Written and Developed by
Alan Meyers, Ph.D., C.C.Ht., Diplomate and Julia D. Stewart, C.Y.I., Reiki Master
ALTERNATIVE TREATMENT INTERNATIONAL, INC.
We Treat the Whole Person and the Cause of the Problem, Not Just the Symptom™
The protocol for substance abuse and psycho-emotional disorders treatment is making a major change. Developed by Alternative Treatment International, Inc. (“A.T.I.”), this includes the use of Perception Therapy® and Mind-Body-Spirit-Environment® techniques combined with other client focused clinical techniques and alternative healing methods to affect change in perceptions, thinking, and behaviors.
TREATING THE ADDICTIVE THINKING
AND/OR PSYCHO-EMOTIONAL BEHAVIORS
At A.T.I., our philosophy is to examine all aspects of the individual’s life in a clinical and holistic way to determine the best course of action to treat the whole person, and uncover and resolve the problem. This is enhanced by employing Perception Therapy® and Mind-Body-Spirit-Environment® techniques which are designed to raise the therapeutic arsenal currently in use. We believe that the answers do not lie in behaviors but in the thinking that produces the behaviors. Therefore, we accept our clients’ current behaviors in a non-judgmental, compassionate way and take an indirective approach to changing perception and thinking, rather than the standard direct approach aimed at changing behaviors. Treating only the behavior does not address the cause of the problem as behaviors do not just happen by themselves. Thought (the Mind) produces behaviors as well as emotions, both being positive and negative.
Many addictive and psycho-emotional behaviors are a result of psychological, physical, spiritual, and environmental issues in regard to the individual, and can be successfully treated utilizing a variety of clinical techniques combined with alternative methods. In some cases, medication management may be indicated and can be a helpful adjunct to the therapeutic process. Client success can also be improved if the client’s belief system embraces holistic healing methods.
Rather than employing a directive and controlling approach that may produce a defensive attitude by the client and hamper the change process, our indirective and metaphorical techniques allow the client to come to his/her own conclusion. This yields a more productive therapeutic result, not only in the clients’ thinking, but in their behaviors, sobriety and recovery as well.
Our staff views each client as an individual who is coping with his/her life in the ways that they know. We support their choice to enter a residential setting to obtain guidance and learn new ways of perceiving and thinking. Clients who enter treatment have recognized that their current ways of thinking and behaving are getting in the way of their happiness. They may also not want to lose their vested interests (i.e., family, home, business) and are willing to do something about changing their present situation.
In light of this, we find that it is possible to obtain successful results when treating the addictive thinking and/or psycho-emotional behaviors utilizing the unique therapeutic processes developed by A.T.I., that addresses the whole person and underlying causes, not just the symptom.
BY CHANGING PERCEPTION – THINKING WILL CHANGE
For an individual to discontinue substance use or other self-destructive patterns and begin a recovery process, one must be open to the philosophy that will bring him/her to their own conclusion and learn to affect change. This can be achieved through the process of changing perceptions and thinking.
Most people accept the basic concept that there is always another way to view things. Once a certain way of thinking as been formed in an individual, it generally requires applied therapeutic techniques to open the mind to accept a change in perception.
By treating the thinking as the primary therapeutic target, the client is given the opportunity to decipher their formed perceptions to be true or false. These may have manifested the dysfunctional thinking which has produced the behaviors that are interfering with a healthy lifestyle. Once clarity has occurred regarding the formed perceptions, the therapeutic processes of making a positive change of thinking are easily accepted by the client. This allows the client to come to a productive conclusion because perceiving and thinking are being internalized in a new way. These perceptions, which have now changed, allow clearer thinking to occur and positive choices to be made, resulting in an automatic change in behavior.
WHEN THINKING CHANGES,
BEHAVIORS WILL CHANGE BY THEMSELVES
Thinking must change for behavior to change. “When thinking changes, behaviors will change by themselves.” Understanding this simple concept, it appears a waste of time to spend our efforts on trying to help or force people to improve their behaviors. It has proven not to work, and hence, relapse continues. As we have seen, clients do not appear to recover from their addictive behaviors as they do with many other disorders. Even if they discontinue their substance use, many continue to be unhappy, unfulfilled, depressed and continue to experience life problems, because their thought process remains a result of their perceptions. We see this every day, even with clients who have spent months in rehabilitation programs, in therapy of one kind or another, and with counselors who promote a variety of techniques.
