Verna Salmon has a long record of success as a therapist in private practice. She is a former Metropolitan State College instructor and was a member of a 1988 Citizen’s Ambassador (People to People) group sharing with alcohol and drug treatment programs in Norway, Sweden and Germany. Her graduate research at Colorado State University led to a requirement of chemical dependency training for all Colorado Department of Social Services caseworkers.

Family Systems Therapy

Dr Darvin Smith, Verna’s earliest mentor starting in 1980

Dr Darvin Smith

From 1980 to 1985, Verna began her psychotherapy career as Director of the Family Program for an addictions treatment program in Boulder, Colorado, known as the Whole Person Health Center. Dr Darvin Smith, MD, had created a very successful 30-day intensive outpatient program which cost a fraction of the psychiatric hospital inpatient programs that were so popular at the time. Their work brought recovery and healing to countless persons who couldn’t afford those expensive inpatient programs, and had the added advantage of patients living at home and continuing with much of their regular life while receiving intensive treatment on an all-day basis. Since 1990, Dr. Smith has trained those who have established alcohol/drug abuse treatment programs in thirty nations around the world. He is allied with YWAM, Youth With a Mission.

Experiential Therapy

Sharon Wegscheider-Cruse, Verna’s experiential therapy mentor for two decades

Sharon Wegscheider-Cruse

During the 1980’s when substance abuse treatment was in its infancy, Sharon Wegscheider-Cruse, a disciple of Virginia Satire’s Family Systems School, was one of the leading practitioners and teachers in the world about Alcoholism and Family Treatment. Sharon authored books, films and countless articles on alcoholism and codependency during a time when little was available to the field of psychotherapy. She founded a program called the Onsite Treatment and Education Center that continues to this day, serving thousands from across the Americas and around the world. Verna has worked periodically since 1984 as a primary therapist for Onsite weeklong programs. Sharon’s husband and business partner, Dr Joseph Cruse MD, was the first Medical Director of the world renowned Betty Ford Center.

Training for Social Workers

Verna Salmon

Verna Salmon

While working on her Master of Social Work degree (MSW) in 1986 at Colorado State University (CSU), she was assigned as a caseworker to a Social Services office in a small town. She was assigned three of their most difficult families, and her interviews quickly revealed that undiagnosed and untreated alcoholism of the parents had been undermining the agency’s efforts for years. She was amazed that this factor had been overlooked by the agency staff.

As a result, she initiated a graduate research project on Evaluation of Colorado Social Service Caseworkers in Screening for Alcohol/Drug Problems Among Clients and it led eventually to the requirement of substance abuse training for all Colorado Department of Social Services caseworkers.

While at CSU, Verna began seeing individual clients in a private practice. Her insightfulness and gut honest confrontation of the denial of addicts and co-addicts, enabled her to help hundreds of individuals, couples, and families. From that start in 1985, her private practice has embraced the lives of more than two thousand people in the United States, Mexico and Europe.

Co-dependency & Addictions Recovery

The Julie Penrose Center

The Julie Penrose Center

During the late 1980’s, Verna and two partners, Mary Roush, M.A. and Dr. Lane Lasater, PhD, formed the Colorado Recovery Group, and conducted weekend and weeklong workshops, teaching the adult-children-of-alcoholics about co-dependency, the path out of addictions, and the value of ongoing participation in self-help 12-Step groups. Meeting in places like the Julie Penrose Center in Colorado Springs, they helped more than 1,500 people to find healing from dysfunctional childhoods. Individuals got to relive traumas of their past in order to reach healing and reconciliation, aided by the sculpting and psychodrama techniques of the group leaders.

College Instructor on Family Systems

Metro State College in Denver

Metro State College in Denver

In 1987, Verna returned to her undergraduate alma mater and joined the staff of the Human Services Department of Metro State College in Denver teaching Alcoholism and the Family and Psychodrama and Sculpting Techniques. Besides her years of experience, she drew from her prior training under Sharon Wegscheider-Cruse.

International Addictions Treatment

Logo of the People To People/ Ambassador Program

Ambassador to Norway, Sweden and Germany

A trip to Europe in 1988 in a Citizen’s Ambassador Group, resulted in collaboration with alcohol/drug treatment programs in Norway, Sweden and Germany. For example, when meeting with government agencies in Oslo, Norway, who were struggling with how to deal with a growing drug addiction population, her group was able to share the success of the Minnesota Model for treating alcoholics through kind and empathic interventions.

Empowering Women

In the early 1990’s, Verna was very involved with the empowerment of women. She and a partner formed a group of 50 in Denver that met monthly for a year. They used experiential exercises and entertaining educational processes and invited dynamic outside presenters for various topics. They began by acknowledging that the person who feels “less than” must build self esteem, set goals, and surround herself with others who have similar goals to grow and accomplish their dreams. The personal progress of the women was amazing.

Dame Anita Roddick

Dame Anita Roddick

From that first group, Verna and her partner became Co-Presidents of WOW’M, Women of the World, Mentoring Inc. They presented a series of workshops, formed committees to address community needs, and created sponsoring relationships. For instance, they assisted the Denver Bean Project by teaming a mature and confident woman with a struggling and dependent woman to accomplish specific life goals. Women mentored women, shared the wisdom of womanhood, celebrated being women, while shedding a dependency on a man’s world while living harmoniously within it.

Verna was fortunate enough to be mentored by the world renowned business entrepreneur, teacher and writer, Dame Anita Roddick, founder of the Body Shops Ltd, with cosmetic stores around the world. Verna brought Anita to Denver in 1992 to address 300 women at one of their WOW’M conferences. While in the USA, Anita was also lecturing at the Harvard Business School and the University of California, Berkley concerning business ethics and environmental responsibility.

Personal Life Planning

After attending McGill University in Toronto in 1994, Verna began conducting personal life planning sessions with clients called Planning Alternative Tomorrows with Hope (PATH) which she continues to this day. As an educator, Verna has conducted conference workshops on topics such as: Sexual Compulsivity, The Secret Life of the Sexual Co-Addict, Secrecy, Shame and Sobriety for the Sexually Addicted Woman, Co-dependency Recovery, and Women and Power.