Alsana Castlewood Clients Speak Out About Abusive & Unethical Therapy
Note: The following was written by several recent Castlewood Treatment Center patients. Their identities are being protected by request.
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. Afterall, 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
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 therapists 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 their 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 its 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 “Whats 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 matte rwhat 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.”