Improving trauma-informed care for women
Kelly Vickrey is the program director at Sovereign Health of Arizona. She aims for a superlative standard of healing for women as she talks about the technicalities of women’s treatment, incorporating the latest trauma care advancements and urging women to break societal and psychological bounds.
The first thing we do when a traumatized woman walks into our facility is to restore her sense of safety and stability. Trauma is a constant in all of our patients, whether they are dealing with a substance abuse disorder or a mental illness. We deal with women aged 18 to 65. Among the younger women, there is a very apparent trend of sexual abuse or assault and a consequent self-medication with opiates. In cases of older women, there is usually child sexual abuse involved that was left untreated or repressed in the past.
A distinctive approach
Our facility and treatment program distinguish themselves in the fact that our patients are dealing with multiple issues, and we treat all these issues simultaneously. Even though our priority is tackling the trauma, we deal with co-occurring substance abuse and mental illnesses as well. Our trauma treatment is based upon an all-inclusive and holistic approach.
Women have different needs: there is a stronger element of guilt and shame that hinders treatment. Their defenses are up when they enter treatment, and they tend to have more emotional responses to certain treatment aspects. We just focus on developing a deeper understanding of these dynamics.
Keeping up with trauma care advancements
Our treatment care had evolved into a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), and neurofeedback. As far as the latest advancements are considered, EMDR has been proven highly effective for treatment of trauma. We have begun training for neurofeedback and will be the third Sovereign site to officially make it a part of our treatment.
When women undergo trauma, they lose connection to their bodies. In order to feel something, they often resort to self-harm. This is why a major component of our treatment is to elicit body awareness and wellness in our patients. We employ other therapies such as yoga and art therapy, in addition to wellness programs to help patients express themselves.
The beginning of a life-changing journey
In the near future, we are planning to launch our new treatment program called the “Healing Journey of Women.”
Our new mission is “to empower women, to give them a life-changing experience, feel their trauma and create a renewed life and sustain positive healthy relationship.”
There are three layers to this program:
- Serenity Health. Patients at first are very scared and need a lot of support. Serenity Health will be the first place they will go to where they will meet with our staff to work on their safety and stabilization training. We want to prevent them from getting scared and fleeing, something commonly seen in treatment.
- Token Economy. Patients often turn their aggression toward case managers and receive an infraction as a consequence. It leaves them angrier and even more traumatized. So we are shifting focus and rewarding patients for their positive behavior. We will also be teaching the case managers to look out for and support the patients’ positive behavior.
- Our trauma-informed treatment milieu. We want to support and promote the interaction of women among each other in a controlled and positive environment. They benefit from bonding with each other and greatly value these relationships.
Stepping out of the shadow
I want all women out there to know that it is ok to ask for help. There should be no shame and guilt in that. The first step is to realize that there is an issue, and the second is to ask for help. Healing is a journey and it starts with that first step. It doesn’t happen overnight, but there is help available. We are here to help you.
More on Sovereign’s dedication to trauma-informed care for women
Sovereign Health of San Clemente will have a strong presence at the 21st annual Association of Batterers’ Intervention Programs (ABIP) conference in California. Meghan Marcum, Psy.D, will deliver the featured presentation to attendees entitled “Examining Addiction in the United States,” exploring the role of addiction in domestic violence and how it can inform treatment.