DDN September 2023 DDN September_2023_v2 | Page 16



Women ’ s treatment needs have been overlooked for too long , says Carly Dawson

The differences between women and men who access treatment are widely documented . We know that women are more likely to be involved in sex work and have more extensive histories of trauma and abuse , as well as greater care giving responsibilities . Women are also more likely to encounter additional barriers such as stigma , housing instability , lack of childcare and fear of losing custody .

Women present with higher levels of distress , mental health needs and complex interrelated family issues . Traditional treatment services tend to be male-dominated environments that overlook the specific gendered needs of women . Despite widespread acceptance of the need for women-only treatment services , there is a distinct lack of them . Women-only environments can help foster healthy attachments , provide positive peer reinforcement , strengthen self-expression and help individuals to develop skills .
Ophelia House , delivered by Phoenix Futures , is a traumaresponsive therapeutic community developed to meet the needs of women who require abstinencebased residential treatment in a safe and therapeutic environment .
The programme , delivered by an all-female staff team , is based on the therapeutic community model where social relationships , daily structures and a variety of activities are all deliberately designed to support health and wellbeing . Women live together and learn from each other . The community helps individuals emotionally and supports the
development of healthy living behaviours , attitudes and values . The structure supports the whole person and acknowledges that substance misuse is not an issue than can be addressed in isolation .
We ’ ve worked with partners across the substance use sector and alongside women with lived experience to develop the service , creating an environment to better serve those who have experienced trauma . The majority of women we spoke to felt it was crucial that there were onsite counsellors and mental health support . The Ophelia House programme aims to provide a safe and empathic therapeutic environment to address genderspecific needs and develop social skills such as validation , empowerment and empathy .
Our model has been developed using evidence and best practice around traumainformed approaches to care , with staff trained to recognise and respond sensitively to the effects of trauma . Being trauma responsive we have carefully considered the layering of holistic group programming , the needs of the physical environment , our use of language and our values .
Our history of providing gender-specific residential treatment has showed us that women-only services , characterised by both all-female residents and staff , can provide a specially designed environment and programme that – when delivered by an appropriately trained staff team – can help women feel safe . This sense of safety and trust enables honest and open discussions about shared issues , creating a community of support and empowerment and a focus on
building individualised skills and resources to aid long term recovery .
The service offers a minimum three-month programme incorporating a range of sessions aimed at supporting recovery from trauma as well as accredited workshops and a range of health and wellbeing activities , including regular yoga and gym sessions and participation in Recovery through Nature .
Our Recovery through Nature programme enables people to come together with a common purpose to complete conservation projects . Being with others , exercising together and working to create a positive environmental impact is proven to aid a sense of belonging and wellbeing . We bring together these core interventions , and other specialist interventions such as one-toone counselling in a blended approach .
The team at Ophelia House is made up of a psychologist , counsellor , registered nurse and therapeutic workers in a multidisciplinary team . They work together across different disciplines to deliver coordinated and personalised traumaresponsive care , bolstered by the peer support of a therapeutic community .
Ophelia House offers 26 single ensuite bedrooms , inclusive of
Womenonly services , characterised by both all-female residents and staff , can provide a specially designed environment and programme that ... can help women feel safe .
those adapted for women with mobility needs . We listened to those with lived experience who expressed that the physical environment can impact an individual ’ s sense of identity , worth and dignity , and the role it plays in individual mood and wellbeing . We mobilised the design concept to ensure the physical space promotes a sense of safety and is calming for people accessing treatment and those who work there .
Carly Dawson is head of quality and performance at Phoenix Futures . Contact : opheliahouse . residential @ phoenixfutures . org . uk