The Meadows Blog

Treatment & Recovery

Treatment & Recovery (62)

Friday, 13 February 2015 00:00

Will You Be Your Valentine?

Wrirtten by: Andrea Fry
The Meadows, Primary Therapist

Valentine’s Day is a perfect opportunity for people with a tendency to define their self-worth through relationships to confront and to lean into their fears by practicing good self-care. Recognize: “Hey, I’m freaking out and this tells me I still have work to do around relationships.” Realize you might be placing too much value on finding happiness outside yourself.


If we need someone else to give our lives meaning, we run the risk of accepting some pretty bad behavior from others. We’re going to convince ourselves that being in a relationship is more important than having a healthy relationship with ourselves. As a result, our ability to set limits on unacceptable behavior may be compromised.

It’s important to recognize that fantasy is intentionally employed by retailers to market and promote Valentine’s Day. Advertisements and store windows are intended to fuel the fantasy frenzy. Even if we do have a loving partner, we may have unrealistic expectations. That’s why it’s so important to toss out the fantasy piece.


Are you expecting a diamond ring like the one in the Tiffany ad? Do you expect a major shift in your relationship because it’s February 14th? Are you set on your partner making reservations at the most expensive restaurant in town? Setting yourself up for disappointment can spoil an otherwise lovely evening whether or not you’re with a partner. Putting too much pressure on yourself and your partner can tarnish special moments any time of year.

If being without a partner this Valentine’s Day is getting you down, ask yourself what next steps you can take in the way of self-care. What does that wounded and abandoned part of you need to feel whole? What do you need from someone else? Consider filling that void yourself. Do you want to be nurtured? Treat yourself to a massage or buy yourself some pretty flowers. Are you craving attention? Become aware of your thoughts and pull out your affirmations. Say them aloud. Keep a journal or go to a sacred place to meditate. Connect with any aspect of Valentine’s Day that can help you move forward with your self-care. Think about the kind of relationship you want – and deserve!

We tend to attract people at similar levels to where we are at any given stage in our lives. If you’re in high-intensity, drama mode, you’re likely to attract the same. If you’re constantly jealous because your partner doesn’t give you round-the-clock attention, you’re probably going to be in fight mode more often than not. Partners who stay in volatile relationships obviously have their own issues because healthy people don’t tolerate constant bickering. When you’re healthy, you’re likely to attract the same.

Valentine’s Day can be about spending time with friends; engaging in creative endeavors; or it can be a time of introspection to figure out the kind of person you want as a partner. It can also be about paying tribute to the most important relationship you’ll ever have – the relationship with yourself!


The Meadows is an industry leader and the most trusted name in treating trauma and addiction through its inpatient and workshop programs. The Meadows helps change lives through the Meadows Model, 12-step practices, and the holistic healing of mind, body, and spirit.

To learn more about The Meadows, visit us here or call (800) 244-4949.

Claudia Black, Ph.D., recognized internationally for her pioneering and cutting-edge work with family systems and addictive disorders, recently launched The Claudia Black Young Adult Center for young adults ages 18 - 26 who are struggling with unresolved emotional trauma, addictions, or who have a dual diagnosis.

“Our mission at the Claudia Black Young Adult Center,” said Dr. Black, whose work fueled the development of the codependency and developmental trauma fields, “is to help young adults and their families forge recovery paths, so they can heal, blossom, and thrive. As the clinical architect for this groundbreaking treatment program, I am honored to be a conduit for the journey of recovery for young adults. There’s nothing more rewarding than witnessing the many miracles realized as a result of these transformations for such individuals who are bright, passionate, and full of hope.” In the late 1970s, Dr. Black’s work with children impacted by drug and alcohol addiction created the framework for the adult children of alcoholics’ movement. She has also authored over fifteen books, including 'Intimate Treason'; 'It Will Never Happen To Me!'; and 'Changing Course: Healing from Loss, Abandonment and Fear'.

