Addiction and Shame Reduction group at Sarasota Addiction SpecialistsOur Addiction and Shame Reduction Workshop is an experiential workshop that places individuals face to face with their addiction as well as perpetrators of one’s trauma.

This is an opportunity to experience and embody empowerment, recapture the real self, and rescue the inner child that addiction & trauma attempted to destroy!

This work brings individuals to the brink of their grief that must be processed for emotional and long term recovery to occur.

Dr. Benson’s Approach

Dr. Benson has created a unique process using the Gestalt Therapy approach utilizing empty chair work.

Empty Chair Work gives us the opportunity needed to identify, understand, and unburden ourselves of those emotions.

Additionally, this process focuses on:

  • Grief work
  • Inventory work
  • Cathartic shame/reduction work
  • Narrative work.

Narrative work is at the foundation of this process.  It sets the stage for a client to essentially “get their story straight” and in touch with the depths of emotions and understanding around what happened to them.  This process aids individuals and making contact with their core wounds and beginning the process of healing.


When Does the Addiction and Shame Reduction Workshop Take Place?

The workshops occur on an as-needed basis depending on the number of people we have signed up.

This workshop meets once a week for approximately 3-5 hours, depending on size for 4 weeks. Maximum group size is 5.

We offer a sliding fee scale to meet financial needs.


What to Expect from the Workshop

Below are the treatment approaches we utilize that you will have experience with during this workshop.  Please read thoroughly prior to participation.

1. Gestalt Therapy Approach

While Gestalt theory may have been created three-quarters of a century ago, its premise and approach have far-reaching benefits, and at Sarasota Addiction Specialists & MindSol Wellness Center, we utilize it to this day because it works.

According to Gestalt theory, a person cannot be fully understood without understanding the context of his or her experiences.

At SAS/MinSol, we also find that it is extremely helpful to understand the context of your trauma before you can heal from it.  Gestalt Therapy, utilizing creative and experiential techniques enhances our awareness of our experiences.

2. Empty Chair Work

When we experience trauma, it creates pain, and we carry that pain until we do something to expel it from our minds.  We cannot heal from the trauma if we are still carrying such pain.

Sometimes the person(s) responsible for, or involved in our trauma is not accessible for us to express these feelings to. This can occur for a number of reasons:

  • They are deceased.
  • You no longer have a relationship with them.
  • They cannot be located.
  • The relationship is so volatile that it would be unsafe to be around them.
  • Either party is unwilling to see the other.

This could be a major hurdle in our healing journey, however, Empty Chair Work gives us the opportunity needed to identify, understand, and unburden ourselves of those emotions.

What is the Empty Chair technique?

This Gestalt technique is an exercise in which you share, express, and unburden a story, letter, or feelings as if you were talking directly to that person involved.

This technique is beneficial in a number of ways, including:


We are able to physically express our anger, rage, hurt, fear, frustration, etc., in a safe way, without further fear of how the other person could/would react or behave.


Emotions that develop from trauma are many, and this technique allows us to identify and understand what those are, including:

  • Anger
  • Rage
  • Fear
  • Sadness
  • Hurt
  • Frustration
  • Fatigue/Burden
  • Shame
  • Confusion
  • Emotional Paralyzation

And much more.

Carrying these emotions with us throughout our lives is toxic, causing us continued emotional stress and havoc.  This technique gives us a very beneficial outlet for expression.


3. Taking a Personal Inventory




a complete list of items such as property, goods, or the contents

Many people have heard this term in the business world.  Taking inventory of something happens frequently.  It simply means to track the content of something: a store, a business, etc.

The word inventory is also tossed around a lot in the behavioral health industry and nearly anyone with any type of recovery awareness has heard it be used.  But for those not familiar, it can be hard to understand how inventory has anything to do with recovery.

The premise that change only happens with the information that we can acknowledge gives way to the necessity of self-reflection.  Self-reflection is possible by taking a personal inventory of ourselves.

A personal inventory means to make a list of our content – or, what makes us, us. This can happen in a number of ways, sometimes intertwined, sometimes inventoried individually:

Parts-of-Self Inventory

These are foundational parts of ourselves, such as:

  • Relationships
  • Emotional Security
  • Ambitions
  • Financial Security
  • Pride
  • And more.

Moral Inventory

These are reactions or feelings we have toward the things that make us, us (and thus, others as well).

  • Joy
  • Hope
  • Pride
  • Empathy
  • Happiness
  • Fear
  • Anger
  • Guilt
  • Shame

And so on.

Personality Inventory

These are examples of characteristics and behavior traits that describe us:

  • Loving
  • Kind
  • Punctual
  • Loyal
  • Assertive
  • Controlling
  • Mean
  • Discontent

And so on.

These are just a few examples of inventories we may participate in which benefits our emotional recovery efforts.  There are many more, and many more versions that utilize similar concepts in different ways.

