The Meadows Blog

Monday, 21 March 2011 20:00

Celebrating 35 Years

Addiction Trauma Treatment Addiction Trauma Treatment

The Meadows' Entrance - 1976

Many people wonder how The Meadows got its name. We are not located in a meadow, after all, but sit high on a hill amid the Sonoran Desert's beautiful views. Pat Mellody, founder and former CEO, once explained that The Meadows' name comes from a piece of property in north-central Arizona. A group from Minnesota was looking for a spot to develop a treatment center for executives struggling with alcoholism. Conrad Schmitt was sent to scout a location; its name included the word "meadows" and, although the site was unsatisfactory, "meadows" stuck as the name of the center eventually established in Wickenburg, Arizona.

At the time, Wickenburg was the dude ranch capital of the world; as many as a dozen ranches were operating. Prior to WWII, wealthy people from the north spent extended periods in Arizona, away from the cold and snow. With the post-war development of reliable air transportation, visitors tended to stay for shorter periods, and the demand for hospitable dude ranches dropped sharply. Many closed or were converted for other uses. The Slash Bar K Ranch, for example, was converted into a weight-loss destination; it then was acquired by a Minnesota-based group and renamed The Meadows. Concurrently, Conrad Schmitt opened Parkview treatment center in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. After hearing that The Meadows was struggling, he arranged to purchase it and began operating two centers as Parkview Centers, Inc.

Some of the original Meadows staff members remained and became the core of the new company. Dr. Paul Kliewer, the original physician, hired Pia Blakeley to be director of nursing. Dr. Kliewer stayed with The Meadows until he retired. Pia Blakeley (later Pia Mellody) continued to serve as nursing director and in other positions; today her theories form the core of The Meadows' Model, and she continues to work as clinical advisor and senior fellow.

In the late 1970s, popular opinion in the addiction field maintained that work should be limited to addressing drug and alcohol use. Talking about child abuse was considered unethical. The Meadows continued to take risks, however, swimming against the tide and creating powerful programs and techniques to help both addicts and survivors of childhood trauma.

Pia began to form her ideas about the effects of childhood trauma on adults and addiction. She established a unique approach to education and therapy, and, as her theories evolved and matured, she wrote four books and produced a large quantity of audio and visual materials. Much of her work is considered basic text for therapists and treatment facilities throughout the country and much of the world.

In order to gather data, Pia started talking to patients. Several things happened. First, the patients who talked with Pia seemed to find relief. Other patients began to seek time with her. Soon her schedule was so full that she could not properly fulfill her job duties as director of nursing. Pat and Pia decided to try working with a group during the afternoons. Counselors would refer patients to Pia's interactive lectures and discussions, and she developed techniques to help them deal with the residual effects of childhood trauma.

The Meadows then decided to give Pia more time - five days a week - to work with patients referred by primary counselors. Patients were selected on the basis of identified trauma. Soon, those who were not selected began to feel neglected. Previous graduates began to ask to be included, and the workshop program was born. It was called "Survivors." The techniques that have evolved from the program form the core of The Meadows' philosophy and serve as the basis for Pia's theories, writing, and speaking.

Since its early days, The Meadows has grown and developed by allowing its staff to be creative. Recently, staff members have brought EMDR, Somatic Experiencing, and equine therapy to The Meadows. The last decade has seen a number of exciting additions, including the Matate building that houses The Meadows' workshops. The implementation of extended care was another significant step forward for The Meadows. Extended-care facilities, including Mellody House and Dakota, represent the fulfillment of a longstanding goal to provide ongoing, on-campus care focusing on trauma resolution. In 2009, The Meadows extended its reach by opening The Meadows Texas, an extended-care facility in Houston.

Many years ago, administration explained how The Meadows develops its programs: "The Meadows grows and changes to meet the demonstrated needs of patients. There are no planning meetings to look for new ways to be profitable, for, over the years, we have found that when a new set of patient needs arises, both the idea and the people to implement it arrive."

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