The Meadows Blog

The Meadows co-sponsors the 22nd Annual International Trauma Conference in Boston, May 18-22, 2011

Conference Director and Senior Fellow at The Meadows, Bessel van der Kolk, MD, has been bringing together leaders in the field of neuroscience for this dynamic conference for the past 22 years. Last week presenters Bruce D. Perry, MD, PhD, Julian D. Ford, PhD, Richard C. Schwartz, PhD, Judith L. Herman, MD, Adele Diamond, PhD, FRSC and many others, as well as 700 attendees came together in Boston to examine cutting-edge treatment interventions for various trauma-based symptoms. Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, closed the conference with a presentation on Mindfulness, Healing, and Transformation.

The Meadows has been a proud sponsor of the International Trauma Conference and the Trauma Center in Boston, Massachusetts, for the past six years. We join Dr. van der Kolk's team in supporting a cutting-edge program of research and mind-body approaches to help trauma survivors recover with empowerment and dignity.

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On Wednesday, June 1, 2011, Michelle Mays, LPC, CSAT will be presenting on Hope and Healing for Partners of Sex Addicts. Her lecture will discuss how the treatment community is debating whether partners are best treated with a trauma model or addiction model. She will explain how both models provide a lens through which to view the emotional, spiritual, and behavioral issues of partners of sex addicts. Blending both models brings a comprehensive picture of these issues into focus, enabling a clear delineation of phases of treatment and optimal treatment strategies for each phase. Seminar attendees will learn the strengths and weaknesses of each model, as well as a blended model that can be used to treat a growing population. Michelle will outline the phases of treatment and identify corresponding intervention strategies. The lecture will take place on Wednesday, June 1, 2011 from 7:00 pm-8:30 pm at the Unity of Fairfax, 2854 Hunter Mill Road, Oakton, Virginia, 22124. For more information, 866-922-0952 or eanderson@themeadows.com.

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Free Lecture Series - Phoenix, Arizona - May 23, 2011

Charlie Atkinson, MA, MSW, LCSW will be speaking at The Meadows Free Lecture on May 23, 2011, at 7pm at the Scottsdale Chaparral Christian Church in Scottsdale, Arizona. Mr. Atkinson is a well known therapist who has been in private practice in the valley for many years, specializing in the treatment of trauma and anxiety disorders. Mr. Atkinson will present the topic of Understanding and Healing Your Pool of Pain. During his presentation, Mr. Atkinson will discuss the development of trauma as well as the grief process. He will present effective methods of working through pain and grief. Through this healing process, an individual will be able to find a sense of wholeness within themselves.

Contact The Meadows Arizona Community Relations Representative, Meagan Foxx, LPC, LISAC at 602-531-5320 for more information. No registration required. We look forward to seeing you.

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My therapist told me most sex addicts have multiple addictions. Is that true?

I have never met a sex addict addicted only to sex. Typically, three to six addictions interact with one another. Most individuals who come into treatment don't realize this. Often they are in denial about the scope of their destructive behaviors, minimizing and rationalizing their patterns. Often they construct and normalize complex lives, allowing one addiction to flow seamlessly into the other.

Professionals who work 80 or 90 hours a week may feel they have earned a weekend of binge drinking and sex. They tell themselves they are not workaholics, because they can take time off to "relax." Similarly, some individuals who work excessive hours take vacations only to pack every minute with activities: scuba diving all day; a volleyball tournament before dinner; an expensive meal; and clubbing with alcohol, drugs, and sex until 3 a.m. - only to start the cycle over the next morning."I don't have a work addiction. I can relax and take time off," they tell themselves. What they don't realize is that they are addicted to intensity. They look for the high or emotional escape that allows them to avoid uncomfortable feelings.

All addicts are "shame-based," meaning they were given negative messages about themselves. A child can experience abuse that is overt (recognizable abuse that can be verbal, physical, or sexual) or covert (in which the child is not typically aware of the subconscious messages). Covert abuse is typically couched in the expectations that parents have for their children. "If I am a good athlete, my parents will be proud." "If I am homecoming queen, I will be popular."

