Women Group Line Drawing

Ask the Expert: Women's Treatment

Publication Date: Mar 12, 2019

March 2019
Jessie EvertsAn interview with Jessie C. Everts, PhD LMFT,  Vice President of Clinical Services, 
Wayside Recovery Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota 

How did Wayside Recovery get started?

Wayside began in 1954 as a service project by a group of women employed by Honeywell, one of the major employers in the Twin Cities. It was originally a shelter for homeless women and their children. Because many of these women suffered from substance use disorders, Wayside expanded to offer SUD treatment in the 1960s, becoming one of the first gender-specific treatment organizations in the country. This year, we are celebrating our 65thanniversary.

Watch the video: History of WRC

Today, Wayside offers treatment for mental health and substance use disorders, serving 700 patients per year in four facilities, two residential and two outpatient. This includes one 40-bed program for single women and a 19-bed long-term program for women with children. We also offer a supportive housing program. Our mental health therapy department works across all of our programs. 

What brought you to the field?

In my earlier work with children as a school-based therapist, I was attracted to the family approach, as I observed that parental substance use was not being addressed. Many parents didn’t know that treatment that includes children exists. When I discovered that Wayside offers substance use treatment that supports the whole family, I came on board. Today in my role as vice president of clinical programs, I oversee all of our programs and guide direction on how we can expand our specialization in mental health to build our co-occurring treatment approach. 

When did the substance use disorder field first begin to recognize the need for gender-specific treatment?

In the 1970s and 80s, the psychology field began to see women’s needs as unique. This also marked the advent of relational cultural theory, introduced by  Jean Baker Miller in her book Toward a New Psychology of Women. The premise of relational cultural theory is that women heal in relationships, and that treatment should be relationship-based. 

What are essential components of behavioral health treatment for women?

First, effective treatment for women emphasizes helping women to make connections and build rewarding and growth-fostering relationships.  

At Wayside, we focus on addressing trauma. For both women and men, trauma has a significant part of a substance use disorder, either causing it or contributing to it. Effective treatment must also include trauma-informed care.

Underlying trauma that contributes to mental health and substance use issues can make it hard for people to trust and feel safe. On top of that, the shame related to addiction and associated trauma is much higher for women, so creating a safe environment where healing can take place is an important component. 

Other essential elements include respect, specifically by using person-first language: for example, using language like “a woman with an opioid use disorder,” rather than “an addict.”  Also, recognizing that relapse is part of the disease of addiction means establishing predictable, consistent, equitable policies that do not involve harsh punishments if there is a recurrence of use.  

What are some new offerings at Wayside that you’re excited about? 

One thing that we’re really excited about is our work in culturally-specific programming that is designed to help our clients heal within their culture and community. Wayside is also doing a lot of work in prevention, and we’re gaining recognition as a thought leader in the prevention field. And we continue to look at what we can do to fill in the gaps in training and education on trauma-informed care.

Project Echo WWSAnother exciting project is Wayside Women Services Project ECHO. We are one of three ECHO hubs in Minnesota, and the only one that is specific to women’s services in behavioral health. With this initiative, people from across the country can join ECHO web-based sessions to learn about and consult with peers on women’s health issues. 

What's one thing you would like people to know about women's treatment?

Going through substance use treatment – especially with your children – is such hard work! Our clients go through a great deal to claim or reclaim recovery for their families. I am constantly blown away by the growth, healing, and successes that families have in our treatment centers, and the relationships that form between women.

Related Resources:

View WWS archived presentation videos and slide presentations here

Project ECHO - Coming up on March 21, noon-1pm: Hennepin Healthcare Mother-Baby Program. Email lucia.diaz-french@waysiderc.orgfor the easy-to-join Zoom link!

ATTC Network Resources

ATTC Network HealtheKnowledge

Learning more about women’s treatment with free online, self-paced learning. Up to 6.0 CEUs available:  Women Matter! Series

Mid-America ATTC: Family-Centered Care