Wow, we can’t thank Jenny enough for this Testimonial…

Hi Maureen,

I just want to say the biggest and most heartfelt thank you for my literally life-changing four days at Breakthrough Retreats!

Finding the website, funds, and courage to fly over alone to get well and strong was the best thing I’ve ever done.

The combination of one-to-one therapy with Maureen, the daily walks / hikes with Fiona, the relaxing ‘me time’ of massage and reflexology, the sessions of BodyTalk with Finola and hypnotherapy with Jacqui, all made for a truly unique and incredible few days.

It’s so difficult pinpointing a favourite activity or experience, but I have to say the Bodytalk and hypnotherapy sessions I had have completely changed my outlook in the most amazing way. It wasn’t just the actual therapies, but more so the people I trusted with me, and the relationships built in such a short space of time.

Even without the various therapies, this sort of retreat would do anyone good just for the feeling of self-development, discovery, and being totally spoilt by Maureen’s wonderful company the entire trip! I couldn’t have been made to feel more looked after or special.

I felt completely at home at the Retreat Centre within my first few hours of arriving!

I tried not to have too many expectations before I arrived, and was very open to any treatments and experiences that would help me. All I had was excitement and anticipation! I’m so glad I did, because I was overwhelmed by the whole experience, and can say that a month after returning home to ‘normality’, I’m even stronger and my well being is still on the improve and flourishing.

There are no words big enough to thank all you ladies, especially Maureen, for helping me change my life. As cheesy as that sounds, the whole experience is completely priceless, I owe you all so much, and will always treasure every moment I spent at Breakthrough Retreats.

Can’t wait to see you all again very soon!

Jenny x

The UK must invest in mental health help

With the publication of the spending review on Wednesday (Report, 24 November), it’s imperative the government invests in psychological therapies. Failure to address mental health issues, including anxiety and depression, devastates lives, puts a huge strain on the government budget and undermines economic productivity. Psychological health problems have a worse impact on people’s happiness and life satisfaction than physical health problems. In financial terms, the cost of mental ill health in England has been estimated to be £105bn per year.

Fortunately, a number of evidence-based psychological therapies exist and are effective. Investment in psychological therapies to date has been a success, but it is a success that could be multiplied. The improving access to psychological therapies programme is only funded to reach “at least 15%” of the people who need it, and retention and recovery rates could be improved. Everyone with a need for psychological therapy should be able to access it within 28 days. We urge more research funding to show which therapies work best for which people. And we advocate training to ensure the NHS workforce can deliver in practice the full range of evidence-based therapies that it offers in theory. We believe this would go a long way towards improving the wellbeing of the nation and the state of the public finances.

Original article here.

Veteran Psychotherapist publishes series of articles to detail the importance of getting away from it all

Veteran Psychotherapist, Hypnotherapist and Reiki Master Maureen Courtney of Breakthrough Retreats has recently published a series of articles in which she explains the importance of escaping everyday routines.

As Maureen explains…

“All of us have things we would love to change about ourselves, but many of us ignore these desires in the hope that they will somehow disappear in time. Rather than tackling those issues which are bothering us most, we become consumed by our day-to-day lives and begin to put personal development on the back-burners, allowing it to bow to the demands of work.

“In order to bring about lasting change it is important to tear yourself away from your daily routine. Although this can be achieved to an extent by making an effort to do something different during your lunch breaks or after work, the most effective way of tackling mental health issues is to escape the city altogether on a personal development retreat. By visiting a retreat, not only will you benefit from the peace and quiet of the countryside and the help and advice of various experts, you will also have time to identify, engage with and overcome those problems you had hidden away.

“Unlike weekly therapy sessions, a retreat will revolutionise your approach to life in a matter of days. Unfortunately, however, many of those who would benefit most from a bespoke health retreat are unaware that these retreats even exist, which is why I’ve written a series of articles on the subject. Anyone interested in exploring the articles can find them at www.breakthrough-retreats.co.uk.”

For more information email mocourtney@btinternet.com.

