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Homewood launches women-only trauma program

Women’s Trauma & Concurrent program is one of the first of its kind in Canada, offering intensive clinical treatment tailored specifically for women with complex trauma
To address women's gender-specific needs, Homewood Health Centre has launched a new trauma and substance use program for women.

Men and women cope with trauma differently.

To address women's gender-specific needs, Homewood Health Centre has launched a new trauma and substance use program for women affected by trauma.

The Women’s Trauma & Concurrent program is one of the first of its kind in Canada, offering intensive clinical treatment tailored specifically for women with complex trauma.

Launched earlier this month, the new program integrates care for co-occurring substance use disorders, where required, and is meant to provide a fully comprehensive approach to treatment.

“We’ve been treating people with concurrent trauma and substance use with various programs for many years,” said Dr. Yelena Chorny, Homewood Health Centre's chief of addiction medicine and trauma services.

“But there has been a subset of women, in particular, who have not done well in a mixed gender setting. And we know that there are those that just choose not to come into this type of environment. Then they end up not accessing care, because for them, their experience of  trauma, and their symptoms, are such that they don’t feel safe in a setting that includes men.”

Because of their experiences, Chorny said this setting is critical in helping women access the care they need.

“The kinds of trauma we see more commonly are people who are victims of human trafficking or forced sex work. Some people have had more repeated trauma beginning early in life and progress to other experiences of trauma as adults, with either sexual trauma or personal violence,” Chorny said. 

“For the majority of patients who come into our trauma program, of any gender, sexual trauma is a large part of that. People also have other types of traumas including childhood abuse or neglect of varying kinds."

Traumatic experiences can often lead to disassociation, a symptom where people experience times of detachment from reality, or disconnecting from one's thoughts, feelings, memories and sense of identity.

“That can be very scary. So, for these people, in particular, being in a setting where they can be with other women, they can receive treatment focused on that. We anticipate that this will be really helpful,” Chorny said.

Other groups that can benefit from the program, Chorny added, are women who experience occupational or institutional trauma.

“This includes military sexual trauma, such as female military members, or police officers who have experienced sexual abuse within their institution,” Chorny said.

“We also have a first responder specific program that is also a mixed gender program. Some women don’t feel comfortable in that environment, because in their mind, the institution was the setting where the trauma took place. So, an all-female setting, is very helpful.”

The nine-week inpatient program for individuals aged 18 and older, aims to provide safe and supportive comprehensive treatment in a gender-specific environment.

“There are those people who have more intensive needs around concurrent mental health and substance use together. And that’s one of the things that we really specialize in here at Homewood, is concurrent care,” Chorny said.

“We have teams of psychiatrists, addiction doctors, nurses, 24/7. We are just set up in a different way to be able to help people who have more intensive mental health related needs.”

The program is open to all who self-identify as women (cis or transgender), and to non-binary/gender queer individuals who are most comfortable in a women-identified setting, where everyone can feel supported in their journey toward recovery.

“We use the term women but what we mean by that is that we do acknowledge and recognize that gender is non-binary. We want to make it clear to people, that we offer an inclusive environment where everyone can feel safe,” Chorny said.  

As part of Homewood's 140th anniversary celebration, the launch of the Women's Trauma & Concurrent program marks a significant milestone in addressing women's pressing mental health needs.

“The other piece that is important here at Homewood, is a focus on women’s mental health. It is a growing focus for the organization moving forward. The other piece that is relevant is in research around mental health,” Chorny said.

“We know that the experience of women in medical and scientific research, in general, is underrepresented. So, one of our goals moving forward is also to increase our focus on women’s mental health more broadly and with research. We try to contribute to improving both the knowledge and care that is being delivered."

Homewood health partners with employers, organizations, researchers, and governments in offering a comprehensive stepped-care continuum with a complete range of mental health services supported by medical and mental health expertise in treatment facilities including Homewood Health Centre, Homewood Ravensview, and The Residence at Homewood.

"We know we have the clinical tools, the skills, and the staff to be able to help them, but we haven’t had an environment that would allow them to 'feel' safe. I can think of a handful of people we have seen in the last number of years who have come in and have not been able to stay," Chorny said.

“What is meaningful for me is to be able to increase access to treatment for people who previously might have felt excluded and who might not have been able to get this type of care previously."


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Barbara Latkowski

About the Author: Barbara Latkowski

Barbara graduated with a Masters degree in Journalism from Western University and has covered politics, arts and entertainment, health, education, sports, courts, social justice, and issues that matter to the community
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