21st Century THC

*This presentation is no longer eligible for a CE credit

Recent political changes in relation to marijuana are only part of the story. The publicized and politically charged world of drug policy has undergone immense changes over the past several years, and those changes manifest not just in policy but also in the physical makeup of the cannabis plant and products derived from components of the plant. Not only has the perception of the plant changed, but the actual plant itself has undergone dramatic changes as it has been industrialized and brought into a commercial market. As public opinion has softened towards cannabis, the effects of consuming today’s marijuana remain poorly understood. With increasing acceptance, often driven by corporate interests, use has been rising steadily among all demographics. Many have grown up in settings where cannabis use is the norm and cannabis use disorder is accepted as typical behavior. Cannabis use disorder is on the rise, and the changing makeup of the plant and its derivatives makes treatment more complex and challenging. Given these realities, the need for continuing education regarding the evolution of cannabis and new forms of consumption, as well as potential downsides, is extremely important. A more holistic understanding of today’s marijuana will position us to have more relevant and potentially helpful conversations with those we serve. This conversation will be had in a respectful and nonpolitical manner, promoting sound science while considering the practical reality of discussing cannabis in 2020 with a population that genuinely believes “it’s just weed.”

Ben Cort – CEO
Foundry Treatment Center

Ben’s passion for recovery, prevention, and harm reduction comes from his own struggle with substance abuse. Sober since 6/15/96, Ben has been a part of the recovery movement in almost every way imaginable, from a recipient to a provider to a spokesperson.

In 2007, Ben left his position as an HR director inside of a Denver-based S&P 500 firm to help start the Colorado-based nonprofit Phoenix Multisport, now “The Phoenix”. As an original board member and then their first full-time employee, Ben was instrumental in building this organization that has received frequent national recognition for their innovative approach to building sober communities around sport and healthy activities.

In 2012, Cort joined the University of Colorado Hospital (UCH), where he ran the marketing, business development, and admissions departments for their substance abuse treatment services known as CeDAR. He left that role in 2017 to consult inside the treatment community, athletics, and organized labor. Throughout this time, Ben has remained active in the discussion around marijuana, assisting several state’s efforts to hold back.

Big Marijuana and always advocating for recovery. These efforts keep him close to the national discussion and make him a frequent guest in the media. Ben has earned a reputation as being pro-logic and recovery-oriented rather than anti-anything. Cort is considered a subject matter expert on ethical treatment practices, having written a widely adopted curriculum on the subject and frequently discussing the topic on national platforms and media. He is also utilized by professional sports leagues, clubs, and collegiate athletic programs to determine appropriate treatment for their athletes, coaches, and their families as
well as develop recovery-oriented policies.

Ben is a Jr Fellow at the University of Florida inside of their drug policy institute, a board member for NALGAP (National Association of Lesbian, Gay Bisexual, Transgender Treatment Providers, and their Allies), a Board member at SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana) and faculty at numerous institutes. He is a published author (Weed Inc, HCI/Simon and Schuster 2017). His TED talk “Surprising Truths about Legalizing Cannabis” has been viewed over 2 million times. In November 2019, Ben moved from a consulting role with the Foundry Steamboat Springs to interim CEO. When not working or hanging out with his wife and three kids, Ben can be found chasing trout with his flyrod or buried deep in a book.


For More Information about Foundry Treatment Center, visit their website: Addiction & Mental Health Treatment | Foundry Steamboat (



Ben Cort Ted Talk – 2017

An Integrated Approach to Healing Families With Addiction

The effects of a substance use disorder (SUD) are felt by the whole family,” wrote Lander, Howsare, and Byrne in their 2013 study on the impact of substance use disorders on families and children. “The family context holds information about how SUDs develop, are maintained, and what can positively or negatively influence the treatment of the disorder.” In addition, “understanding the current developmental stage a family is in helps inform assessment of impairment and determination of appropriate interventions.”

Kevin Petersen, MA, LMFT is the author of the books: Chronic Hope: Parenting the Addicted Child and Chronic Hope: Families & Addiction, which share an integrated, holistic approach to healing families in crisis due to addiction and codependency. In 2020, he established The Chronic Hope Institute to help families in crisis through family addiction coaching. 

In a recent webinar for Harmony Foundation, Petersen shared a step-by-step approach for working with families and helping them heal from addiction and codependency. 