MIND IS THE MAKER and will always produce the thinking and emotions that are productive or unproductive for all of us. How then do we assist people in changing their thinking? Helping people to think differently is a complex process, but is an attainable goal. By uncovering and resolving the underlying causes of the problems utilizing A.T.I.’s Perception Therapy® and Mind-Body-Spirit-Environment® approaches, healing of the whole person, not just the symptom, occurs and the result is hope, peace and happiness. Relapse, substance abuse, behavioral problems, anti-social acting out, low self-esteem, feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and worthlessness are removed as the perceptions and thoughts have transformed.
PERCEPTION THERAPY® and MIND-BODY-SPIRIT-ENVIRONMENT® APPROACHES WORK BY PRODUCING A CHANGE IN THINKING
Thinking begins with "Perception". We perceive in the way that we have been taught to perceive. Our perceptions about ourselves, others, and life around us, begin at birth and continue throughout life. Perception for most is equal to truth. Whether the taught perception is true or not, makes no difference. The only thing that matters is that, “I was told or taught this by a perceived reliable source, or read this, so it must be true”. Therefore, one perceives in a certain way which formulates one to think in a certain way, causing one to behave in a particular way. For the individual, the resulting behavior may be positive or negative, productive or unproductive, all depending on how one was taught to perceive and think. We must recognize that the perceptions we are being taught are actually someone else's, not our own, and these perceptions were taught to them by someone else. Are their perceptions true, or are they just perceptions that they have been taught by well-meaning or even misguided individuals who have also been taught by others?
Part of the therapeutic goal is to examine the perceptions one has about Mind-Body-Spirit-Environment® and how those perceptions produce thinking. Perception Therapy® reviews those perceptions throughout the therapeutic process and as those perceptions change, we witness changes in thinking, which in turn brings hope to the client. When a change in thinking produces a new view, all things are possible including lifestyle change, recovery, sobriety, happiness and success.
EXAMPLES OF PERCEPTION CHANGE REGARDING
MIND, BODY, SPIRIT and ENVIRONMENT
It has been estimated that over ten million Americans suffer from depression. This alarming statistic proves that changes must be made to better treat and prevent depression. Because the symptoms of depression have many variables contributing to the discomfort, aside from or along with the possibility of a chemical imbalance, it is necessary to treat depression with a diverse treatment plan that focuses on the whole person.
Depressive symptoms are typically categorized in the DSM IV by depressed mood, loss of interest in daily activities, weight loss, insomnia, and feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness. With this diagnostic method, symptoms are neatly packaged, diagnosed, and treated most often with a variety of anti-depressant medications that are designed to alleviate or diminish symptoms.
Although medications in some cases of depression may be helpful if the individual believes in the process, it is believed that this traditional course of treatment masks symptoms and is not designed to uncover and resolve the cause of the problems which may include: biological, psychological, psycho-emotional, situational, environmental, or spiritual areas.
At A.T.I., depression accompanied by alcohol and/or other forms of drug abuse is seen frequently. What this addictive behavior indicates is that either depression is a causal factor in substance abuse, or that the substance abuse is producing the depression. The therapists at A.T.I. are well versed in treating co-occurring disorders such as substance abuse and depression. By addressing this combination from a spiritual standpoint, it is important to recognize that the substance abuse reinforces selfish behaviors which deter people from recognizing their true nature or inner self. As the person gains recognition through a change in perception as being more selfless, the closer they come to their true nature and their feelings of hopelessness are replaced with renewed hope.
Those that attempt to understand the origins of depression and depressive symptoms cannot ignore that the one common symptom is the concept of “loss of hope”. Hope is not biological, bio-chemical, psychological, or environmental. Rather, it is a spiritual concept that cannot be ignored in the treatment of depression. Therefore, it should be at the forefront of the predominant clinical protocol of the treatment plan for the client who suffers from depression with a co-occurring disorder.
