The average resident stays at MeadowHaven from nine months to a year, depending on the nature of their recovery needs. The first month is a period of probation for both the new resident and the MeadowHaven staff. This is to ensure a "good fit" for all concerned. During the first weeks of the program, an Individual Recovery Program (IRP) is uniquely developed for the resident. The IRP is meant to focus treatment on the specific needs of the resident, and it covers a wide variety of needs - addressing the well-being of the whole person. Not relying on any one method of treatment, MeadowHaven seeks to introduce as many healing modalities into each resident's treatment program as possible. Example of IRP activities include:
- Community Involvement
- Individual Counseling
- Support Groups
- Social Services
- Volunteer Work
- Informal Mentoring
- Part-Time Employment
- Regular Exercise
Formal treatment (e.g. individual counseling and support groups) constitutes about 20% of the program. The remaining 80% takes place in a therapeutic community, where residents work out in everyday life experiences what they are encountering through formal treatment. Over the course of formal and informal treatment, residents discover their true identity as they understand the forces that shaped their cult identity. They move from feeling devalued to being able to self-validate, and ultimately are able to articulate an answer to those who ask "why."
MeadowHaven's program consists of three phases. Each phase is designed to build upon the previous phase, starting with helping the resident feel safe and secure, moving into addressing trauma issues, and eventually ending with the resident being able to articulate to themselves and others their experience. The three phases are outlines below. For a graphical illustration of the three phases, click on this link or download the pdf.
I. Resting and Safety
It is very important when a resident first arrives that they feel safe and secure. Healing cannot occur until the former member begins to feel that he or she is in a safe place. This phase of treatment focuses on:
- Testing (MBTI, TJTA, and Millon)
- Addressing Thought Reform Issues
- Addressing Self-Esteem Issues
- Developing an Individual Recovery Plan (IRP)
- Acknowledging Spiritual Confusion
- Support Groups
II. Remembering and Mourning
Upon leaving the cult, many former members experience an extreme sense of loss. It is also true that many were severely traumatized while in the destructive group. The healing process involves remembering the experience - events leading up to joining the group, experiences while in the group, and the experience of leaving the group. Maladaptive coping mechanisms, developed within a traumatic environment, need to be replaced with adaptive ones. In this phase of treatment, the focus is on:
- Cognitive Assessments and Exercises
- Building a Chronology of the Trauma; Connect Emotions
- Develop Appropriate Boundaries
- Understanding Cult Leaders and Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)
- Addressing Spiritual Issues:
- The Cultic Belief System
- Support Groups
Once the resident has gone through Phases I and II, Phase III helps the former member reconnect in preparation for their graduation from the program. The focus during this phase is to look forward and help the resident prepare for the re-entering of society. A Community Integration Plan (CIP) is developed for the resident that outlines specific goals for post-MeadowHaven life. In this phase of treatment, the focus is on:
- Looking to the Future:
- Life Skills
- Social Supports and Relationships
- Kolbe A Index Assessment
- Increasing Spiritual Clarity
- Building Self Image
- Self Validation Abilities/Critical Issues:
- Answering Others
- Answering Self
- Developing a Community Integration Plan (CIP)
- Support Groups
The Individual Recovery Program (IRP)
Each individual's experiences and needs are unique. Therefore, an Individual Recovery Program (IRP) is developed for each resident based upon their specific needs, psychological testing, personal history, age, physical health, etc. the IRP serves as the road map for each resident as they make their way through the phases of the treatment program. When an individual begins their stay at MeadowHaven, several weeks are taken for the resident to get acclimated to the facility and staff. During this time the staff, together with the resident, begin to develop the IRP. The IRP includes a number of interrelated "tracks", which, in their totality, greatly enhance the resident's ability to live independently, free from sociological, psychological and traumatic bonds that previously restricted them. The MeadowHaven IRP tracks are briefly described below.
Practical Needs Track
Often people who leave high control, destructive groups struggle deeply to integrate into a world that is alien and confusing to them. The Practical Needs Track affords residents the opportunity to pursue such things as a GED, higher education, learning how to set up a checking/bank account, establishing credit, health insurance, creating a resume, how to find employment, securing a driver's license, financial management, finding relatives, better parenting, decision making etc. Trained mentors and staff are available to assist the resident in developing an independent productive lifestyle. In some cases, basic education on physical needs may be necessary. This could include education on nutrition, personal care, sleeping routine, among other subjects.
Social Skills Track
Most totalitarian groups have interpersonal relationships based on an unspoken ranking determined by the member's compliance with the group or its leadership. When a member begins to think independently, or questions the group, their relationships deteriorate and collapse. Consequently, such basic concepts as trust and friendship suddenly become hollow, meaningless words. The Social Skills Track includes training in communication, conflict resolution, setting boundaries and interdependence.
Cognitive Skills Track
Intense thought reform environments are often difficult to understand and break away from. Good and bad experiences are usually mixed together in ways that are difficult to separate. Many former members simply jettison their whole experience as "evil." However, the residual effects of a destructive group experience can last for decades. Thus, the Cognitive Skills Track takes the approach of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and includes such things as individual counseling, workshops, support groups, videos, and reading material that help the resident better understand the destructive elements of the thought reform process, and validate their own experience.
