The Meadows Blog

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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The Meadows, America's premier center for the treatment of addiction and trauma, is pleased to present an ongoing series of videos featuring the most prominent names in the mental health field, including Maureen Canning, John Bradshaw, and Dr. Jerry Boriskin, among others.

Maureen Canning is a clinical consultant and senior fellow at The Meadows. She also is a clinical consultant at Dakota, The Meadows' extended-care facility dedicated exclusively to the treatment of sexual addiction and trauma. In her introductory video, Ms. Canning discusses her relationship with the Meadows and her work treating sexual disorders.

"I came by this work honestly," she explains. "I'm a recovering person myself, and I have a lot of passion for the work that I do."

She continues, "There's a lot of stigma around this particular disorder, especially for women, so I feel blessed to support people around the recovery process and to see people make progress and move toward healthy sexual expression."

Other videos in the series by Ms. Canning deal with the nature of healthy sexuality, shame and sex addiction, what partners of sex addicts need to know, and other critical issues relating to the treatment of sexual disorders.

An internationally recognized lecturer in the fields of sexual addiction and trauma, Ms. Canning, MA, LMFT, has extensive experience treating sexual disorders. Her clinical experience includes individual, couples, and family counseling; workshops; educational trainings; and interventions. She is a level II EMDR-trained therapist, a certified hypnotherapist, and the author of Lust, Anger, Love: Understanding Sexual Addiction and The Road to Healthy Intimacy.

To view this and other videos in this informative series from The Meadows, see For more about The Meadows’ innovative treatment program for addictions and trauma, see or call The Meadows at 800-244-4949.

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"It's enough," said the 64-year old.... "Something has changed. The world feels strange now. Even the way the clouds move isn't right." (Excerpted from an article on the 7.1-magnitude aftershock in northeastern Japan, USA Today, April 8, 2011.)

Dissociation: Personal Transition in a Chaotic World

Traumatic events set off a chain reaction of biological, emotional, psychological, interpersonal, and spiritual changes that can disrupt your entire sense of self and how you view things going forward. When your world is shaken and you no longer feel safe, you can lose your sense of identity. The resulting shifts in perspective and perception can cause a disintegration of your baseline ego.

Survivors of traumatic events say things like:
"I was so frightened, I stopped feeling. It was like I reached a point where I didn't care anymore if I lived or died."
"Once I got through this and accepted my own death, my fear went away. I was able to get through."
"It is odd; I would look at myself, look at my hand, and it was like it was no longer attached. Everything shifted from three dimensions to two; it is like colors disappeared, yet everything was intense. I can't really describe it; I just went numb. I became disconnected from my body."

Such shifts in perspective and dimensionality are a core component of dissociation, which tends to follow in the wake of absolute fear or panic. Permitting one to detach from emotion, it can be very adaptive. For instance, it can help soldiers to act as a team and follow orders. In Vietnam, many soldiers would recite a simple chant while doing horrible tasks: "Just another day, no big thing...." This helped to desensitize them, reinforce dissociation, and establish the numbness required for survival.

Dissociation also permits emergency room personnel to disengage from the horrors they see and do their jobs. ER workers who are “in touch with their emotions” may not be able to act as efficiently in a crisis as a focused, emotionally dissociated team. Optimally, rescuers need to perform first and process their emotions later.

Soldiers, healers, and survivors encounter problems if they cannot reattach to their bodies or emotions after the intensity diminishes. If they remain in a state of constant arousal, it negatively affects their sense of balance, communication, self-awareness, and connection to loved ones. Once your core is shaken, it is difficult to resume a "normal" perspective. Everything feels different. On one hand, things that upset others might not set you off. New crises are familiar, almost expected; they may even be welcomed or become "the new normal." Survivors often adapt well to overload. They feel comfortable, perhaps even comforted, within new arenas of challenge or intensity. This, in part, is why so many soldiers devastated by war would enlist again if offered the option. They get used to functioning well at the edge; it almost becomes addictive.

