Fairbanks Master Therapist, Kim Davenport, joins your host Kathleen Gill, to discuss how she started work on the treatment track after seeing how prevalent trauma was in her female patients. Read the full transcript from the podcast below or listen to it here or on iTunes or Google.
Kathleen Gill: Welcome to Recovery Talks: A Fairbanks Podcast where experts from Fairbanks Treatment and Recovery Center located in Indianapolis, Indiana take time to discuss unique aspects of addiction, substance use disorder, and recovery as well as other relevant issues with our guests. I’m your host, Kathleen Gill. I’ve worked at Fairbanks since 2007 and I am a woman living in long term recovery.
Kathleen Gill: When discussing treatment for substance abuse, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that the disease of addiction may not be the only issue affecting a patient. Often there can be other underlying conditions such as trauma that may have contributed to the development of the addiction disorder or vice versa. Today on recovery talks, we are joined by Kim Davenport, an addictions trauma master therapist to discuss the importance of treating the whole patient, not just his or her dependency. Kim, thank you so much for being here.
Kim Davenport: Oh, hi Kathleen. Thank you for having me.
Kathleen Gill: It is our pleasure. So tell us about yourself and your role at Fairbanks.
Kim Davenport: Okay. Well, I was in the field of addictions for about 15 years before I came to Fairbanks. But I always wanted to work there because that’s where my dad got sober at. He went through Fairbanks in 1988 and had 12 years sobriety before he died and it was the best 12 years of our life.
Kathleen Gill: Oh, that is so wonderful. I don’t think I knew that.
Kim Davenport: Oh my gosh. Yeah, it’s always had a special place in my heart. So I started at Fairbanks in the women’s, I’ve always worked with the women. And I’ve been there almost 10 years now. I started on the inpatient unit and then I transferred to the outpatient center and I worked for the partial hospitalization program for a couple of years. And then I, as we call it, stepped down to the intensive outpatient program. And I did that for a while and then they created this position of masters therapist and I thought, “Oh, I want that.” So with that, I developed the Fairbanks trauma program, which is called Origins. And now I facilitate that program and facilitate an IOP program focused exclusively on trauma.
Kathleen Gill: Okay. And so tell us about the name Origins.
Kim Davenport: Oh my gosh. Well, it just came to me because I thought we’re really trying to get at the origins of what happened. You know, what is underlying the addiction? And for so many of these women that I had been working with over the years, they were getting sober, but when we took the drugs and alcohol away, all these feelings were rising to the surface and all of this trauma was rising to the surface and we just weren’t equipped to treat it. And we were saying, “Okay, hold that thought. Go get an individual therapist.” And it just didn’t make sense and it wasn’t good practice. And so we collaboratively decided to come up with the idea of treating trauma concurrently with the addictions. And that’s kind of what brought about origins.
Kathleen Gill: And when did origins begin?
Kim Davenport: I think it was in March of last year. So it’s been going on about a year now.
Kathleen Gill: Is it for all of the clients at Fairbanks?
Kim Davenport: Right now, it’s just for the women. Now, ideally, we would like to expand it to the males in the future, perhaps even the adolescents. But right now, it’s exclusively for our female population.
Kathleen Gill: How did you choose to start with women?
Kim Davenport: In working with the women, they were so highly traumatized and it just seemed to be a stumbling block that they couldn’t get past, and they were much more verbal in wanting to talk about their trauma and wanting to process their trauma where sometimes with the males they might be a little bit more reticent in talking about those issues.
Kathleen Gill: A question that I think is kind of a place to start at the very, very beginning is tell us what trauma is.
Kim Davenport: Right. Trauma is an emotionally distressing event. It’s when something happens in your life that is so emotionally disturbing, you can’t get past it. And what might be trauma for one person might not be traumatic for another person. But there’s all kinds of trauma. A lot of the trauma that I’m working with is childhood trauma. So as children, these women had been physically abused, emotionally, mentally, sexually abused, cases of incest, going on into their adolescence. There’s been sexual assaults, sexual molestation. Going into adulthood, there’s repeated sexual assaults and domestic violence, being held in captivity, attempts on their life. There’s other issues that can be traumatic. Like if you had a child that had a life threatening illness or you were a caregiver of someone who had a life threatening illness, that can be highly traumatic. Losing a loved one to suicide or an unexpected death can be really traumatic. I mean, there’s military trauma. We’ve had some vets come through that we’ve treated.