These children believe they must perform in order to have value. Such intensely goal-oriented thinking teaches - and ultimately allows the children to avoid - feelings of shame. This is when patterns of addiction begin.

This need for external gratification sets up the children to have low internal esteem. They feel they are not enough; they are worthless and unlovable... unless they produce. Winning trophies and awards will bring attention and a sense of value. Before they are aware of it, these people establish patterns that allow emotional escape.

After cheating on his wife, the sex addict feels no guilt or remorse about his betrayals, but stops at the local pizza parlor and eats a whole pie. Still numb, he spends several hours gaming on the computer - yet another way to avoid the emotions that lie below the surface.  His patterns satiate his pain and shame.

Food addicts may gain weight so they don't have to be sexual. "I don't need sex," they tell themselves. "I am strong and independent."

The after-work drink with coworkers may turn into a one-night stand. "I wouldn't have done it if I hadn't been drunk."

In treatment, individuals look at the interactive patterns in their lives, the seamless processes they unconsciously devise in order to survive painful feelings. The healing process often overwhelms the individual, because the addict often believes his or her own lies: "I don't really have problem with..." In reality, they have spent a lifetime jumping from one addictive behavior to the next on a roller coaster; the costly consequences can impact their livelihood, relationships, health, and finances - and can even bring death.

Published in Blog
Thursday, 21 April 2011 20:00

Healing our “Connective Tissue”

Healing our "Connective Tissue"

Yogis have long known the healing power of turning into oneself and deeply stretching one's muscles and ligaments - while also stretching one's mental focus, tuning out the static and noise of the world outside. This practice, thousands of years old, has far-reaching physical, mental, and spiritual benefits for the individual, and it fosters a sense of community and fellowship for the group.

In Yin Yoga class, practitioners hold nonmuscular poses to delve into connective tissue, healing joints, tendons, and ligaments. Recently, the instructor said in a slow, smooth voice, "There is a reason why there are only 10 of you here this morning.. We live in a society that does not value turning into ourselves, focusing on our values, or taking the actions necessary to facilitate our intentions." How true. We live in a culture that instead turns out or tunes out; we turn to iPads and smartphones to get relief from daily burdens.

Perhaps this observation resonated so deeply with me because, as a marriage and family therapist, I often see the breakdown of "connective tissue" in individuals, couples, and families. No one is shocked to hear that Americans have the highest rates of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and obesity in the world. Turning out and away from our burdens naturally leads us to seek relief from outside. This temporary relief may come in the form of food, alcohol, prescriptions, hours spent on Facebook or Farmville, gambling, shopping binges, or infidelity. Such activities damage our "connective tissue" to our unique values and intentions - and prohibit us from taking the actions to reach our goals. Likewise, these activities also damage the "connective tissue" of our relationships with those we hold closest.

Just as the practice of yoga can be strenuous and challenging, the practice of turning in to ourselves will likely be painful and difficult at times.

Just as yoga helps the body to melt away soreness and tension, shifting our focus to our true values and needs will help to ease the emptiness and anxiety that often cause us to look for external solutions.

Whether it's within the practice of yoga or within the context of the individual or family, the act of turning inward involves behavioral, emotional, and cognitive adjustments. An initial - and rudimentary - behavioral change is simply to turn off everything electronic. Silence the radio and cell phone on the way to work, and ask your child to turn off his iPod or DSI. The silence will help you hear your own worries, questions, intentions, and goals - and those of your child or partner. Emotionally, make an effort to be patient, positive, and open, both with yourself and others. Leave denial, defensiveness, judgment, excuses, criticism, resentments, and competition at the door. Remind yourself of what you admire about yourself or your child/partner. What are your/his/her strengths? As you gain strength, you may consider asking yourself, "What can I learn from this?" or "What is my part in this problem?"

As we begin to heal the "connective tissue" in our bodies and our relationships, we can hope for a society that is more sensitive to the needs of the individual and the community. If we look inward for solutions, we can aspire to be part of a society with less substance abuse, mental illness, divorce, violence, and crime.

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