When changes in perception and a spiritual understanding are introduced into the life of a person experiencing depressive symptoms, the depressive symptoms begin to lift, sometimes immediately. For every human being, the spiritual concept of “hope” is the one concept that intuitively keeps us going. Combining perception changes and spiritual healing to address the symptoms of depression can help lift the depressive feelings, and bring hope and a feeling of purpose to a person who has lost that.
It is an interesting observation that people perceive the concept of depression in many different ways. Some may suffer from a true diagnosis of depressive disorder while others magnify a minor biorhythm change or transient feeling of malaise as depression. (perception) Their thinking then becomes one of a depressed individual and their mannerisms are seen as lack of energy or disinterest. (behavior)
The approach at A.T.I. toward all true or perceived depressive feelings is to assist the client to think of themselves as healthy and project affirmations in terms of wellness rather than sickness. As the Mind produces all thought, perceptions about one’s feelings may change through positive awareness relative to Mind-Body-Spirit-Environment® (thinking), resulting in behaviors that demonstrate a person who speaks of and believes in well-being.
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Trauma, another example, is a common occurrence that produces negative perceptions, thinking and behaviors. Traumas may affect both the conscious and subconscious parts of the mind, produce perceptions which may be consciously recognized or kept hidden in the subconscious and continue to influence thinking. Traumas do not always have to be horrific to be life changing events, although they certainly can be. Examples may include physical, sexual, emotional abuse, loss of loved one, automobile accident, etc. However, traumas may also be small, seemingly insignificant events that may also cause perceptions and thinking, and years later may manifest into unwanted or at least misunderstood behaviors.
Families have probably the greatest potential for creating positive self-esteem, feelings of self-worth and self-love in their children. Families also have the greatest potential to produce traumatized, self-defeating individuals who may develop drug, alcohol or psycho-emotional disorders to be able to
cope with the traumas inflicted on them by family members. Of course, these same dysfunctions may not necessarily be caused by family but in many cases, traumas of self-concepts could be imbedded in childhood or adolescent minds by friends, television, magazines, religion, misguided teachers, etc.
Some traumas are caused by catastrophic events and people deal with these traumatic events in a variety of ways, both positive and negative. Unfortunately, many do not have knowledge of therapeutic interventions or have family support to seek out appropriate therapeutic interventions. Without help, the results may be the use of easily accessible drugs, alcohol or psychiatric medications to cope with the emotional pain.
In the case of family induced traumas, the same catastrophic results may be produced. They may occur as a one time event or repeated traumas over an extended period of time. A one time traumatic event might be, for example, a sexual abuse episode, a physical beating, abandonment, divorce of parents, or even an illness. The more insidious types of traumas may occur over and over for years. Examples may include repeated abuse episodes or beatings and even being told, “you are not as smart as your brother,” “you are built just like your grandmother (who may be overweight),” “you are bad”, “your sister got all the talent,” and more, by parents, siblings, grandparents, etc. All of these traumas that are produced by family can and do cause life long damage.
At A.T.I., we see a large percentage of clients that present a problem of alcohol, drug abuse or emotional problems, but also suffer from feelings of low self-esteem and low self-worth. Clients relate how as children, they were told that they were “no good”, “worthless”, “dumb”, “not wanted”, “a pain”, etc. (perception) This may have lead them to consciously try to “find an identity” through friends, style of dress, hair, speech patterns (all typically dysfunctional), or subconsciously view him/herself in the negative terms that were directed at them. (thinking) The result is an undesired lifestyle including addiction, depression, anxiety, anti-social behaviors, anger, dysfunctional relationships, and other emotional disorders; all confirming the negative perceptions and thinking which they have about themselves. (behavior)
Through therapeutic intervention which focuses on treating the whole person and uncovering the underlying cause of the problem, not just the symptom, clients are given the opportunity to learn to perceive themselves as worthwhile individuals. As a result, thinking will begin to change and allow productive and acceptable behaviors to become evident.