Kathleen Gill: So many different forms of trauma.
Kim Davenport: So many different forms of trauma.
Kathleen Gill: Tell us about the work and the focus of Origins when you are working with those clients.
Kim Davenport: One thing that’s imperative is to create a feeling of safety and security. Initially, when the women come in to Origins, there’s a couple different ways to come into Origins. You would maybe ideally come in and be detoxed and we would learn that you were a trauma victim. And then ideally, you would either go to La Verna Lodge for Women, which is our residential program, and get some treatment out there. Or you would go to our women’s partial hospitalization program, which meets Monday through Friday, 9:00 to 4:00. And in those levels of care, you would become stabilized. You would get a strong foundation in your addictions. Because although we’re treating trauma, at the end of the day, we’re addictions therapists.
Kim Davenport: So we’re always going to have that at the forefront of anything that we’re doing at Fairbanks. But in those two programs, La Verna and PHP, we give the women a lot of stabilization techniques and coping skills. They learn how to regulate their emotions, how to think of the trauma and talk about the trauma but be able to calm themselves, soothe themselves, ground themselves and be able to kind of put it in a container and leave it for the next time that we want to come talk about it again but be able to be safe in their everyday lives. Because we have to prevent relapse, right?
Kathleen Gill: Right. Are there particular modalities of therapies you lean towards with this work?
Kim Davenport: I think we lean towards EMDR and then we lean towards cognitive behavioral therapies. We use at lot of the stabilization techniques from EMDR in the PHP and La Verna level of care. And then in the trauma IOP, which is what I run, that meets Monday, Wednesdays, Fridays from 9:00 to 12:00. I’m using a lot of the philosophy of EMDR. And by that I mean when I talk to these women and they tell me what happened to them, I asked them, “How did that make you feel about yourself?” And inevitably they tell me, “I thought I was a bad person. I thought I was to blame. I thought I was horrible. I inherently feel bad inside, that I’m no good.” And so what we do is take that negative core belief system that oftentimes started in childhood and then was reinforced through abusive relationships and further reinforced by their own addictive behavior. And we say, “You know what? We’re going to gently start challenging this because what happened when you were a little girl, you were an innocent little girl. You were beautiful, you did nothing wrong. And then when you were sexually assaulted, it was not your fault.”
Kim Davenport: And I love doing this in a group because we can have a group of women who have all been sexually assaulted and they can each think that they’re to blame, but they can look around the room and see how the other women are clearly not to blame. And if they can see that they’re not to blame, perhaps, maybe I wasn’t either. And so we teach them to have grace for themselves and we teach them to love themselves again. We use a lot of positive affirmations, we use a lot of self care. So every week we’re talking about ways to talk positively about ourselves. We engage in self care every week, and we build ourselves up and we let go of that shame and that negative belief system.
Kathleen Gill: Wow, that’s powerful. When we first started talking, it seemed like that would be an odd scenario of having a group of women sitting there together, sharing and baring their soul of such incredibly painful things that have happened to them. But when you describe how they can each help each other in that, that makes a lot of sense. That’s very powerful.
Kim Davenport: Right. And for a lot of these women, they’ve not talked about this trauma before. They’ve not been able to verbalize it, they’ve not been able to express it and to emote around it. And just having that experience of sharing it and being validated, hearing someone say, “Oh my God, that was horrible what you went through. But Oh my God, you’re so strong. Look how strong you are. Look how remarkable you are. What a survivor.” And that’s what we do in there.
Kathleen Gill: Boy, and that negative voice within is something that pops up so easily for, I think, all of us. But boy, with the trauma involved, even more so to take on that blame and shame. And that’s beautiful work that you guys are doing. How do you see it take shape and take hold for these women?
