Al-Anon changes lives. No one knows this better than Linda Hardy. She spent 20 life-altering years attending support groups and working through issues with codependency after watching family members struggle with addictions. She always had a passion for addiction and recovery, but it wasn’t until she was in her 40s – after leaving a career as a paralegal – that she would go back to school and become a therapist. “As a paralegal working on divorce cases, I found myself wanting to solve the real problems in the relationship, not argue over who gets Aunt Sally’s silver,” says Linda. “That’s when I decided to pursue my calling as a therapist.” For nine years, Linda worked with incarcerated adolescents with trauma, substance abuse and other issues. The work was complex and difficult, but she learned a number of skills that made her a better therapist, including assertiveness and compassion. She also began using dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) and saw how effective it could be even with the most challenging clients.
Acceptance and Change: A Lesson in Opposites
It was Linda’s intensive training and experience with DBT that made her the right match for The Ranch. DBT was one of the first effective therapies created for borderline personality disorder and has been thoroughly researched and used successfully to treat anxiety disorders, depression, eating disorders and other conditions. “DBT is a paradox,” Linda explains. “It uses two opposite things – behavioral psychology, which is cut and dry science, and Zen Buddhism – to encourage both acceptance and change. Whereas our clients typically think in black-or-white terms, DBT shows them how two opposite ideas can be true at once. For example, alcoholics want to drink but they also want to get sober – and it isn’t until they accept that they have a problem that they can begin to get well.” At The Ranch, Linda leads individual and group therapy sessions utilizing DBT along with DBT skills training groups. She also leads a DBT consultation team that allows therapists and other staff who are trained in DBT to discuss cases and hone their skills. In keeping with the philosophy at The Ranch, DBT is taught experientially. Clients practice mindfulness and healthy distraction rather than simply reading about them. They may also try drug-free approaches to self-soothing such as drinking hot tea or cocoa or using art supplies, and then process the experience with their therapist and group.
A ‘Sacred Place’
The Ranch was also a great match for Linda. Originally from Kansas, Linda feels at home at The Ranch, a place she describes as “magical and sacred.” She believes wholeheartedly in the effectiveness of the program’s approach, which emphasizes holistic therapies for addictions and mental health disorders. “Many addiction treatment centers focus solely on substance abuse, but The Ranch turns over all the rocks and treats all of the underlying issues, not just drug use,” says Linda. “I believe strongly in the effectiveness of acupuncture, EMDR, psychodrama, Brainspotting and other cutting-edge therapies that are integral parts of treatment at The Ranch.” Today, Linda is still passionate about her work, in part because of the “culture of excellence” that surrounds her at The Ranch and in part because of the meaningful interactions she has with clients. Quiet but enthusiastic, Linda believes the relationship between client and therapist is one of equals. “I have the honor of walking with people for part of their journey and helping to guide them,” she says, “but I learn and grow from them as well.”