Reviews of Alsana | Castlewood Treatment Centers
Castlewood Victims Unite is part support group, part activists. We are regularly contacted by former patients or members of their families. We converse on social media, via email, text message, by phone, and in person. Most courageous survivors who come forward to share their experiences are still traumatized by what Castlewood, Alsana, Mark Schwartz, and other minion therapists did to them. We listen, commiserate, provide a shoulder to cry on, etc. Many have found the voice to speak their truth, others for various reasons, want to remain anonymous. We were there once, scared and alone; we relate the reasons someone wants their Castlewood encounter to be shared while concealing their identity. What follows are some of those messages. They are powerful, terrifying, yet eerily similar to the umteen narratives we have heard from Castlewood survivors over the years. A warning is needed before you continue; this is not easy to read. Please stop here if recalling your own traumatic therapy experience is triggering. As always, we want our confidants to know we hold your privacy near and dear to our hearts. And for those ready to speak out, thank you for your courage. Hopefully, all of us will get there someday. Remember, you are NOT alone.
Irene & Bobby
Alsana Castlewood Victims Unite
January 2015 - by Annonymous
It's so ironic. The whole time at Castlewood they kept trying to show us how we recreated our trauma. Either through relationships or the eating disorder or isolation. Every single thing we did or struggled with was a “reenactment of trauma.”
But if we are going to speak their language and go with their philosophies then what we failed to see at the time, was that going to Castlewood was just another reenactment of trauma. And the thing about reenactment is that whether you are actually doing what they say your doing, and putting yourself in a traumatic situation because that's “comfortable” for you, or what, the end result is that you get hurt all over again, you get traumatized all over again. And that’s what happened.
Explaining what it is like at Castlewood is like trying to explain what it is like to be in an abusive relationship to be honest. It’s very similar to that. The moment you walk in the door they create this “bond” with you. They somehow convince you that you won't survive without them. That no one can help you with your eating disorder but them. And you believe it. Don’t quite know how they do it but you believe it with 100% of your heart. But once they have you believing that, it is all over for you. You think your life actually depends upon them. So leaving is not an option. And then the mind games start.
At first it's the trauma. You are hit with trauma the minute you walk through the door and it doesnt stop until you leave. Group after group is spent talking about someone's trauma, in detail. If you don't think you have trauma, you better think again, they will find something. Whether its an actual life event that hurt you (or didn't), but might not actually be classified as traumatic by psychological standards, or whether they just keep telling you that you have trauma so much and so often that your mind makes something up without you even knowing, one way or another the “trauma” will get you. If you actually do go in with traumatic events already in your past, they will target that like a rabid dog leaping for your jugular. Session after session is spent digging up painful memories, talking about them in detail, telling every other client in a group all the details and then…... nothing. You are just left with this gaping wound and they move on to the next traumatic thing. There is no actual therapy given by many of the therapists. I mean, some do EMDR, but many others just “talk.”
Trauma is so plentiful and common at Castlewood that even clients that come in with no trauma, after a session or two start “looking for trauma.” I don’t blame those clients, they are told time and time again that “everyone has trauma” and to argue is not an option. After all, trauma is like a condition of acceptance at Castlewood.
So now you have been hit with the trauma and your mind is a mess. You cannot think straight. You barely know what day it is. The outside world almost completely ceases to exist as you become so wrapped up in whatever it is they are throwing at you.
Now comes the gaslighting. A technique that almost seems a requirement of employment at Castlewood. It comes in so many forms and you never see it coming.
Each week they have a “process” group, a time to air community concerns, whether logistics or something deeper. However, it should be called “gaslighting” group. Each week clients bring to process group their concerns with the program, possibly with how staff have been treating them, and each week it ends the same - with the therapists running the group telling the clients that their concerns are “misdirected” or “projection” or “a distraction from either individual therapy or a problem amongst the clients.” Then, of course, report cards are sent back to your therapist. Were you too outspoken in the group? Did you not succumb to the gaslighting as easily as they wanted you to? If so, watch out. Because now you have won an extra dose of gaslighting in your next individual session. “Oh I heard you were angry with staff in process group” your therapist begins. “Uh kinda, just had a problem with X” you might respond - and just FYI, whatever X is is a valid concern 99.99% of the time. But, inside those Castlewood walls it is never valid.
