Group Therapy

Trauma-Informed Addiction Recovery at Magnolia: A Summary of Our 3 Phased Treatment Model

If you are a new visitor to Magnolia Women’s Recovery Programs, welcome! Who are we? Here’s a quick elevator-ride-length description: Magnolia Women’s Recovery Programs is a nonprofit organization and trauma-informed residential addiction rehabilitation program for pregnant women and mothers of children under age 7. We’re different from other residential addiction treatment centers because our program is longer than most—Magnolia is dedicated to providing deep, holistic healing programming that results in the most successful outcomes for clients.

Addiction Treatment at Magnolia and How it Differs From Other Programs

Pregnant women and mothers of young children come to Magnolia because they have heard about our program and know that they’ll have a deep, meaningful experience in their journey to heal from addiction. Most women who come to Magnolia are unhoused, and all of them have children under the age of 7 or are pregnant.

Once enrolled in our treatment program, our clients engage in daily life skills and therapeutic programming that helps lead fuller, healthier lives—from drug education and relapse prevention, to therapy, to domestic violence education, to parenting, to art therapy, and more.

Upon arrival and entry into Magnolia’s programming, clients begin a three-phased treatment model developed by Dr. Linda Stewart, Magnolia’s founder, to set them up for success in life once they graduate from the program. Magnolia’s treatment model is based in cognitive behavioral therapy, self-in-relation theory, and trauma-informed care theory.

What Is Trauma-Informed Care?

Before we get into the details of Magnolia’s programming, let’s talk about trauma. Trauma is incredibly common. Our care team at Magnolia is dedicated to providing trauma-informed care to our clients. Why is this so important? In essence, trauma-informed care incorporates a client’s life history into their treatment plan, and helps steer the way that treatment is administered. For example, some clients may have experienced traumatic events in clinical  settings,  a clinician may take the time to explain why we want to understand a client’s lived history. This approach helps our clients build trust with us, and results in better treatment outcomes.

Trauma-informed care is rooted in compassion for someone’s lived experiences rather than viewing a client as a list of diagnoses. As such, treatment is tailored for each client as an individual, rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach. In fact, there is increasing momentum for this approach among care professionals, and many care organizations regard trauma-informed care as the gold standard. According to the Trauma-Informed Care Implementation Resource Center, trauma-informed care boosts client engagement, compliance with the treatment, and health outcomes.

So with all of this in mind, what are the three phases of treatment at Magnolia? Let’s dive in.

Phase 1: Building Self-Compassion for Self and Others

Phase 1 of Magnolia’s treatment plan is all about developing trust with peers and with the group therapy process. The goals of the Phase 1 program are:

  • Develop trust in one’s self, peers, and with the group process
  • Practice empathy, honesty, openness, and willingness
  • Understand the unmanageability of one’s addiction
  • Develop compassion for self and others

Phase 1 guides clients in mapping their life history, which includes creating a family tree, listing 30 events that happened in their life, writing a short autobiography, and an essay on what brought them to Magnolia. Through writing, clients chronicle the traumatic events in their past and identify feelings associated with those events. Clients then can begin to make connections about how their addiction may be affected by their trauma.

During Phase 1, clients also learn about topics such as denial, manipulation, and passive aggressiveness, and they write essays about how these things may be showing up in their lives. They present their essays and their self-exploration to their peers in a Process Group, and discuss their findings together. 

Phase 1 is difficult. This work requires that clients confront their deep pasts, which often include various traumatic, painful events. To aid in this process, Phase 1 also includes gratitude and self-compassion exercises to help clients stay grounded through this work. Daily journaling practices, identifying and memorizing their spiritual principles, and spending time getting to know their peers helps clients build trust with the phase work and with the program overall, which helps lay the foundation for success in the remaining phases. 

Phase 2: Letting Go of Pain and Learning to Love the Self

Phase 2 of Magnolia’s treatment program is all about better understanding one’s feelings, resentments, and accepting what you can’t change. Clients learn how to articulate and communicate their feelings, especially difficult ones, and learn skills for dealing with their anger in constructive ways.

During Phase 2, Magnolia clients also contend with hurt and loss, with the goal of being able to acknowledge pain and accept feelings of insecurity. They also recognize their resentments and find ways of letting them go (for example, they write a list of 10 people, places, and things that they resent and why, and then they present these in their Process Group).

The culminating concept clients learn in Phase 2 is acceptance. When clients can learn to tell the difference between things they cannot change and things that they can, they grow more empowered to take control over the things in their lives that they do have control over, and don’t spin their wheels suffering over the things that are unchangeable. 

Phase 3: Forgiving the Self and Accepting One’s Inner Beauty

Last but not least, Phase 3 of the Magnolia treatment program focuses on gratitude, cultivating a strong, positive sense of self, and building resilience and relapse prevention. Clients in Phase 3 keep daily gratitude journals as well as complete assignments about negative feelings, including anger.

Clients complete several exercises and readings in service of building self-esteem. These assignments range from self-esteem “checkups,” daily thought records, personality traits, and body appreciation exercises. The guiding principles for Phase 3 work are pride, integrity, dignity, and completion—each of which are themes that clients are asked to write essays about. 

The final assignment that a client must complete at Magnolia is writing a letter to their child or children telling them about the life the client has lived. By explaining their life to their child, the client tells their own story to someone vitally important and central in their life, and builds a sense of pride and awareness of their story. This telling and retelling of their life story helps clients solidify their sense of self, after having completed so much deep work at Magnolia to build awareness of their triggers, traumas, strengths, and weaknesses. In this letter, Magnolia women can clearly see who they are and who they want to be to their children, thus recommitting to their lifelong path of recovery.

Why Does Magnolia Only Admit Women?

There are several reasons why Magnolia only accepts women clients with children. Many mothers come to Magnolia having endured gendered violence and domestic abuse from men, so having a safe place among female peers who are also young mothers provides a safe place to process trauma associated with gendered violence. 

All women who enroll in the Magnolia treatment program show symptoms of post-traumatic stress, so having male identifying clients healing alongside them in the treatment facility could trigger the women clients at Magnolia, and hinder or significantly slow the healing process. It’s common for a Magnolia client to also be a survivor of sexual abuse perpetrated by men, and having the space to share and process about these experiences in a circle of women who have experienced it as well is vital to the healing process.

There is a high need for women-only addiction recovery residential programs in the Bay Area. There are three women-only facilities in Alameda county, one in Marin County, two in Contra Costa County, and four in San Mateo County. All of these facilities, Magnolia included, have very limited space, and with drug addiction and homelessness on the rise, the need is only growing larger.

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