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Heartwood Centre for Women

Heartwood is a residential treatment centre for women (including transgender women) who are BC residents aged 19 or older with substance dependence.

S.T.A.R. (STabilization, Assessment & Retreat)

You will begin your treatment in the S.T.A.R. Program to stabilize and assess your health.

During the first one to two weeks of the program you will meet with the Nurse, Nurse Practitioner, Physician, and Social Worker. This is your team and they will help you set goals during the S.T.A.R. program.

The goals for this stage include:

  • Managing withdrawal from substance use
  • Identifying and treating medical and mental health issues
  • Developing stable daily routines
  • Learning to live in a community
  • Developing healthy sleep and hygiene habits
  • Learning to engage in structured programming 

You will attend orientation sessions, early recovery groups, nutrition counselling, nutrition groups, doctor education, spirituality and recovery, managing chronic pain and pre-treatment groups. Twelve step meetings are provided onsite. Recreational activities and outings are also provided.

Acupuncture is available at Heartwood. The Acupuncturist works closely with clients to attend to physical and emotional concerns through needling techniques and acupressure. Acupuncture can treat a wide range of health concerns including, but not limited to: headaches, phobias, anxiety, asthma, arthritis, addiction, menstrual cramps, lower-back pain, and carpal tunnel syndrome. Acupuncture is available three times per week and clients are strongly encouraged to attend sessions.

If you are tobacco dependent, on day one of S.T.A.R. we ask you to abstain from tobacco use. This can be difficult for some women. Heartwood provides the opportunity for you to develop a quit plan to decrease your use while working towards abstinence. You will be asked to begin to attend a smoking cessation group which continues throughout your treatment. 


Ten weeks of your stay is dedicated to intensive treatment. Here you will attend groups and will identify your strengths, your personal vision of recovery and treatment goals which will lead you towards this vision.

Group programs address trauma, substance dependency, mental and physical health issues. A team of professionals including Doctors, Nurses, a Social Worker, Counsellors, a Recreation Therapist and a Dietitian work together to provide care for you. Other specializations such as an Acupuncturist, Expressive Art Therapist and Yoga Practitioner also provide regular sessions each week to assist you in developing alternative methods of coping with symptoms and managing difficult feelings.

A structured program supports your recovery journey by providing groups and activities focused on trauma and substance dependency, women’s wellness issues, mental wellness and substance use, physician wellness groups, spirituality and recovery, motivational enhancement, smoking cessation, mindfulness practice, relapse prevention skills and emotional regulation skills. 

During your program you will plan your treatment with your “team” by identifying your strengths, your personal vision of recovery and treatment goals which will lead you towards this vision. 

Returning home

Preparing your return to the community is important to us and is essential step at Heartwood. 



Heartwood is a voluntary program which is rich in group activities. It is expected that you will arrive to group on time and be ready to work! At the beginning of treatment you are asked to make a commitment to this and to putting your best effort into your treatment program and to follow all group guidelines.

The Children’s and Women’s Hospital is a smoke-free site. As such, Heartwood is a tobacco-free environment. Nicotine Replacement Therapy is provided as necessary and you will be asked to attend smoking cessation groups. Please note that smoking on hospital grounds could result in a large fine and discharge from the program.

Cell phones are not permitted for the duration of your stay. You will be able to use the resident phone at Heartwood. 

No cameras, personal laptops, iPad, iPod, MP3 players or tablets are not allowed in the program. 

Heartwood and the hospital within which we are located is a scent-free environment. Any perfumes or scented products will not be allowed to be used while in the program.

Any of the following behaviours will result in discharge from Heartwood:

  • Physical violence
  • Drug or alcohol use or possession on site
  • Drug dealing/sharing on or off site
  • Recruitment of women into gangs or the sex trade

What to bring & not to bring

What to bring

  • One medium-sized suitcase, on knapsack only. We cannot store large luggage cases or additional clothing
  • Clothing that is comfortable and suitable for in-residence living
  • Clothing that is suitable for outings to the general community (including a jacket that is appropriate for the season)
  • A bathing suit
  • Personal make-up (scent free)
  • Toiletries such as shampoo, conditioner, soap, deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrush (scent free)
  • Comfortable shoes to wear during outings
  • A small amount of money for outings
  • Workout clothing and shoes for walking and if you plan to go to the gym

What not to bring

  • We discourage you from bringing larger amounts of money or valuables to Heartwood. There is a personal locker in your room and a lock will be provided, however, Heartwood is not responsible for your valuables.
  • Do not bring any personal electronic devices such as cell phones, laptops, tablets, iPad or anything that can take a photo. This helps to ensure the privacy of all the women in Heartwood. If you arrive with any of these items, they will be locked in a cabinet until you graduate.

Going offsite

Some activities include escorted outings off the site. These escorted activities are part of your treatment plan and the degree to which you will be involved is planned with your Counsellor and Recreation Therapist.

