Former members allege reckless and ‘cult’ behavior at Kansas city teenage addiction program

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When teenagers and young adults in Missouri and Kansas struggle with addiction and alcohol abuse, some turn to outpatient groups based on the idea that substance abuse treatment has to be fun and feel good for it to stick — but former clients say the programs pushed them into reckless behavior.

When Tatum Veatch was 16, she felt like her drinking was getting out of control, so the Blue Valley sophomore turned to a sobriety group she found through a friend. For nearly two years, members of the group — Full Circle in Kansas City, Kansas — told her it was the only way to get better and stay in a good place.

Veatch later realized that while she was too young to drink at the time, she wasn’t actually out of control. However, at the moment she panicked and told her parents she needed to seek help.

In the beginning, Veatch, now 18, said she was showered with praise and affection, a practice she later came to know as love-bombing. The group made her feel seen and validated her concerns that she was drinking too much.

They used this initial validation to hook Veatch, encouraging her to limit ties with friends and family. Cutting out bad influences is standard practice for many programs, but Veatch said Full Circle went further.

Counselors led her to believe she should not be talking to any of her old supports — even her family, a positive influence — because they would not be there for her like the group would be.

It got to the point Veatch stopped speaking with her father, a skeptic of the program.

“You don’t really notice it, but they try to steer you more towards the group, instead of your life outside of the group,” Veatch said. “So it’s a thing where, oh, you’re safe with (Full Circle). We’ll take care of you as long as you’re with us.”

Veatch said the only people she spoke to outside the group during this time were coworkers. At one point she bailed on the program temporarily, but past friends were not eager to welcome her back after she cut them off. She returned to Full Circle shortly after.

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