Since he grew up in a house with addiction himself, Petersen is very familiar with the impact of addiction on the family dynamic on a very personal level. His mother was addicted to prescription drugs, and he himself started using drugs and alcohol at the age of thirteen. 

“I did drugs and alcohol at a young age,” he wrote in Chronic Hope: Families & Addiction. “The question for me was always, ‘How do I make myself feel better? How do I make myself numb?’ Today, children whose parents are addicts may turn to porn, gambling, shopping, or high-pressure academics.”

“From the outside, we were a normal, successful family, but on the inside, it was ‘every man for himself,’” he recalled during the webinar. Petersen began his own journey of recovery in May 1991 and has been sober ever since. 

First off, Petersen talked about how to engage with families that are struggling with drug and alcohol misuse. Therapists should look out for certain signs in client families: “Does the family seem defensive or show signs of denial? Is it apparent that boundaries are poor? Do they have reservations, or are they ready for a different approach?”

Petersen emphasized that it is important that the whole family is ready to make changes. “No therapist can get someone sober,” he told the webinar audience. Families need to learn that sober means more than abstaining from substances, “it’s about quitting drugs and alcohol and living a new way of life.”

Clients and their families need to understand that addiction has three aspects: physical, mental, and spiritual. Petersen then outlined a “Plan A” for recovery with the following components:

  • Boundaries: drawing a hard line around behaviors
  • Accountability: how boundaries will be enforced
  • Structure: what will happen if boundaries are met or not met

There need to be clear boundaries for use (no drugs or alcohol); work and school (weekly accountability reports); and behavior (no disrespectful behavior, language, or violence with weekly meetings to review compliance). 

If this approach does not achieve the intended outcome, a more intense “Plan B” should be considered: treatment in a professional rehab facility. The family needs to learn about available levels of care depending on the needs of the client: medical detox, residential treatment, partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient treatment, and sober living homes. 

Families also need to address any codependency and enabling behaviors. Codependency is a psychological or emotional reliance on another person in a self-destructive or otherwise harmful way. It often includes enabling behavior, i.e., rescuing the addicted person after they make bad choices. Both behaviors occur frequently in families with addiction. 

Families should always remember that “addiction affects the whole family, not just the addict,” Petersen said. “The entire family system has to change in order not to repeat the past.” Family members are not responsible for their loved one’s addiction, but they are responsible for how they respond to it. “When the addict is a teen, it’s critical for both parents to agree to boundaries, accountability, and structure.”

Recovery is a lifelong process, and people should always remember that “just because the addict is in treatment doesn’t mean everything is okay.” 

Harmony Foundation is one of the world’s longest-running and most successful addiction treatment centers. We offer a family engagement workshop to all families of current and former clients. It provides education to family members about the disease model of addiction and gives family members a place to express themselves and begin the healing process.

If you or a loved one are struggling with alcohol or drug addiction or have questions about our programs, call us today at (970) 432-8075 to get the help needed as soon as possible. Our experienced staff is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

A New Greenhouse to Support Addiction Treatment

Many forms of exercise can help reduce stress, and that includes gardening. “It’s been shown to lighten mood and lower levels of stress and anxiety. It’s very gratifying to plant, tend, harvest, and share your own food,” wrote Lisa Wimmer for Mayo Clinic Health System in 2022. “Routines provide structure to our day and are linked to improved mental health. Gardening routines, like watering and weeding, can create a soothing rhythm to ease stress.”

In a 2022 study published in the journal PLOS ONE, University of Florida scientists confirmed that gardening activities lowered stress, anxiety, and depression in healthy women who attended twice-weekly gardening classes. None of the study participants had gardened before.

Gardening is more than just exercise. In his 2018 book Lost Connections, in which he sought to uncover “the real causes” of depression, Johan Hari explained that “The biologist E. O. Wilson—one of the most important people in his field in the twentieth century—argued that all humans have a natural sense of something called ‘biophilia.’ It is an innate love for the landscape in which humans have lived for most of our existence, and for the natural web of life that surrounds us and makes our existence possible.” Among nine causes of depression and anxiety, Hari listed being “disconnected from the natural world” in the book.