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Phobias (irrational fears) are another example of perception influencing thinking and producing undesired behaviors. Consider a person who expresses fear of flying in an airplane. We witnessed this fear on a rather large scale after the tragedy of 911. Although statistics demonstrate airline safety, people perceived from the 911 incident that air travel was unsafe. (perception) The fear that there was a possibility of an airliner on which they might fly would be hijacked caused people to resist flying and
the airlines to increase security, making travel more difficult. (thinking) This created lower numbers in air travel for a period of time after the 911 event. (behavior) As the fear about airline safety abated and as the acceptance of airline security became a reality (perception), thinking changed and the public returned to a pre-911 flying level. (behavior)
At A.T.I., the goal is for clients to learn to live without fear about life or relapse. We all know that most people struggle with relapse in recovery. Preventing relapse is one of the most important aspects in recovery. Living in fear greatly hampers recovery and sobriety, and is not necessary. The purpose of our therapeutic techniques is to treat the whole person along with resolving the underlying causes of the addictive thinking and emotional disorders. With the positive tools provided and combined with practicing a heightened awareness, clients have the opportunity to experience a life that does not include fear-based thinking and/or relapse.
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A different example of perception having been taught is one involving prejudice. We all know that people are not born with a prejudice against skin color, religions, language, size and weight, life position, and so many others. Everyone is aware of the prejudice and bigotry that is displayed by nations. Often, these expressions of hatred come from children. Where did these children learn those perceptions? It is obvious that their thinking is one of taught hatred and bigotry. Their behavior and language promote this distorted perception and thinking, and the prejudice and bigotry continue.
At A.T.I., a part of the therapeutic process is to assist clients, from a spiritual standpoint, to view all people as equal including those that suffer from drug and alcohol abuse, and emotional disorders. (perception) As clients begin to affect this perception change, they may become more tolerant of others (thinking) and begin to demonstrate increased acceptance and understanding for all people no matter what skin color, religion, size and weight, or style of life they follow. (behavior) With an increased level of tolerance for others, the level of acceptance and understanding for oneself is also raised. This provides a sense of connection rather than isolation and is a positive concept that aids in the healing process.
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Mind-Body-Spirit-Environment® uses individualized clinical and holistic treatment techniques to specifically address the areas that affect addictive thinking and psycho-emotional behaviors. This protocol addresses the Mind: uncovering possible situations that may be causing the perceptions and thinking, and detecting the root cause of the problem through psychotherapy; Body: incorporating structured physical fitness and healthful eating habits to promote feelings of health, strength and self-worth; Spirit: introducing spiritual practices to assist in opening the mind up to possibilities, practicing focus and clarity, and acceptance in terms of “self”; and, Environment: applying various methods such as design psychology and Feng Shui to heal the environment in which one lives as part of the essential combination of therapy techniques necessary to promote the most effective, long-term healing. A.T.I. also provides Art Therapy to bring about perceived environmental healing through creative expression.
Body image, looks, size, proportion and specific body parts, and how they are perceived may indeed cause considerable dysfunction in one’s life. Eating disorders may be the culmination of such perceptions. It is difficult for many people to understand a case in which a young female who binges and purges to the point of decreasing body weight to dangerously low levels can look in a mirror and perceive herself as “fat”. Another example might include a person who is overweight and perceives absolutely no way out of the depression he/she feels due to the repeated failures to lose the extra weight.
People that suffer from substance abuse and emotional problems may take a distorted view of themselves and their bodies. (perception) When a person is actively in their negative emotional state, addiction, or on a binge, for example, they lack regard for themselves in many fundamental ways (thinking). The result may be a poor diet, disturbed sleep, lack of hygiene, self-harming or other destructive acts. (behavior) This thinking creates a run down, unhealthy, unfit, tired individual who has difficulty getting him/herself out of the negative emotional state or addictive patterns.
Overall physical health is an important component of the total healing package. An addictive lifestyle takes its toll on the body as well as the mind, spirit and environment. At A.T.I., we provide ample opportunity to conduct the different types of exercises that will improve fitness, practice meditation and breathwork, and learn healthy eating and living habits; all bringing about a sense of healing, self-esteem, and physical improvement.
