“I want to help people to get back on their feet, to be able to devote themselves to their work and their children and not endanger themselves or those around them. Like I managed to do it.”
Libor Votruba, a founded of two residential and one outpatient clinic NEO Center, which also provides services in English. Libor Votruba went through a turbulent period ten years ago. The owner of the company Taiko has been organizing world-renowned Christmas markets in Prague for several years. He compensated for the work pressure and high demand to perform with the short-term pleasant feelings that alcohol and later drugs brought him. His high achievements and demanding lifestyle began to take their toll in the form of several addictions. Before the final mental and physical exhaustion, he realized that he was not going to get out of it on his own. However, at that time he could not find a clinic in the Czech Republic that would meet his needs and requirements for treatment. It was only at a clinic in South Africa that he found a healing process, during which he decided that he wanted to offer something similar in Central Europe, in his native Prague.
What was crucial for you when you founded NEO Centrum?
Place and quality therapists. We managed to find beautiful, quiet buildings with breathing history, where our clients find enough peace and anonymity in a small group of people. With the support of our therapists, they can fully work on their treatment in a clean environment above the Vltava River. We reconstructed the first villa for these purposes. Later we found another villa in close proximity to the first one. Both have swimming pools. The opposite architecture is our outpatient clinic, which is in a truly modern environment closer to the city center.
You mentioned quality therapists. How difficult was it to find the perfect team?
Finding the best therapists to provide professional services is not easy. We managed to create a team of people who are eager to learn and who enjoy their work. That’s why today we are able to offer great therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, and addictologists who are ready to help everyone on their journey to recovery. They also work great as a team. We can therefore offer comprehensive care, starting from a young age, specifically from the age of 13.
Why did you find clinics paid from health insurance inappropriate?
Although I believed they had capable doctors and therapists, I was looking for something more intimate, private with 100% discretion and anonymity, which was not possible. There were many people at the clinics, different types of addictive behavior were mixed there, and I was one of the well-known Prague businessmen at the time, and of course, I didn’t want the information to spread more because of my family and employees. I also received similar feedback from people whose positions were much more public, such as athletes or artists. I could not find any clinic in Central Europe that met such criteria.
The Covid-19 pandemic has caused increased interest in psychologists and therapists worldwide. The numbers of addictions, depression, anxiety, and other conditions that people did not experience so much three years ago have also increased. There are long waiting times everywhere. How is it in NEO Centers?
We try to respond as quickly as possible. I myself know that when a person decides to do something about their addiction or psychological problem, it is necessary to do so as soon as possible. So that person doesn’t have time to think about it too much or give a chance to someone from outside to influence him/her. The advantage of the NEO Center is therefore quick and targeted help without a long wait for the start of the treatment. It takes time for an addict to admit to themselves that they need help, if they get to that point and seek help, that’s great and should be taken advantage of for further treatment. That is why we immediately started helping the largest Czech state university hospital, Motol, during the COVID-19 pandemic. The hospital was overcrowded with patients. Some doctors and nurses were unable to cope with the enormous psychological burden during the most difficult moments of their careers. NEO Centrum provided them with free space to regain strength in their admirable profession.
How did such a special collaboration with the largest state hospital come to life?
My friend, the artist Pavel Šťastný, painted dozens of artworks for the clinics at that time. Painting can also be a form of therapy, not only for the one who is creating it but also for the one who is looking at it. He just exhibited the exhibition Helpful Art in Covid at the Motol hospital under the title “Art is part of positive therapy and it heals”. He created the entire project with Dr. Martin Holcát, deputy director of the Motol University Hospital in Prague for curative and preventive care and former Minister of Health of the Czech Republic. He told me about the psychological pressure on doctors and nurses. We responded immediately and offered to help. Pavel Šťastný connected with us and within a week the nurses and doctors were meeting with us for the first therapies. Pavel and I are also starting to deal with the Art Therapy program. He deals with the creation of logos, advertising, marketing, and exhibitions, which is demanding and sometimes quite stressful work. The process of creating images relaxes him. It’s the same for our clients. I visited Oman with Pavel and I hope to return to that beautiful country soon. His paintings are in the Parliament of the Sultanate of Oman and at Muscat Airport. In the Middle East, Pavel started collaborating on the design of hospital beds for the Czech company Linet, which are, for example, in the UAE and Qatar, and he created the logo for the Czech pavilion at EXPO in Dubai.
How do people look at you when they find out you’ve gone through treatment?
Of course, it depends on who. Recently, however, it seems to me that this view is changing, and this is also the goal of my clinic. For example, people who are addicted to alcohol are usually viewed by the public as it’s their own fault and they need to be punished in some way, but a person who is addicted to anything is sick and needs help. I see my experience with addiction as very important in helping others. In search of myself, I also went to Thailand, where I learned to meditate. I then supported the establishment of the Tīsaranā meditation center in Prague. Today, Thai meditation programs are also part of our treatment programs at the Neo Center.
How long do you recommend using the services of your residential clinics?
We recommend the programs chosen individually, but it is often four or six weeks. Shorter stays work for people who are experiencing burnout or major anxiety and depression, for example. The capacity of one house is a maximum of eleven people. This fulfills our vision of anonymity, peace, and privacy.
Do you work with clients individually?
Our therapists work individually and in group therapies. A psychiatrist and an internist are also available. The main pillars are psychotherapy, meditation, and the twelve-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.
What happens after they go through the treatment? Do they come to the outpatient clinic?
Preparing them for what happens after they leave the clinic is very important. We slow them down and teach them to look at themselves, not to run away from themselves, as every addict does. We teach them to be able to go through the painful situations that life brings without getting drunk or taking drugs. Our outpatient clinic is of course available to them as part of follow-up treatment. Not only from personal experience, but we also recommend everyone to attend meetings of Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous. Every success and a happy, healthy patient gives us strength for further work.