Hi Dr. Brown! Can you tell us about Willow Place, and what your role is?
The mission of Willow Place is to provide women a safe and supportive environment where they can come for partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient services to treat substance use, eating disorders, mental health, and trauma. The goal at Willow Place is to offer women a place they can feel at home to heal from the devastating effects of these disorders. We believe that given the right environment and proper support, women can have happy, joyous, and successful lives, despite the adversity they have faced.
At Willow Place, we offer Partial Hospitalization (PHP) and Intensive Outpatient (IOP) services. Our PHP services are 30 hours a week and IOP ranges from 9-15 hours a week. Both of these levels of care provide each woman with an initial psychiatric evaluation, medical history and physical, nutrition evaluation, and psychological testing. Following the assessment phase, each woman works with their primary therapist to develop a treatment plan specific to their individual needs. During the course of treatment, women are provided 9-30 hours of group counseling a week which is inclusive of evidence-based practices such as 12 step, skills-based groups (dialectical behavioral therapy), trauma processing, meal support, nutrition, and relapse prevention. In addition to these foundational groups, women also receive integrative approaches to treatment including acupuncture, biofeedback, BioSound Healing Therapy, adventure therapy, movement groups (yoga specific), art therapy, and expressive writing groups. Each week women are provided an individual session with their therapist as well as their case manager. If they reside in our housing, they are provided additional case management. Willow Place also offers family therapy in conjunction with the BALM (Be a Loving Mirror) family program. This family program offers our women the best chance at recovery by supporting the family’s needs as well. While women are at Willow Place, they are monitored by our psychiatric nurse practitioner, who offers medication management and psychiatric support as needed. After completing Willow Place, women are referred to local counseling and psychiatric follow up in the community.
Where did your vision begin? How has it grown?
In 2010, just after completing a Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology, I met Allyson Chambers and Francis Ward. I worked with Allyson in a sober living environment and it was there that we noticed women were not improving despite the treatment they were receiving. We found that these women were still experiencing post-traumatic stress and acting out in behaviors that often led to relapse in substances or eating disorders. Allyson and I wholeheartedly believed that if these women had a place they could go separate from their male counterparts, they would have a greater chance at recovery. Research shows that men and women recover differently; therefore, it is important that women be offered a place that provides support specific to their needs. We wanted to offer a home like environment, that was safe and nurturing, yet supportive and structured enough that they could thrive. In 2011, we founded Willow Place in West Palm Beach, FL. In 2013, after returning home for the holidays, I decided I wanted to move home. After several months of research, we found that Asheville desperately needed a program like Willow Place. In July of 2013, we opened our program here. Since then we have grown into a much larger treatment facility in Biltmore Village and have opened 3 supportive houses that women who come to our program from all over the country can reside and receive additional support in a residential environment.
What made you choose the Asheville area?
In 2013, after returning home for the holidays, I decided I wanted to move home. Historically, the mountains of Western North Carolina have been known as a place to go to for healing, and I truly believe in the magic and power of these mountains. After several months of research, we found that Asheville desperately needed a program like Willow Place. In July of 2013, we opened our program here. Since then we have grown into a much larger treatment facility in Biltmore Village and have opened three supportive houses for women who come to our program from all over the country to reside and receive additional support in a residential environment.
What has been your greatest challenge? Your greatest victory?
The experience of seeing a woman thrive after all the adversity she has faced… that tells me I am right where I belong, and that Willow Place is serving a great need in our community. From time to time, we receive phone calls, emails, or letters from women who have completed our program and they are thriving, years clean or free from an active eating disorders and no longer experiencing post-traumatic stress symptoms. These women have hope, faith, and freedom. I feel so much gratitude every time we hear from one of these beautiful women, and I am honored to have an amazing team of doctors and therapists who work tirelessly each day to ensure these women are given the best chance to not only overcome their disorders, but to thrive and experience wholeness and freedom. Our team is incredibly gifted, passionate, hardworking, and dedicated to providing our clients a safe and supportive environment to heal. It has been a great honor to work alongside each of these wonderful clinicians who believe in our mission at Willow Place, and want to see each of our clients flourish into the beautiful women God intended for them to be.
Every day offers a new reward: to see someone overcome a challenge. To see someone choose a new skill rather than an old coping mechanism. To see someone pick up another month clean from drugs and alcohol. Each day offers its own reward because each one of these beautiful women’s journey is different and there is always something to be grateful for and to see as a success in their journey. It’s the little things that are most rewarding because every day we can build upon those little victories and before you know it, we look back and months or years have gone by and they’re living, really living, and that’s what it’s all about; being present, experiencing each moment to the fullest, and loving the life we live.
Do you have anything else you’d like to share?
Each day, we are given the opportunity to be a small part of someone’s journey to experiencing wholeness. Each day, we are given the opportunity to demonstrate God’s love for them and see these women come to believe in something greater than themselves and that they can have a life worth living. Having seen the devastation of substance use and eating disorders firsthand, I know how challenging it is to stand up and take that first step forward. I want Willow Place to be that outstretched hand that these women can cling to in their desperation, I want them to know we are that beacon of light and hope that they are seeking, and that they have somewhere safe they can come to get the help they deserve.