Gardening in a greenhouse recreates a natural environment on a much smaller scale while retaining some of the health benefits. Harmony has long utilized a holistic approach to healing trauma and addiction and is now adding another element to that approach. Thanks to a generous donation offered by Matt and Michele Hoovler from Golden, Colorado, Harmony will be able to build a new greenhouse this year to allow clients to take care of the plants as part of their recovery process. 

“The Hoovlers wanted to be part of the Harmony Family,” says Harmony’s director of development Michael Maassel. “They wanted to provide something that’s sustainable for many years to come as a benefit to clients and staff. Their wonderful donation illustrates Harmony’s positive impact in the wider community.”

The new greenhouse will be fully functional all year round. Working with the plants will facilitate a therapeutic reconnection with nature for clients. “It symbolizes planting the roots of your recovery,” says Maassel who is in recovery herself. “Making things grow involves aspects of patience and love. It’s a spiritual endeavor. Vegetables grown in the greenhouse will make their way to the kitchen, giving the people who grew them an important sense of accomplishment. It will help people reinvigorate their sense of purpose.”

Harmony Foundation can look back on more than 50 years of excellence in treating substance use disorder (SUD) in a residential setting. A lot of improvements have been implemented over the years, and we now offer treatment in gender-specific settings by trauma-informed staff. Our treatment program promotes physical, emotional, and spiritual healing, empowering patients to embark upon a lifelong journey of recovery.

If you or a loved one are struggling with alcohol or drug addiction or have questions about our programs, call us today at (970) 432-8075 to get the help needed as soon as possible. Our experienced staff is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

If you would like to donate to Harmony, it’s easy. Our Give Freely campaign directly helps to impact the lives of those who need it. Every donation, no matter how big or small, makes a difference.

The Traumatizing Effect of Revenge Porn

“Even before COVID-19, nonconsensual pornography (NCP) was remarkably commonplace,” reported Jessica Goldstein in The Washington Post in 2020. The pandemic seems to have made things worse. One in 25 Americans has been a victim of threats or posts of nearly nude or nude images without their permission, according to the Center for Innovative Public Health Research

“Nonconsensual pornography (nonconsensual porn) is a sexually graphic image or video of an individual distributed without the consent of the person depicted in the media,” explained Chance Carter on the National Association of Attorneys General website. “Revenge porn is a type of nonconsensual porn, defined as the distribution of sexually graphic images or videos of an individual without their consent in the context of an intimate relationship… Eighty percent of nonconsensual porn is revenge porn, meaning it was originally sent between two consenting individuals in the context of an intimate relationship.”

In a recent webinar for Harmony Foundation, the clinical director of The Mental Health Collective, Kristen Zaleski, Ph.D., LCSW, presented an overview of online forms of sexual abuse, including revenge porn, sextortion, and other forms of technology-enabled abuse. Dr. Zaleski is a nationally recognized author, researcher, and psychotherapist on trauma-related disorders and an expert on sexual trauma within civilian and military cultures. 

Nonconsensual pornography is often fake. Zaleski cited the case of an Australian woman whose violent former partner took images from her Facebook account, had them superimposed onto pornographic videos, and then posted them on multiple websites.

If it is not about revenge, it can be about money. “The FBI has seen a huge increase in the number of cases involving children and teens being threatened and coerced into sending explicit images online—a crime called sextortion,” explained Dr. Zaleski. “Sextortion is a serious crime,” warns the FBI. It occurs when “someone threatens to distribute your private and sensitive material if you don’t provide them images of a sexual nature, sexual favors, or money.”

Who Would Do Such a Thing?

Convicted criminal Hunter Moore once created a well-known revenge porn website to punish women who take explicit photos of themselves. It reportedly had more than 300,000 daily visitors. “A 2022 study surveyed over 6,000 people in the UK, Australia, and New Zealand. One in three admitted to participating in taking non-consensual images, distributing images, or both,” Zaleski reported. “Men were twice more likely to engage in perpetration than women. However, both men and women were equally victimized.”

Mental Health Consequences

Sexual abuse of a minor (including online) is considered a life-altering traumatic event usually included on the list of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). Children experiencing abuse, violence, and other traumatic events often suffer ill effects for the rest of their lives. 