Kim Davenport: Oh my gosh, it’s beautiful to watch. I mean, there are a lot of women that come in there so shame-based and so self-depreciating. And when they can turn it around and start saying positive affirmations or, “Oh, this week I’m getting a pedicure and I’m getting my nails done and I’m getting my hair done.” And taking pride in themselves and engaging in self care and putting themselves first and setting good boundaries and putting their recovery first. Yeah, it’s a great thing to see.
Kathleen Gill: I bet the bonds that are created in your groups are intense.
Kim Davenport: Yeah, they are. I mean, I really consider this really sacred work.
Kathleen Gill: How effective do you feel this trauma programming, this Origins group has been?
Kim Davenport: I’d like to think it’s really effective. The women really seem to love this group. Now, I mean, that’s the feedback I get when they graduate. They say it’s life altering. They’ve been able to be validated and express themselves and talk about things they’ve never shared before. They really impart to me that this is a transformative process. And for many of them, I do believe that they have gotten to the point where they can love themselves again.
Kathleen Gill: Typically, a client that comes to the Origin programming have gone through other levels of care within Fairbanks. Does insurance cover the Origins programming?
Kim Davenport: Well, yeah, sure. I mean, because it’s considered an IOP. Now, it is a little longer than the traditional IOP and we’ve never had a problem with insurance paying for the additional weeks. I think that we can make a good case that these ladies are in need of extended treatment and more care. And we’ve never had any problems with insurance coverage.
Kathleen Gill: And how long is the typical length of the Origins program?
Kim Davenport: Well, once someone has completed PHP or La Verna, then there’s an interview process because we want to make sure that they’re stable in their recovery and they’re serious about their recovery. And once they go through the interview process, then they can be granted into the group. I’d say the only downside at this time is that because we want it to be a smaller group, we only have spaces for 10 group members, so sometimes my group might be full. Should that happen, we have a daytime and evening IOP, both led by women therapists, which are women only groups and both of those therapists are trained in EMDR and trained in treating trauma. So even though you might have trauma and don’t get into the trauma IOP, you still will have your trauma treated through the women’s continuum at Fairbanks.
Kathleen Gill: You’ve mentioned EMDR several times. And for those who might not be familiar with that acronym, what does that stand for?
Kim Davenport: Eye movement desensitization reprocessing.
Kathleen Gill: That’s a mouthful, isn’t it?
Kim Davenport: I know, right?
Kathleen Gill: What about family groups? Or is there a way to work with one’s family when you’re working with the women in the Origins programming?
Kim Davenport: Well, typically the women in my group, we do offer family counseling with our family therapist, Patrick King. There you can get six sessions with him and they can bring in their family members and have family counseling with him. And then the family members are also welcome to come to our family support group on Wednesdays from 6:00 to 8:00 PM. And the women’s group is at 6:30 so the women can come to the women’s group and the family can come to the family group that’s on Wednesday night.
Kathleen Gill: Okay, great. What should a loved one of someone who’s suffering with trauma know?
Kim Davenport: I would encourage the loved ones of someone who’s suffering from trauma to try to have an understanding of their trauma triggers. And I think that could be really hard to understand and navigate sometimes. For example, in a marriage, perhaps sex itself might be highly triggering for someone who has survived a sexual assault. And maybe in the marriage, sex hasn’t been a problem because they’ve been impaired and they numb themselves. But then take away the substances and having to have that intimacy and vulnerability on top of maybe having a flashback to a prior sexual assault could be overwhelming.
Kim Davenport: I mean, there could be some big challenges ahead in dealing with trauma survivors and their trauma triggers. I mean, I know a lot of my ladies struggle with sleep. They have night terrors, they have nightmares. In part, substances were keeping those at bay, right? And now that they’re sober, they’re back and they’re not sleeping, insomnia, irritability. There’s a lot of factors. A lot of the women have PTSD. So just having flashbacks during the day, intrusive memories, inability to regulate their emotions, feeling scared, fight or flight response. There’s a lot of ways that trauma can manifest itself in your life.
