Phoenix House was conceived in New York in 1967, when six heroin addicts left treatment, moved into a brownstone on the West Side, and formed their own recovery house. Five years later, Phoenix House became an actual nonprofit and today it operates over 130 programs in nine states (see our reviews of the Venice, California and Springfield, Massachusetts facilities). This residential treatment program, the Dorchester Center, provides long-term treatment and housing for women in recovery and their children, from newborn babies to teenagers, in Dorchester, Massachusetts.
Accommodations and Food
St. Mary’s Center for Women and Children in Dorchester hosts an emergency shelter and the Phoenix House Dorchester Center, the women’s residential treatment program. Located in a former hospital, St. Mary’s Center is in the Upham’s Corner area of Dorchester’s commercial center, one of the most economically deprived and ethnically diverse communities in Boston.
Phoenix House has made an effort to domesticate the hospital environment to make it more of a home and less of a facility. The walls are decorated with children’s artwork and inspirational quotes, but the illusion isn’t absolute. The bedrooms look like converted hospital rooms and meals are served in the cafeteria.
It may look like a hospital still, but there are amenities—like an on-site gym with a cardio room, strength training equipment and a group exercise studio with classes offered for free, including Zumba. Residents also have access to a computer room.
When women arrive at the Phoenix House Dorchester Center, they have an initial assessment with a counselor to identify their essential problems, what their aims are for recovery and how those aims will be met. Treatment plans are individualized based on this assessment and the needs of each woman and her children, if she has any. Referrals are made to other facilities if detox is necessary and women with co-occurring disorders are aided in finding outside support. The duration of a client’s time in residence varies, generally anywhere from three to nine months. This is a long-term program that aims to ensure premium recovery for its clients and the security of their families. To this end, women at Phoenix House can take job training classes and enroll in a GED program held on the St. Mary’s campus.
Every woman’s recovery plan may look a little different, but Phoenix House has general recommendations for treatment. 12-step programs are not for everyone, they say, although they provide Big Books and lists of local meetings, encourage attendance and often include AA/NA in continuing care plans. Counselors employ CBT and MET as methods of processing physical and emotional trauma in addition to psychoeducation. The women attend process groups where they discuss triggers for their substance use as well as skills for relapse prevention.
In order to provide help for pregnant clients and women with new babies, Phoenix House offers many services to young mothers in recovery. There are new mother support groups, “Mommy and Me” classes, well baby check-ups, immunizations given by a nurse practitioner, child development education classes and pre and post natal care.
Many outside organizations provide services to Phoenix House clients for free. Nurses from Boston Healthcare for the Homeless visit twice a week and the Institute for Health and Safety offers Parenting and Nurturing programs. And for the kids living on campus, Birthday Wishes puts on collective birthday parties every month.
One of the primary concerns for clients coming into the Phoenix House Dorchester Center is the cost. In this situation administration does whatever it can to accommodate women in need. This community of women is bigger than the sum of its parts; staff and peers look out for each other here. For example, the staff members speak multiple languages in an attempt to make the transition into sobriety easier. When a woman “graduates” from the program, there is a whole group of other women present to support her. Recovery is always a challenge, but at Phoenix House it isn’t undertaken alone.
Phoenix House Dorchester Center
90 Cushing Ave
Dorchester, MA 02125
Phoenix House Dorchester Center Cost: Sliding scale. Reach Phoenix House Dorchester Center by phone at (888) 671-9392 or by email at [email protected]. Find Phoenix House Dorchester Center on Facebook and Twitter
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