Working with Pregnant and Parenting Women in Recovery

Santa Rosa's Drug Abuse Alternatives Center (DAAC) Perinatal day treatment program supports mothers in overcoming drug and alcohol addictions

Shoshona Pascoe, MFT

In addition to my private practice, I have been working at the Drug Abuse Alternatives Center (DAAC) in Santa Rosa ( as the therapist in their Perinatal Program. Pregnant and parenting women of all ages and backgrounds, some voluntarily and others required by the courts, take part in this day treatment recovery program designed specifically for the needs of the women and their children, struggling to reclaim their lives from drug and alcohol addictions.

My position was created to provide mental health services as an adjunct to the recovery counselors' individual and group work with the women and children. Attachment deficits are common in women with histories of abusive or neglectful families. The substance abuse recovery process may bring memories of childhood trauma and neglect to the surface. To mother when you have not been mothered, to create safety when you have not experienced it, these are the common circumstances our clients bring to the recovery program. It has been deeply gratifying for me to work with DAAC's Perinatal team because I see attachment healing taking place in our therapeutic relationship.

Attachment: The Mother-Child Bond

The power of the mother-child bond is palpable in the therapy room as the women I work with gaze upon their infants, desiring to give them a good life. Yet many of the women were not safe growing up, not protected, often harmed, and surrounded by an addicted family system. The baby gazes up at her mother and shows the urge to bond; to be close and to love is a remarkable force. DAAC's Perinatal Program, in addition to the recovery education and support, provides life skills training. The therapy hour begins a process of attending to underlying trauma histories and attachment wounding, so these babies and mothers have a better chance of forming the essential bond of healthy attachment, with the foundation of a drug/alcohol free life.

Nurturance, Therapeutic Childcare and Life Skills

The building that houses our program is often filled with laughter and the tumultuous energy of young children and their constantly changing exuberance. Childcare is provided for children under three with employees trained in the special needs of children exposed to drug influenced lifestyles. The Perinatal Program provides support on the most practical of levels including transportation to and from the program, and freshly prepared, healthy food. Our intention to help each woman feel respected and valuable is a complement to the information and structure of the formal recovery program. Parenting education, nutrition information, infant massage, and yoga are some of the supplementary resources available. I offer couples and family sessions as well as individual therapy sessions when needed.

Mindfulness Practice for Anxiety and Depression

The ability to ground, to come to the present moment, to return to trust in the basics of your own experience: these are needed skills in each of our lives. For those with addiction histories, the gulf between connecting with these sources of wisdom and dependable information may be great. Mindfulness practice offers a way to reconnect with the body, feelings, thoughts and other levels of our selves that is very useful for our clients. Anxiety and depression are common experiences for the women I work with at DAAC.

Useful resources related to this topic include "The Mindfulness & Acceptance Workbook for Anxiety" (Forsyth, & Eifert, 2007); and "The Mindfulness & Acceptance Workbook for Depression" (Strosahl & Robinson, 2008).

Please call me at (707) 573-9575 if you have questions about this article, for more information about my private practice, or to learn more about DAAC's varied programs.


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