Not All Wounds Are Visible: The Impact of Trauma on Motherhood

We know that substance use disorder and mental health challenges come with their own stigma. For women living with substance use disorder, this stigma is further compounded by society’s perception of women and motherhood in general.

Society often celebrates the martyrdom of motherhood, which creates tremendous pressure on women who are hurting or suffering through their own trauma. As a result, moms who need residential treatment must deal with compounded stigma. Mothers are expected to make healthy choices to benefit their families and children, yet they are subjected to judgment if they must take time out to focus on themselves, often labeled as selfish or accused of abandoning their children.

Few residential treatment options recognize the unique physical, social, emotional, and cultural needs of women and mothers with even fewer options existing for women who are pregnant or have young children. At North Range, there is hope.

Wings Intensive Addiction Services

Wings Intensive Addiction Services is the first of its kind in Northern Colorado; the only program in Colorado for moms with children over nine months; and one of two programs that provide services to women and children in the state. Our Wings program works closely with our Family Connects program to honor a woman’s unique needs and create a gender-responsive environment that engages them and their children through a systems-based and trauma-informed therapeutic experience.

The synergy created through our innovative collaboration between Wings and Family Connects is what makes our model stand out from the rest. Wings and Family Connects are housed under one roof, allowing for seamless case management and service delivery for women and their families. As a mother receives treatment for her behavioral health needs, her child is safely down the hall, simultaneously engaging in activities designed to raise and strengthen his/her protective factors. Addiction and early childhood mental health counselors work in tandem with the family unit to gain a unique perspective and a more complete view of risk factors and trauma. Both teams collaborate with mother and child to provide family-focused support that supports lasting recovery.

The program can serve up to 16 women at a time and provides access to treatment for pregnant women within 48 hours. It is open to women regardless of their ability to pay, wherever they live within Colorado. On arrival, women are assessed for substance use disorder and mental health issues as well as connections to underlying problems and challenges. This step helps to ensure a positive outcome in the woman’s continuum of care.

Women are physically affected by substance use differently than men and have unique challenges related to substance use disorder. According to research, women tend to have a shorter history of use, but their disease progresses at a faster pace. This means that women enter treatment with more severe medical, behavioral, psychological, and social issues.

Research also indicates that 80% of women who are admitted into residential treatment have experienced trauma as a child, an adult, or both. Trauma is often weaved into every choice, reaction, and coping mechanism that a woman living with substance use disorder has developed throughout her life. This trauma must be addressed for lasting recovery.

Two women and a child

Violence and Women

Effects of violence on women can cause long-term physical and mental health challenges. It can also influence a woman’s ability or willingness to engage with treatment. If a woman is in an abusive domestic relationship or surrounded by unhealthy family relationships, she may not see a way out. With no outside support system or housing options, a woman may stay in the relationship/environment that is centered around substance use and reoccurring trauma because she believes it’s the only option she has.


Women experiencing substance use disorder may have grown up in generational poverty and trauma. This can impact the level to which education was accessible in her world. Many are unaware of the opportunities that an education can provide them and their children or they may not believe that the dream of an education is theirs to claim.


Financially supporting their families on their own is another dream that can seem unattainable for moms.  Many have yet to develop occupational skills or work experience that can help them support their families independently. Others may have difficulty maintaining jobs because it’s difficult to secure and pay for childcare without support.


Growing up in generational poverty or living in environments that rely on substance use make it difficult for mothers to find someone in the family or close circle who can be trusted to keep children safe. This creates barriers when it comes to maintaining employment or accessing treatment. For women living with substance use disorder, relying on someone to care for children 24/7 in order to begin residential treatment is a serious obstacle.

As women progress through treatment at Wings, they receive wraparound services that can include:

  • Trauma-informed therapy: EMDR, DBT, CBT
  • Pre-natal mental health education and care
  • Post-partum mental health education and care
  • Therapy groups that focus on co-occurring disorders
  • Parenting skills groups
  • Relapse prevention education
  • Case management
  • Employment preparation
  • Life skills groups
  • Family therapy and support groups

Women at Wings are supported to become active participants in their journey of healing and recovery. They learn how trauma, mental health issues, and substance use disorder have affected their lives. They learn new coping skills for addressing trauma and post-traumatic stress without using drugs. They receive parenting education as well as guidance on how to plan and cook nutritious, affordable meals–a skill many take for granted but is something clients have never learned or experienced before coming to Wings.

The Wings treatment philosophy respects a woman’s experience and perspective. Clients are cradled in safety and stability as they reflect on how trauma may have played into their story. They learn how to be self-sufficient, instead of depending on drugs, family members, social safety nets, or someone who might abuse them and their children.

After discharge, women continue to receive support from the Wings community through aftercare and alumni resources. These resources can include housing and sober living environments, connections to community-based childcare, workforce education, school re-entry, or couples counseling.

When a woman’s specific needs are addressed from the onset, improved treatment, engagement, retention, and outcomes are the result. For more information about connecting to care at Wings Intensive Addiction Services, call 970.347.2120. To support Wings with a donation, email

Wings has introduced me to tools that have led to my sobriety and recovery. I owe my son, my recovery, and every miracle in my life to the time I was privileged to be at the only treatment program that has worked for me in 15 years.” – Client at Wings

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