Scattergood Foundation

Advancing Innovative Strategies for Change in Behavioral Health

Women's Therapy Center

Name of Innovative Program: 
New Beginnings
Sponsoring Organization
Women's Therapy Center
Name of Innovative Program Lead: 
Alison Gerig
E-mail Address of Innovative Program Lead:
Project Description: 
Women’s Therapy Center (WTC) established an innovative program called New Beginnings in 2009 to address the growing number of low-income women presenting with trauma. Women were calling desperate for help and with few financial resources. They reported experiences such as childhood physical abuse, sexual violence, witness to a crime, traumatic accidental death, hate crimes, and profound neglect.  Some had tried community mental health facilities and felt little results. They encountered long waiting lists, treatment capitations, high turnover of staff, and found that their symptoms remained. New Beginnings was designed to offer an evidenced-based approach called EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) that specifically reprocesses and integrates trauma in a lasting and efficient way.  WTC offers a sliding fee scale, a strong therapist/client matching process, no treatment capiations, and a high show rate. WTC treats 50 women a year with EMDR and has seen an 88% success rate with lasting results. 
Creativity and Innovation: 
 New Beginnings is the first and only community-based program that offers a resolution-oriented trauma treatment approach to low-income women in Philadelphia. Its sole purpose is in promoting behavioral health through an evidenced-based psychotherapy technique called eye movement desensitization reprocessing (EMDR). As one of the most highly researched and effective treatments for trauma, EMDR is ingenuous and resourceful at its core. Therapist and client use an eight phase protocol where clients "unlock" the negative memories and emotions stored in the nervous system, and then help the brain to successfully reprocess the experience.  Clients who once reported a high level of distress or disturbance will report no distress or a neutral feeling after completing treatment. This technique creatively uses the internal resources coming from the client and allows them to remain in complete control while processing intense traumatic material. It tends to be more efficient and clients get better faster.
 As an efficient and results-based clinical approach, WTC has pioneered offering EMDR to low income communities in Philadelphia. To date, the New Beginnings program has trained 9 clinicians at Women’s Therapy Center (WTC).  WTC’s success has spread and other agencies are interested in using this approach and model. Typically a costly training, WTC is responding to this and pursuing a project to offer a city-wide training at a reduced rate to other clinicians working with disenfranchised communities impacted by trauma. WTC is a member of the national EMDR association (EMDRIA) and is working with their president on publishing results from a study jointly conducted in 2011 on the effectiveness of using EMDR in a community-based feminist oriented setting.  Funders also have supported New Beginnings’ leadership with multi-year grants for program and training costs.
 The business model for New Beginnings is three fold. Therapist salaries are supported through the 30% of WTC’s client caseload who are at the top of our fee scale ($80+). WTC operates an individual giving campaign that subsidizes a service fee at 1/5th the market rate ($20) for EMDR services. Funders have supported training 9 clinicians as well as their required supervision for certification and practice. These include the Barra Foundation, who offered a grant to launch the New Beginnings initiative, and the Claneil and van Ameringen Foundations, who have supported the program over the last three years. This approach covers all program, supervision, and training costs.  To sustain intake and screening needs, WTC uses  new clinicians in the field seeking hours for clinical licensure. These therapists are paid a reduced fee and offer consistency to the agency as they gain experience in trauma work and EMDR.
 Due to its clear 8phase protocol taught through an intensive two weekend training and supervision that supports clinician efficacy, EMDR can be incorporated into behavioral health settings and duplicated to meet the needs of varying populations struggling with the impacts of trauma. It is easily used in conjunction with other therapy approaches such as prolonged exposure treatment, relational therapy, psychodynamic therapy, and trauma-informed cognitive behavioral treatment (TI-CBT).  The EMDR Humanitarian Assistance Program (HAP) offers trainings at reduced rates to clinicians working in agencies. Agencies with short-term treatment models could utilize EMDR because positive client outcomes are achieved over a shorter period of time.  Achieving positive results faster also improves client show rates – WTC has an 85% show rate compared to 50% in traditional community mental health programs. High compliance is also due to EMDR not requiring the client to re-live all the details of the trauma to resolve it. 
Since last year, the New Beginnings program trained another clinician in the EMDR treatment approach and served 20 additional low-income women suffering from trauma or post-traumatic stress disorder. Results indicated that client’s symptoms reduced by 80% meaning clients reported having the memory of the trauma without the emotional triggers. Unlike when they entered treatment, clients’ level of functioning increased, allowing for improved work performance, healthier relationships, and the ability to feel safe in the world.  WTC received several grant awards supporting this program this year, one being a two year commitment. In the words of renowned trauma expert Bessel van der Kolk “The process that started with showing that EMDR can help people to rapidly and effectively process traumatic sensations and emotions… was a remarkable step in exploring new ways of helping people move beyond the tyranny of the past.”