Is Depression a Sign of Weakness? Actually It’s the Opposite – You’re Too Strong

This month we take another look at Depression…

I am not talking about the Monday morning blues or feeling down for a short period of time, which, quite rightly, can be referred to as feeling depressed but the word in this context is really a verb. I am referring to the event that is called depression in the noun sense.

About two years after the train crash I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which, because it had gone so long untreated, I now have chronically, which in turn means I will never get rid of it altogether.

One of the many symptoms of PTSD is clinical depression. Deep depression. This type of depression I can only describe as being at the bottom of deep, dark, damp well. High above you can see the sunshine and even hear people cheerfully talking which represents the normal world you’ve suddenly dropped away from. The walls of the well are too steep to climb up nor do you have energy to attempt the effort. It is truly isolating and I find I can neither talk, move nor eat anything and episodes can stretch into weeks. These days it does not happen often to me but when it does it is soul destroying and I used to get annoyed that I could not snap myself out of it.

That was until I met and was treated by Dr Tim Cantopher, one of our most renowned consultant psychiatrist’s. It was through his ministrations that I came to realise that, though labelled a mental illness, depression is in reality a physical illness. And here is the science he explained;

When a part of our brain called the limbic system malfunctions it manifests as depression. Our limbic system is a complex system of nerve fibres configured like a computers circuit board controlling numerous systems around our body including our moods. It copes with our everyday life stresses very well but it does have a limit. When pushed beyond breaking point (usually, but not exclusively, by a traumatic event) it will effectively blow a fuse. This ‘fuse’ is our transmitter chemicals, seratonin and noradrenaline, and their levels drop rapidly when the circuit blows. Without the correct levels of these two chemicals the electrical impulses that our brains nerve fibres need also drop which in turn causes our ‘circuit board’ to abruptly stop working ie. depression.

Perhaps surprisingly to some Dr Cantopher also attests that depression is ‘The Curse of the Strong’. As he puts it “what happens if you put a whole lot of stresses on to someone who is weak, cynical or lazy? The answer is that they will immediately give up, so they will never get stressed enough to become ill. The strong person on the other hand reacts to stress by redoubling their efforts, pushing themselves way beyond the limits for which their body is designed. When they start getting the symptoms of depression they still keep going, with the inevitable result that eventually their limbic system gives way. If you put 18 amps through a 13 amp fuse there is only one possible result.”

The problem is that us ‘strong’ people have always overcome obstacles or hurdles in life by tackling them head on and putting every ounce of energy we have in getting past them. The very idea of giving in to our depression goes completely against the grain and we are not very good at taking the rest the condition demands. However, once you realise that it is a physical illness, no different to a bad case of flu, chicken pox or pneumonia, it is easier to allow yourself the rest needed and stop fighting it.

If you’re dealing with depression, seeking treatment for abuse or simply seeking advice on how to be at one with yourself and would like to learn more about how a health retreat can help, visit www.breakthrough-retreats.co.uk. There you’ll be able to claim your free copy of my new guide, “Unlocking your full potential: An introduction to the incredible impact of personal development retreats”, packed with information on everything from what a spiritual retreat looks like to the benefits of getting away from it all.

Original article here: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/pam-warren/depression-sign-weakness_b_5416190.html

Breakthrough Retreats’ Top Tips for good mental wellbeing over Christmas

With Christmas and the New Year fast approaching, Maureen Courtney offers advice on how to cope with the pressures of Christmas and how to implement positive mental change for 2015.

 

 

Drink sensibly

The celebratory spirit of Christmas and New Year often involves social drinking and although the consumption of alcohol might make you feel more relaxed, it is important to remember that alcohol is a depressant and drinking excessive amounts can cause low mood, irritability or potentially aggressive behaviour. By not exceeding the recommended number of safe units, you will be better able to sustain good mental and physical wellbeing.

 

Eat well

The festive period has become synonymous with over-indulgence, which in turn prompts a pressing desire for many of us to lose weight in the New Year. Therefore, where possible, it is important to maintain a good balance of fruit, vegetables, carbohydrates, protein and omega 3 sources throughout the year in order to help us work towards weight loss in a sensible way. Maintaining a healthy diet and weight can improve your mood and can work towards preventing symptoms of lethargy and irritability that many of us feel during the busy festive season and dark winter months.

