Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.


THE FRIARY NEWSLETTER: In here we have 20 different words for stress


any people on the "outside" wonder what goes on at the Friary. What kind of medical regimen, they ask themselves, is available at the most glamorous rehabilitation centre in west London? Is it all secret sherry parties and midnight romps with Aston Villa players? Could it help me too? How do I get in? The first thing they must do is to stop talking to themselves. The second is to read on.

The Friary is a democratic institution, open to all. You can stay here a week or two gratis on the NHS, if you have the right contacts, sorry, symptoms. This is a hospital. It is by no means the exclusive preserve of tired celebrities, for whom, if I may speak off the record, I have no time as a committed medical man. y mind is on higher things than the pampering of giant egos and tiny brains frazzled by excessive chemical intake, as I was saying only last Friday to Jazzy Q, the talented adjuster of high-fidelity turntables who is in here for doing rather too much Devil's dandruff, and who says he will try to get me an Access All Areas pass for his next gig.

Where was I? You were asking how it worked. First, you decide what to call your condition. We do not say "addicted" here. It is not a nice word. It is judgemental. Everyone, after all, is addicted to something, eg alcohol, nicotine, tannin, caffeine, er, milk (if very small), breathing, etc. So instead we call it "exhaustion", a better word that implies, in a helpful way, that the patient has been doing something quite strenuous, like housework or running up hills. Other acceptable words are "dependent", "shagged out" and "going through a thoughtful period of image realignment".

Next you dream up a syndrome. Every patient's well-being depends on their feeling special about themselves. This means assuring them that their condition is unique to them. Sometimes it is.

Today, for example, we had Proxy Celebrity Puzzlement Syndrome, in which a patient is at a loss to explain why he or she is famous, suspects it has something to do with their well-known ex-prime minister dad or their busty wife, but is also convinced that the world loves them for being an interesting and important person in their own right. James, a shelf- stacker at a well-known High Street retail outlet, is a sufferer. He believes that paparazzi are everywhere, longing to take photographs of him, waiting to spring out when he is in the grocer's shop, the shower, the lavatory, etc. Worse, he has begun to think that being photographed is his job, is what he does for a living. Poor guy.

Next, treatment. Like every other clinic, we have a 12-step programme, but we think ours is a bit different. It's a gradual path to recovery and inner peace through a series of interpersonal encounters that reveal the true nature of the Exhausted One. The highlights are:

Family Therapy Afternoon, when your partner, children, mother-in-law, grandmother, mistress, on-off lover, etc all sit on the carpet and really thrash out what was wrong with you when you were a kid.

Life Story Confessional Therapy. Everyone is encouraged to write about their lives, identifying all instances of bad behaviour, wrong-doing, corruption or vice of which they were guilty, from school age to the modern day. This works better with some patients than others. ichael, for instance, an Anglo-Belizean businessman, who is being treated for paranoia and the delusion that he is an important figure in the Tory party, simply didn't understand the rules and kept sending in empty sheets of paper. Hopeless.

Getting Off With Famous Women Treatment. A surprising number of patients form passionate alliances with other patients during Personality Deconstruction encounters; gentlemen especially feel stronger about facing the world if they can claim to have had a relationship with a well-known female casualty. We therefore supply several Paula Yates lookalikes (and an Elizabeth Taylor for the more mature patient) with whom the romantically inclined can dally by the wheelie-bins.

usic Appreciation orning. usic calms the mind and fosters a sense of communal joy. Guests are encouraged to bring their favourite records for all to share. We are a liberal-minded community, to which censorship is anathema, but try to remember that Psycho Killer by Talking Heads and Gravelly Depressive Canadian Suicide Blues by Leonard Cohen have rarely brought out the best in these sessions.