prefer indoor fitness, we have an onsite gym and personal trainer to cater for your needs. 

In the final part of the process we look at the environments – places, people and situations – that trigger your addiction and help you to develop coping mechanisms to use in the future. We want you to leave our care with the ability to Grow beyond addiction and get on with your life without reliance on alcohol or drugs. 

Photography of Delamere by Nick Harrison, landscape design by Elaine Cresswell

If you think you may be suffering from an addiction, call us confidentially to speak to a member of the team today. Contact Delamere


1. Ewald DR, Strack RW, Orsini MM. Rethinking Addiction. Glob Pediatr Health. 2019 Jan 23;6:2333794X18821943. doi: 10.1177/2333794X18821943. PMID: 30719491; PMCID: PMC6348542. 

2. Sinha R. Chronic stress, drug use, and vulnerability to addiction. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2008 Oct;1141:105-30. doi: 10.1196/annals.1441.030. PMID: 18991954; PMCID: PMC2732004. 

3. Berto R. (2014). The role of nature in coping with psycho-physiological stress: a literature review on restorativeness. Behavioral sciences (Basel, Switzerland), 4(4), 394–409. https://doi.org/10.3390/bs4040394. 

About the author: Youssef

Youssef’s understanding of addiction come from time spent working in the recovery mentor role and his own personal experience. Alongside work, he is completing a degree in psychology at the University of Manchester.

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