The innovative Center, one of three treatment programs run by The Meadows, is an intensive, experientially-based, 45-day inpatient treatment program focusing on a nurturing community, family systems, proven testing and assessments, life skills, experiential therapies, and 12-step work.

Although trauma comes in many forms, young adults may be victims of circumstances, such as bullying, sexual assault, abandonment, and may have faced absent, controlling, or addicted parents. Young adults, said Dr. Black, look to their peers for acceptance, guidance, and support, so creating an empowering recovery community for this population is instrumental to the healing process.

The Claudia Black Young Adult Center utilizes an array of experiential healing modalities – along with other therapies - including neurofeedback, mindfulness practices, equine-assisted psychotherapy, challenge courses, and trauma-informed psychodrama, along with EMDR and Somatic Experiencing.

About The Meadows

The Meadows is an industry leader and the most trusted name in treating trauma and addiction through its inpatient and workshop programs. The Meadows helps change lives through the Meadows Model, 12-step practices, and the holistic healing of mind, body, and spirit.

To learn more about The Meadows, Contact Us or call (800) 244-4949.

By Stephen Brockway, M.D.
Staff Psychiatrist for Inpatient and Outpatient Services at The Meadows

A college student whom we’ll call Jim is experiencing a profound sense of despair. Dragging himself out of bed is becoming increasingly more difficult; brushing his teeth is a tall order; fixing himself a sandwich seems insurmountable; and doing his homework is too much to ask given his bleak emotional state. As his symptoms progress into an even more downward spiral and become more debilitating, Jim discovers through trial and error that taking a potpourri of uppers such as cocaine, speed, and self-prescribed amphetamines helps to ease his depressive symptoms. In his quest to devise a creative solution to his dilemma, he never considers he could be facing a psychiatric illness such as bipolar disorder. Months later, Jim’s mood shifts and he becomes restless and agitated. Thoughts of leaving college to become a racecar driver sound appealing – and reasonable. Sleep isn’t on the radar. Jim feels ecstatic as if he’s the big man on campus and believes he’s the quintessential heartthrob. He spends excessive amounts of money on women he barely knows and is on the path to financial ruin.

Soon though, his thoughts begin racing so fast he can’t concentrate or focus. He’s unable to sit still and it’s unnerving. Jim figures out that a cocktail of alcohol and Valium can calm him down. Though, he begins to need more and more of both of the above to achieve the desired effect, and he begins spending an excessive amount of time (and money) at bars or at home with bottles of pills and alcohol in hand.

There’s a saying that goes, “All of our problems started out as solutions” – and this scenario fits the bill. Jim’s attempts at creative problem solving have gone awry. As Jim continues to self-medicate in an attempt to balance out his highs and lows, he needs more of these uppers and downers to regulate his symptoms. Jim believes he’s doing himself a service by self-medicating and spends a good deal of time trying to keep his fluctuating moods in check.

At the same time, Jim’s life is passing him by. He isn’t enjoying his precious youth, his peers, potential love interests, and the invigorating atmosphere of college life. The abundance of beauty in the world escapes him – genuine laughter, the kindness of others, and the miracle of feeling truly alive – aren’t in reach.

The severity of his depressive symptoms finally brings Jim into the medical clinic on campus where he is diagnosed with depression. This sounds like a reasonable diagnosis. The symptoms conveyed by Jim to the physician on campus certainly fit the criterion for depression. What the physician doesn’t know is that Jim has a family history of bipolar disorder and, in the past, has also experienced manic symptoms. The physician only captures a fragment of Jim’s medical picture. It’s important to note that individuals with bipolar disorder may suffer from hypomanic and depressive episodes (which are indicative of bipolar II disorder.) Hypomanic behavior is not as severe and pronounced as the full-scale mania associated with bipolar I disorder.

After his doctor’s appointment, Jim is handed a prescription for antidepressants and his depression soon lifts – but is followed by a manic episode. The antidepressants, he believes, have done its job, so he figures he doesn’t need any more meds. Jim now feels energized, invigorated, and ready to conquer the world. He is, once again, the big man on campus. This, he believes, is the way life should be. It feels good.