 

Be active

Exercise releases the feel-good chemicals, endorphins, which help you to relax, feel happy and boost your mood. By undertaking simple tasks such as cycling to work, walking in the park, or joining in with Christmas games, you can benefit from experiencing reduced anxiety, decreased depression and improved self-esteem. In addition, recent research has indicated that regular exercise can help to boost our immune systems, enabling us to better fight off colds and flu viruses that are prolific in winter months.

 

Get involved

The festive period provides us with an ideal opportunity to talk to, visit or engage with the people around us. Face-to-face communication has been shown to improve our mental and physical wellbeing as this interaction produces the hormone, oxytocin, which can benefit our immune system, heart health and cognitive function. It has been reported that a third of us have a close friend or family member we think is lonely, a Christmas or new year’s resolution to see our friends and family more often can help to boost both our own mental wellbeing, and that of others. If you are apart from your family then volunteering for a charity or local community organisation can provide that same human contact, as well as help provide essential support and encouragement for others in need. These interactions can easily be sustained throughout the coming year and need not just be for Christmas.

 

Relax

Christmas can be a very busy and stressful time as we prepare to entertain family and friends, worry about cooking a delicious Christmas dinner, and fit in some last minute present shopping. These feelings of being under pressure can produce symptoms of anxiety, anger and difficulty sleeping which, if prolonged, could have a long-term detrimental impact on your mental health and wellbeing. By exercising more regularly or practicing mindfulness – a combination of meditation, yoga and breathing techniques – you can help to both alleviate the symptoms of your stress and gain more control when coping with difficult situations. Christmas presents aside, implementing a new exercise regime or signing up for a course in mindfulness, such as our online course in mindfulness-based stress reduction, could be your best investment for a more relaxed Christmas and New Year.

 

Sleep

Despite many of us having time off work during Christmas and the New Year, our sleep patterns can be disturbed between catching up with friends and family and partying late in to the night. There is mounting evidence on the link between sleep and mental wellbeing, meaning improvements in the quality of your sleep could result in improvements to your overall mental health. There are several steps you can take towards achieving a better night’s sleep: attempting to get back in to your regular sleep routine as soon as possible after the party period, consuming less alcohol during the festivities, implementing regular exercise into your weekly routine, and taking measures to alleviate your stress.

 

If you’re dealing with depression, lonliness or having problems conquering other personal issues and would like to learn more about how our bespoke health retreats could benefit you, visit www.breakthrough-retreats.co.uk. There you’ll be able to claim your free copy of my new guide, “Unlocking your full potential: An introduction to the incredible impact of personal development retreats”, packed with information on everything from what a spiritual retreat looks like to the benefits of getting away from it all.

 

Original article here.

 

 

World Mental Health Day 2014

wmhd-2014Schizophrenia affects around 26 million people across the world and is the focus of World Mental Health Day this year.

Despite being a treatable disorder, more than 50% of people with schizophrenia cannot access adequate treatment, and 90% of people with untreated schizophrenia live in the developing world.
On 10 October we celebrate the most important day in the mental health calendar and shine the spotlight on “living” with schizophrenia. From those who face every day of their lives with it, to their families, friends, doctors and even society as a whole, we all have a part to play in raising awareness of schizophrenic illness.
We want to ensure that people with schizophrenia get the best possible care and support to manage their illness and to help them recover.
What is schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia affects how a person thinks, feels, and acts but it’s actually a word that describes a number of symptoms that psychiatry has labelled a disorder. Not everyone with schizophrenia has the same symptoms and the definition of the disorder is wide, including a number of combinations of different things.
Schizophrenia may make it hard for people to judge reality and key features of early psychosis include:

  • Sleep disturbance
  • Appetite disturbance
  • Marked unusual behaviour
  • Feelings that are flat or seem inconsistent to others
  • Speech that is difficult to follow
  • Marked preoccupation with unusual ideas
  • Ideas of reference – thinking unrelated things have a special meaning, ie people on television talking to you
  • Persistent feelings of unreality
  • Changes in the way things appear, sound or smell

Schizophrenia can occur in anyone but it’s a treatable disorder. Long term medication may be necessary for some people but talking therapies and self-help groups can also be effective.

