The Affinity House for women is one of three residential treatment programs offered by Lutheran Social Services in Wisconsin, including Genesis House and the Fahrman Center. Lutheran Social Services operates nationally, providing help to a variety of people, including those with substance abuse issues. Its Wisconsin and Upper Michigan chapter had its start more than a century ago, when a Lutheran pastor opened a home for orphaned children in Wittenberg, Wisconsin. Today this chapter ministers from 196 facilities, to all people, regardless of religious affiliation. Affinity House offers 21-day residential treatment for drug and alcohol addiction that can be extended for up to six months of transitional care.
Eau Claire, Wisconsin, is a town of two lakes, 90 miles east of Minneapolis. Affinity House is a short drive from Dells Pond, the city’s central reservoir and walking distance from the Chippewa River State Trail, a path where clients can bike, jog and walk. It’s also only a 15-minute drive from The Fahrman Center, Lutheran Social Services’ larger, co-ed residential facility. Affinity House has classic suburban appeal: pine trees out front, a basketball hoop in the driveway, a big backyard and bikes for clients to use.
There are twin beds for 18 women who share rooms, bathrooms and chores, including laundry and kitchen work. Though there are self-referred clients here, the majority of Affinity’s funding comes from the state. This means that a number of these beds are reserved for women with criminal histories, who have been referred by a probation officer.
Food is provided as part of the cost, but clients plan and prepare their own meals and clean up after themselves.
Treatment and Staff
Affinity House offers a 21-day residential inpatient program as well as transitional living for substance abuse. Clients typically stay for the three-week intensive program and then stay on for several months; the typical length of treatment is 60 to 180 days. This is not a medical program. There are no detox services and dual diagnosis support is not facilitated.
For those first 21 days, client schedules are tightly structured; they attend group therapy, counseling sessions and 12-step meetings from 8 am to 8 pm, with breaks to eat and time to relax built in. In the beginning, down time is much more structured; clients don’t have cell phones and their contact with people outside the house is more limited.
All clients are assigned a counselor to work with individually on a weekly basis. All treatment occurs on-site at the house and there are on-site 12-step meetings every night. Licensed counselors teach all group therapy. Some groups are didactic in nature, while others are discussion based. Affinity House clients have a group that focuses specifically on women’s issues, like trauma and codependency, a group on anger management, on recovery tools, on recovery maintenance, on pro-social thinking and behaviors and on developing healthy relationships. Clients are also offered music and art therapy on a weekly basis. These experiential therapies are meant to help clients meditate on their experience through healing mediums. All groups and counseling sessions at Affinity are mandatory, including on-site 12-step meetings. Transportation is provided to two additional off-site meetings a week and attendance for these is optional.
Many clients begin in the 21-day program before scaling down to transitional living, but it is possible to begin care at the less intensive level. At the transitional living level, clients still follow house rules, continue with therapy and have the structure of sober living, but their focus is on finding gainful employment and re-engaging with the community in other ways, like volunteering. Clients in this phase of treatment have the same schedule and abide by the same rules before 9:30 in the morning and after 4 in the afternoon. Between these hours they are looking for work. They are expected to find employment within the first three weeks of looking and the house staff does whatever they can to help.
Residents are allowed to play music on small radios during their free time. Headphones are permitted after 8 pm or during non-program time on weekends. The only caveat is no offensive music.
Over time, clients at Affinity House earn privileges with good behavior. For example, after a few months of treatment, clients are allowed to go to the movies with friends, go out to eat and generally organize their free time as they see fit.
There are three full time, licensed counselors at Affinity House. Between Monday and Friday, there are usually five staff members on duty, bringing the staff-to-client ratio from one-to-three to one-to-four.
This is solid, 12-step recovery, with a Lutheran influence—though they are quick to point out they offer a hand to anyone who needs it, regardless of religious persuasion. Pluses at Affinity House are the all female environment and the extended length of transitional care without having to be uprooted when newly sober.
3042 Kilbourne Ave
Eau Claire, WI 54703
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