Most of our staff are female, and for good reason. “For individuals who would find it too triggering to be in a coed facility, our facility is a perfect option for them,” says Clinical Director Irene Jacobs. We understand that our patients have often been in toxic relationships and may have a history with abusive or manipulative men. Others may have issues with manipulating men and seeking out unhealthy connections with the opposite sex as a coping mechanism. We want women to be fully engaged in the treatment process and not distracted or anxious, which is why our program is for women only.
Despite being a women-only program, some of our staff members are male, and their presence on campus is deliberate. Why? Ultimately, our patients will reintegrate into a world that includes men, and we want to teach them how to respond in a healthy way instead of feeling triggered or avoidant. It’s also very important for the patients, as they heal, to be able to practice safe interactions with men before they re-enter society. As patients dissect their issues and build new skills, they can get a clear sense of what’s healthy, so they recognize it the next time they encounter it.
The Nature of Treatment at Willow House
At the core of sex and love addictions lies a fundamental attachment disturbance which generally happens early in childhood. “With our typical patients, we see there’s a baseline of attachment disruption from really early on and then from there we see some other types of trauma — there might be sexual trauma, there might be emotional or physical trauma — and then because that trauma happens early on, what we start to notice is … they start using substance[s],” Jacobs explains. “Then we see some trauma bonding, where they start attaching to people who are toxic, and we see some trauma repetition. Whether consciously or not, they are re-engaging a similar pattern later in older adult life where their trauma is sort of being played out again. … They are repeating a lot of patterns that are unhealthy, and they just aren’t aware that it’s unhealthy and they need treatment for it.”
In the end, the continual playing out of unhealthy patterns leads to compounded trauma and a more complicated web of disordered thinking and behavior. As these patterns are deconstructed and new patterns are built during treatment, women must be able to interact with trustworthy men in an environment where they are secure and can create proper boundaries, possibly for the first time.
“Boundaries are a frightening word to a lot of our patients and to a lot of their loved ones,” says Jerry Law, Executive Director, Willow House and Gentle Path. “Boundaries are not walls, nor are boundaries fences. Boundaries are simply a way to take care of ourselves. I cannot control you, I can only control me.”
In the 45 days that they spend in treatment, patients find out what’s healthy and what’s unhealthy — and how to break free from the trauma that has wired them for continued suffering. As this occurs, patients can also learn how to form positive connections with others, especially the men on our campus, in a place where they can still make mistakes without incurring harm. They can continue to be coached by our staff and gain confidence as they heal and rediscover their true selves.
Reconnecting in Healthy Ways
Our experienced staff are focused on addressing the needs of each individual. We treat our patients with the attention and dignity that they deserve, helping them uncover their issues and learn how to thrive again. Our program is designed to set patients back on track so they can break the pain cycle and grow as individuals.
“We teach them how to thrive and how to heal, and we hold their hand throughout the entire process,” Jacobs says.
While the treatment process is life-changing for most, recovery doesn’t happen in 45 days — it is not measured in months, but in years. It takes learning, patience, and support from others to maintain recovery for the long-term. That’s why so much of our program is focused on teaching patients to reconnect with their whole self (emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually) as well as helping them to connect with others in healthy ways.
“I absolutely want to make sure that nothing goes unseen and that nothing goes unchecked with my patients because we want them to be the best when they leave,” Jacobs says. “We don’t want them to be victims of trauma or of life circumstances. We want them to leave empowered, and we want them to have their life back, and we want them to be able to have healthy relationships.”
Learn More About Treatment at Willow House
If you or a loved one is suffering from sex or love addiction, porn addiction, codependence, intimacy disorders, or co-occurring disorders, please get in touch with our team today. At Willow House, we offer a research-backed program that provides intensive treatment, experiential therapies, and knowledgeable, compassionate staff who can put you on a path to healing. Contact us today to learn more.