If you’re dealing with Schizophrenia, depression, seeking treatment for abuse or having problems conquering other personal issues and would like to learn more about how hypnotherapy and other similar treatments available at our bespoke health retreats could benefit you, visit www.breakthrough-retreats.co.uk. There you’ll be able to claim your free copy of my new guide, “Unlocking your full potential: An introduction to the incredible impact of personal development retreats”, packed with information on everything from what a spiritual retreat looks like to the benefits of getting away from it all.

The effects of Bulimia on the Body

Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder in which a person creates a destructive pattern of eating in order to control their weight. People with bulimia tend to go on eating binges, consuming large amounts of food in a short period of time. This is usually followed by an attempt to rid the food from their body using laxatives or self-induced vomiting. This behaviour is usually carried out in secret, taking a tremendous emotional toll.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, up to 3 percent of the population has bulimia. Roughly 9 out of 10 people with bulimia are female.

In addition to mental stress, continued bingeing and purging also puts great strain the body. Unlike the eating disorder anorexia, people with bulimia may not appear to have significant weight loss. However, complications due to bulimia are serious and can put your life at risk.

Bulimia nervosa is a mental health disorder that puts enormous strain on the body and the spirit.

The effects of Bulimia on the Body

The Effects of Bulimia on the Body

Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder in which a person creates a destructive pattern of eating in order to control their weight. People with bulimia tend to go on eating binges, consuming large amounts of food in a short period of time. This is usually followed by an attempt to rid the food from their body using laxatives or self-induced vomiting. This behaviour is usually carried out in secret, taking a tremendous emotional toll.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, up to 3 percent of the population has bulimia. Roughly 9 out of 10 people with bulimia are female.

In addition to mental stress, continued bingeing and purging also puts great strain the body. Unlike the eating disorder anorexia, people with bulimia may not appear to have significant weight loss. However, complications due to bulimia are serious and can put your life at risk.

 

Mental and Emotional Health

Bulimia is a mental health disorder. People with bulimia tend to show signs of depression, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorders. They’re also at risk for substance abuse problems and suicidal behaviour.

Constant monitoring of food and weight can become an obsession. A person with bulimia may binge in secret and hide evidence of food and laxatives. Having to keep secrets contributes to the cycle of stress and anxiety.

Bulimia may cause moodiness and irritability. Compulsive exercising or preoccupation with appearance are common symptoms. It’s not unusual for someone with bulimia to spend a lot of time thinking about food and how to control it. This may be accompanied by feelings of embarrassment and shame. It’s hard to measure the emotional cost.

 

Digestive System

A sore throat or stomach pain may be the first obvious physical side effects of bulimia.

Chronic self-induced vomiting can cause a variety of symptoms in the digestive tract, beginning at the mouth. The high acid content of vomit can damage teeth, causing enamel erosion, tooth sensitivity, and gum disease. Puffy cheeks or jaws come from swollen salivary glands. Excessive vomiting may cause a sore or swollen throat.

Acid can irritate or tear the oesophagus. Blood in vomit may be a sign of a ruptured oesophagus. The stomach also becomes irritated. Stomach aches; heartburn, and acid reflux are common.

Putting your finger down your own throat is one way that people with bulimia induce vomiting. Doing this over and over can scar the skin on your fingers and hands, due to exposure to acidity.

Another way to rid the body of food is to use diuretics, diet pills, or laxatives. Overuse of these products can make it difficult to have a bowel movement without them. Misdirected use of diuretics may also damage the kidneys. Damage to the intestines can cause bloating, diarrhoea, or constipation. Straining to move your bowels can result in haemorrhoids.

Recurrent bingeing and purging is physically demanding and can bring on general weakness and fatigue.

 

Circulatory System

Frequent purging can cause dehydration, leading to dry skin, weak muscles, and extreme fatigue. Vomiting often can throw your electrolytes out of balance. Low levels of potassium, magnesium, and sodium are not uncommon. This is hard on the heart and can cause irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia), weakened heart muscle, and heart failure.

