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").

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On March 25, Dr. Jerry Boriskin gave a marvelous presentation titled "Complex PTSD and Co-occurring Addictive Disorders: Demystifying Demons and Developing Multidimensional Treatment Skills."

An expert in the field of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD, Dr. Boriskin has garnered the support of a large group of professionals who gathered on a cold Chicago day to hear him speak. Providing an intense look at the complexity of treating PTSD and co-occurring addictions, Dr. Boriskin shared a documentary on a military case subject. Visibly moved, attendees gained a new appreciation for our military personnel.

The group then employed "group thinking" to come up with clinical solutions to a particularly challenging case. The results were varied and fascinating.

The day was a tremendous learning opportunity; most remarkable was Dr. Boriskin's evident passion for his field.

If you or someone you know is struggling with the effects of PTSD, please call The Meadows today at 800-244-4949.

By Jenna Pastore, National Community Relations Representative

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Bessel van der Kolk, MD, was recently mentioned is an interesting article in the Contra Costa Times. The article was a review of a conference at UCLA where Dr. van der Kolk presented. Dr. van der Kolk discussed what trauma is "doing to America's youth." The writer described this conference focusing on trauma and brain science as "fascinating." To read this article, go to:

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Friday, 01 April 2011 20:00

Celebrity Addiction – Part 2

(This is part two of a two part blog post. If you would like to read part one please go here: Celebrity Addiction Part 1)

This raises the question: Has the media gone too far? Since television and movies became mainstream in America, teens have tried to emulate the speech, dress, and behavior of their favorite celebrities. And now, scientists have even found a correlation between celebrity worship and depression/anxiety. Does depression lead to addiction, or does addiction lead to depression? Or does it matter? The bottom line: A generation of teenagers feels entitled to become famous. For what they will become famous has become irrelevant. Teens believe that becoming famous is a cure-all for all of life's challenges. Our society is raising a generation of narcissists whose only sense of self rises around entitlement and fame. Healthy relationships will be replaced with illusory relationships that lack intimacy and real connection. Teens will continue to seek temporary relief in substance abuse and celebrity worship to ward off the pain that normal adolescence brings. This practice of "numbing" is dangerous and will result in a generation that is unable to function in the real world.

Another difficulty many adolescents face today is eating disorders. Television, Hollywood, magazines, the Internet, and the fashion industry portray slender women much more often than women with normal body types. Children and teens then develop distorted images of what a body should be. Once these idolized perceptions are accepted as truth, thought distortions may develop, which can lead adolescents to self-destructive behaviors such as eating disorders, self-injury, and excessive exercise.

How can we prevent our teens from idolizing tragic celebrity figures of fantasy and deception? How can we reduce substance abuse and eating disorders among teens? Self-esteem is a major buzzword. Low self-esteem can increase the odds that a teen will look to numb or suppress discomfort, frustration, or pain. When a child is comfortable in his own skin, he can reach inward for well-being and strength rather than relying on outside sources to dull the senses. Having an open dialogue with your teens, without judgment or criticism, allows them to feel more comfortable discussing substance abuse, peer pressure, and sex. They will feel heard and understood, which will allow them to trust you with their deepest and darkest demons. Otherwise, they may look for validation elsewhere, joining groups or gangs where drugs and alcohol are the norm.

Another solution to this growing epidemic might be getting to know our neighbors. Creating deeper bonds within our own circles might alleviate the need to search for outside validation.

There are numerous causes of addiction, such as trauma, a genetic predisposition, peer pressure, a divorce, or a significant loss in one's family. Celebrity addiction is not as dangerous as drug or alcohol addiction, but it is another way that teens avoid what is really going on in life. It can prevent or delay teens from forming identities; rather, they opt to emulate a false self based on a favorite idol. Such a teen will never develop a true core self. If your teen shows warning signs, such as isolation, eating changes, depression, excessive sleep, or new acting-out behaviors, seek professional help. It could be a sign of addiction or an eating disorder. A professional can assess if there is a serious problem.

We all want to be loved for who we are, not for who we wish we could be. Being aware of the signs of celebrity addiction is a proactive way to curb negative behaviors before permanent damage occurs.

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For the 7th year, The Meadows is pleased to co-sponsor the Annual International Trauma Conference - Psychological Trauma: Neuroscience, Attachment, and Therapeutic Interventions. This groundbreaking conference will be held in Boston, Massachusetts on Wednesday, May 18, 2011 to Saturday, May 21, 2011. This conference brings together leaders in the field of trauma to examine cutting-edge treatment interventions for various trauma-based symptoms. For more information or to register for the 22nd Annual International Trauma Conference go to:

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