This scenario plays itself out over and over again during the next ten or so years. Unfortunately, depressive episodes tend to worsen with age and persist for longer periods of time. One reason for this is that people experience more losses – deaths of loved ones, health problems, and employment issues – as they age.

During Jim’s manic episodes after graduate school, he accumulates major debt causing friction in his current relationship and stress on the financial front. His life is unraveling and his dependence on drugs and alcohol escalates. Life has become unmanageable.

The grim reality is that Jim is not alone. Many people – especially young people – with undiagnosed bipolar disorder become addicted to drugs and alcohol in an attempt to self treat a wide range of symptoms. Unable to thrive, it’s the only way they feel they can survive. What once seemed like a perfectly logical solution to these mood swings is now its own problem. Drug and alcohol addiction is no stranger to people suffering from bipolar disorder.

Ten years after college graduation, Jim finally consults with a seasoned psychiatrist and is accurately diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He is put on an appropriate medication regimen and now must also seek help for his drug and alcohol abuse.

Jim’s story is not uncommon. One of the greatest tragedies of bipolar disorder is that many people who are afflicted with this serious and debilitating condition are often diagnosed ten or more years after the initial onset of their symptoms. It is estimated that people with bipolar disorder are up to 15 to 20 times more likely to commit suicide than the general population. Many people with bipolar disorder are great talents in the art world – writers, painters, and comedians. Such individuals add flavor, color, and a sense of style to the world, and it’s sad to hear about all the hardships they’ve endured during their lives. What’s more, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt are said to have suffered from bipolar disorder.

What’s most unsettling is that bipolar disorder is treatable. Becoming aware of the symptoms of bipolar disorder is instrumental in securing an accurate diagnosis. Family history is an integral component in the process, along with obtaining a complete medical history. Looking at just one piece of the picture can result in a faulty diagnosis.

The Meadows Can Help

The Meadows psychiatrists and other members of our clinical team have helped and continue to help individuals with bipolar disorder, many of whom also struggle with substance abuse. The good news is that help is available. There’s no reason why such individuals have to miss out on all the beauty and splendor in life – falling in love; doting on newborns; exploring foreign lands; forging life-long friendships; and learning to love themselves for who they are no matter how many struggles they’ve endured over the years.

Feel free to contact The Meadows Intake Team at 800-244-4949 or visit us here. We’re the most trusted name in treating addiction, trauma, and co-occurring disorders. Give us a call if you or a loved one is in need of the best available care. We’re here for you.

Monday, 03 November 2014 00:00

Watching our Recovery Garden Grow!

Submitted by Nancy Bailey Ph.D., Clinical Director, The Meadows

The young adult community at Dawn at The Meadows is enjoying creating and tending to their “Recovery Garden.” With the help of the Dawn staff, Cheetah in Maintenance and the art therapists, our patient community is having a great time watching their veggies grow. Although there is a healthy competition brewing between the men and the women, everyone is actively engaged in ‘practicing the principles’ in all their gardening affairs! Involving the patients in a project where they can have interest and enjoyment in a living, breathing project is integrated into the Dawn experiential and community focused process. Stay tuned for periodic updates on the Recovery Garden and more photos all along the way! For more information about the experiential based inpatient treatment program for young adults at Dawn at The Meadows, click here

Dawn At The Meadows

Friday, 26 September 2014 00:00

Spotlight on Dawn at The Meadows

Submitted by Nancy Bailey, Ph.D.
Clinical Director, The Meadows

It has been just about a year since The Meadows officially opened its treatment program specifically for young adults. We continue to enhance our services and build upon the work we do with young adults. There are many exciting things happening at Dawn at The Meadows I want to share, including:

Leanne Lemire has been promoted to Program Director and has jumped right in and embraced her new role. Leanne and I are working closely together along with the Dawn program staff to prepare for the Fall/Winter schedule. Leanne is also busy training new staff. As an original team member of Dawn, Leanne has an understanding of the foundational theories surrounding the Dawn program development.