“Adolescents who experience technology-assisted child sexual abuse (TA-CSA) but not offline abuse reported more trauma symptoms than a reference group, at least at the same level as adolescents with experiences of penetrative offline child sex abuse,” said Dr. Zaleski. “Symptoms include self-harming and suicidal behavior, sleeping problems, trust issues, impaired relationships, and difficulties at school.” Sadly, self-blame is a predominant feature because all too many people blame the abuse victims for sharing the images.

Mental health consequences of nonconsensual pornography for adults include depression, general anxiety, social anxiety, somatic symptoms, and impaired overall mental health. Cyber Civil Rights Initiative reported that victims score seven percent lower on general mental health measures than non-victims.

So far, there has been very little research on treatment for image-based sexual assault, but peer support and connecting with social advocates appear to be an effective treatment stance. 

Harmony Foundation has long utilized a holistic approach to healing trauma and addiction. All staff at Harmony have been trained in trauma-informed care. Realizing that addiction is a biopsychosocial and spiritual disease, Harmony’s treatment program promotes physical, emotional, and spiritual healing, empowering patients to embark upon a lifelong recovery journey.

If you or a loved one are struggling with alcohol or drug addiction or have questions about our programs, call us today at (970) 432-8075 to get the help needed as soon as possible. Our experienced staff is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The Return of the Monday State of Mind Podcast

Monday State of Mind challenges the polished narratives of our world and embraces the power of genuine connection. Host Michael Maassel, the director of development at Harmony Foundation, sets out to break down barriers and build a thriving community through meaningful conversations, all with the strength and power of recovery tools!

Maassel first launched the popular podcast in May 2020 during the horrifying early days of the COVID-19 pandemic that turned out to be such an emotional drain for so many people in recovery from addiction.

Inspired by her own sobriety and wellness journey, she intends to spread the wealth of knowledge of how you can take the fundamentals of recovery and apply them in your life whether you are in recovery or not.

Following her own successful recovery from a severe alcohol use disorder at Harmony, Michael (under her maiden name Arnold) teamed up with Andrea Carr and Scott Leeper to write a personal guide to recovery in Drowning in Addiction, in which the authors shared their first-hand experience with addiction and recovery. 

After taking a break from podcasting, Maassel has now resumed cheering up and inspiring the recovery community every Monday morning. In episode one of the reboot, she kicked off the new series with an important recovery topic: fear!

 “Are your decisions based on fear, or are they based on faith? Am I making decisions based on the desire for control?” Michael asked.

Have you ever felt irritable, restless, or discontented? “Of course, you have,” she assured her audience, because “those are things I check myself on almost every day.”

“These are all hidden fears, and if you don’t take the time to identify these feelings as fear-based, they will turn into rage, anger, and being downright resentful,” Maassel warned. “Our fear-based emotions grow in strength when they are not talked about.”

Talking about them, though, also opens the door for other people to share. “When I was a kid, I was afraid of the bogeyman and monsters under the bed,” she remembered. What helped to overcome those fears? Turning the lights on and talking about her fears with Mom and Dad. 

“When you shine a light on your fears, it helps to make them go away. Simple connection with other human beings and talking about your fears is that light switch,” Michael said. “When you’re in fear, pause, and then ask yourself, ‘Am I ready to turn the lights on this and feel safe, or am I going to continue to suffer from fear in the dark?”

Many people think it’s not safe to talk about one’s fears, but Maassel thinks the opposite is true: “It’s not safe to live in fear.”  Awareness is key here: Michael only realized in recovery how many of her decisions were really based on fear. People close to her saw this and called her out. “They said, ‘Michael, when are you going to relinquish control and have a little faith?’ When I heard this, I said, ‘Okay’ this is a call to action.”

Michael “turned the light switch on,” and the magic started to happen. One day at a time, she started to trust more and fear less. She realized that she shared two fundamental fears with most people: not getting what she wants and losing what she wants to keep. “I realized my decisions were rooted in control to get what I want. What if by not getting what I want and me trusting an outcome, something even better would come along? This has absolutely happened for me this past year, and my life has seriously turned out for the better.” 

Many people stay where they are out of fear of losing what they have rather than embracing change as an opportunity. “What if trusting that losing something is not actually a loss but a gain?” Michael asked. “It’s actually probably a gift. Living in faith is freedom, and it opens so many doors.”

