The Meadows Blog

The Meadows trauma and addiction treatment center was a co-sponsor and presenter at the recent 25th Annual International Trauma Conference May 28-31, 2014, in Boston, Mass. Leading neuroscientists and treatment developers, including The Meadows’ Senior Fellows, Shelley Uram, MD, and Claudia Black, MSW, Ph.D., presented to nearly 700 attendees during the four-day conference.

From the opening keynote, “Understanding Trauma Through The Lens of the Polyvagal Theory” by Stephen Porges, Ph.D., to integration of trauma treatment model in clinical practice, the conference examined how trauma affects psychological and biological processes, and how the damage caused by overwhelming life experiences can be reversed. “The study of trauma has probably been the single most fertile area in helping to develop a deep understanding of the relationship among the emotional, cognitive, social and biological forces that shape human development,” said Conference Director, Bessel A. van der Kolk, MD.

“The Trauma Center at Justice Resource Institute would like to express its appreciation to The Meadows for their continued support of this conference and their continued work in trauma and addiction treatment,” said Dr. van der Kolk, one of the world's foremost authorities on post-traumatic stress disorder and other related disorders, Senior Fellow at The Meadows, and Founder and Medical Director of the Trauma Center at Justice Resource Institute.

Dr. Uram and Dr. Black presented a dynamic workshop entitled "Trauma and Addicted Family Systems: A Multidimensional Perspective," during which Dr. Black explained how adverse childhood experiences and blatant violence contribute to both addiction and co-occurring disorders. She also discussed shame screens, which are created in response to internalized shame-based messages. Dr. Uram translated this information into simple-to-understand neurobiological concepts, explaining how they ultimately impact the family system and most other aspects of life.

Dr. Black is a renowned author and trainer internationally recognized for her pioneering and contemporary work with family systems and addictive disorders. She is the author of several seminal books in the addictions field, most notably It Will Never Happen to Me and Straight Talk. Dr. Uram, a Harvard-trained, triple board-certified psychiatrist, is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. She speaks nationally and internationally, and is best known for transforming the complexity of the brain and traumatology into interesting and easily understandable explanations.

“Dr. Uram and I thoroughly enjoyed offering a full day’s workshop to clinicians from all over the country at this year’s trauma conference,” said Dr. Black. “As I discussed trauma as it exists in the context of families impacted by addiction, Dr. Uram offered the biological overlay to the experiences I spoke about. The audience was extremely enthusiastic about our presentation,” she adds. “I then stayed for the remaining three days of the trauma conference, and as fascinating as it was to listen to predominantly research-based presentations, I must honestly say what I came away with is how The Meadows has done a wonderful job of approaching trauma from what is called the ‘bottom’s up, top down’ perspective. We incorporate trauma therapies that offer regulation to the dysregulated brain stem and limbic system, making it possible for the client to use the widely respected cognitive behavioral methodologies. It was exciting to hear the research that was presented validate our treatment approach.”

The Meadows is an industry leader in treating trauma and addiction through its inpatient and workshop programs. To learn more about The Meadows’ work with trauma and addiction contact an intake coordinator at 800-244-4949.

Published in Events and Training

Claudia Black, Ph.D., one of the world-renown Senior Fellows at The Meadows, spent this spring traveling and speaking across the country, frequently discussing what it is The Meadows and their sister programs treat, and that is trauma and addictions.

Here is a snippet of Dr. Black’s message:

Christopher says he remembers his first drink so well. He got sick as a dog; his head was spinning, and it was oblivion. He was 12, and he loved it. He was in his own bubble, and no one was ever going to hurt him again. No one was ever going to have the power to make him feel bad about himself. No one could ever get close enough to him for them to make a difference in his life. Alcohol and other drugs became his protector.

Deanna says she had loving parents, but at school, the kids began to pick on her, and she was bullied throughout the following years. She didn’t tell anyone, and in high school she began cutting on herself and then found her parents’ pills. She didn’t know why they had meds, but that didn’t matter to her − they just helped to dull her pain.