Kathleen Gill: We know there is such a stigma that goes with the substance use disorder aspect. But I would imagine that there’s a lot of stigma that goes with trauma as well.
Kim Davenport: I think there is. And it seems like there’s a lot of secrets around trauma. You know, if your brother was molesting you through out middle school, it’s not something you share with people. You typically don’t share that you were sexually assaulted. You typically don’t share with a new partner, “Oh, my last partner kept me captive for three days and sexually assaulted me and I thought I was going to die.” This isn’t things you talk about at the dinner table or you want to disclose. So with those secrets come a lot of shame. And a lot of these women feel really damaged. And I think they question whether or not they’ll ever be able to be accepted and have healthy relationships and have someone view them as whole. And I think that’s where we have to do a lot of healing and have a lot of conversation in getting them to recognize it was not their fault.
Kathleen Gill: Yes, it is. Those secrets that we keep that can make the women or the trauma victim very, very sick.
Kim Davenport: Right.
Kathleen Gill: With those secrets. I know you said there’s a tendency also for if the trauma victim does begin to share that secret with somebody, that there’s a tendency for those who hear it to not believe them.
Kim Davenport: I’ve had so many women when they were children and they were being sexually molested maybe tell their mom or tell an aunt and they were told, “No, that’s not happening. I don’t believe you.” And so they’re further traumatized by having their trauma invalidated. Or going to a teacher and saying, “My dad’s beating me.” And it’s like, “No, that’s not happening.” Because the dad was a well respected member of the society. Yeah. I mean, just being ostracized from the family because of things that have happened behind closed doors. Just not having their trauma when it happened and telling someone close to them that they thought would protect them, having that person turn their back on them is then equally traumatizing and makes you never want to talk about it again.
Kathleen Gill: Right. And I think the physical abuse versus a mental abuse, it’s hard to differentiate and probably makes the victim feel even that much more crazy when they’re receiving mental abuse.
Kim Davenport: Oh, absolutely. I mean, a lot of times, you wonder if I can even justify this as trauma. A lot of women in some of these abusive relationships or toxic relationships, if they’re not being beaten, they don’t recognize it as trauma. But their significant other could be controlling their every move, isolating them from their family, gaslighting them, making them feel crazy, restricting. I’ve had patients where food’s been restricted, money’s restricted, everything. They’re told that nobody’s going to want them, no one will ever take them again. They’re called all kinds of names and it’s terrible.
Kathleen Gill: A lot of different forms of abuse out there, isn’t there?
Kim Davenport: Yeah. Lot of different forms of abuse, right?
Kathleen Gill: Yeah. Kim, what else do we need to know about this vitally important work that’s being done at Fairbanks through the Origins program?
Kim Davenport: Well, we’re just so happy that we’re able to offer this program now, I think it’s been long needed. I think the women really gravitate towards it. They really want it. When I interview women to be in the program and they’re appropriate, oftentimes when I say, “I’d like to accept you into to the program,” they burst into tears. They want this so badly, they want to address these issues. So I feel so blessed to be in this position, to be able to offer the support of support and healing for our clients.
Kathleen Gill: And I love what you said earlier, that the work that you do in the program is to challenge those negative core belief systems because they become so ingrained and so believable. And so, to really challenge that and to recreate, it takes a real art. And those women are very, very lucky to have you at Fairbanks.
Kim Davenport: I love them so much. I love my ladies so much and I love what I do.
Kathleen Gill: It is incredible to sit back and get to watch the work you do with our patients. So thank you for being there.
Kim Davenport: Thank you.
Kathleen Gill: Kim, thank you also for joining me on this podcast today. Often we end our podcast with that concept of together we can. Together we can overcome more when we do it together. So how would you end the phrase together we can?
Kim Davenport: Together we can help you love yourself again.
Kathleen Gill: I like that. Thank you, Kim. This has been Recovery Talks: A Fairbanks Podcast. If you or a loved one needs support in the journey of recovery, the experts at Fairbanks Treatment and Recovery Center can help. Visit our website, fairbanksrecovery.org, for recovery resources. Or call 1-800-225-HOPE for immediate help. Thank you very much for listening.