The Meadows Blog

Friday, 08 April 2011 20:00

Healing Money Trauma

In the eyes of a child money is alive. Money leaps out of machines in a mysterious way and solves problems or creates others. Money jumps in the middle of parental arguments and draws its sword, threatening to separate a child from his family. Money leaves powerful messages in marriages; it "wakes" up emotions as it "writes letters" to the family in the form of bills or makes phone calls to the household in the form of bill collectors. Money-talks are frequently the most emotionally charged conversations that a child hears, and children become aware of the social implications of money as soon as they become aware of, and responsive to, others. Money becomes a god that Mother sacrifices Motherhood to obtain and Fathers forsake home life in pursuit of "making a living". Money is the visible representation that a child sees as individuals connect one to another and exchange the green stuff. A child observes the social contracts of money between people and knows that money itself is social; it creates agreements, happiness, and pain as it pulls people together or separates them forever.

Understanding our client's financial and work dilemmas requires much more skill than just offering them the telephone number for credit-consolidation companies. The behaviors themselves can be as varied as trauma repetition, mood-altering experiences, or acts of defiance, as well as many other possibilities. Debt may be for one individual an act that quiets a suppressed and unconscious fear of separation; for another it might be an angry response to feeling confined and trapped; to a third it might mean an anesthetizing behavior allowing one to "zone out".

Healing wounds made by money and work is best approached as if the behaviors themselves sat on a three-legged stool - not to be understood unless all three legs are available. For clinicians the first leg is to understand the Attachment and Trauma issues that arise out of early childhood experiences that serve to create templates for adult behaviors. The second leg is isolate the exact Temperament - answering the question that it is both nature and nurture that give us our attitudes and behaviors with money and work. The third leg is Affect - when we help our clients to understand that the phenomenon of debt creates feelings of emotional pain and fear - and sometimes it is the emotion itself that is most attractive to a traumatized individual.

The money and work disorders create a collage of dysfunctional behaviors.  Clients may display a pattern of compulsive shopping, spending and/or debting; some may have progressed into hoarding or shoplifting. Other clients become obsessed with money or work, and some retreat into deprivation and under-earning. Some gamble, either in traditional ways with slot machines and gaming tables or with high risk investments and business adventures. Still others might find themselves paralyzed by the wealth they have inherited or with which they have grown up, and are now unmotivated and untrusting, alone in a threatening world. Assessment of money disorders frequently shows a correlation between adaptations such as gambling with embezzlement, shopping with shoplifting, workaholism with at-risk entrepreneurship or embezzlement, or compulsive giving with relational issues (the "Financial ALANON Factor"). Regardless of how the puzzle pieces fit together to create the unique profile, the treatment follows a predictable course.

Specific steps that need to be taken by clinicians wishing to approach and understand the emotionally-charged, compulsive work and money behaviors include:
(1) An Assessment of disordered patterns of work and money.
(2) An Evaluation of client's temperament and confirmation of underlying personality-specific innate fears.
(3) Childhood memories narrative to determine template(s).
(4) Re-scripting of cognitive distortions regarding finances and work.
(5) Vision work to establish clear goals for future behavior.
(6) A relapse prevention plan based on knowing risk and trigger issues.

Money trauma and the related adult behaviors surrounding money are the unspoken burdens of shame that often take our clients into relapse. In the past twenty years we have made great strides in healing the wounds of sex addiction and we can now talk about sex openly. The time has come for us to talk about money as well and conquer the shame that has kept this subject in silence for too long.

Bonnie A. DenDooven

Bonnie A. DenDooven, MC, LAC, a family workshop therapist at Gatehouse Academy, is a former business owner-turned-therapist. The author of the MAWASI© for therapy and healing of financial disorders and work behaviors, she is a former primary and family counselor and assistant clinical director for Dr. Patrick Carnes at The Meadows. Bonnie was schooled in Gestalt therapy and is a member of Silvan Tomkins Institute of Affect Script Psychology, an advocate of Martin Seligman Positive Psychology, and a champion for the initiative for VIA Classification of Strengths and Virtues (jokingly referred to as the "un-DSM").

Published in Blog
Monday, 21 March 2011 20:00

Celebrating 35 Years

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."

Published in Blog

By James Dredge, CEO, The Meadows

This year we are celebrating our 35th anniversary; through these years, we have been afforded opportunities to profoundly improve the lives of thousands of patients throughout the world.

As part of our 35-year celebration, we have launched a new and robust Web site, blog, and Facebook presence. Over the upcoming months, we will offer new and expanded series of free lectures, alumni conferences, workshops, retreats, and experiential training.

