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In a recent radio interview I was asked a lot of questions about myself and Crossroads Programs for Women.  I am posting this article because it may answer some of the questions others have.

My background:

  • I have been in the eating disorders treatment field since 1987.
  • I was a founding officer of Remuda Ranch Centers for Anorexia and Bulimia Inc. in Arizona.  I worked during research and development and then serving as a Vice President until February 2002.
  • Since February 2002 I have served as the Managing Director of The International Association of Eating Disorders Professionals Foundation (iaedp).
  • I have served many major treatment facilities as a consultant.
  • In January 2012 I founded Crossroads Programs for Women, a division of Crossroads Programs Inc.   Crossroads is located in a historic, beautiful 1862’s home in Pekin, Illinois.
  • In 2014 I became a Nationally Certified Life Coach through the Addictions Academy. I offer recovery and life coaching at Crossroads, adding another component to our treatment continuum.

My past service and board memberships include

  • President of the Methodist Hospital Volunteers, Peoria IL
  • Vice President and Treasurer Pekin YWCA Board of Directors
  • Pekin Hospital Fundraising Ball Co-Chair
  • President of Scottsdale AZ Metropolitan Business and Professional Women’s Association,
  • President of the iaedp Board of Directors
  • I currently serve on Human Capital Executive Research Board (HCERB), which is the business intelligence arm of Diversity Executive and Talent Management magazines.
  • I was recently been named a VIP Woman of the Year for Illinois in the nonprofit sector by the National Association of Professional Women.
  • Member, Eating Disorders Non Profit Leadership Council

Why did you decide to start Crossroads Programs for Women at a time in your life when many women your age are retiring? 

  • Women helping women is not a new idea at all. Paul’s letter to Titus two thousand years ago spoke about older women mentoring and encouraging younger women as they struggle with situations and challenges in their lives.
  • Since I entered the mental health field as a business professional in the late 1980’s, I have witnessed firsthand how our modern culture and the woundedness of life has caused wonderful women to get stuck in their emotional pain.
  • And I have been blessed to watch as they heal those wounds and move on to live full, productive lives.
  • When this wonderful historic home went on the market, I knew it would be a wonderful, safe and secure environment for women to come and work on their issues.
  • With God’s help, I was able to purchase the property. With the help of my family and friends as we prepared the property, we now offer therapeutic programs, individual therapy, and life/recovery coaching for women there.

Why do you think God wants women to reach out to women?

  • Well, for one thing, we can do it better than anyone else. I say this without any apology whatsoever. Only a woman knows what it’s like to go through a difficult pregnancy. To suffer PMS or postpartum blues.
  • Most of us know what it is to work through the terrible fatigue that results from chasing toddlers for hours on end.
  • Most of us can relate to the boredom and isolation of speaking to children all day in monosyllables.
  • Only a woman understands the subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) discrimination sometimes confronted both at work and at church.
  • Only a woman can really understand how another woman feels.
  • And only a woman can follow up properly. It’s easy for us to call each other and ask, “How did the talk with your husband go yesterday?” “Are you feeling better?” “Why don’t you come over for coffee? We can talk a little more and pray together.”
  • This type of loving concern and practical advice often will defuse conflicts before they reach a crisis stage that threatens the marriage or requires long-term professional counseling.

Why do you think women have so many struggles when we live in country where we are so blessed with so many opportunities?

  • Certainly in America women have more opportunities than women in many parts of the world. But with those opportunities come challenges.
  • With careers comes stress – trying to balance all responsibilities of career, home, children, relationships
  • Our culture sets a standard of beauty that very few woman meet – not even the models in magazines are real images – most are photoshopped to make them thinner, taller…perfect! Cindy Crawford, the famous model, is quoted as saying she wishes she looked like Cindy Crawford.
  • Divorce is rampant which leaves most women in a position where they have far less financial resources to care for their children and a great many of them have little or no support from extended family in caring for their children.
  • The world’s casual view of relationships and sex. With the loss of valuing purity and taking time to establish a relationship and a long term commitment, the consequences of these casual or non-committed relationships are often devastating to women.
  • Another result of casual sex is abortion. Many women carry emotional scars after abortion.
  • Everywhere I go, I hear the same cry from women—young and old, rich and poor, married and single. “I’m lonely. I’m tired. I’m discouraged and depressed. My husband just doesn’t understand my needs. My mother isn’t there for me. Does anybody care? Will anybody help me, or even listen to me?”

