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How Dawn's Place Helps Restore Mental and Emotional Health

National Women’s Health Week falls in May, which is also Mental Health Awareness Month. What better time to discuss the unique way that Dawn’s Place works to restore the mental and emotional health of our women residents.

First and foremost, Dawn’s Place provides sexual trauma recovery therapy. Sexual trauma recovery is also provided elsewhere, so what makes the Dawn’s Place method unique? In order to understand that, we must understand that sexual trauma recovery therapy is a necessary, but extremely difficult, process.

In fact, even courts have begun to recognize that beginning, or intensifying such therapy, sometimes triggers a relapse for clients with drug or alcohol addictions. Frequently, in problem-solving courts, when a client has used drugs or alcohol, the therapist will tell the judge, without going into any detail, that the client is going through a “rough patch” in therapy. Rather than punishing the client for that relapse, a truly trauma-informed judge will encourage the client to continue with the therapist and will express understanding for the difficulty encountered in therapy.

As Dawn’s Place is a trauma-centered program, we prepare for the likelihood that women will encounter difficulty during therapy. In addition to the approved method of moving at the client’s individualized pace, Dawn’s Place adds three very important and unique adjuncts to the therapy program: (1) A clean safe room; (2) Incredibly lovely surroundings; and, (3) Two eager “fur-apists”.

Let’s start with the clean safe room. All our bedrooms are kept clean by the women themselves who have been instructed on effective ways to clean their room and keep it clean. In addition, when a woman graduates from the program, she is permitted to take all her bedding, including the comforter, sheets, and pillows. That means that the next woman in gets a fresh start. The rooms are safe because each woman is given the key to her own room. For many, it is the first time that they have held a key to anything. After hitting a tough patch in therapy, the woman can come to her clean room, unlock her door and feel safe lying on her own bed.

Next, outside her room, the woman can enjoy beautiful common areas like the relaxing living room, the modern kitchen, and the spacious dining room. She gets to cook and eat with companions who are all on the same journey. And Dawn’s Place is surrounded by idyllic green grounds. The woman can take a walk under a canopy of trees or just lie back and enjoy the dappled sunlight coming through the canopy.

Finally, and perhaps most important, while the woman is in therapy, she is able to work with one of our two dedicated “fur-apists”. While we are somewhat tongue-in-cheek, what our two beautiful and affectionate kitty cats are able to accomplish is no joke.

Over the years, I have had occasion to see many varying degrees of trauma and degrees of success in recovering from trauma. Without exception, those women who have recovered relatively quickly and with fewer “relapses” have been those women who have been successful in caring for others during this period. Sometimes, this has involved caring for horses, and indeed, thanks to the generosity of a kindhearted donor, Dawn’s Place has been able to offer equine therapy. But at all times, the woman undergoing therapy is able to hold a small, soft, snuggling creature who is needing attention and affection. By drawing the woman out of herself, the kitty is able to soften the impact of the trauma therapy without diluting its effectiveness.

In sum, thanks to the caring staff, generous donors, lovely surroundings and affectionate kitties, Dawn’s Place successfully works to provide mental and emotional wellbeing to the women who are most in need of it.


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