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Addressing Women’s Trauma Care: A Revolutionary Approach

I​n a groundbreaking effort led by Dr. Yelena Chorny, Chief of Addiction and Trauma Services at Homewood Health Centre, a new light is being shed on the unique challenges faced by women in trauma and addiction recovery. The initiative seeks to transform health care systems from the ground up, ensuring they are responsive to the specific needs of women.

The Urgent Need for Gender-Specific Care

The Public Health Agency of Canada highlights a disturbing trend: rates of intimate partner violence are significantly higher for women than for men across all age groups, with Indigenous women and women with disabilities facing even greater risks. Furthermore, gender disparities in trauma exposure during childhood are stark, with girls more frequently subjected to sexual trauma and physical punishment. This gendered aspect of trauma extends into adulthood, where the mental health needs of women remain underrepresented in medical research, education, and treatment.

Dr. Chorny brings attention to the complexities of treating trauma in women, noting, “We see many women presenting with complex trauma, which refers to repeated exposure to traumatic events, often beginning in childhood. This can be intergenerational, necessitating a culturally sensitive approach to care.” She emphasizes the barriers to accessing care, including feelings of shame, self-blame, and guilt, exacerbated by societal and cultural norms.

Overcoming Barriers in Mixed-Gender Settings

A critical observation by Dr. Chorny has been the discomfort and sense of unsafety women feel in mixed-gender treatment settings. “Depending on her experiences, a woman may feel unsafe receiving treatment and living in a community with men. Mixed-gender settings can prevent some women from fully benefiting from their treatment, or worse, deter them from seeking help altogether.”

This insight led to the creation of Homewood’s Women’s Trauma & Concurrent Program, inaugurated in March 2024. Designed to cater to the diverse needs of all women—including cisgender, transgender, and non-binary individuals preferring a woman-focused environment—the program is a pioneering step towards specialized care. Dr. Chorny describes the program’s structure: “Participants receive their core treatment programming in a gender-specific setting and reside together on a unit. This fosters psychological safety and empowers women through their recovery journey.”

A Model for Future Care

The establishment of this program is seen as just the beginning. Dr. Chorny envisions it as a catalyst for widespread changes in mental health treatment for women, underscoring the necessity of supporting women’s psychological safety and addressing their evolving needs through continuous research and care innovation. “We must continue to evolve how we deliver care to fill the gaps in mental health treatment for women,” she asserts.

Welcome to Homewood Health
Homewood Health Centre is a fully accredited, physician-led, medically-based inpatient treatment facility offering several specialized programs and extensive services to treat a wide range of mental health issues including trauma, addiction, anxiety, depression as well as co-occurring mental health and addiction issues.

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