Bulimia can cause low blood pressure, weak pulse, and anaemia. Throwing up can be a violent event. The sheer force of it can even cause blood vessels in the eyes to rupture.

 

Reproductive System

Bulimia can interfere with your menstrual cycle or stop it altogether. A hormonal imbalance and fatigue can kill your sex drive. If the ovaries no longer release eggs, conceiving a child becomes impossible.

Pregnant women who continue to engage in bingeing and purging behaviours face additional complications for themselves and their babies. These include:

  • Maternal high blood pressure
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Miscarriage
  • Premature birth
  • Breech birth
  • Higher risk of C-section
  • Low birth weight babies
  • Birth defects
  • Stillbirth
  • Breastfeeding difficulties

Use of diuretics or laxatives during pregnancy may be harmful to your unborn baby.

 

Source: http://www.healthline.com/health/bulimia/effects-on-body

Mental Health Statistics: Men & Women

mental health men womenWomen are more likely to have been treated for a mental health problem than men (29% compared to 17%). This could be because, when asked, women are more likely to report symptoms of common mental health problems. (Better Or Worse: A Longitudinal Study Of The Mental Health Of Adults In Great Britain, National Statistics, 2003)

Depression is more common in women than men. 1 in 4 women will require treatment for depression at some time, compared to 1 in 10 men. The reasons for this are unclear, but are thought to be due to both social and biological factors. It has also been suggested that depression in men may have been under diagnosed because they present to their GP with different symptoms.  (National Institute For Clinical Excellence, 2003)

Women are twice as likely to experience anxiety as men. Of people with phobias or OCD, about 60% are female.  (The Office for National Statistics Psychiatric Morbidity report, 2001)

Men are more likely than women to have an alcohol or drug problem. 67% of British people who consume alcohol at ‘hazardous’ levels, and 80% of those dependent on alcohol are male. Almost three quarters of people dependent on cannabis and 69% of those dependent on other illegal drugs are male. (The Office for National Statistics Psychiatric Morbidity report, 2001)

 

If you’re dealing with mental health issues, depression, seeking treatment for abuse or having problems conquering other personal issues and would like to learn more about how our bespoke health retreats could benefit you, visit www.breakthrough-retreats.co.uk. There you’ll be able to claim your free copy of my new guide, “Unlocking your full potential: An introduction to the incredible impact of personal development retreats”, packed with information on everything from what a spiritual retreat looks like to the benefits of getting away from it all.

 

Article information from here: http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/help-information/mental-health-statistics/men-women/

10 Ways to Look After Your Mental Health

anxiety awareAnyone can make simple changes that have a huge impact on their mental health and wellbeing. We’ve come up with ten practical ways to take care of yourself and get the most from life.

Mental health is about the way you think and feel and your ability to deal with ups and downs. Making simple changes to how you live doesn’t need to cost a fortune or take up loads of time. Anyone can follow our advice.

 

Talk About Your Feelings

Talking about your feelings can help you stay in good mental health and deal with times when you feel troubled. It’s part of taking charge of your wellbeing and doing what you can to stay healthy.

 

Eat Well

There are strong links between what we eat and how we feel – for example, caffeine and sugar can have an immediate effect. But food can also have a long-lasting effect on your mental health.

 

Keep in Touch

Friends and family can make you feel included and cared for. They can offer different views from whatever’s going on inside your own head. They can help keep you active, keep you grounded and help you solve practical problems.

 

Take a Break

A change of scene or a change of pace is good for your mental health. It could be a five-minute pause from cleaning your kitchen, a half-hour lunch break at work or a weekend exploring somewhere new. A few minutes can be enough to de-stress you.

 

Accept Who You Are

Some of us make people laugh, some are good at maths, and others cook fantastic meals. Some of us share our lifestyle with the people who live close to us, others live very differently. We’re all different.

 

Keep Active

Experts believe exercise releases chemicals in your brain that make you feel good. Regular exercise can boost your self-esteem and help you concentrate, sleep, look and feel better. Exercise also keeps the brain and your other vital organs healthy.