To find out about upcoming events or to get the latest scoop on what's going on at The Meadows, please check us out at,, or on Facebook.

In this issue, you will find interesting insights about our heritage, the moving dedication of our lecture hall to John Bradshaw, and the introduction of some new treatment staff members.

We value your opinions, so please submit your comments and suggestions at

Thanks again for your continued support!

Jim Dredge

Published in Blog
Tuesday, 28 December 2010 19:00

Equine Assisted Psychotherapy & The Meadows

Upon arriving at The Meadows, many patients are charmed by the view of equine activities at nearby ranches. They frequently ask about having Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) as part of their primary treatment program. As a direct result of these requests, EAP is among the newest offerings coming to The Meadows. The initial challenge was finding a provider who was knowledgeable about both EAP and The Meadows' unique model of treatment. Molly Cook, LCSW, LISAC, has experience as a family and primary counselor at The Meadows, as well as at other addiction treatment centers; she also has been trained in EAP by the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA). Working around horses since she was a teen, Molly has significant experience using EAP in her private practice. She now blends her EAGALA training and her experience with The Meadows' model into effective therapeutic sessions.

Equine Assisted Psychotherapy supports patients in recognizing the life patterns that create obstacles for them. By incorporating horses, EAP allows individuals to experience how those patterns play out with someone other than family or friends. Participants learn how to relate to others - and their own addictions - by interacting with horses. Horses are dynamic and living beings who have fixed roles within their herd, much like the roles in a family or group of friends. When humans are introduced to horses, they are incorporated into the horse herd and its social structure. In this joining, the horses start to recognize and reflect the unspoken emotions of humans, demonstrating exactly what human body language tells them. In this demonstration lie metaphors and lessons about the patients that can facilitate change. A healing bond encourages the recognition and change in behaviors. Because of the intimacy that can develop between humans and horses, positive results can start immediately.

For example, a recent patient was struggling with her role as a victim due to childhood traumas. By interacting with the horses, she was able to recognize her previous reality about herself and see that she was precious in her own right. Her role as a victim disempowered her; as she experienced EAP and gained more self-knowledge, her new confidence and skills enabled her to begin to see her own power. She was able to set boundaries, express her needs, share her feelings, and face her fears and anxieties - all without her previous coping mechanisms. Through interaction with horses, she gained the confidence necessary to use these new tools in her life. She gained a sense of self-trust and continues to use her newfound skills to build the self-assurance needed to face the issues of day-to-day life.

During treatment, new coping skills are taught to patients who need new ways to deal with past trauma and addictions. In EAP, these new coping skills are demonstrated, practiced, and reinforced. This experiential modality allows patients to utilize the knowledge gained at The Meadows. It then provides the opportunity to apply the tools learned in treatment to real-life situations. In addition, patients who are struggling with releasing old behaviors, ideas, patterns, and thoughts can be challenged with a new therapeutic technique that mirrors the reactions of those around the patient. The size of the horses allows patients an opportunity to overcome fear and develop confidence. While interacting with horses, patients have the ability to integrate boundary work and reinforce coping skills, such as expressing their needs or asking for help. They also develop intimacy with those around them. Patients who are resistant to letting go of old patterns or ideas can utilize EAP models to see the lack of control their old ideas bring into their lives. In treatment, patients gain information and knowledge. However, without practice, patients may not be able to make the necessary changes. EAP allows patients to enhance their new knowledge with experience that helps to solidify personal changes.

Equine Assisted Psychotherapy is an experiential, interactive, hands-on mode of therapy that can help patients see any issues that have been blocking progress in treatment. With the dynamic medium of equine assistants, patients can see which ideas work and which don't.

Anyone can participate in Equine Assisted Psychotherapy; no prior horse or riding experience is necessary. It is completely safe; no riding is involved, and all activities are done on the ground under the supervision of equine professionals.

Published in Blog
Wednesday, 15 December 2010 19:00

childhood sexual and emotional abuse

The Meadows is pleased to announce the launch of our new blog,, featuring articles by some of the most well-respected and innovative experts in the treatment and recovery fields of drug addiction, alcohol addiction, gambling addiction, depression and anxiety, relationships and childhood trauma.

Contributors to the blog include leaders in the treatment of addiction and trauma: Pia Mellody; John Bradshaw, MA; Bessel A. van der Kolk, MD; Peter Levine, PhD; Maureen Canning, MA, LMFT; Jerry Boriskin, PhD; and Shelley Uram, MD. These experts write about a wide range of addiction-related topics.

If you are interested in writing for, please send submissions to

Published in Blog

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