On Monday State of Mind, we want to empower you to question the status quo and explore new perspectives. We want to shatter stigma, ignite curiosity, and present thought-provoking solutions. Together, we uplift, educate, and empower one another, fostering an environment where every word spoken is valued.
You can check out the new season of the podcast Monday mornings or anytime really—all episodes are available online and via many podcast apps!

Working with Families that are Struggling with Addiction and Codependency

*This presentation is no longer eligible for a CE credit

When addiction wreaks havoc on a family, the entire family system needs to be addressed – not just the individual. In this presentation, Kevin Petersen, MA, LMFT and Founder of the Chronic Hope Institute, shares a step-by-step approach for working with families and helping them heal from addiction and codependency.

Continue reading “Working with Families that are Struggling with Addiction and Codependency”

Addiction As A Family Disease in “Stay Awake”

“Stay Awake” is a 2022 American drama film, written and directed by Jamie Sisley, that illustrates the impact of addiction on a family. In the movie, brothers Ethan (17) and Derek (19) try their best to navigate the pressures of teenage life while tending to their mother’s debilitating prescription drug addiction. Based on the filmmaker’s adolescence in small-town America, “Stay Awake” is a personal exploration of the roller coaster ride that families go on while trying to help their loved ones battle a disease that affects millions every day.

The film had its world premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival in February 2022 and was featured at the Deauville American Film Festival in September. Variety called it “especially resonant given the recent representation of America’s drug crisis.”

“The themes and characters in ‘Stay Awake’ mean the world to me since they’re based on my childhood. My mom has fought an addiction to prescription drugs and opioids for most of her life,” director Sisley said. “As teens, my brother and I tried our best to aid her through relapses, cycle her through treatment centers, and encourage her to seek out a sober lifestyle”.

“When I first started watching films about addiction, I realized that most were from the point of view of the addict,” Sisley added. “One of the biggest reasons I wanted to make ‘Stay Awake’ was to offer an alternative POV to addiction—the roller coaster ride that caretakers go on while helping someone they love through their disease. In many ways, this film is a love letter to the caretaker.”

Sisley thinks there’s an “addict trope” in film and television, and that trope doesn’t fit his own experience. “Most people I know who struggle with addiction are smart, highly functioning middle-class people—they go to PTA meetings and drive their kids to soccer practice. That’s an authentic representation of this epidemic that I feel has been lacking.”

While families with addiction desperately try to maintain a facade of normality, everyone involved is traumatized. Individual and family system trauma emerges at the core. “If we look at all the symptoms of addiction, the conflicts, and the negativity, we begin to see how that is going to impact every aspect of how this family is going to adjust to deal with the chronic illness,” explained Michael Barnes, the chief clinical officer at the Foundry Treatment Center in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, in a recent webinar for Harmony Foundation. “The way a family is organized will either promote change, growth, and openness or keep it stuck in the same place.”

“Families should not be shamed or blamed,” Barnes quoted from one of his publications. “They should be provided an opportunity to learn about addiction, trauma, mental health issues, and transgenerational issues. They should be helped to identify system patterns that serve to maintain the problem that they’re desperately trying to change.”

Harmony Foundation is one of the world’s longest-running and most successful addiction treatment centers. All staff at Harmony have been trained in trauma-informed care. We offer a family engagement workshop to all families of current and former clients. It educates family members about the disease model of addiction and gives them a place to express themselves and begin the healing process.
Harmony will host a special screening of “Stay Awake” with a panel group afterward on June 22 at FREE Spiritual Community in Denver. Register your spot today, as seating is limited.

Helping Fathers For Father’s Day

Father’s Day can be challenging for people who lost their dad to addiction. Many people in America will have to spend that day without their fathers after losing them to drugs or alcohol.

Madeline Taylor is a digital storyteller who lost her father to an overdose of fentanyl in 2019. Her memories of him come in flashes as she recalls a year later. “The sandals he wore in the summertime. His quiet, sad smile. His big brown eyes stare back at me every time I look in a mirror…  A delightful flamboyance that would appear when he was excited.” 

Harmony alumna Danielle C. lost her dad to a severe alcohol use disorder after launching her successful recovery in Estes Park in 2012. “I had struggled with severe drug and alcohol addiction for more than eight years and had been to six other treatment centers before landing at Harmony,” she remembers. “When I hit my last bottom, I was skin and bones, staying in a folding camping chair in the garage of my dad’s home, unable to be trusted inside. It was my dad, Richard, who helped secure me a bed at Harmony where I finally began my path to lasting sobriety.” 