The Benefits of Taking a Personal Inventory

When we experience trauma, it creates pain.  Pain then is part of our developmental makeup, and can become a component of who we are.  We must explore those parts of ourselves to understand them and subsequently change the unwanted parts. This is where doing a personal inventory can be helpful.

Without healing, life can become a repetitive state of learned negative thoughts, feelings, reactions, and behaviors.

By taking a neutral look at the parts of ourselves that we become aware of through a personal inventory, change and healing can happen.

At SAS/MinSol, we utilize the personal inventory approach in a number of ways to explore, assess, and amend destructive patterns of behavior.  To learn more about our program and how we may be a good fit for you, a loved one, or a client, we invite you to reach out to us today.

4. Grief Work

Defining Grief

We often associate grief with death.  However, grief is more far-reaching, debilitating, and misunderstood than any one cause.

Grief is deep sorrow caused by a loss of someone/something we are bonded to.

Below are some expected & unexpected causes of loss that contribute to deep and profound grief:

Loss of Life

When we lose someone we are bonded with in any way, it causes us to experience grief and pain.  This may include:

  • Death of a loved one.
  • Death of someone impactful in our lives, which can include those we have not met, such as authors, the President (or other politicians), world leaders, celebrities, or other influential people.
  • Abandonment by a loved one.

Loss of Self

This occurs when we experience a trauma causing us to lose parts of who we are or what makes us, us.  This may include:

  • Divorce: we lose our identity as a wife or husband
  • Job Loss: we lose the professional identity that came with our job title
  • Illness: cancer and other illnesses can cause us to lose parts of ourselves physically, which impacts our identity
  • Spiritual: changing or losing our spiritual affiliation can impact our spiritual identity

Loss of Safety

When we experience trauma, our safety is violated, and our very core is shaken. This violation of our safety triggers a fight-or-flight response system that stays with us. This may include:

  • Physical Abuse
  • Emotional Abuse
  • Sexual Abuse
  • Neglect or Abandonment
  • Worldly Violence, such as war
  • Human Rights Neglect, Violence, or Abuse
  • Relationship Abuse, such as infidelity

Loss of Hopes, Dreams, and Aspirations 

We all have dreams when we are little.  When things do not go as planned, and we lose some of those, especially when due to experiencing trauma, it is painful.  This may include:

  • Inability to have children.
  • Not becoming what we expected of ourselves professionally.
  • Not finding the partner we expected to.
  • Not being able to attend the school we hoped to, or be the student we expected ourselves to be.
  • Not being the athlete or reaching the level of play we hoped to.

Stages of Grief

One of the most common and widely accepted theories on grief was developed by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, and suggests there are 5 stages of grief:

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

Whether you subscribe to the Kübler-Ross theory or one of the other theories on grief, we find it certain to ascertain that without processing any of the above types of grief, we are left in a state of unbalance.  Working through grief and finding healing from it is pertinent to restoring emotional balance.

At The SAS/MinSol, we help clients re-frame the grief process (which plays a tremendous role in trauma, pain or loss) as courageous rather than an embarrassment. This helps the client become free from shame that often accompanies grief.


5. Cathartic Work/Shame Reduction Work

Brené Brown, renowned author, educator, and speaker on trauma and shame defines shame as an:

“Intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.”

At The SAS/MinSol, we love this definition.  We believe that shame defined in this manner is at the root of pain caused by our trauma.  Until we let go of unwanted shame, we stay in a state of emotional and mental unbalance.

Healing Unwanted Shame

Clients attending SAS/MinSol spend a tremendous amount of time on shame reduction work.  We approach this in several ways:

Shame Awareness & Education

  • What shame is.
  • Signs of shame.
  • Where shame comes from.
  • Generational impacts of shame.
  • Unwanted shame.

Using our Story as Power

  • Writing our story.
  • Sharing our story.
  • Identifying our own shame.
  • Giving our feelings identity.

Letting go of Shame

  • Physically expressing shame based feelings.
  • Anger & grief work associated with shame.
  • Accepting the power of our story and our emotions.
  • Self-Love Work

“It’s Not My Shame”

This is a common phrase we use at SAS/MinSol.  Toxic shame is never helpful.  

Nearly every modality and exercise we use at SAS/MinSol to help our clients heal from their trauma chips away little-by-little at this shame monster.

We work in great detail with our clients to understand that shame was given to us by others, who had shame given to them by others – and so on.  Understanding this allows us to do the experiential work necessary to let go of the shame holding us in its grips.

6. Group Work

Countless peer-reviewed clinical trials and studies show that group therapy is a crucial tool in treating many psychological disorders.

Power in Numbers

In our five decades of operation, we have found that the group process creates such a unique and effective space for healing that many leave our program calling it the “secret ingredient.”

Studies continue to suggest that peer group formats have tremendous benefits.