The outcome is that women often lose their connections. Our Connections determine who we are.   Our ability to connect emotionally and spiritually determines the quality of our lives.

  • So loss of connection is caused by:
  • Emotional pain that can come from many causes but it is too difficult to face alone.
  • These causes may include but are not limited to: depression, codependency, eating disorders, addictive behaviors, relationship issues, abuse, trauma, grief and loss, and other situational stressors.

What are the symptoms of the loss of connections?

  • Diminished vitality, fatigue
  • Disempowerment
  • Confusion, lack of clarity
  • Diminished self-worth
  • Isolation (Turning away from relationships)

Women today are pushing themselves to a level of excellence that destroys:

  • Their creativity
  • Their spontaneity
  • Their connections

In pursuit of meaning, we take on roles that no longer work for us, we become exhausted and resentful and we disconnect as a means of survival.What do you mean by the “roles” we take on? 

It’s really about taking an unrealistic view of our identity and thereby guiding our actions, relationships, and life to fit into that identity.

  • Superwoman
  • Victim
  • Savior
  • Perfect wife and mother
  • Award winning successful career woman
  • I see many women trying to be super women pushing themselves to unrealistic expectations in what they can achieve
  • After a trauma we can assume a role of victim which can become our view of ourselves
  • Some of us try to be “different” than God created us to please another person.
  • Understand: The more fragile you are, the more rigid you become! You take a role and you hang on to it until you are locked into that role You are exhausted but don’t know how to move out of the role

So how do you break out of a destructive role?

  • There is a way out of unhealthy roles thru the power of connection
  • first to yourself,
  • finding out who you are
  • what are your needs?
  • what are your dreams

Your reality is:

  • your behaviors
  • your feelings
  • your thinking

Many of us have layers and layers of emotions and faulty thinking that are too complex to figure out on our own

  • A therapist can be very helpful, and in many cases, necessary to help us find our path forward.
  • After you start to reconnect with yourself, then reach out to others. The first step for most is to seek professional help to understand what has disconnected you from your sense of self. After you reconnect with yourself, you then reach out to others to connect or reconnect with them. 
  • Disconnection can affect our relationship with God because when we are locked in a rigid role it requires a lot of energy and self-focus to maintain. As we bring our life back into balance we can once again have the joy of a full connection to God.

What are the questions for women to ask themselves?

  • Have I shut down and lost connection to myself and others?
  • Am I locked in a “role” that no longer fits?
  • Do I need to change my thinking to change my live?
  • How do I do that?
  • If you have tried to make changes but have been unable to follow through and make those changes, you need additional help to commit to change, it is time to seek some professional help.

What happens when we begin to connect again?

  • Outcomes of Connection:
  • You feel a greater sense of “zest” (vitality, energy)
  • You feel more able to act and do act
  • You have a more accurate picture of yourself and the other person(s)
  • You feel a greater sense of worth
  • You feel more connected to the other person(s)
  • You have greater motivation for connections with other people beyond those in the specific relationship

Tell me about the programs you offer at Crossroads.

  • We offer intensive outpatient programs. We concentrate a small group therapy experience into an intensive format. We have a daily program that is 8 hrs long and is presented in a lecture, an experiential, and a group therapy schedule. So a 5 day program is 40 hrs of therapy over a 5 day period. A 4 day program is 32 hrs of therapy over a 4 day period.  Since most group therapy session are approximately 1 hour long, this 5 day format is the equivalent to many months of weekly group sessions.
  • Also working in a group with other women, is considered one of the fastest vehicles for self discovery as we relate to the experience of others in a safe and secure environment. 

Psychodrama is part of our treatment process. What is psychodrama?  Psychodrama is a:

  • holistic, strengths‐based method of psychotherapy
  • people are helped to enact and explore situations from their own life ‐ past, present and future.

The scenes enacted may be based on

  • specific events in a person’s life,
  • their current or past relationships,
  • unresolved situations,
  • desired roles or inner thoughts and conflicts.
  • The method is typically used in group settings, with group members taking on the various roles in the drama as needed.
  • Witnessing and participating in each others’ personal stories can generate feelings of deep understanding and trust amongst group members.