And speaking out is the first nail in your coffin. Your therapist, in that individual session of gaslighting you won, will begin with asking you what you are projecting? What she means is that your dissatisfaction with staff is not warranted and you are taking out your feelings around your past “trauma” on them. Inevitably, at one point in the conversation, she will either tell you that you are “making Castlewood the perpetrator” or that “you are perpetrating
Castlewood staff,” simply because of your dissatisfaction. Then, it will typically end with this light going on in your therapist's eyes, and she will begin to connect dots for you. Dots that don't actually exist, but that she wants you to connect anyway. She will connect the dots from whatever past “trauma” you have to your anger in present day. “Ohhhhh I get it” she will say, “When [insert staff members name here] did such and such to you, you felt like they were doing [insert horrifically traumatic thing here] to you all over again.” By this point you have spent 30 mins or so being gaslighted constantly, being made to feel like the one in the wrong, and you have to remember you firmly believe that Castlewood is your only hope to stay alive, so you will probably find yourself agreeing. You at least find yourself backing down from whatever it was that you were upset about, by this point you are so confused and feel so guilty, that standing your ground is not really a feasible option. This isn't the only example of gaslighting. Gaslighting happens constantly, in every group, in every session, in between groups. Anywhere there are therapists/dietitians/psychiatrists there is gaslighting.
The word “perpetrator” is used daily at Castlewood. And never really in an attempt to describe actual perpetrators. It’s used to describe clients. Obviously a lot more subtly of course, but true nonetheless. Almost each and every client is at some point or another asked to write an agenda on the way they recreate the abuse/trauma/neglect/painful horrible incident through their eating disorder. Essentially they are asked to write, and then literally told by therapists, that they“perpetrate” themselves daily by having an eating disorder. They are forced to compare themselves to their monsters, the people that hurt them so badly in the past. Instead of being shown that they are nothing like their rapist/pedophile/attacker/abuser/bully etc, clients are forced to compare themselves and are told that they are exactly like them. They are told that they simply “picked” up where the rapist/pedophile/attacker/abuser/bully etc left off and began doing it to themselves through the eating disorder.
So now, Castlewood have convinced you that you won’t stay alive without them, have flooded you with trauma, either real or not, have gaslighted you and then forced you to compare yourself to your monster. You. Are. Broken. But you don't realize it - that’s the ultimate mind game. You have no idea how broken you are. No idea how broken they made you. No idea that this isn’t the way eating disorder treatment is supposed to be done. You’re beyond screwed. By this point you think they are trying to save your life. You think the problem is you. They tell you it's you. That you are “blocking” them from helping you. “What’s the block” they say over and over again. As if by some miracle you will find the answer and be cured. But that’s not how it actually works. Instead by “block” they mean “shame and pain.” What are you most ashamed of? What is most painful? And that question “What's the block, whats the block?” Over and over and over again sends you scurrying into your past, dredging up the most shameful, painful things you can possibly think of, because maybe, just maybe, this one will be the one that is “blocking you” and then you can recover. And over and over and over again you reveal secret after painful shameful secret. Because that tiny bit of hope of finding that magical “block” and then being able to recover, it pushes you to reveal things you would never dream of revealing. But, again the hope is false. There's no magical answer to that question and no one block. They are treating eating disorders, the eating disorder is block. Resistance to treatment, acting on eating disorder behaviors - it's all a NORMAL PART of eating disorder treatment, not because there is some “block” that just so happens to be the most painful and shameful thing you can think of. But now you are really in it. Because now you have revealed all of your secrets. All of your most painful, shameful secrets. On top of already believing that they are the only ones that can save your life and you are exactly like your monster. No way your ever getting out now.
So congratulations, you are now a member of what I like to refer to as the “Castlewood Cult.” Getting in was hard, but if you are lucky enough to get out it will be the hardest thing you have ever done. The confusion won't immediately leave you, neither will the pain or self-blame or self-doubt or self-hatred. Instead, you will begin to see what they have done and how they have done it but will feel like a worthless, useless piece of shit. You will be horrified beyond belief, and ask yourself what is true a million times. You will be scared and angry and so so sad. You might contemplate self-harm or suicide because even though you can see what they did, that belief that they are the only ones that can help you still exists. So the future seems bleak. Trying to sort through your head and tease apart what is real from what is their brainwashing and manipulation is something akin to being illiterate and having your life depend upon you reading the most complicated book ever. And by brainwashing and manipulation, I don’t necessarily mean false memories, although with Castlewood that is certainly a very large possibility. But whether you develop false memories or not, your mind is fucked. The continual gaslighting and being compared to perpetrators has taken its toll. You know longer know anything. You feel lost, dazed, confused and like you literally don't know which way is up.