Sherry Gilman, former Primary Counselor for The Meadows, has joined the Dawn team as a Primary Counselor. Sherry brings her experience in eating disorders, DBT, psychodrama, and experiential therapies to the team. Sherry is a great addition to the Dawn family!

We welcome Ria Gardner as the new Evening/Weekend Primary Counselor at Dawn. Ria brings experience working with young adults in a community-based mental health environment and brings an abundance of enthusiastic energy to the team.

Our Primary Counselors contribute to the Dawn program in so many ways. Mary Basile has begun a specialized study program in MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) in Scottsdale. She will integrate these skills into Dawn’s already self-regulation based program design in addition to assessing how to integrate Reiki into the program. Mary is an original Dawn clinical team member and has been a significant grounding resource for the program shifts. Dawn Bellingham continues to integrate her passion for The Meadows Model as she educates and works with her patients and families.

Dr. James Cahill continues to provide excellent, specialized psychiatric care to the Dawn patients. Dr. Cahill states, "Over the last year and looking forward, I have been struck by my recognition of just how fortunate I am to have the privilege to be of help to this inspired team seeking to deliver the very best of care to these young adults and their families. Dawn’s team-based approach to treatment offers a truly unique treatment setting for our patients. I appreciate the opportunity that I have had in being a witness to transformative change as they regain a sense of balance and purpose in their lives."

As we continue to assess and monitor the program successes of Dawn, we can’t forget the multi-faceted talents of the Case Manager, Scott Williams. Scott has been highly successful in helping the Dawn patients recognize the importance of continuing their recovery journey. Scott utilizes his relational skills and recovery knowledge with patients, families, and referents. He helps keep the team on track and is very essential in organizing the therapeutic activities, service work, family meetings, and campus tours.

We will be increasing our neurofeedback (NFB) services to Dawn at The Meadows patients, with the help of Deirdre Stewart, Director, Trauma Resolution Department. Deirdre is teaming with Leanne Lemire to enhance the Dawn schedule and train some key Dawn Behavioral Health Technicians. These specially trained technicians will assist in the technical application of the NFB training services. Increased services are expected to get into full swing by October 1, 2014.

The Dawn Family Program continues to be ground breaking and exceptional! Our newest Family Counselor, Trish Plum, is joining Ashley Chesky to provide enhanced “family class” services to our Dawn families. With the addition of Trish to the team, we will be able to provide four weekly webinar classes to the participating families on a consistent basis. A special “thank you” goes out to Rochel Murnighan for her ongoing support and assistance throughout the growth and development of Dawn’s Family Program. Rochel has been a wealth of experience and an integral part of the family program success.

It takes a team. Even though, the above-mentioned individuals are currently in the spotlight, we cannot discount the contributions of the extended team as a whole! The psychologist, doctors, nurses, techs, trauma therapists, workshop facilitators, housekeeping, maintenance, grounds, transportation, dietary, recreation, specialty services (Tai Chi, Yoga, Acupuncture, Equine, Ropes) are ALL part of this specialized team treating our young adult patients. I want to thank the whole Dawn team for their incredibly hard work!

Keep your eyes open to more exciting Dawn happenings! -Dr. Bailey

To learn more about Dawn at The Meadows, our exclusive program for Young Adults, please click here.

Shelley's Corner: A Series on Emotional Trauma, Addiction, and Healing

Dr. Shelley Uram is a Harvard trained, triple board-certified psychiatrist and a Distinguished Fellow of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. As a Meadows' Senior Fellow, Dr. Uram conducts patient lectures and provides ongoing training and consultation to the treatment staff at The Meadows.

Welcome Back To Shelley's Corner

I was having lunch with some friends the other day, and one of them asked why we can be so clear about knowing what’s important to us, yet have a very hard time carrying it out in real life. The examples she was talking about revolved around her wanting to be less reactive and more loving towards her husband, and to have greater ease and kindness with the people who “drive me crazy” in everyday life. She described knowing full well that her life would be so much easier and more pleasant if she was more accepting and loving of others, but this is much easier said than done.