What kind of emotional issues does psychodrama help? 

  • Psychodrama allows for the safe expression of strong feelings and, for those who need it, the practice of containing emotions.
  • As participants move from ‘talking about’ into action, opportunities arise to heal the past, clarify the present and imagine the future.
  • Psychodrama can offer a wider perspective on individual and social problems and an opportunity to try out new behaviours.

Psychodrama can, for example:

  • help people to better understand themselves and their history,
  • resolve loss and trauma,
  • overcome fears,
  • improve their intimate and social relationships,
  • express and integrate blocked thoughts and emotions,
  • practice new skills or prepare for the future (aftercare plan)

Each psychodrama addresses the concerns of the person who is in focus. The range of issues may be wide. The person who shares their work is chosen sociometrically by the group, highlighting the group concern. Hence all members of the group also share in the work in a personal way.

Do therapists have to have special training to use psychodrama?

  • Yes, there is a certification process for clinicians who want to utilize this method to enhance their clients’ treatment.
  • Mary Bellofatto, a masters prepared therapist from Naples FL, is the psychodrama clinician at Crossroads. She is certified and a certified trainer of psychodrama for other clinicians. She is also a Certified Eating Disorders Specialist and she treats a wide range of emotional issues. She has been a clinician for over 35 years and brings an extensive wisdom and knowledge to her treatment process. We are thrilled to have Mary as one of our workshop facilitators at Crossroads Programs for Women. She is nationally recognized as an expert in her field.

What about the spiritual aspects of healing? How do you address those at Crossroads?

  • We explore the spiritual components of healing from a non denominational Christian perspective. It is widely recognized that all healing has a spiritual dimension. Ours is defined so that women coming to our programs know the values and focus of our therapy.

What is life and recovery coaching?

  • Life coaching is a wonderful enhancement to the therapy process. A therapist will help you understand the behavioral blocks that are affecting you. Coaching is about helping you set goals, determining the steps to attaining them, and during the process.
  • Recovery coaching includes life coaching techniques but is also focused on sustaining recovery.
  • Who benefits from coaching? If a woman is going through a situation in life and needs support in setting her goals to obtain a desired outcome, then coaching may be the answer. Many of the issues we work on together include relationship problems, anxiety, codependency, loss, letting go, and life transitions.
  • In coaching we look at life balance and how to live a more satisfied life. What are your closing thoughts you would like share?

Does a person have to be in therapy to participate in your coaching programs?

  • No, it is available as a stand alone program for those who do not have more complex problems.  However, for those with more complex situations, it is a very helpful enhancement to their journey of healing.

What other things would you like people to know?

  • Life is complicated and women face many complex issues and difficult situations throughout their lives. Crossroads is dedicated to helping women who struggle with depression, codependency, eating disorders, addictive behaviors, relationship issues, grief and loss, and other situational stressors that interrupt and disrupt their lives.
  • Crossroads provides programs by prominent clinicians, chosen for their clinical expertise in well-defined treatment topics, offering focused and innovative care solutions.
  • Our programs are cost effective. We will check your insurance benefits. We also accept all major credit cards, accept checks, and have a payment plan through Paypal Credit that offers 0% interest on 6 months financing.

But most importantly I want women to know:

  • Our past doesn’t have to define our future. Our woundedness can be a foundation for our future strengths. At Crossroads with expert guidance and a supportive environment of women who share your struggles, you will begin to understand the “whys” and learn how to move beyond today with a new confidence to change your life.
  • Why continue to struggle? Tomorrow does not have to be like today. There is hope. We can help you.

Bonnie Harken, NCLC, Founder and CEO of Crossroads Programs for Women has spent the last 30 years assisting individuals begin their journey of healing. Look for upcoming programs at Crossroads Programs for Women. Begin your journey of finding renewal, hope, joy, direction and passion. Each program is a blend of lectures, group discussion, and therapeutic exercises offering a healing curriculum. We explore the spiritual components of healing from a non-denominational Christian perspective. We can help you. Visit www.crossroadsprogramsforwomen.com or call 1-800-348-0937.