  • Groups discover commonalities in their purpose and experiences which creates a safe space for healing.
  • Peer-to-Peer interactions encourages active listening and hearing.
  • Seeing peers in their healing process encourages others in the group to be active participants in their own healing.
  • Groups provide support during critical times for peers.
  • Studying the group interaction is beneficial to the therapist who can observe patterns of social and relational behavior.
  • Peers in the group often serve as representations of friends, family and loved ones of other peers, allowing them to address issues below the surface they did or did not know they had with that particular family system.

Participating in Group Therapy

Group therapy, while very effective, is often extremely intimidating to some folks.  Here are some things you can expect from our group process at The Bridge to Recovery:

Diverse Facilitators

  • Facilitators leading our groups at SAS/MinSol come from all walks of life, backgrounds and experiences.
  • Facilitators have different areas of specialty, education, training, and field work.
  • Certain facilitators work with different phases of stay (i.e. 1st two weeks, 2nd two weeks, etc.)

Facilitator and Peer-Led Groups

  • Our groups are co-facilitated by facilitators..
  • Sometimes those facilitators work side-by-side, and sometimes they work solo; but, they always work as a team.
  • Peer-led groups may sometimes be used, but mostly rare at SAS/MinSol

Group Topics

While most folks are used to groups that focus on a particular topic and are scheduled with a start and end time, groups at SAS/MinSol can be much different.

  • Our group meets each other on admission day Monday and works together as such throughout their time.
  • Imagine it being more of a “cohort” than a “group.”
  • During the process, together the group will journey through many trauma-healing techniques, sometimes working closely together and sometimes focusing on individual work within the group setting.
  • The group process at SAS/MinSol is very unique, taking place inside and outside, in different setups and styles, and is always conducive to healing.

Group Size & Makeup

  • Groups at SAS/MinSol range from several people up to 5 people in a group at a time.
  • We keep groups small but effective: the magic combination we have found most healing.
  • Group members are represented from all walks of life, experiences, and struggles.

7. Narrative Therapy 

It’s All About the Story

Experiences create stories.

Stories create our identity.

Sometimes, those stories have unwanted or unhelpful parts, affecting our identity, and thus our lives.  Narrative Therapy helps us separate our past experiences from our identity, allowing us to let go of those unwanted or unhelpful parts of ourselves.

Narrative Therapy is often very in-depth, which makes our environment of healing a perfect platform for its use.  We utilize Narrative Therapy at SAS/MinSol in the following ways:

Step 1: Writing Your Story

This process allows us to explore our story in detail.  Writing it down allows us to dig deep into our conscious and subconscious memory. We are able to:

  • Find our voice.
  • Identify the meaning.
  • Identify unwanted or problem parts of our story.

Step 2: Un-Owning Our Story

Stories become our identity, even the unwanted parts.  With the help of our group process and trained facilitators, we can step back from our stories and:

  • Observe ourselves from a different perspective, putting space between ourselves and our story.
  • Open up our stories to change.
  • Let go of the unwanted and unhelpful parts of our story.
  • Break down our story into small, manageable parts to help identify problem areas, making it feel more approachable.

Step 3: Becoming Un-Stuck in our Story

We can become stuck in our stories, which can feel very concrete and unchanging, making the problems and unwanted parts of those stories feel very concrete and unchangeable. Through the use of Narrative Therapy, we become un-stuck by:

  • Being able to accept that there may be alternative stories.
  • Improving our problem solving skills.
  • Challenging unhealthy patterns of thinking and behaving.
  • Allowing us to forgive and heal.
  • Find and use our voice for positive things.

Narrative Therapy has been found to be successful because it treats the client with respect and with a non-blaming focus.  It also allows clients to be an active participant in their own stories, leading to emotional wellness.

8. Parts Work

Integrative Work helps to integrate those pieces of the self that become closed and less collaborative when traumas are experienced over time.  This type of work is beneficial for those struggling with:

  • Anxiety & Depression
  • Relationship Issues
  • Self-Esteem and Self-Love
  • Intimacy Issues

And many more.

Internal Family Systems (IFS)

Developed by Richard Schwartz, Ph.D., concepts and theories from this type of integration approach have been utilized by clinicians at SAS/MinSol.

Understanding IFS

The purpose of IFS is to:

  • Help clients understand why we function the way we do
  • Let go of unhealthy and unhelpful patterns of behavior
  • Find more of a balance in our thinking and behavior patterns.

This type of parts work theorizes that our brains are made of parts.  Those parts make up who we are as a person.  When we experience trauma, those parts develop protective response systems.

While these protective response systems are helpful, they can begin to work against each other, with each one trying to serve its own purpose.  When this happens, we experience emotional dysregulation and unhealthy/unhelpful patterns of thinking, behaving, and feeling.

Because our minds are built to help us survive, these protective parts that develop are well-intentioned.  This approach works to help the good parts learn to work in harmony instead of apart.

Parts work has proven successful in helping to heal the effects caused by trauma.

Interested in our Addiction and Shame Reduction Workshop? Contact us for more information.

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