Five years ago, an innovative and unique program opened at the Brockton campus of VA Boston Healthcare System (VA BHS). The Women’s Integrated Treatment & Recovery Program (WITRP) opened its doors to the first group of women Veterans, offering a safe and nurturing environment to women with both Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and active substance abuse issues. This first-of-a-kind program, affiliated with the Women’s Health Sciences Division of the National Center for PTSD, attracts women Veterans from all over the country. It is open to veterans with all types of trauma, including but not limited to military sexual trauma (MST) and combat trauma.
The private and secure unit is housed in Brockton and offers women a home-like atmosphere. The library is fully stocked with the latest books, a wellness room is outfitted with yoga mats, music and exercise videos, and the craft room allows women to explore their creative side. The unit also has a full kitchen where residents can prepare meals for themselves, and a comfortable and inviting lounge area where women can relax or watch a movie.
Over the past five years, 130 women have come to this 11-week program to work on developing a solid foundation of coping skills in the areas of addiction, general distress tolerance and management of PTSD symptoms. Seventy-six percent of the women admitted to the program have experienced MST, and nearly 80% have experienced more than one type of trauma, such as physical or sexual abuse in childhood or intimate partner violence. Nearly 20% have experienced combat trauma. The women also have long and severe histories of substance abuse, difficulty maintaining sobriety and limited success engaging in PTSD treatment.
The core of the treatment is group therapy that incorporates a variety of evidence-based treatments including both cognitive-behavioral and mind/body treatments. On average participants spend 20 hours a week in a variety of group treatments in addition to time spent each day on independent assignments. Additional services include medication management, therapeutic leisure activities, and activities of community living.
The treatment provides many opportunities for the women to gain greater understanding of the connection between trauma and addiction, as well as the many ways these dual problems have impacted their lives. A variety of self-report measures given at the beginning and end of treatment provide evidence not only that PTSD symptoms decrease and beliefs about substance use change, but that self-critical attitudes and avoidance of connections with others decrease while mindfulness, self-kindness and seeking support from others increase.
The WITRP accepts referrals from any VA, Vet Center, or community provider. Self-referred veterans are assisted in connecting with a provider in their local VA system to facilitate the application process. If you would like more information on this program contact Dr. Sharon Baker at Sharon.email@example.com.