ATCPCC Testimonial – Marcia Nickow

At Timberline Knolls we treat addictions, eating disorders, mood disorders and underlying trauma.  It’s very important to identify and treat trauma in addicted populations because oftentimes the addictions are solutions to untreated, unresolved, sometimes unremembered trauma.

Family treatment is a huge part of our program.  We have family therapy every week for every resident, and we also have a multi-family group that I co-facilitate with another clinical psychologist which meets three times a month, and people are either present if they’re local or on the phone if they’re not.  And also, once out of every month, residents are also invited to attend the multi-family group.

On days when the residents attend, we have a separate group for the adults and a separate group for the adolescents.  In the multi-family group, we challenge family members to look at their own disease behaviors because we have many family members who have active additions, active eating disorders, maybe untreated intergenerational trauma issues that have impacted their loved ones who are in treatment with us, so we challenge them quite a bit to look at the entire family system and look at all of the issues in the family rather than just the issues that have now been located in the resident who’s in treatment with us.

We do a lot of expressive therapies and we have e-client assisted therapy and all of this is in addition to individual and family therapy.  Each resident has an individual and family therapist and her team, as well as a psychiatrist, and then if she has an addiction issue, she also has an addiction specialist.  If she has an eating disorder she also has an eating disorder specialist and a dietitian on her team.

And then residents who are ready to do a deeper level of trauma work often have some additional team member like myself.  I do trauma work with some of the residents and we also have an EMDR trained therapist who does some work with the residents, and we also have some therapists who do somatic re-experiencing work.  So we have many women at Timberline Knolls who experience PTSD symptoms, and also many people who experience memories for the first time and resurface memories or else become ready and willing to talk about what they are remembering, and maybe these memories have been there for a while.

It often happens in groups.  We have empowerment groups and those are trauma-focused process groups for our women and they’re all eligible to be in those groups once they have become symptom-free from any kind of drug-seeking behaviors or any active eating disorder or self-injury behaviors then they can be in an empowerment group.  And oftentimes when they hear other women or adolescents share their stories they surface some memories or feel safe now to share their own stories.

And so what we will do is we will provide them the safe environment in the empowerment groups and also in process groups.  We also have grief and loss groups where a lot of trauma work is done.  And then some of our expressive therapy groups also are places where people will share about trauma, and a lot of individual therapy is trauma focused also.

And in family therapy, as the resident becomes willing to maybe share what’s coming up with the family member, we don’t always encourage that right away, but there comes a time when many of them are willing to share trauma that’s underlying their addictions and we support that process.  Oftentimes it happens, we have a lot of here and now experiences, cathartic experiences that can happen in group, and one way this might happen, like I had a resident who kept coming to my process group and any time there was any indication of conflict in the group, she would start to shake and then she would often leave, and I encouraged her to try to stay so we can support her through that process of whatever was coming up.

And eventually what started to surface was disclosures about her father and the way that he would abuse her mother, the way that he would abuse her, memories of mother’s blood on the wall, mother’s teeth missing, and memories eventually of her father murdering someone in front of her as she watched through the window of a car.  And lots of memories came up and all of this came as a result of her sitting through the conflict that was present in the moment in the group.

And other things happen where maybe just another resident is disclosing a memory of incest, and then this can even happen – it happened recently at a family dynamics groups and a resident got in touch with some of the memories that she had about her father that she hadn’t considered to be incest before, but as she heard this other resident speaking, she realized that there were major boundary issues in her relationship with her father.  So when some of these issues can surface, and then we can help work with it in one-on-one therapy, in groups, the resident can resolve some of the things that may be what she’s running from in her addiction.

In closing, I’d just like to welcome anyone who’s suffering from an addiction or an eating disorder, mood disorder, or a problem with self-injury to contact Timberline Knolls, and if we can be helpful we certainly will and if not, we would refer you to an appropriate program.

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