Safe Harbour and Recovery at Quintin Warner House

Rita Lepore, RSSW, CTE, Addictions Counsellor at Quintin Warner House

Rita Lepore, RSSW, CTE, Addictions Counsellor at Quintin Warner House

Quintin Warner House (QWH) does things a little bit differently. It is a branch of Mission Services of London that treats men struggling to break free of addiction through a four-month long, live-in program. The care these men receive over their four month stay at QWH makes this a program more intensive and distinct from 12-step programs; however, what makes QWH truly unique is the fact that the counsellors approach addiction treatment through a “trauma lens”, meaning that the counsellors look at the addiction from a trauma-informed perspective.

QWH uses “Seeking Safety”, an evidence-based treatment program, within its treatment plans. This program mimics QWH’s approach by seeing addiction as a symptom of a larger issue; in the case of many QWH clients, the larger issue could be a mental illness such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

“Over the years, through different treatment programs, there has often been a comment on client behaviour through a lens of judgement,” says Rita Lepore, an Addictions Counsellor at Quintin Warner House. “I have heard that the client doesn’t communicate well or they’re manipulative or they’re not trying hard enough, but we look at it differently. We are aware that trauma impacts behaviour such as having trouble communicating, not being able to properly express what they’re feeling, and feelings of guilt and low self-esteem.”

By looking at what the behaviour of the client is trying to tell the counsellor, counsellors are seeking healing through compassion. “We want to help our clients understand where their own, and their peers’, emotions and reactions are coming from; [that way], they can learn to manage some of their mental health issues and learn how to interact and socialize with each other effectively,” notes Rita.

Another unique trait about Quintin Warner House is that, even though it hosts an abstinence-based program, counsellors at QWH help manage relapse if it happens while a client is enrolled in the program. It is understood that helping clients identify past trauma is not always easy, so counsellors welcome back those who have suffered a relapse, and use it as a teaching moment with the client.

While QWH has trained counsellors on staff, it engages community resources like gym memberships at the YMCA downtown and psychiatry services from Dr. Ben Loveday, who visits QWH to teach clients how to manage mental illness or sleep problems, and occasionally, to prescribe medication as needed.

Quintin Warner House focuses on day to day functioning as well. It instills healthy habits in clients by encouraging gym time each morning and by serving three nutritious meals a day. With
24-hour staffing, there is an extra benefit of establishing a sense of safety; clients know that help is there if needed during a sleepless night or if they’re experiencing feelings of anxiety, panic, or depression. “Clients have to feel safe to manage. At Quintin Warner House we teach and encourage safe coping skills, how to create a safe environment, and how to make safe decisions,” Rita says.

An important aspect in addiction recovery is feeling a part of a community. Each year, QWH hosts a Summer BBQ and a Christmas Party so current clients and past graduates are able to mingle. There are group outings where clients go bowling and to the movies – any activity where drugs or alcohol are not generally present (in order to avoid triggers).

There are also two Annex houses with 11 beds in total, that give these men more time to plan their next steps in securing employment and permanent housing. This is helpful to clients in avoiding distractions during treatment, or worry about what they will do after the program; knowing the Annex housing is available helps them focus on their recovery more effectively.

With Relapse Prevention and After Care groups offered, Quintin Warner House is determined to help equip clients with the tools necessary to manage trauma so they can make safe, healthy life choices.

“Often clients will build their own community of alumni after they graduate,” Rita says. “They stay connected and might rent an apartment together. It’s an important aspect to long-term recovery – having a sense of community, safety, and the life skills necessary to make healthy choices.” And at the end of the day, are those not aspects that we all strive for in life?

Written by Rachel Ganzewinkel, Communications & PR Coordinator

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