What is clear is that your eating disorder is nowhere near under control. If you haven't escaped the “cult” - then in you go again, a revolving door that never stops spinning and never stops beating you down. Until there is nothing left of you other than this broken shell, filled with “parts”and “trauma” and “lessons learned at Castlewood.”But if you have managed to escape the “cult,” that doesn't mean it's over, because now what? Now you are a broken shell filled with “parts” and “trauma” and “lessons learned at Castlewood.”
Now who is going to help you? And how the hell do you ever put yourself in a situation as vulnerable as treatment again, when you were so deeply hurt by your last experience? Either way, whether you realize it or not, you have been hurt again. By the very people meant to help you. And you are now a member of the “Castlewood Cult,” whether you like it or not, whether you escape or not, whether you recover or not, forever and always. Because, no matter what happens, they are now a part of your story, a painful part of your past, or, as Castlewood themselves would describe it “a re-enactment of your trauma.”
Public Reviews of Alsana |Castlewood Treatment Center
I had the choice to go here in 2017 but didn't because of the lawsuit. I decided to come last year after unexpectedly being discharged from a different (wonderful) facility due to covid and was feeling very unstable. Pros: I had a little bit more structure so I wasn't free-falling completely. My therapist near the end of my stay was very sweet. I had never done therapy from the aspect of trauma and that did help.
Cons: I was very unimpressed by the care I received. You could get away with anything here. I'm not proud to say that I easily hid my food, lied, and was manipulative. I was in the PHP/IOP program and the patients are expected to take their own vitals and report them to staff, which is a recipe for trouble. I wanted to see how long I could go without reporting my vitals (and without getting weighed) and went 2 weeks before someone said anything.
The psychiatrist is, to be honest, awful. He doesn't remember your name or your history. In IOP I had failed to refill my meds and had very high SI thoughts. No one told me he couldn't refill my meds if I was in IOP. My therapist told him to do an emergency refill and he agreed. No refill was ever made. My initial therapist, while clinically was skilled, was overall very blase and uncompassionate. In my crazy mind I vowed to leave several times and she took the attitude of "ok go for it". My living situation was weird. I had paid for an apartment but was too unstable in my ED to live there, so I lived at home, but was too unstable in my family relationships to be safe there. So, I decided to live in the Alsana apartments. I submitted a claim to get a discount because I had no source of income and my parents weren't paying for the Alsana apartment. I was told "oh you definitely will get the discount". When the financial woman called my therapist to verify my situation, she told her that I had my own apartment and could live there just fine. I didn't find out until 4 weeks into living there that I was paying a ton of money! I called the financial department several times, no answer, no call back.
This further proves that Alsana is a business and doesn't care for the clients, only the money (and that my therapist had little compassion). Also they advertise and accept vegan diets?? That seems like bait to me to reel in clients who still want to hold onto parts of their EDs and only go into quasi-recovery, leading to relapse and coming back to Alsana. Again, money money money.
So that is only the tip of the iceberg of MY experience. Here comes the piece de resistance!
My good and dear friend who I reunited with at Alsana has relapsed very hard since discharge. She's in multi-organ failure and battling with her insurance company for proper care without a team and in a town with an ED-ignorant hospital. She is dying, shouldn't even be alive at this point. Her horrible insurance allowed Alsana and she went to residential, their highest level of care. She left a week later because they were essentially watching her die. No medical intervention at all. They don't do ng tubes there (while at McCallum ng tubes are very much a thing in residential). They did 0 labs, glucose checks, etc. She was ordered to be on bed rest, except no one watched her or enforced it. She got up and went downstairs to do something before evening snack. She fell asleep. No one came looking for her for snack. No one noticed when she woke up and returned. She could've gone downstairs and gone into cardiac arrest (which she's at great risk of) and no one would've given a ----. They basically don't do much to help the physical side of eating disorders. They shouldn't have accepted my friend in the first place if she was at such a great risk of dying. Again, money money money. The only thing standing between her and getting into a better facility right now is that Alsana isnt sending over her discharge summary. They won't answer any calls. She is dying because of Alsana. F Alsana, they need to be sued (again) :)
Lack of nurses and staff, gaslighting, and manipulation when the lack of staff is brought up. Has an amazing concept of treatment but is executed poorly by an overburdened, stressed, staff that clients pick up on. Plus the first thing you smell when you show up is raw sewage - yuck!