Her dad, however, was not so lucky. “He struggled with severe alcoholism my entire life and died from the disease in 2016. It was heartbreaking that my dad could not find the freedom he helped me find at Harmony,” Danielle says.

Men often feel they have to be the tough providers for their families who can’t afford to take time out for self-care. Fathers who struggle with substance misuse should seek the help they need—it’s not a sign of weakness but of determination to help the family.  

“If you’re the family member or friend of an addict or alcoholic, I want to tell you that you are not alone,” Danielle wrote on the Guardian Recovery Network. “There are many of us who have been right where you are and will embrace you wholeheartedly. I want to encourage you to reach out for help. I want to encourage you to think about the possibility of an intervention.”

In honor of Richard’s memory and gratitude for her own life in sobriety, Danielle established a scholarship fund at Harmony for fathers seeking recovery. “While working the 9th Step of Alcoholics Anonymous, I realized there were large financial amends I had never made to my dad for money I squandered during my drug addiction. I could not think of a more profound way to make amends to my father than to help someone else’s dad find the recovery he never did. In celebration of Father’s Day, I hope you will consider contributing to this fund so other dads battling addiction can become the loving parents they’ve always wanted but were too sick to be.” 

If you would like to donate to Harmony, it’s easy. The Helping Fathers for Father’s Day campaign directly helps to impact the lives of those who need it. Every donation, no matter how big or small, makes a difference.

If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction or have questions about our programs, call us today at (970) 432-8075 to get the help needed as soon as possible. 

A Conversation About Revenge Porn and Other Forms of Technology Facilitated Sexual Assault

*This presentation is no longer eligible for a CE credit

This presentation will overview online forms of sexual abuse, including revenge porn, sextortion, and other forms of tech-enabled abuse. The presentation will discuss the latest trends in abuse technology, the mental health effects of being victimized online, and how psychotherapy can treat PTSD from this unique form of harm. The presenter will overview the legal climate nationwide, current psychological theory and trends, and review important research on the topic.

Kristen Zaleski, Ph.D., LCSW
Clinical Director
The Mental Health Collective

Kristen Zaleski, Ph.D. LCSW is a nationally-recognized author, researcher, and psychotherapist on trauma-related disorders and an expert on sexual trauma within civilian and military cultures. Dr. Zaleski is the author of two books and multiple research articles and is a consultant and trainer on trauma disorders and survivorship to entities such as Meta (Facebook) and the U.S. Department of Defense. She was a featured author and panelist at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books in 2017 & 2020. Dr. Zaleski is the Clinical Director of the Mental Health Collective after a decade-long tenure at the University of Southern California as a Clinical Associate Professor for the Suzanne Dworak Peck School of Social Work. Dr. Zaleski continues to be affiliated with USC as an adjunct professor and Founding Director of the USC Keck Human Rights Clinic, a pro-bono organization offering forensic evaluations for survivors of international human rights abuse.

For More Information about The Mental Health Collective in Newport Beach, CA, please visit:

The Retreat: An Integrated Community Approach to Addiction Treatment

The “Minnesota Model” of addiction treatment was created in a state mental hospital in the 1950s by two young men who didn’t have prior experience treating people with substance use disorder (SUD). The abstinence-based model spread first to a small non-profit organization called the Hazelden Foundation and then throughout the country. 

“The key element of this novel approach to addiction treatment was the blending of professional and trained nonprofessional (recovering) staff around the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA),” wrote Anderson, McGovern, and DuPont in their study on the origins of the Minnesota model. “There was an individualized treatment plan with active family involvement in a 28-day inpatient setting and participation in Alcoholics Anonymous both during and after treatment. The education of patients and family about the disease of addiction made this a busy program from morning to night, seven days a week.”

In 1991, The Community of Recovering People (CORP), a non-profit organization consisting of dedicated professionals and recovered individuals, shared their commitment to creating a continuum of affordable, accessible, and effective residential recovery services to help people recover from addiction to drugs and alcohol.