There is SO MUCH I can say about this!!!

First, let’s go back to our earliest beginnings…when we were just three months old.

Up to that point, as infants, we were living and aware on a moment-to-moment basis. We had no real judgments. If we were cold or hungry or wet, we would react to the discomfort, but once we felt better, all was fine again. We pretty much flowed with whatever was happening.

At about three months of age, something very dramatic shifts. A part of our brain has now grown and matured enough that we have this dawning awareness that there is a “me!” Until that time, as we were flowing with whoever and whatever was around us, we did not understand that a separate “me” exists.

One of the reasons this presents such a huge shift in our world is that our survival brain now starts to work like crazy now, and wants to keep this new-found little person safe. We begin to have much more frequent fight/flight/freeze responses to the people and situations around us.

Unfortunately, these very powerful fight/flight/responses become attached to multiple situations and people, and remain locked into our brains for many years to come. These survival responses work by “firing” or “triggering” whenever we are reminded of the original situation. This all happens outside of our conscious awareness, so we don’t have much control over it.

The net effect of this over the years is that by the time we are adults, we can experience a large gulf between how we WANT to be, with how we actually ARE. That is, the very essence of us values being a certain kind of person, but our habits and ingrained patterns, usually derived from early life conditioning, behave entirely differently.

The deepest root of these ingrained patterns is usually from these early life fight/flight/freeze responses that became attached to how we adapted to our early stresses and strains.

Thanks for sharing this time with me,

© Shelley Uram 2014

Wednesday, 30 July 2014 00:00

Our Wonderful Trauma Program

Shelley's Corner: A Series on Emotional Trauma, Addiction, and Healing

Dr. Shelley Uram is a Harvard trained, triple board-certified psychiatrist and a Distinguished Fellow of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. As a Meadows' Senior Fellow, Dr. Uram conducts patient lectures and provides ongoing training and consultation to the treatment staff at The Meadows.

Welcome back to Shelley’s Corner!

I was meeting with our Director of Trauma Services, Deirdre Stewart, last week. I consider myself so privileged to consult to such a fine program, and I wanted to share with you why I like our trauma program so much…

First, let me tell you why this is so important to me. I have great passion for helping people who have had a lot of relational trauma while growing up. I sustained significant amounts of trauma during my formative years, and was so fortunate to reap the benefit of high quality trauma treatment. Given that background, I’m always on the “lookout” for the best trauma interventions that become available.

There are several treatment programs in the country that offer various high quality trauma interventions. What I’m so pleased with in our Meadows program is that it has gone a step further by INTEGRATING these interventions, including Pia Mellody’s Model, EMDR, Somatic Experiencing, Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, Neurofeedback, Heart Rate Coherence Training, Trauma-Informed Yoga, etc. Our trauma staff members are now analyzing which COMBINATION and SEQUENCE of these interventions is best for each patient.

For example, the trauma staff may decide that patient “X” needs help with first regulating his nervous system, before other goals. So the staff may begin with Somatic Experiencing sessions, followed by EMDR, and may recommend to the patient that he attend the Trauma-Informed Yoga groups as regularly as possible.

Another patient may start out with frequent Neurofeedback sessions, in addition to Heart Rate Coherence training, etc.

One of the reasons I am so excited about this flexibility and integration of trauma services is that we can continue to evolve in the effectiveness of our treatment. As newer research becomes available, we can revise what we are doing in order to match the new research findings. For instance, Neurofeedback is just beginning to become recognized for its amazing potential role in treating developmental trauma; The Meadows is already poised to increase its part in our treatment planning for patients.

Stay tuned; more to come!

