Women with mental health or substance abuse disorders often face gender-specific issues -- and they are running out of all-female treatment options in the state of Maine.
Crossroads' Back Cove Residential Program in Portland closed in December due to government cutbacks, leaving Wellspring substance abuse services in Bangor the only women's halfway house in Maine. Yet females in Kennebec and Somerset counties have another option for gender-specific treatment: enrolling in C&C's Women's Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP).
The Augusta-based intensive treatment group incorporates both mental health and substance abuse counseling because many clients have a trauma history as well as a co-occurring condition. Clients commit to 25 IOP sessions and participate in one-on-one counseling with a clinician as well.
Crisis & Counseling Centers and Crossroads are the only behavioral health centers in Maine to offer intensive outpatient services specifically for females. The Women's IOP at C&C is designed to help clients recover from substance abuse, develop coping skills and learn to understand how past traumas might be affecting their behavior, according to C&C Substance Abuse Clinician Jodie Hart. Hart has been facilitating the IOP since 2008 and has seen it evolve to meet emerging needs in the community.
"The IOP is a safe, non-judgmental space, and clients find themselves sharing and seeking feedback from other women who have had similar experiences," said C&C's Mental Health/Substance Abuse Clinician Alyssa Audie.
Although the Women's IOP is an abstinence-based group, clinicians realize that all women deserve treatment no matter their stage of recovery. "Recovery is an individualized process. Most struggle to understand addiction as a disease," said Hart. "When someone is going through the recovery process and they face relapse, it is not simply a reflection of poor decision-making or personal weakness -- it's symptoms of the disease. Our goal is to meet clients where they are at in their journey and build them up."
According to Audie, "Women's traumas are often linked to men, so gender-specific treatment groups are a logical solution. In group therapy, if a woman has to sit next to an adult male who resembles the person who traumatized her, how is she expected to get better?"
Child care and transportation are also persistent issues for women seeking treatment. The IOP meets for three hours a day, four days a week, and C&C strives to be as accommodating as possible to help women make this time commitment.
Single mothers, who already must raise a family alone, often fail to recognize their need for assistance. "We try to help these women understand that their behaviors are affecting their entire families -- not just them," Audie said. "Once they see the broader implications of their actions, these mothers are often more active participants in their own recovery process."
Crisis & Counseling Centers' clinicians know that trauma is different for everyone. "Our group allows clients to work through their personal process on their own timeline," Hart said. Traumatic issues might stem from early childhood experiences, abuse or loss of a loved one. Although clinicians do not address these traumas directly at this early phase of recovery, they do help women understand that they have triggers related to these issues and guide them to develop healthier coping skills.
"Women are provided with routine, structure, support and a secure environment within our group setting. They come to support one another, believe in each other and, in doing so, find hope and strength within themselves," said Hart.
Groups remain small because the larger the group, the harder it is for women to have the opportunity to share their own experiences. Women are encouraged to take healthy risks in the group process when they are ready. According to Hart, "More often than not, they leave for the day with a smile on their faces, effective coping strategies for substance use and trauma-related triggers, and a peer's telephone number for support."
Audie enjoys working with women because she finds them to be resilient. "A day doesn't go by without a client saying something that touches and sticks with me, and that makes every day worth it," she said.
Hart agrees, saying that she sees within these women a lack of appreciation of their own self-worth. "These women are survivors," she said. "I feel so blessed to be part of their journey toward recovery, and they inspire me on a daily basis."
Crisis & Counseling Centers serves individuals with behavioral health needs, including substance abuse, mental health and co-occurring disorders. The nonprofit agency is the sole provider of crisis services for Kennebec and Somerset counties and administers 24-hour-a-day crisis services to those in need. The agency also offers G.E.A.R. Parent Network to empower caregivers of children with behavioral health needs statewide; Maine Mothers Network for pregnant and parenting women with children up to five years old who are using substances; and a Medication Management program for all clients with addictions or mental health disorders.
If you are interested in the Women's IOP, please call central access at 207.626.3448 . Learn more about the program at http://bit.ly/OeZqgI. If you are in crisis, call 1.888.568.1112.