To the operators of La Ventana Treatment Programs, the physical environment of an outpatient treatment site should receive no less consideration than the setting of a residential location where clients live 24/7. At the La Ventana outpatient site in Ventura, Calif., that opened last June, clients are greeted near the entrance with a sign message that reflects the organization's approach: “Dream Until Your Dreams Come True.”
“We almost feel that the outpatient environment is more important [than the residential]; at that point, the clients are transitioning to their daily lives,” says Lisette Fraser, La Ventana's director of community services. “They are trying to establish a solid recovery in their everyday world.”
Fraser's direct involvement with the establishment of the intensive outpatient program site in Ventura became a highly personal journey. She began designing the site-what had been a bare-bones office space situated in a Ventura office building-only a week after the funeral of her husband, who had battled addiction.
Fraser made sure to include plenty of yellow hues in a color scheme that she says emphasizes sunshine and calmness, counteracting the anxiety and chaos that haunt the daily lives of individuals such as her late husband. “This is all a reflection of the dreams that can be lost,” she says.
The planners of La Ventana's outpatient sites (the organization also operates residential programs) try to emphasize creating a home-like atmosphere, avoiding overhead fluorescent lighting and other features that would convey a medical office setting. Fraser says that once the Ventura site was acquired, a month's worth of renovations was needed.
“We want the space to flow well,” she says in regard to the site planning goals in general. “We also want to have a place where clients can eat, so we include a kitchen and dining room area where clients can bring meals.”
Clients at the new outpatient center generally receive about three to four hours of services three times a week at the center, generally in the evenings. This consists mainly of group therapy and mealtime. The center also operates a family program. The Ventura site is overseen by a clinical director with expertise in addictions.
Outpatient clients tend to stay in the intensive outpatient program, which has a capacity of 10 at a time, for at least 30 days, Fraser says. The community surrounding the Ventura site is a mixed-use area with a large number of medical offices.
Even though the program is not residential, La Ventana stocks the location with plenty of blankets, pillows and other home-like touches. “We want to convey that this is a place where people can relax, where they can be honest, where they can get real, where they can finally find recovery,” Fraser says.
She adds, “We want them to know that they can achieve this in their everyday life. This sets the stage for their really doing the work.”
Fraser concludes, in regard to the overall project and its personal meaning, “This has given me so much hope.”
Addiction Professional 2011 November-December;9(6):52-53