See this encore video of our Facebook Live broadcast with Clearing co-founders Joe and Betsy Koelzer.
In this video, you’ll learn:
- What an “underlying core issue” is and how it relates to addiction
- How this approach to addiction treatment compares with traditional 12-Steps
- Descriptions of how the Clearing has achieved an 80% success rate
Below is the video transcript:
Thanks for joining us and welcome to today's conversation. Today we're going to have a discussion on healing underlying core issues and how this relates to addiction recovery. I'm here with Joe and Betsy Koelzer, co-founders of The Clearing, an innovative addiction center located on San Juan Island in Washington State. Their addiction recovery program itself is built on evidence-based psychology and the principles of spiritual psychology, which we're going to talk about today.
Q: Can you help us understand what led to you both starting The Clearing?
Betsy: It's an interesting story. A number of years ago, something like three or four, Joe and I and many of our friends and family had a very, very dear friend who we all loved very much, just an amazing person, very dynamic and skilled and lovely, and that was also struggling with and eating disorder and also a very, very serious problem with alcohol.
This friend got to a point where she needed help, and she asked us what we could do to help or find the right facility and a program where she would get better. And so, I contacted our clinical director Dr. Scott Alpert, because he'd been in practice in California for many years, and said, "Let's find the best place we can find and it's really not a question, at this point, of money, we'll figure it out. We just have this dear friend. Where can we send her where she'll get help?"
Scott spent two or three days researching it and using his contacts, and he called us back and said that he hadn't found anything that he felt like was what we were looking for. And so, shortly after, the three of us were together, and we knew with instant clarity that "We can do this."
So that's when The Clearing was founded. It was in our experience of just needing to be able to help someone and not feeling like we could find the right place for her. So, that's how we got going.
Q: But aren’t there hundreds, if not thousands, of addiction treatment centers in the country?
Betsy: Over 4000.
Q: Based on your personal experience, along with Dr. Scott’s professional experience, did you feel those addiction treatment centers weren’t highly effective?
Betsy: Actually, it didn't go that way. So I had been to treatment twice. Once in a regular program but a very, very good one and the second time, in an exclusive one in Malibu, and was in worse shape coming out than when I went in.
And so when we started this business, we actually didn't do any research. We wanted to make this a different treatment modality from the ground up.
Joe's very experienced in starting businesses. Joe's asked us not to research an industry that really wasn't doing very well in the data of sustained recovery. So we just put this thing together from the ground up with what we knew would work, in terms of spiritual psychology.
But also, how did we want to make a place based on respect and love and nurturing and healing? And how did we want to feel when we actually used the tools that we teach others to create at The Clearing in a very different way?
That's where our logic was at that time.
Q. Published data suggests that many of these addiction recovery programs are wholly inadequate or have very low success rates. Can you comment on that?
Joe: That's right. So we really knew that this was an industry that has a low success rate. So instead of looking at what they're doing, which we didn't think was working, instead, we focused entirely on creating a program that we knew would provide the healing we were looking for.
We recognized that what we were after was to heal the underlying core issues that are causing the addiction rather than focusing on addiction itself. We knew that we wanted to create a program that would heal the issues that were causing the feelings of depression and anxiety and self-loathing and hopelessness, and issues around trauma, and issues around despair and loss, that's what has people actually reaching for substances and so that's where we focus our energy.
We created an entirely different-looking program, not because we wanted a different-looking program, but because we knew what we heal. And so we put together a program that was focused on healing.
Q: In your opinion, how do these addiction treatment centers think about their low success rate? Do they address these core issues that you mentioned?
Betsy: I think our view is that there are a lot of good dedicated places out there doing what they can do. In our work, it's very different. We don't really worry too much about whether it's alcohol or heroine because we know that's not the problem. That's what's being used to treat the problem.
I guess it would be saying that maybe the success rate wasn't so high because they aren't really treating treating the problem. There's education and there's some quite a bit of structure around it, but there's not the healing. There isn't a very strong path for success.
Joe: Maybe I'd add a little bit. A lot of these other programs – and most are 12-Steps programs - are focused on the substance itself. They're focused on coping skills and how to not drink or use substances.
Our focus is entirely different.
Our focus is, "Let's heal the underlying core issues that are creating those intense negative emotions that have me reaching for the substance. If I don't have those intense negative emotions, I don't have the need to reach out for those substances."
