Magnolia Women’s Recovery Programs (MWRP) values the principles of the trauma-informed care model and applies it to every facet of what we do. We believe that the model is vitally important when working with clients living with substance abuse disorders (SUDs) because trauma, and symptoms of trauma, are so prevalent in this population. Addiction recovery treatment without a trauma-informed lens runs the risk of clients experiencing re-traumatization, lack of adherence to treatment, and relapse.
Trauma-informed care functions best when it is applied across an organization—from the way that the staff interacts with clients, to the physical environment, to the way that the leadership interacts with the staff. Here are just a few of the powerful ways that Magnolia Recovery Programs applies the trauma-informed care model at our two facilities in Oakland and Hayward.
10 Ways Magnolia Practices Trauma-Informed Care Principles
- Creating a safe, homey physical environment. Dr. Linda Stewart, the founder of Magnolia, is a firm believer that a care facility shouldn’t ever feel like a prison to the clients who come to it—in fact, she strives to cultivate the complete opposite feeling. The Magnolia facility in Hayward was converted from a single-family house, so it feels like a home rather than a residential clinic—and, for the time that the women spend there, it is a home to them. The facility in Oakland was formerly a rehabilitation nursing home before it was converted into a Magnolia facility, so Dr. Stewart made sure to “de-institutionalize” the facility by painting the walls soothing colors, choosing homey, comfortable furniture, and comfortable bedding for the clients. Calming blues and lavenders adorn the walls, with artwork hand-chosen to reflect calm, beauty, and elegance.
- All Magnolia staff regularly receive training in trauma-informed care. Magnolia values ensuring that all clients feel like they can trust staff members by educating staff with the full scope and application of the trauma-informed care model. We seek to help create relationships between staff and clients that feel safe and inclusive. One example of this is considering how something as simple as tone of voice or choice of words may impact a client’s recovery. At times, staff may become frustrated when working with clients who are being difficult or having negative emotions or not following instructions, but a trauma-informed way to interact with a client emphasizes speaking from a place of non-judgment, with a calm, even tone of voice. “I remind my staff that it’s the client’s job to be difficult,” Dr. Stewart says. “That’s how they were able to protect themselves before coming to Magnolia. But it’s our job to meet them with compassion and non-judgment.”
- The women of Magnolia learn life skills by taking care of their own space. Clients at Magnolia are expected to do their own cooking and cleaning of their rooms and the communal kitchen. Having to do these tasks themselves paves the way for them to take pride in their space and get into the habit of taking care of their space. This practice also gives clients the experience of living in, and being responsible for, a clean, safe environment, with the hope that when they leave Magnolia, they will be well equipped to maintain the practice in a space on their own. Many women at Magnolia share the common experience of having been raised around substance use, in homes where physical, verbal, and emotional abuse was the norm, or even having to raise themselves with no structure at all. Magnolia seeks to teach clients a new normal, and provide them with a structure for their daily routine. Clients must have routines and do chores that have quality and frequency requirements, such as having to get up at a certain time and make their beds every day. These chores and rituals are not being required for the purpose of control, but rather to reinforce the importance of structure and routine. Having a clean, orderly space also helps maintain good mental health. Dr. Stewart says, “Your surroundings reflect your emotions and feelings, in other words, what’s going on inside.”
- We teach our clients a trauma-informed approach to parenting. Many clients at Magnolia walk through our doors with a history of surviving domestic abuse, and often, their children may also have symptoms of trauma from living in that environment. Women at Magnolia learn to notice their own tone of voice when talking to their child, and how modifying it can change the child’s reaction. As the women at Magnolia heal from the effects of abuse, their children heal alongside them—and oftentimes, the women marvel when they notice this in their children, and in turn they more easily recognize the healing occurring in themselves too.
- Clients at Magnolia receive an individualized treatment plan, not a one-size-fits-all approach. Clinicians at Magnolia spend time with each client, getting to know them and their specific needs, and we collaborate with our clients to make decisions about their treatment.
- Many Magnolia staff members have struggled with addiction in the past and are in addiction recovery themselves. Once clients understand that Magnolia staff have been through what they’re going through themselves, they trust the staff and the organization itself in a much deeper way—which leads to better adherence to the treatment plans and following the rules and protocols at Magnolia.
- Magnolia creates a culture of peer support. Veteran clients at Magnolia show the new arriving clients the ropes, and are just as welcoming as our staff are. Magnolia has created a culture of acceptance, where current clients embrace new clients and their children into a sense of community. Veteran clients teach new clients about the chores to be done around the facility, and help them feel at home. During their weekly therapeutic process group with Dr. Stewart, clients who have been around awhile often affirm new clients with examples of their own experiences, such as, “I felt like that when I first got here, but it’ll be okay,” further bolstering the feeling that they are entering a strong, supportive community.
- Magnolia conducts a community meeting once a week where clients can air out concerns with the organization. At these meetings, clients can bring up concerns or feedback, including issues with staff—and a meeting can take place with a mediator if necessary. Many of our clients had childhoods where they couldn’t speak up about things that were uncomfortable—some of them even learned that telling the truth brings emotional or physical pain. But at Magnolia, clients learn that telling the truth, even if it’s uncomfortable, is a good thing, and they are rewarded for it. This practice is important from a trauma-informed perspective because it allows clients to have a voice and reaffirms that their voice is heard and is important.
- Clients are not “addicts” here. Magnolia creates a space of comfort, healing, and non-judgment. Dr. Stewart says, “The women that join the Magnolia community are told I’m not judging you about how you got here, or what you look like—your decision to seek help shows that you have strength and courage. In fact, you walk into Magnolia’s community with an A and have the support of your peers and staff to keep it.”
- At Magnolia, clients are empowered by learning to become friends with their uncomfortable feelings instead of interpreting them as a threat. Clients learn to notice when they’re relaxed and notice when they’re tense, building self-awareness and self-regulation practices.
Our Commitment to Trauma Informed Care
Magnolia Women’s Recovery Services has committed to providing our clients with a trauma informed care approach not only because it’s now the gold standard in care treatment, but also because this approach is one of the core tenets of our values. We believe that everyone deserves another chance at living a healthy, satisfying, safe life, and we strive to provide a safe healing environment free of judgment.