© Shelley Uram 2014

Friday, 25 July 2014 00:00

The Power of Words

Written by Cathy Kelly, LCSW
Lead Therapist/Training Specialist, The Meadows

We live in a cultural that can both over and under estimate the power of someone’s words. Certainly we may tune in more fully to the words of someone we love, want to be like or even someone we fear and as humans we also have a well-developed ability to tune people out. The well-spoken can lead and mislead others with their use of the “right” words. We hire people to sell products, ideas, and positions through the use of language. So are words powerful? Absolutely! We can soar or crash in what we say and what we hear.

The Model of Developmental Immaturity used at The Meadows looks at the correctional between early life experiences and current life experiences. Your perceptions, behaviors and words all reflect your life experiences and what conclusions you come to about yourself and the world. These conclusions may create suffering or support the quality of your life.

The question is how do you begin to tap into the beauty and power of words spoken in truth and respect versus feeling devastated or being offensive by the misuse of words. What has been your history with words? Were you allowed to have a voice growing up? Did the adults in your life share their thoughts and feelings with containment and respect or did you grow up in a household with sarcasm, blame, criticism, or rage? How do you use your words today? Are you critical of yourself and or others, do you attempt to manipulate others or allow yourself to be manipulated, do you say the first thing that comes to mind without thought to whether you are respectful or not, do you send sideway jabs when you are angry or do you withhold your thoughts and feelings with a wall of silence? All of the above mentioned behaviors are examples of how we can get off course relationally with our self and others. Again, words are powerful. They can support our emotional well-being, or they can exacerbate symptoms of addiction, depression, anxiety, self-esteem issues, and relational issues.

So, one of the first steps is to begin to track what you tell yourself and others. Explore your thoughts and feelings are they supported by facts or assumptions? Have your beliefs been there so long you don’t even know what they are based on anymore? Do your words truly reflect your authentic self? It becomes a vicious cycle when you see yourself or others in a negative light and then based on those beliefs create more negativity. Before you know it, you can find yourself in a very deep dark hole afraid to trust anyone and to see only the worst in yourself or others.

You may be saying words cannot be that powerful but think about the impact of telling yourself over and over that you are defective or unlovable or that others are out to do you harm or don’t like you. Critical words will take a toll on your relationships and emotional well-being. Words reflect your inner world and when there have been experiences that leave you doubting yourself or the world they are demonstrated through your language. People do not just become harsh or withdraw without a reason. Yes, you can have a bad day but what we are talking about here is a pattern not an occasional grumpy mood or the need to have some alone time to rejuvenate.

The good news is you can turn the use of words into a healing experience by interrupting the negative self-talk, interrupting the spewing of your thoughts without containment and respect, using daily affirmations, and speaking your truth with respect and containment. The work that is involved in the process is both interrupting the habitual behaviors and digging in and examining your beliefs. This can be a tricky process if you have bought into the “lies” of who you are. For this part of the process, you are looking for the facts not the assumptions or perceptions you have had. This can be confusing especially if you have been told, or it has been demonstrated to you that you are less than or better than others, but the real flaw in this thinking is you are running with someone else’s distorted thinking. This is not typically done in malice but more frequently out of a person’s own trauma. An example of this is the parent who in their childhood learned that to be “perfect” was the most effective way to avoid abuse and get some positive recognition. The parent’s perfectionism is modeled to the child but what the child learns is I have to be perfect to be good enough. The underlining message for the child is who I am, is not OK.

You can imagine if a child runs with this belief, they may become a high achiever, the good student, good child and whatever else they believe will make them good enough, or they may go in the opposite direction and become the rebellious child. When the hero child becomes an adult they typically do not stop trying to earn their value. They become the good adult. They may present very accomplished, capable and smart but what is happening on the inside may be very different. You see no matter how well they perform it is never enough for them. What you might be wowed by they are often being very critical or judgmental about. If they were the rebel as a child, they might struggle as an adult with self-sabotaging behaviors, disliking people of authority or still have difficulty complying with “the rules.” The outcome of this distorted belief system (I’m good—the hero, or I’m bad—the rebel) is often becoming depressed, anxious, overwhelmed, burnt out, setting yourself up to “fail” and even addiction.