The result is an innovative residential recovery continuum that provides time out for those in need. The Retreat represents a non-clinical, mutual-help approach to recovering from substance use disorder. This supportive, educational setting is grounded in the spiritual principles of AA. By providing a safe and supportive environment to study and practice these principles, The Retreat opens the door to a life of contented sobriety.

In a recent webinar for Harmony Foundation, the co-founder and CEO of The Retreat, John Curtiss, provided a brief overview of addiction and a historical context of the founding of the Minnesota Model.  

More than 23 million people in the United States are addicted to alcohol, and more than 15 million Americans misuse prescription opioids, depressants, and stimulants each year, Curtiss told his audience. More than 107,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2021, and according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), 14.2 million people met the criteria for cannabis use disorder in 2020. 

The annual bill for America’s addiction crisis is an estimated “$600 billion in healthcare costs, low productivity, disability payments, welfare, crime and punishment, legal costs, family breakups, child abuse, and the array of social interventions both public and private to deal with addiction in our society,” Curtiss said. “The cost of NOT treating the 90 percent of those in need of help is far too detrimental to the good of this country to ignore.”

The Minnesota Revolution

Curtiss explained how the movement to reform Minnesota’s state asylums for the mentally ill emerged in the 1940s and ’50s. Luther Youngdahl, Minnesota’s governor from 1947–51, took legislative leadership of the mental health reform in the state. At the time, people with alcohol use disorder (AUD) were “warehoused in deplorable conditions with terrible outcomes.” Youngdahl undertook reforms of the state’s mental institutions with a view to rehabilitating the patients rather than merely “warehousing” them. “Follow-up studies over a two-year period showed a 60–80 percent death rate in the 1940s,” Curtiss told the webinar participants and then quoted Dr. Carl Menniger, who stated in 1948 that he would sooner have a young relative “be schizophrenic than alcoholic, at least there’s hope for the schizophrenics.”

Curtiss acknowledged that the Minnesota reforms owe a debt of gratitude to the Alcoholics Anonymous program. “AA is the real pioneer in this account. Without it, nothing might have been done to help the still-suffering alcoholic and their families.”

With the help of two AA members from Chicago, Pat Cronin launched AA in Minneapolis in 1940. Eight years later, the Pioneer House followed, and in 1949 the Hazelden Foundation. Key assumptions about AUD were established: that it is an illness with identifiable signs and symptoms, that it is a primary, progressive, chronic, and often fatal disease, and that it is multidimensional with physical, psychological, social, and spiritual aspects.

The concept of dual diagnosis began to emerge as well. If there is a comorbidity, it needs to be addressed in treatment together with substance misuse, as there is typically strong interaction between the two issues. “It’s a no-fault illness, patients and their families are to be treated with respect because blaming and punishing just doesn’t work,” Curtiss said. The key to the AA approach and the Minnesota model is total abstinence and good physical, social, emotional, and spiritual health. 

Furthermore, the healing process should involve the community. “Education and intervention must begin in the community.” Treatment should help patients recognize their illness and admit that they need help. Treatment should let them know they have a disease rather than a moral issue and that there is a solution: recovery is possible.

The Retreat

After 19 years with the Hazelden Foundation, Curtiss became one of the principal designers of The Retreat model. This year, The Retreat in Minnesota celebrates twenty-five years of service in the addiction treatment field. The model aims to return to a simpler, more basic approach to helping people recover. The focus is on spirituality and 12-Step facilitation, and creating a caring community. According to Dr. Bob’s dictum, it’s all about “love and service.”

The mission of The Retreat is “to improve the quality of life for individuals, families, and communities affected by alcohol and drug dependency by providing affordable and effective services grounded in the Twelve-Step principles of Alcoholics Anonymous,” explained Curtiss. 

“Grounded in evidence-based, time-tested principles of recovery, The Retreat serves adult men and women in a non-clinical, supportive-educational, mutual-help approach to recovery that emphasizes a spiritual community-based solution to the problem of addiction.”

Harmony Foundation has long utilized a holistic approach to healing addiction. Comparable to the philosophy of The Retreat, Harmony’s treatment program promotes physical, emotional, and spiritual healing, empowering patients to embark upon a lifelong recovery journey.

If you or a loved one are struggling with alcohol or drug addiction or have questions about our programs, call us today at (970) 432-8075 to get the help needed as soon as possible. Our experienced staff is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.