Jason was a first responder, an EMT and a firefighter. He had spent ten years, responding to people in crisis, and he was in his fourth year of work when he was the only one of his team of six to make it out of a burning building alive after being trapped for several hours. Until that time, he would have considered himself a normal drinker, in fact, a light drinker. Today, he can’t seem to get enough.

Chris, Deanna, and Jason are addicted, and each is a trauma survivor.

Two facts:

  1. Addiction increases the likelihood of trauma. While under the influence, you are more apt to experience humanly caused tragedies such as car accidents, burning home, or be subject to violence, physical and sexual.
  2. Trauma increases the likelihood of addiction.

Definition of trauma: the result of extraordinarily stressful events that shatter your sense of security and result in your feeling helpless, alone and vulnerable.

Not that long ago when we thought of trauma we thought of natural disasters—fires that rampage acres, hurricanes and tornadoes, or shootings on our college campuses, movie theatres, elementary schools, or acts of terrorism. It may come with the experience of war, rape, a car accident or the burning of the family home.

These are thought of as Big T traumas. They are very horrific situations that frequently lead to trauma responses, some as severe as PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). But of all the people who experience trauma only 30% have PTSD, but nonetheless they may still suffer other trauma responses.

Little t traumas can be just as damaging as a Big T trauma, especially because they tend to occur over time and build upon each other. Examples would be ongoing emotional abuse or neglect, experiences of shame, humiliation, being left out, bullied or ridiculed and feeling not cared for.

The trauma that occurs in the family system can be both blatant and subtle. What is most significant is that it is chronic. It can include both Big T, and little T traumas Psychological effects are most likely to be most severe if the trauma is:

  • Human caused
  • Repeated
  • Unpredictable
  • Undergone in childhood
  • Perpetrated by a caregiver. Sadly this often means growing up in an addicted home, a rageful home, or simply a chronically impaired family system.

We know the impact can be ameliorated by existence of a support system at the time of the trauma. This is why we see some children show greater resilience than others. Even within the same family system, some children more than others are able to garner support and experience greater protection.

It’s common for someone to minimize their experience because someone else has a greater horror story. It’s not the objective facts that determine whether an event is traumatic, but your own emotional experience of the event and the subsequent beliefs you internalize about yourself and the world. Your experience is not negated by someone else’s experience. They have theirs, and you have yours. Whether or not the trauma is acute or chronic, Big T or Little t, within the family system or not, the defenses developed are often what we are addressing when confronted with addictions, codependency, repetitive hurtful relationships, anxiety and depression.

The Meadows Can Help

For over 35 years, The Meadows trauma treatment program has been helping trauma victims heal and learn the skills necessary to cope with the devastating, and often hidden, effects of trauma. The trauma treatment program at The Meadows was specifically designed for trauma survivors by Pia Mellody and a team of world renowned experts including Dr. Peter Levine, John Bradshaw, Dr. Shelley Uram, Dr. Jerry Boriskin, Dr. Bessel van der Kolk and Dr. Claudia Black.

The trauma treatment program at The Meadows can help you create a life of recovery, peace and healing. We have helped over 45,000 clients to date, through workshops and inpatient treatment programs. To learn more about the trauma workshops and treatment programs at The Meadows, call us at 800-244-4949 or visit this page for more information.

Published in Trauma
Wednesday, 06 November 2013 14:20

The Therapy Horse

When working with a horse in a therapy session push and pull equate to assertive and passive. When horses communicate, it is through pushing. Boundaries are demonstrated through pushes in body language. A horse can push another away with an assertive look or swing a rear end around in a gesture to kick. Getting needs met is demonstrated by moving near and leaning toward or pushing into.

Horses don’t pull at each other. The closest thing to a pull to a horse is one calling out to another vocally. So what is the push about and what does that have to do with a therapeutic encounter?

