Sue Levitan is one of the first faces clients see when they begin detox and…
An Interview with Leslie Binch, Primary Therapist
Like all great tales, Leslie Binch’s story begins with love and good food. A native New Yorker, Leslie moved to Tennessee for a man – a man she eventually married and joined forces with in pursuit of his lifelong dream: to own a restaurant. Together, the couple opened Papa Boudreaux’s Cajun Café and Catering Company in Santa Fe, Tenn. Eight years later, the restaurant is so popular they opened a second location in Franklin, Tenn.
The first year the restaurant opened, staff from The Ranch would frequently come in for lunch. Leslie got to know The Ranch doing catering for the treatment center’s events.
“I was in awe,” she says. “I always dreamt of working at The Ranch but it was a dream I never thought would be possible.”
What seemed impossible was possible. Leslie started working at The Ranch as a resident assistant in 2008. Since then, she has played diverse roles, from intern to yoga instructor to primary therapist.
“This place is truly magical,” Leslie says. “I work with some unbelievably talented clinicians from whom I’m constantly learning, both personally and professionally.”
Spiritual Practice and the 12 Steps
Leslie is a firm believer in the 12 Steps. She explains, “People are reluctant to give up drug use, an eating disorder or other behaviors because there’s a payoff: The behavior works to soothe them.”
The goal, as Leslie describes it, is to “help them to buy in to something better” by modeling healthy behaviors and following the path laid out in the 12 Steps. Leslie uses the spiritual principles of 12-Step recovery to create separation between destructive behaviors and the authentic self. Since clients are used to relying on themselves for relief and survival, the concept of surrendering to a higher power can be particularly challenging – and powerful.
“Spiritual recovery comes first, then mental and then physical,” Leslie explains. “A spiritual connection helps strengthen the core sense of self, the first building block in healing from addictions, eating disorders and other mental health issues.”
Leslie encourages her clients to engage in daily 12-Step practice. Daily practice brings consistency and predictability to the recovery process, while promoting mindfulness of the present moment, emotional regulation and relapse prevention. She asks clients to consider: How are these behaviors working for you? In what ways is your life unmanageable? For Leslie, taking inventory is not a one-time occurrence but a daily check-in: Where are you at today with the surrender process?
“Daily 12-Step practice helps our clients feel grounded and connected to a spiritual source,” Leslie says. “With the Steps as a point of reference, the other work we do at The Ranch becomes even more powerful.”
Leslie also relies heavily on dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) to supply clients with resources they can use to abstain from unhealthy behaviors. Trained in Level I and Level II Brainspotting, Leslie draws on a number of experiential therapies in her work, including psychodrama.
Leslie estimates that most, if not all, of her clients at Lake House have experienced trauma. While in active addiction or an eating disorder, they’re at high risk for re-traumatization because of the high-risk behavior they engage in.
“The Ranch is a great place to develop a spiritual practice. The concept of a higher power dovetails into everything we do here,” Leslie says. “For people recovering from trauma, reliance on a higher power reduces the flight, fight or freeze instinct. As the connection between mind and body gets restored, clients are in a good position to develop a spiritual connection that leads to the next level of healing.”
The Pieces Come Together
With 25 years in personal recovery from eating disorders, drug and alcohol abuse, and trauma, Leslie has a deep understanding of the issues her clients face. A no-holds-barred, say-it-like-it-is therapist, Leslie is direct but extremely loving and supportive. As her colleagues say, she meets clients where they’re at and then pushes them to the next level.
“Many of our clients have been through a number of previous treatment centers. They have a lot of knowledge but something is missing,” she says. “Seeing them use what we have here at The Ranch to finally have a breakthrough – to see the final pieces click where they didn’t before – that’s the most inspiring part of the work we do.”