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Mind-Body-Spirit-Environment® uses holistic treatment techniques to specifically address the areas that affect perceptions regarding body image. This clinical protocol addresses the Mind: addressing these types of physical perceptions in terms of the causative factor, which may have their origin in possible traumas or feelings of low self-esteem. The therapeutic process must include examining the learned perceptions from the experienced traumas or low self-esteem in order for the thinking and behavior to change; Body: incorporating nutritional recommendations with structured physical fitness; Spirit: implementing spiritual practices such as meditation, yoga, T’ai Chi, and building self-esteem; and, Environment: applying techniques and educational methods to improve one’s awareness of the environment and raise consciousness on how these techniques may aide in the self healing process. Some methods of raising consciousness about one’s environment may include using non-toxic body and cleaning products, buying from and supporting companies that demonstrate environmentally safe practices, and caring for and being concerned with one’s own living environment. Through this mindful practice of purchasing and using non-toxic products, the body benefits in improved health and well-being.
Spirituality may be perceived by some as only obtainable through the church or some other form of organized religion. When this is the perception, the person may eliminate other possibilities of obtaining a spiritual understanding from any other view point. The truth is that there are a great many available sources that may offer and provide a spiritual understanding, spiritual practice, sense of connection, or profound life changing experiences if one were open to perceiving other options.
We learn about the creative forces primarily from our families. (perception) One must be aware that religion is man made and spirituality is manifested and conveyed to each individual by his/her perception of their inner self. Some may consider God, Universal Consciousness or Life Force, Yahweh, Allah, Supreme Being, and so on. (thinking) How one signifies this perception is not important. It is the recognition of a creative force and its participation within each individual that has the impact.
Take for example the perception that one may have of him/herself as a spiritual person. If one perceives as a spiritual person who follows their inner guidance and knows that they are connected to everything, their thinking and behavior may be different from someone who enters a church for spiritual guidance. One may find spirituality in organized religion (behavior), depending on their purpose and intent, or anywhere else they may choose where they can make the connection with their perception of the creative force. Purpose and intent is the key concept here. For example, if one attends church every Sunday to be in a spiritual environment and have a contact with their creator, then their purpose and intent are correct as they perceive spirituality. Another example might be an indigenous person who lives primitively without knowledge of churches or spiritual centers. If this person has a “oneness” with flora and fauna, is cooperative, loving and caring, and has a conscious contact with his/her creator or inner self, he/she could certainly be perceived as a spiritual person.
Perception Therapy® examines one’s conscious thinking about how spirituality is perceived, where this was taught and by whom, and how these perceptions formed the thinking and behaviors one possesses. At A.T.I., we provide access to daily spiritual exercises including meditation to give the clients an opportunity to recognize how they perceive themselves in the spiritual sense or “true self”. Through this, thinking may change as one sees him/herself in a different light. The behaviors will then begin to change as the individual begins to act as a loving, caring, mindful, cooperative and productive person, whose consciousness has been elevated by their understanding or clarity of their “spirituality” and how to apply that to their daily life.
A spiritual practice that many are becoming familiar with is meditation, but may be viewed differently by most people. Some may think of meditating as difficult, that there is a correct way to meditate, or that they cannot concentrate because they have been diagnosed with ADD, etc. (perception) These are only perceptions of truth, not actual truth. When one retains these perceptions of meditation, their “thinking” will not allow attempts at quiet focused contemplation and so, they do not even try. (behavior) Here, we guide clients into their individual experience with the practice of meditation which assists in the healing process. Each day can present a different way in which to meditate depending upon sleep, scheduling, emotions, etc. and also how one perceives the events of their day. If one believes that they are experiencing stress (perception), then he/she may choose to sit quietly with the
eyes closed, focusing in on the breath to bring peace of mind (thinking), and then return to the daily activities in a calm, rational state. (behavior) Or, depending upon the level of emotions, one may choose to go for a brief walk while practicing positive affirmations or spend a few minutes journaling (meditation in motion). The result is a change in perception of the situation, clearer thoughts, and a more desired behavior.