During a therapeutic equine session a Participant often needs to move the horse in order to accomplish the task. Given that there is no halter or rope available this can present a challenge. More than 90% of the time the Participant tries “pulling” the horse by:

  • Calling to it. “Come on Henry! Come here!”
  • Trying to verbally convince it. “You’re a good boy. You know you want to come!”
  • Turn their back in hopes the horse will respond to the “hard to get” approach
  • Walk away in hopes he will follow.

This type of “pulling” is coercive, indirect and passive.

All of these things are done in front of the horse. There is no pressure/push for the horse to respond to. It’s a passive way, a least invasive attempt to convince or appeal enough to the animal that it may want to move toward them.

How often to do we pull when direct communication would be so much more effective?

Other than literally pulling with a rope, a horse does not register a pull as pressure. It is just something occurring in the space at the moment that has no direct affect on its current state of being. Looking at how they communicate gives us a clue to healthy communication. The push is a natural pressure toward. It communicates intent in an assertive clear way. Participants push a horse by:

  • Walking up with energy and intention
  • Using their voice and body to create pressure
  • Holding a confident assertive mind set
  • Making contact with the horses boundaries

A push does not occur directly in front of the horse. It happens from the shoulders back. The most obvious difference is the feeling associated with a push. Although initially uncertainty is common, practicing it causes an internal shift. Moving with strength and intention creates energy. This is energy and pressure that the horse can clearly feel and will respond to. The horse now understands what you are saying and can move accordingly.

Learning how to push a horse changes the way Participants ask for needs and wants. It is a tangible way to experience healthy communication in a safe place.

Published in Blog
Monday, 04 November 2013 07:49

Bradshaw on Bradshaw InnerVIEWS PBS Special

HoustonPBS', Ernie Manouse, sits down with Meadows' Senior Fellow, renowned author and counselor John Bradshaw, to discuss his life and work - from the dysfunctional family, to the wounded inner-child. The abbreviated version of the interview can be viewed at

Published in Blog News
Thursday, 10 October 2013 00:00

Being Authentic and the Therapy Horse

A horse does not care what you’re feeling as long as you’re honestly feeling it.  There are no “bad” feelings where horses are concerned. There are just safe and unsafe situations.  

~~  A. Taylor

The longer you’re around a horse program of any kind you are bound to hear the phrase “A horse does not lie”.  A horse’s natural behavior is to always express in its body language what is going on in its brain. There is no deceit in horses. It simply does not exist in them. Being completely authentic is what helps them to survive.

Although we have domesticated the horse they still carry those basic needs for safety and survival.  Once a horse notices danger, it responds quickly and purposefully to communicate to the herd. At that point they can flee to safety.  The herd relies on its many members for safety and a level of obscurity in a large group. There is no place in the herd for deceit, manipulation or selfishness. Those things would equate to a breakdown in the safety system, ultimately resulting in less horses and eventually no horses.

In Equine Therapy we bring people face to face with authenticity. A horse may not be able to read your mind, but your body shares all the information a horse needs.  Hiding a feeling or pretending you’re not having a feeling is not authentic. In the horse’s world that is not honest. The horse will put that in the “unsafe” category.  Not honest\unsafe to a horse is the same as a predator pretending to be something it’s not. A lion will hide behind bushes or try to blend into tall grass. A bear will stay down wind and try to blend into the landscape until it can make a run at the herd.

If our insides do not match our outsides we are not authentic.  Trying to hide feelings is like trying to put one over on the horse. The amazing thing about that is your horse probably knew you were having a bad day the moment you stepped out of the car.  In working with a horse we are able to see exactly how not being authentic affects our relationship with ourselves and the relationships in our lives. They will simply reflect back to us what our body says to them, honest\safe OR not honest\ unsafe.

Their forgiving nature and eagerness for relationship make them a perfect fit for us to practice being more authentic. It does not always come easily, yet they are eager every day to be that mirror of truth. The more aware of what you feel and how you feel it, the closer your relationship with the horse will be.

Published in Blog

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