Mind & Heart: A Mindful Path to Wholehearted Living

f7abac252ae5ed68121b92ba7a669d87_LThis workshop for professionals is a 3-day intensive for individuals who want to further their own healing and for those who assist others in the healing journey. This workshop acknowledges that many people have encountered difficult situations as children and as adults: trauma, abuse, neglect, break-ups, betrayal, disappointment, failures, illness, loss, and grief. Yet, humans are resilient creatures – they generally find ways to survive. However, surviving isn’t the same as thriving! Indeed, many times the very adaptations that helped people to survive get in the way of really living life wholeheartedly.

Psychiatrist, researcher, teacher, and workshop designer, Jon Caldwell, DO, PhD, will personally facilitate the workshop. The Mind & Heart workshop is a scientifically researched intervention that entails a mixture of highly informative material and experiential exercises using mindfulness and compassion. Because these ancient practices will be applied in unique ways to heal past wounds, people of various skill levels with mindfulness can benefit from the workshop. Also, the practice of mindfulness and compassion does not need to interfere with workshop participants’ spiritual beliefs, but can serve to deepen existing belief systems. All that is needed is a curious mind, a willing heart, and an intention to heal!

16.0 Continuing Education Credits or NBCC Clock Hours Available

Cost: $1500 per person, all inclusive of two meals on Friday, three meals Saturday, one meal Sunday, lodging at Rio Retreat Bunkhouse, and ground transportation from and back to the Phoenix Airport.

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New Focus on Childhood Trauma and Healing for Adults

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I recently came across a blog written by ACEs Connection member Elizabeth Prewitt titled, For the first time, SAMHSA’s annual children’s mental health event focuses on trauma.”  In the article, Ms. Prewitt writes, “It is both remarkable and natural that the theme of the 2018 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) May 10th Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day event was “Partnering for Health and Hope Following Trauma”. It was remarkable to hear “ACEs” and “trauma-informed” roll off the tongues of all the federal officials (some seasoned, some new appointees in the Trump Administrsation). And natural as the awareness of ACEs science grows at lightning speed…at least it feels that way.”

It was certainly exciting to learn that the SAMHSA event aligned so closely with the mission of ACEs Connection: to accelerate the global ACEs science movement, to recognize the impact of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) in shaping adult behavior and health, and to promote trauma-informed and resilience-building practices and policies in all communities and institutions. Strategies for making child-serving systems more trauma-informed is a subject near and dear to my own heart.

Before coming to work for Rio Retreat Center at The Meadows as a Survivors Workshop facilitator, I worked with children and adolescents in residential treatment for seven years. The agency was amazing and provided consistent, compassionate, therapeutic and psychiatric long-term care for kids in the residential program. The agency also provided services for children and families in several equally effective programs. It was very rewarding and fun to work with the team, the children, and their families. Even though the children and adolescents returned to better home situations, I imagine that there are effects in their lives as adults because they had high ACEs scores (click here for your ACEs score).

Adults who have faced adverse childhood experiences such as physical, sexual and verbal abuse; physical and emotional neglect; a family member with addiction or mental illness; witnessing abuse; or losing a parent to separation, divorce or other reason can find help in The Meadows family of programs and services. Adults with a history of childhood trauma may be resilient and have learned to adapt but often times they have problems with health, relationships, addictions, anxiety, or mood disorders.

Specifically designed to address childhood trauma, The Meadows signature workshop, Survivors,  is a five-day experience conducted in a group format. Survivors has been in existence for over 30 years and has served many thousands of inpatients as well as outpatients.

Prior to attending Survivors, participants complete a questionnaire covering the basics of their family while growing up. On the first day of the workshop, participants learn about Pia Mellody’s Developmental Immaturity Model.  I think Pia’s model is genius, and like to call it “the guidebook for life that we never got.” Participants gain insight into how the relational trauma and abuse during childhood affect their relationship with themselves and others.

From a very young age, even before we acquired speech, we learned to take the energetic pulse of our home. We learned to be sensitive to the moods, desires, and expectations of those around us. Being dependent on our caregivers for our survival, we often developed more sensitivity to the feelings of others than to our own. We also took in the messages that were given to us about who we needed to be and who we could not be.

As adults, we can feel confused about who we are or believe that we need to have another’s approval to feel okay.  We can think and feel that our value and worth is based on looking pretty or being the highest achiever. We can think that we have to achieve in specific ways to have value, and if we don’t, then we feel worthless. We can even believe that nothing we do is ever good enough. These painful struggles are a result of relational trauma and abuse.

