Dr. Covington teaches new peer facilitators at CIW.

By Lt. Rosie Thomas, AA/PIO
California Institution for Women

Healing Trauma: A Brief Intervention for Women, by Dr. Stephanie Covington, is a pilot program slated to start Aug. 8 at California Institution for Women (CIW). Thanks to recent training at CIW, this gender-responsive treatment for women has 20 new peer facilitators.

Dr. Stephanie Covington.

Dr. Covington is known for her other successful rehabilitative program, Beyond Violence.

Healing Trauma offers an opportunity for imprisoned women to begin  healing from the effects of trauma, particularly violence or other abuses. The women are able to identify and acknowledge the traumatic experiences they have faced in life and the impact of these experiences.

Topics include trauma; power and abuse; process of trauma and self-care; anger; and healthy relationships and love.

During the six sessions, the groups provide a safe environment for the women to explore their thoughts, feelings and experiences.  The women have an opportunity to be heard and realize there is hope and take the journey toward personal growth.

Dr. Covington trained the peer facilitators at CIW as well as another group at Central California Women’s Facility. CDCR staff provide oversight to the program. Retired annuitant Capt. Rochelle Leonard has worked with the Beyond Violence facilitators for almost four years and she is recently joined by Karen Vertti, Supervising Psychiatric Social Worker.

From left, peer facilitators Leann Medsker, Tracy Little and Elizabeth Randall.

“Women in correctional settings have one of the highest rates of adversity and trauma in our society. We know that this history is linked to substance abuse, sex work, mental health issues and other personal challenges. Providing this service to women is a core part of their healing process and their ability to successfully move forward in their lives,” said Dr. Covington.

Peer facilitator Elizabeth Randall looks forward to the sessions.

“After attending the training, I know there is hope,” she said. “This program will help all of us understand our past trauma, move through and heal so we can be able to grow.”

Peer facilitator Leann Medsker said, “I believe in this program because it helps answer the questions of why I am here and not just focusing on the how.”

Peer facilitator Tracy Little, who referred to herself a recovering gang member, said, “Being invited to this seminar with Dr. Covington is an experience of a life time. The trauma as an ex-gang member that I caused to my children, my victims, as well as society left a profound effect on me. Healing Trauma is something I feel I can give to my community and be effective. I never had a guide to be able to help the women of my gang community. With Healing Trauma, I can help.”

From left, CRM Ronnie Shupe; Karen Vertti, Supervising Psychiatric Social Worker and Healing Trauma Facilitator; retired Capt. Rochelle Leonard, Beyond Violence/Healing Trauma facilitator; S. Calhoun, Criminologist Researcher; and Dr. Stephanie Covington.