Through a variety of methods, A.T.I. guides each client toward their individual understanding of spirit or “self-realization”. This is also attained utilizing the Mind-Body-Spirit-Environment® approach. Mind: clinical therapy designed to transform the clients’ thinking and produce positive, productive behaviors. A.T.I. teaches the practice of meditation which opens the mind allowing insights, as well as providing education of alternative healing practices. Through these experiences, clients come to their own conclusion about how they perceive their spirituality and how they can apply that to their life; Body: Gaining awareness about the body being a vehicle for the soul and therefore needs to be respected and cared for with a spiritual mindset. In order for people to move forward in their recovery and lives, attending to their physical health from a spiritual standpoint helps to build self-esteem, provide energy and allow for clearer thinking. Spirit: At A.T.I., clients are viewed as spiritual beings that deserve to be happy, at peace, hopeful and productive. We understand that people deal with situations, experiences, and emotional issues from what they have learned throughout life. We strive to guide clients into their own personal experience of accepting and understanding why they are perceiving, thinking, and behaving as they do and have in the past, with a compassionate, non-judgmental, and respectful mindset; Environment: A major determinant in recovery and relapse prevention is training the mind to be constantly aware of making good choices. One of the techniques that A.T.I. teaches to help raise awareness is to be mindful about one’s environment. Being mindful about the environment helps to be mindful about oneself and the recovery process. Through the practice of raising one’s level of awareness, relapse never has to occur. The environment, meaning one’s immediate living space and the global environment as well, and how one perceives and thinks about these, plays an important role in the way one behaves and how one chooses to live. Practicing a positive way of perceiving one’s environment and taking the necessary steps to heal that environment, can result in a change of thinking and in turn a change of behavior.
The perception of one’s immediate living environment as well as the more global environment and how this perception may or may not impact on his/her healing and healing process is an area that may be overlooked or not recognized by many. A change in perception about viewing the environment, as another part of the healing process, needs to occur because the environment directly impacts everyone. At A.T.I., clients will learn to perceive how healing the environment can help to heal their “self”. The goal of our Perception Therapy® and Mind-Body-Spirit-Environment® approaches are to produce perception changes, raise the level of thinking, and change behaviors. When perceptions about the environment change, the resulting behaviors toward the environment begin to change. This shift in thinking assists the clients in their healing process by raising their level of awareness.
Implementing positive choices and behaviors to make an impact one’s immediate environment as well as the global environment to heal oneself might include:
- keeping the air that one breaths clean
- purchasing environmentally safe products for daily necessities
- disposing of waste by composting or recycling
- not polluting the environment and the earth
- conserving water used for daily living
- purchasing local, natural, organic foods
- supporting causes that are environmentally friendly or ones that conserve resources
- practicing conservation methods as they relate to energy, transportation, pollutants in the air/sea/land
- research and implement Feng Shui techniques
By learning and practicing these concepts, philosophies and behaviors in regard to environment, people suffering from addictions and/or psycho-emotional disorders can learn to move beyond their limited awareness, expand their minds and change their perceptions about healing methods to include healing the environment.
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When we teach clients to change their perceptions utilizing the Perception Therapy ® and Mind-Body-Spirit-Environment® approaches, addiction and emotional relapses do not have to occur or get in the way of recovery. People can live happy, healthy, and productive lives without living in fear that they will turn to dysfunctional thinking and behaviors at any moment. The occurrence of relapse is only a perception, not a reality. Anyone has the ability to change their perception, thinking, behavior and reality.
HOW TO CHANGE PERCEPTION, THINKING AND BEHAVIOR
1. Begin to open your mind to new concepts.
2. Question, rather than just accept what is being told.
3. Admit to new possibilities.
4. Acknowledge that not everything is either black and white.
5. Understand that what one may believe to be true may just be someone else’s
6. Adopt new ways of viewing one’s own specific situation.
7. Recognize that people behave in the way that they think.
8. Explore philosophies and theories that may help to change the way one perceives.
9. Realize that what works for one may not work for all.
10. Show willingness to recognize a change in perception when it occurs.
11. Seek spiritual enlightenment and understanding.
12. Gain acceptance that the Mind, Body, Spirit, and Environment are all connected.
13. Gain acceptance that we all have an impact on one another and the environment and that in seeking healing for yourself, you are helping another.
14. Become aware of your impact/input on your immediate environment and the global environment.
15. Continually practice building awareness by reviewing your perceptions, thinking and behaviors.
About the Author: Dr. Alan Meyers and Julia D. Stewart are the owners and founders of Alternative Treatment International, clearwater, Florida. They have developed "Perception Therapy" as a new treatment technique for substance abuse and psycho-emotional disorders. They can be contacted at 800-897-8060.