The healing recovery work done is Survivors is not about blaming or bashing parents or other caregivers. It is truly about healing from the past in order to be more balanced and functional. Often the parenting styles are generational. The definition of abuse we use is “anything less than nurturing or experienced as shaming.”

The Survivors workshop is popular because it is effective. People walk away feeling lighter, more open, and connected with themselves after releasing the energy surrounding the trauma experiences. We often have individuals come to the workshop who have been referred by a family member or friend after having noticed the changes. Frequently, we hear workshop participants say, “Everybody should do this! Everyone can benefit from this!” and “This should be taught in schools.” People walk away with a sense that they have made a difference, not only in their own lives but in the family legacy that they pass on to future generations.

All of The Meadows programs provide trauma-informed treatment specific to the specialized program. It is a privilege to be a part of this premier provider of leading-edge trauma treatment. I feel very hopeful knowing that SAMHSA’s annual Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day spotlighted the need for trauma-informed and resilience-building practices and policies for children. This is a great step forward for the field of trauma treatment and future generations of children will benefit from this increased focus and funding.

If you are interested in attending a Survivors workshop, please call our intake department at 1-866-457-3202.  For more information, click on the following link:

https://www.rioretreatcenter.com/workshops/emotional-trauma/survivors-i

By Nancy Minister, MC, Survivors Therapist

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Healing the Roots of Women’s Sexual and Relational Struggles

Healing the Roots of Women’s Sexual and Relational Struggles

Girls are often born into this world surrounded by messages about who they are supposed to be, and who they should become; Be cute.  Smile.  Be a nice girl.  Just give them a hug.  Don’t make a fuss.  Suck in your belly.  Be the ideal body type.  Look sexy.  Stay pure and innocent.  Be good in bed.  You can have it all if you do it this way.

Is it any wonder why girls and women struggle with feeling comfortable in their own skin?  There is such a deep and contradictory connection between the messages they receive about their bodies, their emotional expression, and how to be sexual and relational.  Girls and women are set up to be at odds with themselves inside—to question their own experience and reality within.

Those messages are tiny ruptures in the attachments girls and women have with the people conveying them.  They’re conveyed through words or examples.  Subtle hurts, that develop insecurities.  They may be layered on top of even more abandoning or abusing experiences from family members, friends, teachers, coaches, spiritual authorities, leaders and authority figures, intimate partners, bosses, colleagues, and strangers.

  • 1 out of 3 girls will be sexually abused before they reach age 18 (dosomething.org, 2018)
  • 1 in 3 women ages 18 to 34 has been sexually harassed at work (timesupnow.com, 2018)
  • 80% of 21-year-olds abused as children met criteria for at least one psychological disorder (dosomething.org, 2018)

The “Me Too” and “Time’s Up” movements of today are reflective of what many girls and women have long known; that it’s difficult to move through the world without having your body, sexuality, identity, and more be objectified or used in some way.  These movements encourage individuals to step out of isolation, into shared truth and support and are messages that are useful for all.

Research on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) shows that women who experienced these messages, abandonments, and/or abuses when they were younger, are very likely to struggle with being sexual and relational as adults.

“Among individuals with a history of adverse childhood experiences, risky sexual behavior may represent their attempts to achieve intimate interpersonal connections. Having grown up in families unable to provide needed protection, such individuals may be unprepared to protect themselves and may underestimate the risks they take in their attempts to achieve intimacy” (Hillis, Andra, Felitti, & Marchbanks, 2001).

These childhood experiences can develop into adult intimacy issues ranging on a spectrum from attachment disorders (over- or under-connecting with others) to sex and love addiction issues (confusing sex with love, being compulsively sexual, fearing and avoiding sex, inconsistent boundaries in and around sex, and more).  Girls experience early life attachment ruptures and carry them into womanhood.  Adverse childhood experiences shape how women see themselves, see the world around them and see themselves in relationship to the world.  They may find themselves with unconscious, seemingly body-driven urges to over-connect with some people, and under-connect or wall off with others.  They may even find themselves seeking validation and closeness from people and situations that could cause further hurt, as they strive to fill unmet needs from childhood.  Sometimes the only way for a woman to feel a sense of power and control over the world that has exploited her is to become the exploiter of herself—of her body, emotional expression, and how she is sexual and relational. This is often how eating disorder and sex addiction issues arise.