And that's how we're fundamentally different.
Q: Can you define what an “underlying core issue” is?
Betsy: Underlying core issues in the people we visit with is broad, and everybody is incredibly unique. It might be the loss of a child, it can be depression that started in youth, something that you experienced, maybe at the hand of someone else, maybe something you did to someone else, regret, shame, and embarrassment, which leads to depression and anxiety.
It could just be something very unique to each person. But there's always a lot in there at any point in someone's life that are sometimes there's a really large issue that's blinking pretty brightly, but other times, it's just a set of all of these things.
I just may have social anxiety or just ruptures within my family and my relationships and I'm not happy. So I just call that pain. I just gather the whole thing up and call it pain. It’s just numbing pain. I can't stand the way I feel.
I have one thing at that point of my life that I can do to make myself feel better. And that's often a substance, alcohol, or a drug. So I'm doing that but I really can't take away what I'm feeling right now. I call it the 2:00-in-the-morning stuff.
Q: What do you mean by “a 2:00 in the morning stuff”?
Betsy: It's just kind of the thing you go to bed with and you wake up with and it just never really leaves your consciousness.
“I haven't been able to succeed. I'm unhappy.“
Q: Can you describe the ways or different approaches one can take for identifying and healing those underlying core issues?
Betsy: Well, I didn't tell you what I work with a lot in my life. And Joe and I would just be the first ones to say that we're doing this all the time. We literally are doing every day what we talk with others about.
In my life, projections are a big guide for me. So when I'm upset by the behavior of another person, an action or their behavior, and I'm upset about it, that's a sign post for me that something inside of me is out of alignment. And I don't really like these things very much. But they've been my greatest teachers. So at this point, I'd just embrace them.
An example would be: if I go to the grocery store and the guy in front of me in the express lane has 30 items because he thinks 6 lemons for a dollar is the same as one and I don't think so. And so there I am with my AA battery and I'm just getting angry and upset and frustrated, but my underlying feeling is that he doesn't respect me, he doesn't see me, and I'm angry about it.
Then guy gets out of the store, and I'm in the parking lot and I'm trying to back out, but somebody's got their clicker on and waiting for somebody else to load the groceries, and I can't get out of my parking spot. Again, he doesn't respect me. I need to go, but he's got something else more important. But my underlying feeling is the same one, and within five minutes, I don't feel respected. And I'm getting mad.
At this point, I can even manage to get upset with the lady loading her trunk, because she's taking her time sorting out the groceries. And then I'm even more upset. And you see this pattern - I'm at the left signal trying to catch the arrow and the guy in front of me texts, and again, he's not respecting me. You know how it is.
These things make me angry. And so this leads me, in our work, to the exploration of, "How am I doing that? How am I disrespectful to Betsy? How am I disrespectful to others? And how am I disrespectful to my relationship with a higher power or spirit, or all it is, or however you define that?"
So I spend a lot of time looking at how am I being disrespectful to me? Do I do self-care? Am I taking care of myself, am I walking my walk, am I eating right? And in deeper things too, How am I disrespectful to others?
I need a notepad for that one. ;-)
There are things I do in a day that really aren't as respectful as I like them to be. And how am I disrespectful to my relationship with the spirit? Maybe I don't listen. Maybe I'm going all the time, and I haven't paused to be centered and I'm just not listening.
So that's a pretty active process for me.
Q: How could someone discover what things may cause him or her to seek out alcohol or substances?
Betsy: It's pretty easy to do.
When I'm upset, I don't like the way I feel. And I want to feel better. So I, at that point, I've got the opportunity to go seek some substance that are going to make me feel better.
Or if I do this work, I learn processes that within 5 seconds to 20 minutes, I can get back in the balance. But it sounds like a long description, but you get very proficient at how you acknowledge the upset.
If I just see a guy with more items in the grocery store and I'm okay with it, I don't have a problem. But for me, it'll be upset. But the key part is that's just half the process.
Now, I know I'm upset and this guy is actually the same as me. He's disrespectful and I'm disrespectful. So that takes a lot of steam out of me because we're doing exactly the same thing in a different way.
Our process would be that I acknowledge that, and I forgive myself because I'm doing the damage here for judging myself as disrespectful, when in fact, and this is another little body of work, I'm really doing the best that I can do right then.
