Interview with the Clinical Director of EXIS, Dr. Elena Bagourdi Ph.D

Exis Recovery

Tell us about EXIS:


EXIS is a dual diagnosis, treatment center that specializes in treating mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety, as well as trauma and addictions issues. We utilize a holistic model that combines both eastern and western practices, from acupuncture, acupressure, mindfulness practices, including mediation and yoga, to traditional psychotherapy, family and systems therapy, hypnotherapy and life purpose exploration. One of our trademarks is our emphasis on reconnecting the individual with the natural joys of life as well as the importance of giving back. Our experiential program encompasses a broad scope approach, that spans activities such as hiking, movement therapy, rock climbing, dance and drama therapy, art therapy, surf therapy as well as volunteering and giving back to the people in their community so as to develop meaning and organic connections between the self and the environment.


Why are you involved with EXIS?


I am a clinical psychologist. I have trained and I am licensed in both Europe and the US. Through my work in various countries, I have come to appreciate the differences in philosophy and approach for treating individuals that suffer from addiction and mental health issues in a non-stigmatizing way. As a Program Director, I am bringing the best of both worlds to EXIS, in order to meet the void created by the absence of clinically diverse treatment programs. As a Clinical Director, I spend hours weekly collaborating with our therapists, reassessing client treatment plans and evaluating client progress, in order to meet the evolving needs of our clients and continue assisting them in their path of growth.


Why EXIS? What makes it different?


What makes EXIS different is:

  1. The clinicians; each one is handpicked based on their level of education and experience with mental health, relationship, and addiction issues. Our clinicians are all trained on evidence-based practices, and have spent years refining their skills. They are all highly educated, as they have at a minimum Masters or Doctorate level degrees while they continue to develop and train in new and evolving therapeutic modalities.

  2. Our philosophy: we work with individuals to help them resolve existing issues, while also engaging with them in identifying meaning and a sense of purpose in life. We also may include the clients family and support systems, as they are working on rebuilding trust and repairing the relationship with their loves ones.

  3. We accept on average 15 clients at one time. This difference allows us to narrow the focus on each client and their unique needs. As a rule, we also assign 6 to 7 clients in each group, unlike most treatment centers that usually average more than 15 clients per group. In our practice we have found that groups serve individuals more effectively when there is a smaller amount of participants, which fosters a feeling of security and openness.

  4. EXIS offers an unparalleled number of individual weekly sessions tailoring the care to the unique needs of each client. Approximately 40% of the sessions are individual sessions, which allows our clients to experience the benefits of undivided attention and deep exploration. This promotes their tailored healing process in a safe and non-judgmental environment.

  5. The sense of family: each EXIS location is set up as a boutique center, where lasting friendships and connections are forged. Even after our clients graduate our program, our staff makes it a point to follow up with them and continue to offer emotional support, or assistance with life issues. The EXIS family offers an aftercare program, that helps our clients stay connected to their values, their therapists, and the friends they made along the way.


What is the general program curriculum and duration?


EXIS offers 3 different programs.

1. An intensive day program. This is recommended for clients that are transitioning from an inpatient facility or for clients who may require significant support in a structured environment. During these periods clients are generally learning how to manage the most activating symptoms, from triggers and cravings to panic attacks, anxious and depressive symptoms, and intrusive traumatic memories. The goal is to re-process personal narratives, heal from trauma, develop resilience, and new positive habits to replace the old self destructive ones, while learning and applying self nurturing practices.

2. A half day program. The half day program is generally recommended for clients who are still experiencing significant to moderate difficulties due to factors such as anxiety, depression, triggers, cravings, and other challenges. During this time clients generally are practicing creating their own structure, while EXIS therapists provide clients with clinical support in pursuing their respective goals, educational needs, career advancements, along with developing rewarding interpersonal relationships.

3. An aftercare or continuing care program. EXIS assists our clients with staying connected to their values, their goals, and their newly developed behaviors by fostering a continued relationship with EXIS therapists, alumni, and related support groups. Our aftercare coordinators frequently reach out to EXIS graduates and offer them continued support.

The day program along with the half-day program generally last a minimum of three months, while the after care program remains ongoing.


Is this a 12 step based program?


No. EXIS offers a holistic healing program, which incorporates tenants from various theoretical backgrounds, without being tied to one specific interpretation of addiction or mental health. This approach creates an enriched program that addresses the individual needs, without the limiting external definitions of a specific environment or philosophy. Our goal is to meet the individuals where they are at, and help them reconnect with their own values while developing new ones that describe the person they want to become, and thus develop a new sense of meaning and purpose in life.



Elena Bagourdi Ph.D 

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