In sex addiction, women essentially reenact the trauma they’ve survived, or try to avoid more of that trauma, by using their bodies.

A woman may use the sex appeal she’s been taught to develop, to build intrigue with a sexual or relational partner, and have a brief encounter seemingly without strings attached by remaining emotionally walled off in an attempt to avoid possible hurt.  She may do this repeatedly.

For the same intention, a woman may get involved with a partner who’s already involved in a primary relationship, lending itself to limited emotional entanglement for her.

Or a woman may feel over-connected emotionally to a long-term relationship partner who gives her more affection and attention than she can handle.  It feels engulfing and unsafe but she doesn’t want to make a fuss like she was taught.  So she may need to get away to breathe and act out in an affair which seems simpler.

Or a woman may find masturbation as a way to soothe herself, without having to be relational with others—especially if she has a negative body image—yet find herself needing more frequency and intensity to feel the same degree of soothing.  She may need to use a substance or another process to take the edge off being sexual because she feels scared, ashamed, or overwhelmed.

And so many other examples.

These types of sexual and relational experiences are just an illusion of power and control, of course, because in trauma reenactment and addiction, women are not operating from the frontal cortex of the brain where logic and intentionality live.  Instead, they are very much out of control or hijacked, by the limbic brain that holds implicit memories, drives, distorted perceptions, and survival modes of fight/flight/freeze.  They’re unable to decipher what their body and emotions truly tell them.  All the messages, abandonments, and/or abuses they’ve carried are a barrier to their true needs.  Women with this lifelong set-up are bound by the type of soothing and relief that sexual and relational acting out seems to provide, however brief.  This brings susceptibility for unsafe sex, sex with unsafe partners, exploiting others and being exploited by others, infidelity, and more. At the root, it is a woman’s best attempt to feel comfortable in her own skin, while actually sacrificing that very body which is her home.

Devastating as this cycle is, there is hope.

Just as women’s realities within are shaped by hurts, their realities can also be shaped by healing and recovery.

Ironically, healing and recovery for women’s sex addiction is rooted where the seeds of the hurts began—in the body, emotional expression, and sexual and relational attachment templates.  Working slowly, and with a strong, safe, and qualified support system, women can explore the early messages, abandonments, and/or abuses they’ve carried.  Expert therapists, somatic and experiential practitioners, 12 Step fellowships, and groups of women who have walked this path themselves are so valuable; this is a somatic healing process, using the body’s inner wisdom as a guide—attuning to grief, heartache, suppressed anger, and a core of shame and worthlessness that is often old and familiar.  Experientially, this history can be moved through to bring shifts from the inside out. Honoring and acknowledging what has happened.  Using experiential processes to move carried toxicity out of her worldview in a fully embodied way.  Developing healthy attachments that provide repair.  And addressing real and tangible boundaries to change her future.  This is a recovering path built on a woman’s newly developing trust in herself and her reality within.  This is a path that allows a woman who has survived struggle to overcome the messages and hurts and find comfort in her own skin as well as recognition that she is deeply worthy of that comfort and the boundaries to protect it.  This is freedom from the inside out.

Journey of a Woman’s Heart: Finding True Intimacy is a five-day intensive therapeutic workshop offered at the Rio Retreat Center at The Meadows designed to cultivate this healing and recovery.  Women are supported as they work through the roots of their sexual and relational struggles, where the seeds of the hurts began.  Identifying traumatic messages, abandonments, and/or abuses, and how they have sacrificed their own bodies and spirits through sexual and relational patterns in attempts to manage it all, is at the heart of this workshop.  The process is led by an experienced therapist in a small group of up to six participants to maximize the healing power of walking alongside others and moving out of isolation toward shared freedom.  For more details, call 866-582-9850.

References:

11 Facts about child abuse.  Retrieved January 2018 from http://www.dosomething.org/us/facts/11-facts-about-child-abuse.

Cosmopolitan survey of 2,235 full and part-time female employees, 2015.  Retrieved January 2018 from http://www.timesupnow.com.

Hillis SD, Andra RF, Felitti VJ, Marchbanks PA.  Adverse childhood experiences and sexual risk behaviors in women: a retrospective cohort study.  Fam Plann Perspec.  2001 Sep-Oct;33(5):206-11.  PMID: 11589541.

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