I'm not happy with it, but that's where I am emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually in that moment.
And then for us, it's, "What is my intention going forward?” I've seen my problem. I've sorted it out. I get it. I've forgiven myself for judging myself as bad because I'm doing this behavior. My intention going forward is to be more respectful with me, with others.
And really, if I wake up every day, I just want to try to be a better Betsy. So this is one of the ways I do it.
It's not even work because when I heal this - at the forgiveness and transformation level - my life changes. Once I get the message, you saw the pattern, it's four things, but it's the same thing.
If I'll heal this, and pull that splinter out, I learn that lesson. I don't need to keep having those experiences anymore because I get it. And so my life, I may not be upset when that occurs because the anger has been dealt with, or I may genuinely have fewer experiences like that.
So not only did I get over my little encounter in the Costco parking lot, I healed out everything on that channel of me feeling not respected. It's really profound. I’m able to get on with my life.
Q: When people do the work you’re describing, do they suddenly lose the need to grab this bottle of pills or that bottle of wine?
Betsy: It just changes.
When I'm not so upset and so angry, I can go through the grocery store balanced, I'm not upset about it. I'm okay. That guy's got a life too. And yeah, I feel better, and I don't need a Xanax to get to the interstate.
I can deal with this and I feel better so that pressure goes way, way, way down. And you know, there's a lot to do. But it's not particularly complicated and it's elegant in its simplicity. It's quite beautiful.
Joe: So you’re really going to get to a high level. What we often focus on in our upsets is we're focused on everything that's out there. We have an external focus in our life.
What we think is that if we control everything that's out there, it's just the way we want it to be and then it will be okay.
But we're never really going to control all of that stuff.
And so from that standpoint, we're never okay. So we turn that on his head and say, "Okay. How can I be okay as I go through life with that stuff not being the way I'd like for it to be?"
It's an inside-out job, I need to take care of the issues that I have inside that have me wanting all of this stuff to be the way that I want it to be the way I want it to be. So let's change that. So let's change that formula. And let's work with why does that thing upset me?
As I fix that, as I fix the why that upsets me, the judgment, the limiting belief, the projections, that I have associating with that, I no longer have that upset as I see that thing in my life. So it's transformative. Less upset, less need to use alcohol or drugs.
Betsy: I would need a wall, an army of people, to go in front of me to keep everything I wanted.
You know, make sure the guy in front of me has eleven items and make sure that car wasn't in my way. I need a wall of people just take in and this won't happen.
Of course that’s not going to happen.
So how can I be okay with my world?
What you guys are describing, this sounds very transformational, and you have a lot of experience with those who've gone through your addiction recovery program and you've changed many, many lives.
Betsy: They've changed their lives.
Q: They’ve changed their lives? Please elaborate.
Betsy: You know, honestly, that's really an important point because we get to teach it as it was taught to us with some beautiful study.
We all went through the University of Santa Monica and studied with Drs. Ron and Mary Hulnick, who pioneered this over the course of their life, looking at the esoteric principles of spiritual psychology - love yourself, forgive, and everybody wants to do that.
But how do you do it? We learned it and so we're teaching others.
We don't do the work for anyone. We just teach it and if you do it, then you have this opportunity. But the ultimate healing really is not done by us, it’s the individual.
Q: I think you short-change yourselves a little bit. You developed and facilitated a successful addiction recovery program. I think you have an 80% success rate. Is that correct?
Joe: It's really high for the industry.
But yeah, 80% of our graduates self-report they are living the life free of their addiction.
Betsy: They're also joyful, and happy, and connected back with their family, if they do their work.
We don't go home with them, but now they have a choice.
Before it was, "I can do one thing – drugs or alcohol. Now, I have these options."
Joe: As we tell our graduates, as they're leaving the program, it's like, if you go home, you take this book and you put it in a shelf, and say, "Wow, that was a great month."
Then it's not going to work. It has to become a way of life to continue to work with things as they came up in my life.
And that's what we do.
Q: What you’ve described sounds like a very different approach from traditional 12-Steps programs. Could you compare and contrast your program with 12-Steps?
Joe: Well, why don't I try to give some specific examples?
We're certainly an alternative to the 12-step program. And we do that on many fronts.