Spiritual Dimension Track
Most high control, destructive groups have a spiritual component, particularly if it is a Bible-based or other religious group. Leaving a manipulative group with this component is not like leaving a club or other social group. Frequently, the belief system continues to dominate the individual's psyche long after they have left. Abusive practices do not exist in a vacuum. Practices always arise out of some belief system that fuels the abuse. For the resident who wants to pursue this dimension, qualified staff will help them develop the tools necessary to personally work through this critical component of their recovery. When appropriate, clergy from the resident's religious heritage (Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, etc.) will be called upon to assist in the person's spiritual understanding.
Trauma Recovery Track
Trauma impacts every aspect of life, and therefore trauma recovery undergirds the entire MeadowHaven program. Cults, by definition, are trauma producing environments. Severe trauma deeply impacts various brain systems leaving a very powerful imprint on memory: the more brutal, shocking, and horrendous the events the more indelible the memory. The neural basis for these memories appears to be a sweeping alteration in the chemistry, and neural networks of the brain.
While Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) findings are typically based on the impact of a single episode, similar results can come from cruelties inflicted over a period of years, as is the case of sexual, physical, or emotional abuse. These may be experienced in religious cults, domestic violence, and childhood abuse or neglect, etc.
The Trauma Recovery Track is geared toward helping the resident understand and cope with the effects of trauma, specifically the symptoms of chronic Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
A Typical Day
At MeadowHaven, each resident's schedule is uniquely suited to their needs. Some residents desire a more structured environment, while others need a more flexible schedule. Although there are established "quiet hours," there is no rigid routine. Residents schedule their own time on a weekly basis, learning how to build in a proper balance between all of the different IRP tracks. This helps them to prepare to juggle and balance the many demands they will face when they set off on their own.
Depending on where the resident is in their treatment program, these are some of the activities that take place throughout a typical day:
Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner - Depending on whether the resident is working or volunteering outside of MeadowHaven, meals may be taken at MeadowHaven or elsewhere. Residents are responsible for their own meals, although there is a common pantry that is stocked regularly through generous volunteer donations and weekly shopping trips. Some residents choose to cook together and share meal preparation and clean up. If a resident needs help in meal planning and preparation, this may be an item in their IRP.
Counseling - Individual counseling sessions usually happen three times a week for an hour. Support groups usually happen every other week on a Saturday morning. All residents participate in the support groups but there are also many non-resident former cult members who travel to MeadowHaven for these Saturday groups.
Volunteering or Part-Time Work - Depending on their IRP, most residents are encouraged to pursue part-time employment or volunteer work. This interaction with others helps them to ease back into society and become comfortable with social interaction while still being able to process their experiences with the residents and MeadowHaven staff.
Reading and Journaling - There is much to process for MeadowHaven residents. Reading about various aspects of cult and trauma recovery, and then journaling, become a regular part of the routine for all residents.
Exercise - Regular exercise is critical to overall physical and mental health, so each resident is encouraged to maintain a regular exercise regimen.
Chores - Weekly chores such as dusting, vacuuming, and cleaning are divided between the residents.
Regular House Meetings - Residents meet as a group with the staff on a regular basis to discuss house issues. This is a forum for residents to bring up any regular concern, divide up household chores and share information with each other.
Appointments - MeadowHaven seeks to connect residents with various support systems outside the MeadowHaven program. As a result, residents will often need to attend appointments with a doctor, social service agency, outside therapist, etc.
Just Being... Much of the time at MeadowHaven is not scheduled with an activity. It is important, after the regimented routine of the cultic group, that residents learn how to simply be. Residents use this free time to nap, take walks, read, hang out with each other, go on bike rides, explore Boston or the Cape and just simply be.
Becoming a Resident
What Kinds of People Come to MeadowHaven?
MeadowHaven serves a broad range of people. The program is designed to be flexible to the individual resident's needs, and therefore there is no "standard" resident. Among our residents are people who...
- Were recruited into a cult during college
- Joined a cult as an adult and left after a number of months or years in the group
- Grew up in a cult and left as a young adult
- Have been out of their group for several years, but desire to more fully heal from the experience
- Were married in the cult and had to leave without their spouse
- Left the group with children and needed a safe and secure place
- Suffered domestic violence over an extended period of time
- Click to see Resident Testimonies
How Do I Get Into the Program?
Prospective residents are encouraged to contact MeadowHaven to speak about the suitability of the program for their needs before filling out an application. This gives them a chance to get a feel for the program and the staff before committing time and energy in formally applying. Once a decision is made to apply to the program, an application must be filled out and submitted. The application process gives the MeadowHaven staff a better idea of the specific needs of the applicant, and at the same time helps the applicant assess whether or not MeadowHaven is right for them. Once the application is received either via email or regular mail it will be reviewed by the staff and the applicant will then be called for a phone interview. MeadowHaven can only accommodate five residents on site at one time. Acceptance into the facility and program is contingent upon availability of space. Click to Download Application.
What is the Cost?
The approximate operating cost for each MeadowHaven resident is $3000.00 per month. This includes room, board, and all counseling and social services. MeadowHaven does not charge a fee, and no one is denied participation in the program on financial grounds. However, because being responsible for one's own healing process is therapeutic, it is expected that each resident will make a determined effort to offset the costs of his or her stay. This can be accomplished by helping to maintain the facility, acquiring donations from individual sources, contributing from part-time work during residency, or through scholarships, when available, etc. Click to Download Financial Policy.