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.
The Meadows, America's premier center for the treatment of addiction and trauma, is pleased to present an 11-part video interview with John Bradshaw, senior fellow, world-famous educator, counselor, motivational speaker, author, and leading figure in the field of mental health.
In the 10th video of his series, Mr. Bradshaw talks about his long association with The Meadows and its people.
"When I was asked to come to The Meadows, I considered it an honor," he says. "They have some of the top people in the field."
He then describes some of those people and their contributions. Peter Levine, a pioneer on the impact of trauma on the body. Pia Mellody, whose intuitive genius and personal history helped make The Meadows’ treatment model accessible to non-professionals. Bessel van der Kolk, who shaped the field of PTSD. Maureen Canning, a leading expert in sex addiction and trauma.
"It's wonderful to be part of a class act," Mr. Bradshaw adds. "We give something to people, and they get something out of it."
Mr. Bradshaw has enjoyed a long association with The Meadows, giving insights to staff and patients, speaking at alumni retreats, lecturing to mental health professionals at workshops and seminars, and helping to shape its cutting-edge treatment programs. His New York Times best-selling books include Homecoming: Reclaiming and Championing Your Inner Child, Creating Love, and Healing the Shame That Binds You.
Other videos in this series include interviews with leading experts in addiction and trauma, including Dr. Jerry Boriskin and Maureen Canning. View the videos at www.youtube.com/themeadowswickenburg.
For more about The Meadows' innovative treatment program for addictions and trauma, visit www.themeadows.org or call The Meadows at 800-244-4949
COMPLEX PTSD AND ADDICTIVE DISORDERS: WHY SIMPLISTIC SOLUTIONS DO NOT WORK
By Jerry Boriksin, PhD
The logic is easy but seems to elude the most brilliant of minds: Some complicated conditions require multiple approaches delivered skillfully and in the proper sequence. A single solution, no matter how powerful, tends to fail when up against sufficient intensity and complexity. To put this into simpler language: If a tornado leveled your home, you wouldn't rebuild by simply calling a plumber. You would need to call in a team of craftspeople - in the right sequence - in order to repair the damage. Calling in the roofer before restoring the walls would be absurd.
Individuals who have sustained severe emotional damage or multiple traumas, or who had their foundations damaged by early childhood neglect or abuse, tend not to do well with singular, well-intended, or even well-delivered therapeutic approaches. Repeated attempts and failures reinforce the hopelessness and futility that are central to the inner beliefs of those who suffer. Essentially, they believe they are broken beyond repair. This is what we refer to as nihilism (i.e., "I am hopeless and there is no meaning, no escape... nothing will work"). The result is often a resumption of self-medicating: indulging in drugs, alcohol, risky sexual behavior, bad relationships, etc. Addiction is a frequent cohort of pain, futility, and hopelessness.
Researchers have been trying for decades to develop singular, powerful treatments for the cure of PTSD. Whereas the treatments are better, even the best treatment techniques fail when facing complex PTSD with co-occurring conditions. Very often, immersion in a safe, sane environment is needed in order to gain some traction. This is why we often need a higher level of care to start the process of rebuilding.
The very first foundations are:
2. Restored sleep cycle. Once this foundation is secure, additional techniques can be employed. However, it is important to recognize that we are dealing with complex problems. We need multiple approaches - delivered skillfully, cooperatively, and rationally - with several specialty artists who can work comfortably with the necessary complexity, honesty, and skill.
While science has helped and will help us further, no magic, medicine, or technique will rebuild the damage inflicted by severe childhood abuse, war, and subsequent disasters. We need to utilize a team with a wide range of tools and skills. We need to embrace the complexity, rather than deny its reality. So, sobriety first, sleep second; then the rebuilding can begin. Do not minimize how much structural work is needed; almost any building can be rebuilt, but it requires a team with many disciplines and several tools, all used in a synthetic, not simplistic, fashion.
Bessel van der Kolk, Clinical Consultant for The Meadows, was recently mentioned in an article on PsychCentral. On her blog Healing Together for Couples, Suzanne Phillips cites Dr. van der Kolk's classic text, The Body Keeps Score:
"In his famous work on traumatic memories, Bessel van der Kolk (1994) reminds us that "The Body Keeps Score". Essentially he is referring to the fact that because traumatic memory is registered and stored in the emotional sensory centers of the brain as images, feelings and sensations rather than in the language areas of the brain, the use of mind and body strategies will help in the integration of traumatic memories.
As a couple the more mastery and control you have over your body states - be it through yoga, jogging, gym sessions, walking, etc. the more you change the body memories of trauma. Modeling this, inviting your partner, finding opportunities to feel differently together is part of the process."
The post discusses how traumatic memories differ from ordinary memories and how couples can help each other transform traumatic memories. To read more from the article Handling Traumatic Memories in Your Relationship, see the PsychCentral website. To learn more about Dr. van der Kolk's work and his role with The Meadows, please visit see www.themeadows.com.
The concept of "wellness" has gained popularity in today's media and has played a major role in the treatment of trauma and addictions. The word suggests a state of well-being, a balance in the social, emotional, occupational, spiritual, physical, and intellectual aspects of life. At The Meadows, the newly renovated Wellness Program is structured to help patients make choices to build a more successful lifestyle.
Frequently, those suffering the effects of trauma and addictions make poor choices that result in an imbalance in one or more areas of life. Addressing this imbalance has been an integral part of The Meadows' treatment program for the past 34 years. Developed by Pia Mellody, The Meadows' model focuses on the interplay of core issues throughout our development that have culminated in unmanageable symptoms or an imbalance in our lives. The five core issues - self-esteem, boundaries, reality, dependency, and moderation - form the foundation for the treatment program. If patients learn to make good choices in their lives, they will learn to esteem themselves, establish appropriate boundaries in relationships, live lives of moderation, accept their imperfections, and take responsibility for their needs and wants. They will be in a state of wellness.
Wellness Coordinator Courtney Berg will initiate the program by conducting an individual interview with each patient during his or her first week. A wellness questionnaire will be completed, and a medical doctor will be consulted in constructing a wellness plan consistent with the patient's treatment plan and physical condition. The Wellness Coordinator will monitor the wellness plan for each patient through regularly scheduled meetings and progress reports at weekly treatment team meetings.
Patients will begin each day with a walk around campus on a newly marked walking path. Monitored by the Wellness staff, this activity will serve to start the day "on the right foot." The walk itself is low-impact and appropriate for all levels of fitness. Those who are very fit will gain from the camaraderie and team building. Those who are not so fit will begin to build confidence and physical fitness.
The Meadows has historically offered tai chi and yoga. New offerings will include water aerobics, pilates, deeper forms of meditation, and expanded expressive arts activities. Saturday mornings will feature animal and equine therapy.
New programming will include a weekend Grief Workshop, Dating in Sobriety Workshop, Mindfulness in Recovery Workshop, 12 Steps in Recovery, Expressive Arts Experiences, and specialized lectures on the Brain and Trauma, Mind-Body-Spirit Connections, and The Role of Meditation in Treatment.