First of all, a very important part of our process is we don't think that we're powerless. In fact, we know that we are very powerful. We don't talk the message of powerlessness. But rather, what we're saying is, "Hey, we have the power to create what we want in our lives. But what we have to do is learn how to consciously create what we want and stop creating what we don't want in our lives. And a lot of us are focused on creating what we don't want because that's how we think about life.
We think about the things we don't want in our lives and as we think about those things, we actually pull those things closer to us. So we're really going to focus on what we do want and we spend a lot of time with that.
We don't do the, "Hey, stand up and say, I'm Joe. I'm an alcoholic and an addict." That's what we refer to as a negative affirmation. It’s me pulling my past into my present moment. And we just don't do that.
We use affirmations. We use them very powerfully to create what we want and stop creating what we don't want. And we're going to focus on healing the underlying core issues because we're teaching all of our participants the counseling skills and the strategy and the concepts that they need in order to identify and heal those issues.
We don't spend any time on talking about alcohol or drugs, or tell amusing stories or any of that kind of stuff because there's no healing in that stuff. There's no healing and in reliving of those things, and I'm talking about how bad things were from that perspective, but rather we want to focus on healing the underlying core issues.
So we'll actually be in a room with all of our participants and I can honestly say that I don't remember who is there for alcohol and who is there for a particular drug because we're all there healing issues.
Betsy: I want to add to that though, the 12-steps have helped so many people and it's a precious part of my life. I still have my book.
It was started by a wonderful guy at that time when there were no other resources, and I've have many good friends who have been in the program for decades and are joyful and use this and so it's a tender place for us as well because there's not a shoe that fits everybody.
There's just not. So, if you don't wear a size six, you have to look around. I have a very tender place in my heart for that work and it was a wonderful part of my life. And I just needed something different.
Q: Was that “something different” what ultimately solved your issues and addiction? Was this how you got your life back in control?
Betsy: I found something that worked for me in thirty minutes and was really able to take me from being really agnostic and helpless to an experience that opened my eyes.
But I'm just very, very respectful of other approaches and support that very much too.
Joe: We’re certainly not the only way either nor would be the right solution for everybody.
Q: We’ve heard a lot of conversations about dual diagnosis. Can you describe what that is and why that is important?
Joe: Yeah, absolutely.
First of all, the definition of dual diagnosis is anyone who has a substance abuse problem along with a mental health disorder. That's what it means. There is a double diagnosis going on at the same time or at least two.
The thing that we've discovered is that everybody who's struggling with substance abuse issue also has a mental health issue, whether it's depression, or anxiety, or self-esteem, issues around hopelessness and suicide, and so forth.
There's some amazing statistics out there.
Did you know that about 50% of all of us will experience a mental illness in our lifetime? 50%. It's a huge, huge number. It's just enormous.
And 30% of us at any particular time are dealing with a substance abuse issue. That is big enough that we need some level of outside help.
So those are two just enormous statistics, so dual diagnosis, putting those things together. And so that's how that works.
We unravel this by working with the mental health issue. Let's work with the depression, the anxiety, the self-loathing and hopelessness and so forth. The issues underneath that that are causing those feelings, so how do we do that?
We do that by teaching the counseling skills and strategies and the concepts that each person needs so that they can work with their underlying issues and hold that stuff differently in their consciousness and not have the negativity anymore.
Interesting. Betsy, do have anything to add to that?
Betsy: I really don't think so.
I don't want to scare people off by mental health issue. Depression and anxiety are kind of insidious and it affects the family, it affects every part of your life. But again, we think those things come from just a sadness and hopelessness.
It applies to an individual or the way they're holding their life, their past, and their present day, and possibly their future as well.
We as a society with a statistic like 50% just need to embrace that.
"Okay. We've got something that needs some care so let's go get it." And substance abuse as well. I mean, it's a lot of us but it's just something that needs to be addressed, no judgment.
We’ve covered a lot today, and perhaps we’ll cover dual diagnosis as a topic in another Facebook broadcast. Thanks for making time. We have an eBook that’s available for download, which covers a lot of what Joe and Betsy talked about today.
Please contact us if you’d like to speak with us about your specific situation.
So Joe, Betsy, thank you for joining us and thanks everybody for tuning in today.
Betsy: Thanks very much, guys.