Paradoxically, little things can cause overreaction. A partner's complaint about a failure to clean the kitchen, for example, might result in a temper tantrum, a fit of righteous indignation, or a violent clash. The big things become little, and the little things become big. The new normal is numbness, punctuated by fits of rage or terror. In this "fifth dimension," everything is scrambled. You are numb and detached; nothing hurts. It's "just another day, same old thing...." Yet everything is different - even the clouds.

Dr. Jerry Boriskin is a Senior Fellow at The Meadows. He is an author, lecturer, and clinician with expertise in trauma, PTSD, and addictive disorders. Dr. Boriskin is a licensed psychologist and addiction specialist who recently resumed working with traumatized soldiers at the V.A. of Northern California. He is the author of "PTSD and Addiction: A Practical Guide for Clinicians and Counselors" and co-authored "At Wit's End: What Families Need to Know When A Loved One is Diagnosed with Addiction and Mental Illness."

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The fields of psychiatry and psychotherapy are peppered with uninformed beliefs and misjudgments. For instance, individuals can be pejoratively diagnosed as borderline or, perhaps more accurately, viewed as exhibiting symptoms of complex traumatic stress. In cases of the latter, old unresolved traumas are reenacted in the here and now and, to say the least, are difficult to clinically modulate.

Betrayal is not Borderline

Nowhere is the borderline label less fitting but more frequently appended than in the case of a betrayed spouse. The label is applied to individuals who present in therapy as "help-me-no-don't," chronically angry, scared, defensive, and reactive. Unfortunately, the label is all too frequently applied by uninformed clinicians dealing with an angry, emotional, scared, "leave me-now-no-don't" spouse who has learned of a partner's sexual indiscretions, compulsivity, or addiction. Few spouses comport themselves with grace in the face of betrayal, yet the insinuation or diagnosis of borderline disorder is all too readily affixed. And by brandishing the borderline label, the clinical community serves to reactivate the emotional wounding and reinjure the person already reeling from betrayal and violation.

It's currently debated - not-so-nicely at times - whether sex addiction is an addiction at all. Is it merely a hall pass for out-of-control behavior, or is it an addiction warranting legitimate attention? The psychiatric and psychological camps contend that it's objectionable to label a behavior as an addictive disorder without rigorous scientific support. Assessment, diagnosis, and practice based solely on anecdotal experience may not be legitimate, yet the field of psychotherapy often treats issues and behaviors with modalities and techniques that have yet to be invited to the scientific table of clinical legitimacy.

Judge Not the Name

So it makes sense that borderline personality disorder and sex addiction find their way into the same scrape. An individual who exhibits reactivity and another who exhibits out-of-control sexual behavior tend to face negative public reception, while the pain and wounding that drive the behaviors are overlooked. By brandishing a label, the professionals with whom the pain can be shared reinforce disapproval of the behavior and invalidate the pain.

The American Psychological Association determines what is included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the fifth edition of which is to be released any year now. The term "borderline personality disorder" is currently under reconsideration; it is quickly becoming a term of old to describe a cluster of symptoms driven by trauma-induced stress.

A more appropriate term is "complex traumatic stress," which speaks to abuse inflicted by an attachment figure, the loss of the authentic self due to repeated trauma and abuse, or problems in regulating emotion. Whether that description finds its way into the upcoming DSM remains to be seen. So far the jury is out, and confusion still rules. Clearly, this is not an exact science.

We must realize that an individual who struggles with a behavior by any name is an individual who suffers. As clinicians, we are at the forefront of healing and facilitating growth. Whether addictive behavior centers around sex, drugs, or rock-and-roll, it involves pain and suffering. To label the pain or question its legitimacy is to shut down an opportunity for growth and healing - for both the clinician and the client.

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Monday, 11 April 2011 20:00

Bessel van der Kolk on treating PTSD

In an article on in Colorado Springs, they discussed treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In the article, they discussed a conference in Colorado Springs, where Dr. Bessel van der Kolk discussed his concerns regarding treatment for soldiers diagnosed with PTSD. The article reports, "Local experts say that 10 to 30 percent of military coming home from war could be diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder." Dr. van der Kolk discussed the need for people to "feel safe." To read more about this go to:

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