Remember, words can heal or wound, and if your experience has been to have the words that are wounding, chances are you are either continuing to wound yourself with negative self-talk or you have now taken on the role of the offender (being critical and judgmental ) of others. The action of looking underneath the behaviors and confronting the skewed perceptions of who you are allows for healing and a reclaiming of your inherent truth that you are valuable, that you have the right and need to speak your truth with respect and love of yourself and others, recognition that you are perfectly imperfect, that you have your own identity and that you can live a life in balance (moderation).

You may need professional support in the beginning to separate fact from fiction, and that is ok. It is not easy to begin to look at yourself and the world in a different light then what you have seen and believed in often for decades. The clues lie in what you tell yourself and others. Gather your data. Are you the ghost of Christmas past repeating critical words you heard as a child or praises that told you that you were better than others?

The road of recovery is paved in “truth, respect and love” — words often spoken in this article. It requires stepping out of the known and familiar and often tolerating some discomfort in finding your own truth and practicing respect and love of self and others.

If you still doubt the power of words, why not put it to the test. The next time you make a mistake, you are angry with someone or one of your kids does something they have been told not to do, try to approach the situation with kind words. If you find yourself struggling with attempting to speak your truth respectfully with love, you might ask yourself what would be your ideal outcome of the situation and are your words leading you toward or away from that outcome.

Remember, change is never easy getting the support you need whether that is reading self-help books, attending workshops, a support group, individual therapy or inpatient treatment and let your words begin to reflect your heart (authentic self) and your healing (recovery). As Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t—you’re right.” Henry got the power of words and that they can lead you forward or pull you backyard. The choice is yours though we hope the path you choose is one that honors self.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014 00:00

ABC’s to Family of Origin Recovery

Written by Claudia Black, Ph.D., Senior Fellow of The Meadows

“It is true that as long as we live we may keep repeating the patterns established in childhood. It is true that the present is powerfully shaped by the past. But it is also true that insight at any age keeps us from singing the same sad songs again.”
Judith Viorst
Necessary Losses

To be able to put the past behind and not repeat those same sad songs, one needs to take four primary steps.

1. A—Affective: Explore past history

The purpose in exploring the past is not to assign blame but to acknowledge reality and grieve one’s pain. In other words, people have to admit to themselves the truth of what happened, rather than hide or keep secret the hurt and wounds that occurred. There is no doubt denial became a skill that served one well as a child in a survival mode. Unfortunately denial, which begins as a defense, becomes a skill that interferes with how people live their life today. When someone lets go of denial and acknowledges the past, grieves the pain that is associated with the losses, it is an opportunity to put the past into perspective.

As people move from the process of breaking their denial and grieving their pain, they need to move into the next step. (Yes, C comes before B ☺)

2. C—Cognitive: Connect the past to the present

Connect the past to the present means asking “How does this past pain and loss influence who I am today?” “How does the past affect who I am as a parent, in the workplace, in a relationship, how I feel about myself?” The cause and effect connections discovered between past losses and present day life offers a focus for recovery. It allows one to become more centered in the here and now. This clarity will identify the areas for further healing.

3. C—Cognitive: Challenge internalized beliefs

Challenging internalized beliefs means asking, “What beliefs have I internalized from my growing up years? Are they helpful or hurtful to me today? What beliefs would support me in living a healthier life?” So often people internalize beliefs such as, “It is not okay to say No,” or “Other people’s needs are more important than my own,” or “The world owes me and I am entitled.” “People will take advantage of you every chance they can.” If these beliefs are getting in the way of how someone wants to live their life, they need to take responsibility for them. They need to not only be willing to recognize how that belief is sabotaging their healing, but to create new beliefs in their place.

4. B—Behavioral: Learn new skills

Learning new skills means asking, “What did I not learn that would help me today?” E.g., How to set limits, how to perceive options, to ask for help. Some of the skills learned during childhood were often skills and behaviors that were developmentally premature and/or learned from a basis of fear or shame. When the latter occurs there is a tendency to feel like an imposter. Developing skills is what ultimately gives people greater choices in their lives, and it is in addressing the feelings and beliefs associated with any skill that enhances greater confidence in their behavioral change.

