A therapist once accused me of being a connoisseur of treatment centers. While I didn’t exactly take it as a compliment, the comment did help me realize I might have some valuable inside dope on some of these institutions. I don’t care to name names, but I can say that many of the problems I encountered are almost universal, or at least common enough for me to get an idea of several things I’m on the lookout for when evaluating a facility.
My experience relates to treatment for addictions— including substance dependence, eating disorders, and other behavioral compulsions— and for trauma. Plenty of treatment centers claim to treat trauma or be trauma-sensitive. However, almost all the places I’ve been or even just investigated have serious drawbacks when it comes to actually HEALING traumatic wounds, at least as far as I’m concerned.
In future posts, I’ll talk more about different aspects I find problematic, but one of the most important —and VERY common—issues is throwing very sensitive people together, in group “therapy” and/or roommate situations. Hearing others’ horror stories in groups can trigger adverse responses and lead to vicarious trauma. Then there’s the “feedback” from other clients in groups that’s supposed to be helpful, while it’s often a projection of THEIR difficulties and can feel like brutal criticism.
Don’t even get me started on the rooming troubled people together. The bad vibes can be overwhelming….
Now, if I’m looking for residential/inpatient care, I look for places with private rooms and minimal, if any, groups. Educational groups are OK with me and I want facilitators to keep a tight lid on sharing traumatic experiences explicitly and on group members expressing ANY judgments toward one another. When vulnerable and struggling, I want nurturing, compassionate, NON-JUDGMENTAL help from people who are truly sensitive to MY sensitivity.
I want my own safe space and not to have to deal with other peoples’ problems. I have enough of my own. I believe most trauma work should be done individually. Privacy is very important because of the amount of shame I already feel. Comfort is also important, in part because I have so many physical problems, but also because I’ve suffered enough and healing is hard and uncomfortable work often. I DESERVE a break. I deserve treatment that makes things better instead of worse!
(I wrote this in first-person, not because I think I’m special, but because I don’t. I think these thoughts are true for most people; I just don’t want to speak for others whose opinions may differ. I find having my ideas invalidated or disagreed with very distressing, so I want to respect others who have had different experiences.)