Our Mental Health Retreats Are All About Healing
A retreat is not a vacation. Your time at our mental health retreat will be filled with activities designed to help you go deeper into your emotions to learn how your unconscious thoughts and habits negatively affect your ability to live a life that is healthy and peaceful.
During deep emotional work, challenging and uncomfortable feelings may come up. A trained mental health professional will gently guide you through the process of working with them, helping you to discover the valuable insight they have to offer you.
The primary purpose of our intensive retreats and mental health counseling services is to help you process past trauma. Our individual therapy treatment program is focused on improving your behavioral health so you can move forward in your life.
“The past affects the present even without our being aware of it.” – Francine Shapiro, Ph.D.
It is important to note that an intensive retreat and mental health counseling services can be a challenging and emotionally exhausting experience. Please plan on providing yourself with as much self-care as you need to support yourself while working through the retreat. The work we do in session will continue to integrate for days and months after the retreat is over, but may feel most acute within the space of the retreat itself.
Some self-care ideas to use during your retreat:
• Plan on eating healthy, nourishing meals that give your body and brain the fuel needed to do this deep work (there are several healthy options in downtown Northampton... please ask for recommendations!)
• Plan on spending time in a non-stimulating environment as you may have a heightened sensitivity to external stimuli
• Consider getting extra sleep so that your brain has all the time it needs to craft new, healthier neural pathways
• Inform a trusted family member, friend or partner of your plans so that you can call them if you need support
• Refrain from intense physical exercise, although walking and light hiking in nature may be very grounding
• Do not use any drugs or alcohol, as it will affect your ability to process and integrate the experience
Intake (Day 1)
You will be your therapist's only client for the entire duration of your mental health retreat. They will be focused on your work only, allowing you to make significantly more progress together.
You'll start with a brief orientation that includes a variety of questions about your personal history as well as your current life situation, including your strengths, resources, problems, and what types of therapeutic techniques you have tried so far. You will also be asked about your short-term and long-term goals for the retreat and in your life.
The intake process takes place on the morning of the first day. By midday, your therapist will provide a variety of suggestions about where to go next to begin deepening the work and focusing on your core traumas.
Establishing Resources & Worst Things List (Day 1)
Before you get into trauma processing, you will be guided through a variety of visualizations, helping you to create resources that you can return to after moving through uncomfortable and disturbing memories. For example, the "safe place" exercise can enable you to feel more grounded in a safe and peaceful environment and imagining a "secure attachment" relationship with a trusted mentor or caretaker can allow you to experience love, acceptance and approval (even if this person did not exist in your own life). Other techniques may include focusing on emotional coping skills that you can use during and after the retreat.
Your therapist will help you create a chronological "worst things list" of the major adverse memories in your history, including rating each memory based on the Subject Units of Disturbance scale, or SUD, from 0 to 10. The goal of trauma processing is to reduce the SUD of your traumatic memories down to or as close to 0 as possible.
Trauma Processing (Day 2-5)
When you both agree that you're ready, you'll start working through your trauma and loss memories using a combination of EMDR and IFS. You will work chronologically from your earliest memories to the most recent.
We find that by the time clients get to their more recent memories after processing earlier wounds that the SUD of the recent memories are significantly reduced. We believe this has to do with the snowball effect of trauma and the way that negative experiences from earlier in life inform the intensity of things that happen later on. By processing the earliest things that hurt us, recent negative experiences may feel less traumatic or important. Working in this order, we find that progress accelerates as your recent traumas are processed and integrated much more quickly.
This step usually takes between 3-5 days, depending on your trauma history and how much processing needs to be done to integrate all of your experiences. It is important to reiterate that each person is unique and that the actual time needed to process your worst memories may be shorter or longer than this estimate. Working with our intake team will provide a more accurate estimate of the time you will need.
Wrapping Up (Final Day)
Healthy emotional coping techniques are integrated so that you have tools to rely on when future negative experiences occur. Another run through your trauma list will ensure that the SUD of all memories have been significantly reduced or completely eliminated.
If you are interested in attending a retreat, please schedule a call with our intake specialist. During the call, you will:
• Briefly discuss your situation to see if you can benefit from an intensive retreat and mental health counseling services
• Determine an estimate of the number of treatment days needed
• Have an opportunity to ask any questions you may have