 

Drink Sensibly

We often drink alcohol to change our mood. Some people drink to deal with fear or loneliness, but the effect is only temporary.

 

Ask for Help

None of us are superhuman. We all sometimes get tired or overwhelmed by how we feel or when things go wrong. If things are getting too much for you and you feel you can’t cope, ask for help.

 

Do Something You’re Good At

What do you love doing? What activities can you lose yourself in? What did you love doing in the past? Enjoying yourself helps beat stress. Doing an activity you enjoy probably means you’re good at it and achieving something boosts your self-esteem.

 

Care for Others

Caring for others is often an important part of keeping up relationships with people close to you. It can even bring you closer together.

 

If you’re dealing with depression, seeking treatment for abuse or having problems conquering other personal issues and would like to learn more about how our bespoke health retreats could benefit you, visit www.breakthrough-retreats.co.uk. There you’ll be able to claim your free copy of my new guide, “Unlocking your full potential: An introduction to the incredible impact of personal development retreats”, packed with information on everything from what a spiritual retreat looks like to the benefits of getting away from it all.

Welcome to The Briers Country House; New Retreat Centre Review

We ran our first retreat at our custom Retreat Centre earlier this month. We were so bowled over by the review that we got from our very treasured Dr client that we had to share it with you. Our treasured client also provided us with some lovely pictures that we know you will appreciate. Please enjoy his words.

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The Retreat

The retreat was well organised and ran smoothly.  The experience sought to achieve a holistic healing of mind, body and spirit and involved a number of different psychological and holistic therapies/techniques.  In between specific therapies, there was ample time to chat with Maureen (Courtney) to explore issues and to provide feedback about therapies.

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Location-wise, the retreat centre could not have been better placed: The Briers is situated on the outskirts of Newcastle, County Down, in close proximity to the Tollymore Forest, the Mourne Mountains and the Irish Sea, an ideal place to “get back to nature” and a sanctuary to find peace and serenity.

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The Therapists

Therapists I worked with in the Breakthrough Retreats team included:

  • Gareth for Bio Cranial Sacral therapy
  • Joanne for Reflexology
  • Jacquie for EMDR
  • Janine for Massage
  • As well as Maureen for Hypnosis, reiki, journey therapy, regression therapy

All the therapists I worked with were very friendly, supportive and positive; it was very easy to build rapport with them.  Each therapist is very experienced and an expert in their field, and passionate about holistic therapy.

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As the organiser of the retreat, Maureen was the therapist with whom I spent the most time.  She was very friendly and approachable, and in between specific therapies, I found it easy to chat to her about my issues and also about my own developing interests in holistic healing.  In her capacity as hostess, Maureen was always keen to make sure that my stay at The Briers was comfortable and pleasant.

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NI Bootcamp Activities

Incorporating outdoor / adventure activities into the retreat was inspirational.  Ian, from NI Bootcamp (Who Breakthrough Retreats work in conjunction with to produce the outdoor leg of their Retreats), was a joy to work with; a gentleman, professional, passionate about what he does, he provided me with support and motivation in all activities we did together (running + circuits, mountain biking, hill walking, indoor climbing).  Ian was very easy to talk to, and share personal experiences with; we found that we had similar personalities and issues and I found chatting with him to be inspiring and illuminating.

First Retreat Kim Ian April 2014

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Food, Accommodation & Hospitality

The Briers Country House was like a home away from home; very comfortable and peaceful, an ideal place to escape from the hustle and bustle of 21st Century life.  The room I had would have been able to sleep 3 people (one double bed and one single) and had an en suite toilet and bath/shower.

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The home-cooked food was wonderful and well-portioned: with a choice of breakfasts, including full, cooked Ulster breakfast, smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, porridge, cereals, toast, fruit and yoghurt. The three-course dinners were always tasty and satisfying.

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Maureen was a wonderful host.  She was keen to make my stay as pleasant and as comfortable as possible. Maureen was also very kind enough to do some laundry for me (after I had got a bit muddy doing some of the NI Bootcamp activities).

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If you are interested in hearing more about our Group Retreats at The Briers then please Contact Us.