Women in treatment

Women in substance abuse treatment at Rosecrance Harrison Adult Campus move beyond expected roles to self-discovery.

This is the feature story from the Winter/Spring 2014 edition of Reach. Read the full edition here.

The treatment day for women at Rosecrance begins much like a normal day in the life of other mothers, wives, daughters or sisters: wake up, shower, eat breakfast, do chores. But by 8 a.m., while other women are going to work or school or taking care of children, these women are going to group therapy to confront their addictions, in part, by learning more about themselves.

Today’s discussion: “What does it mean to be a woman in recovery?”

A client summed it up this way: “It’s more stressful to be a woman in treatment because we take on the mom, wife and work role, and sometimes we lose ourselves. We come here to find ourselves again.”

Art therapist Jada Miller, left, and Women's Unit Coordinator Carlene Cardosi, show a painting a client left at Rosecrance to inspire other women.

Art therapist Jada Miller, left, and Women’s Unit Coordinator Carlene Cardosi, show a painting a client left at Rosecrance to inspire other women.

The women listen intently to one another during group, offering words of encouragement and support. Some speak of feeling defeated, scared or angry; others are grateful for treatment and hopeful for continued recovery. Some blame others for their addiction; some blame themselves.

“How did I let this happen?” one woman asked. Another said, “Admitting that I had failed was the hardest thing I ever had to do.”

Carlene Cardosi, Women’s Unit Coordinator, said that women bring an extra measure of shame and guilt with them into treatment, because they so strongly identify with societal roles such as “mom” and “wife.” For women, those roles often are preceded by the words “good” or “bad.” Consequently, many women are reluctant to ask for help, Cardosi said, because they believe they’ve failed themselves, as well as their families and society.

Women spend so much time caring for others, they sometimes forget to care about themselves, Cardosi said. Part of the treatment process is helping women figure out who they are apart from their societal roles and remove barriers that keep them from getting the help they need for substance use and mental health disorders.

Art therapy helps women in treatment process emotions and life experiences in a way that is less intimidating for some than traditional therapies.

Art therapy helps women in treatment process emotions and life experiences in a way that is less intimidating for some than traditional therapies.

“Our goal in Women’s Services is that they leave here a better woman and feel more comfortable in their own skin,” Cardosi said.

Recovery is all about overcoming obstacles, forgiving and letting go, Cardosi said. This transformation is essential for successful completion of treatment and to build a solid foundation for ongoing recovery. Group members embrace the process of self-discovery as a necessary step on the road to lasting recovery.

“I’m learning more about myself now than I ever have before,” one woman said. “Rosecrance gives you the tools to re-think the way you live your life and help you know you’re not alone,” added a client in her 10th day of treatment.

Rosecrance remains firmly grounded in the 12 Steps while utilizing evidence-based clinical practices, experiential therapies and programs that focus on the physical, spiritual and emotional wellbeing of the woman in treatment.

Nearly every minute of the women’s 16 ½-hour day is scheduled to include activities that address issues related to addiction, domestic violence, sexual identity, life skills, behavioral management, health and nutrition, relapse prevention and other programs that are specifically designed for the needs of women in recovery.

“They keep us busy mentally, physically and spiritually,” said one client.

Surrounded by art created by women in treatment, staff on the unit hold their daily team meeting.

Surrounded by art created by women in treatment, staff on the unit hold their daily team meeting.

Programs at Rosecrance are designed to improve quality of life, increase independence, promote health and wellness and help patients sustain recovery when they return home. All of the therapists who lead these groups have master’s degrees and have or are in the process of earning their CADC (Certified Alcohol Drug Counselor) certificate.

The Experiential Therapies program includes art, fitness, yoga, team building, drumming and horticulture. For the first time, the walls of the women’s unit are covered with artwork created by the clients who choose to leave it behind to inspire other women who enter treatment. Art Therapist Jada Miller says the program allows women a safe outlet to express their emotions about substance abuse or any other issues that prevent them from living a healthy lifestyle.

Expressing their feelings through a painting, sculpture or other art form enables them to process their thoughts in a less intimidating way,” said Miller. “Clients learn to utilize art as a therapeutic coping skill, as well as self-reflect on the images they produce to help find clarity on many levels.”

While the program is ever evolving to meet the needs of today’s woman, one of the newest additions to the program is actually an ancient form of meditation dating back more than 4,000 years. Rosecrance uses a 30-foot wide canvas labyrinth for walking meditation that allows clients to relax, reflect and relieve stress. The portable labyrinth can be used indoors or outside.

Research suggests that walking meditation decreases symptoms of co-occurring disorders. It is being used in various treatment settings to help veterans with PTSD, as well as men, women, and young adults struggling with addiction, trauma, and anxiety.

Not only does Rosecrance offer gender specific treatment, but also age-appropriate care. The young women’s unit serves clients 18 to 25 years old, offering programming that focuses on finances, relationships, self-esteem, education and re-establishing a sober identity. Women over 25 are in the traditional women’s program. Regardless of age, each woman has an individualized treatment plan to help her on her personal journey of recovery.

Part of the recovery process for clients and their families is realizing that addiction is a chronic disease, akin to diabetes or heart disease. It’s important to understand that addicts are not “cured” when they leave treatment. Family/social support and continuing care are fundamental for lasting recovery.

Staff members are energized as they see women shed their negative attitudes and address their addiction and mental health needs, Cardosi said. By the time they leave treatment, many women choose to live in recovery homes, leave unhealthy relationships and improve relationships with their children and family.

“We see a huge transformation in these women,” Cardosi said, “and that’s really what makes it worthwhile.”