This facility discriminates against trans patients and have been sued more than once for malpractice. They have changed their name to hide from lawsuits. They also hang up on you when you call to file a complaint, then don't answer when you call back. I wonder how often patients/people looking for treatment call just to be ignored because it could possibly be someone calling to complain. I would not recommend this place to my worst enemy. Absolutely sickening.
I found out first hand that I should not have ignored the reviews for this place thinking it was from disgruntled employees but please beware before you put a family member or yourself into this facility! I am a current employee looking for another place to work. The director is in her 20’s with little experience and makes impulsive decisions that are detrimental to both clients and staff. Management knew some staff had Covid-19 and allowed them to work because of staffing issues. There have been clients who have tried to jump off balconies, who run away and have needs beyond what we are able to provide but are put back into the community for monetary gain and it takes away from the rest of the clients' needs. They are remodeling the old Castlewood building to be opened next year and I worry for the safety of clients due to the unsafe design of the building and the dangerous staff to client ratio. They can barely handle what they do have. I feel miserable coming to work because clients don’t appear to get better and sometimes I feel they appear sicker than when they arrived. So many disassociating and confused needing serious one-on-one care, The rest are all just sort of wandering around taking care of their own needs while direct care staff is dealing with the things management should be handling. So sad..
S Kelly Google maps/Alsana/St.Louis
When you look at the website for Alsana you see a warm- fuzzy video of a majestic house with beautiful scenery. People smiling. Throwing frisbees. They sell you a dream. When you actually get on the property however, you are greeted with the smell of raw sewage (not kidding) and that is not the only thing that reeks. It is a bait and switch for clients and employees. Especially if you are a nurse. You will be low on the totem pole there. You will be there so that Alsana can get the big bucks from the insurance companies. Approx 1,200/client a day. The housekeeping is poor. Clients often complain about how dirty it is. As an employee you will not be properly trained. Maybe admit 3 people in one day with no break and rare thank you’s. Management will disappear during the hard times and you will see them when food is laid out for staff or something fun is going on. They will send out fake emails about following guiding principles and then down low emotionally harm staff and not follow what they promote. They keep clients there way over their needed time to stay. They asked me to copy assessment information from another nurse no longer there and attach my name to it (the compliance person and DON requested this of me!) People who really should have been in another psych facility are blended in with people who truly are suffering from eating disorders so it is very chaotic and frustrating for those on the “front lines” taking day to day care because it is short staffed and you will find yourself needing to be in 3 places at one time because management does not care and you will rarely see them out of their offices on the floor. The director is cold and unavailable most times to help you “I only have 30 seconds what do you need?” is her mantra. Emails not returned on serious issues, Gaslighting is frequent. She won’t follow up and then not apologize if it is her fault things go bad. She will make you take a personality test (Enneagram) upon your arrival so she can better understand (discriminate against and devalue )you. The turnover there is a result of this behavior and more! The long-timers must have Stockholm Syndrome. They need a reset from the top! They had many malpractice lawsuits against them under the old name and they are still behaving badly. I reported an impaired nurse and some other serious things being done out of scope of practice and it was swept under the rug like another reviewer mentioned. HR is aware as well and they didn’t help this nurse and she is still working there making errors that could potentially harm an already vulnerable population! The psychiatrist had hits in different states on his license and I couldn’t get him to sign off orders! The CNO is in California and couldn’t be bothered to come out of her comfort zone to fully train me but expected a lot with little investment in return. Expected me to train other nurses who were also all new. Quickly left this place. I don’t want to even add my time there to my resume. Shame on you Alsana! Look up Castlewood/Alsana if you are still questioning a position there.