These four steps are not always linear, but they all need to be incorporated into whatever the specific issue is that is being addressed. If someone only does the affective work, the healing has the potential to become a blaming process. If someone only does the cognitive work, the person has the potential to continue to present a false sense of self. If someone only does the behavioral work, one can demonstrate great skill in a contained setting but not demonstrate the ability to follow through on that skill in the real world. Hence the need for the ABCs, or shall I say the ACBs.

Specializing in trauma treatment, The Meadows works with clients from a bottom-up, top-down perspective. Trauma therapies such as SE, SP, EMDR, and mindful practices are integrated throughout the program. Cognitive behavioral therapy is integrated throughout the clinical work.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014 00:00

Experiencing the Challenge Course

By Michelle Rogerson, M.S., CPT (Certified Personal Trainer), Challenge Course Level II & Course Manager, Wellness Coordinator at The Meadows

(Name has been changed for anonymity)

Suspended 25 feet above ground, Becky looks down and tells me she can’t climb any higher. Becky is wearing a bright blue harness around her waist and legs that compliments her blue eyes and brown hair. The harness is connected to the belay rope to keep her safe as she climbs a giant ladder dangling from a log suspended 35 feet up. She’s only 5’3” tall, so each rung of Giant Ladder seems like an almost inconceivable long reach. While the motto at the Challenge Course is, “Challenge by choice,” I can tell that it isn’t heights or a fear of falling that is holding Becky back, it’s her own crushing self-doubt. I sincerely ask Becky if she would be willing to let me help her climb up to the next ladder rung.

She cautiously agrees, and on the count of 3, I drop to my knees, pulling the belay rope down as Becky pulls her self up. It’s a success! However, I see the excitement in Becky’s eyes quickly fill with self-doubt once again as she sees that there’s still one more rung to go. I challenge Becky to keep going. She doubts her abilities, but I assure her that we can work as a team again to make it to the top. On the count of 3, I pull down as she pulls up. Another victory! Becky triumphantly stands and as a signal of her accomplishment, touches the final green log overhead with both hands from 35 feet up.

Soon after, I lower Becky back to the solid ground, unhook the rope from her harness, and congratulate her on her success! She is thrilled and excited, yet at the same time she also feels like she was a burden. That’s when I genuinely thank her for letting me help her. With tears in her eyes, Becky wraps her arms around me in a warm hug and thanks me for helping her climb all the way to the top. It is out here at the Challenge Course that Becky has been able to experience for herself that she is a strong and capable woman in many ways. She is also able to witness the joy that others feel when allowed the opportunity to help others.

Every week I get to witness our patients participate in meaningful experiences on the Challenge Course. Patients are able to learn healthy risk taking, trust, boundaries, and even to have fun in recovery. They can face their fears by climbing a 35 foot pole to a wavering rope bridge, or jump out into midair for a trapeze bar suspended 20 feet above ground. Sometimes it’s something as simple, yet as complex, as asking for help that will make all the difference in their success. I have the opportunity to help reinforce the skills and tools that they’re learning in treatment and hopefully add a little bit of excitement and adrenaline at the same time.

Not every experience out on the course is tearful and overwhelmingly emotional. For most people, climbing 40 feet up in the air and then standing on the edge of the zip line platform becomes quite unnerving. But as you take the first step off, that butterfly-rush hits your stomach (and a scream may even leave your lips); but after that, it’s all smiles. It’s definitely a unique experience at the Challenge Course each day. Who knows, you just might learn something about yourself.

Challenge CourseChallenge Course

Challenge CourseChallenge Course

Contact The Meadows

Intensive Family Program • Innovative Experiential Therapy • Neurobehavioral Therapy

Invalid Input

Invalid Input

Invalid Input

Invalid Input

Invalid Input

Invalid Input