Over time, you will be able to leave the site without an escort. Unescorted passes will be arranged when you and your treatment team decide that it is a safe option for you. Before leaving on an unescorted pass, your treatment team will ensure that you have a safety plan with a contact number set up. Offsite passes will be limited according to your treatment plan. One overnight pass may happen close to the end of your program when planned with your team.

Throughout your stay staff will request a urine drug screen and/or breathalyzer sample. This may be randomly requested and will be required upon return from passes off site.

Pass levels

While in the program, residents are assigned pass levels. Everyone, regardless of their pass level, needs to sign out at the nurses’ station. All outings are conducted outside of program hours.

Red (No Go)

  • Outings with a staff member only.

Yellow (Caution)

  • Outings with a staff escort.
  • One walk of up to 45 minutes on the Hospital grounds with a green pass holder.
  • One support recovery meeting per week with a green pass holder.

Green (Go)

  • Three walks up to 45 minutes on the hospital grounds per day.
  • Apply for a 4 hour pass for Saturday or Sunday.
  • A: One support recovery meeting in the community matched by one support recovery meeting onsite.
  • B: One additional support recovery meeting per week if above A is met.

Please note the following guidelines apply when offsite:

  • No cell phone use
  • Follow smoking cessation quit plan, including abstaining from smoking
  • Visits homes should only happen with approval from your counsellor
  • Shopping should only happen with approval from your counsellor
Our Centre


When you arrive at Heartwood, you will be greeted by a team of Nurses, Doctors, Counsellors, a Nurse Practitioner, a Social Worker, Program Coordinator and Allied Health Team. Each of these people will be an integral part of your stay at Heartwood. In addition to the staff at Heartwood, you will also be joining a team of women who have started on their path to recovery.

You will share a room with one to three other clients and will change rooms at least once while you are here. In your room, you will find a chest of drawers, a bedside table with lamp, a chair, a bed and a locker with lock. If you have valuables, we highly recommend you consider leaving them at home for safe keeping.

All of your meals and snacks are provided at Heartwood. You will have an opportunity to meet with the dietitian to discuss any dietary concerns you may have to ensure that you are getting what you need.

Heartwood does have laundry facilities that are available for use. You will be able to do up to three loads of laundry per week. Laundry detergent is provided.

We do ask that you leave your perfume at home as Heartwood and the hospital are scent-free.

The hospital grounds are smoke-free, thus Heartwood is also smoke-free. As a non-smoking program, each woman is encourage to attend smoking cessation support is provided to decrease use and become abstinent. Any Smoking in the building or on the grounds may result in discharge from Heartwood.


Group & Individual Counselling

At Heartwood, a counsellor works as a member of the team, providing counselling and support to women. The Counsellor provides group and individual counselling, conducts family support sessions, and delivers education seminars.

Recreational Program

The recreational therapist meets with each client to review, plan and set recreation, fitness and leisure goals to include in the treatment plan. An individual assessment is completed. Group outings, leisure education and leisure activities on site are provided throughout the 12 week program.

Nutrition Group

The Heartwood dietitian works closely with the clients to review, plan and set nutrition goals and treatment plans while in the program. This is done through individual assessment, healthy-eating cooking classes, menu planning activities and simulated 

Complementary Therapies

Programming is provided by a yoga practitioner, expressive art therapist and acupuncturist.

Family Program

The family educational series is offered to families and significant others onsite and is a one and a half hour seminar which includes speaker videos and discussion groups. Families are encouraged to attend with their family member in the last 10 weeks of the program. Counselling staff are available after the session to answer any questions and offer support.

Support Groups

Support Groups: Two twelve-step panels (Narcotics Anonymous and Alcohol Anonymous) are held onsite. After the first month in the program, clients can attend community support meetings as part of their treatment plan.

Addiction Medicine Specialists

The Heartwood Doctors work with clients to ensure that all medical needs are being attended to including medication management while attending the treatment program. They work closely with clients to review medical history, medications and other related health issues to help clients with their recovery. They provide medical counselling related to substance dependency and physical and mental wellness issues. Educational groups are provided including sessions on substance use, chronic pain management, mental wellness and women’s health issues. 



The Acupuncturist at Heartwood works closely with clients to attend to physical and emotional concerns through needling technique and acupressure. Acupuncture can treat a wide range of health concerns, including, but not limited to headache pain, asthma, arthritis, addiction, menstrual cramps, lower-back pain, and carpal tunnel syndrome.


At Heartwood, counsellors work as members of the team, providing counselling support to women. The counsellors provide group and individual counselling, conduct family support sessions, and deliver education seminars.


The Heartwood dietitian works closely with the clients to review, plan and set nutrition goals and care plans for while they are in the program and afterwards. This is done through individual assessment, healthy-eating cooking classes, and menu planning activities.


The Heartwood doctors work with clients to ensure that all medical needs are being attended to while attending the treatment program. They work closely with clients to review medical history, medications and other related health issues to help clients with their recovery.

Expressive Art Therapist

The expressive art therapist at Heartwood works with clients using expression as a means to begin working on emotional healing, awareness and self-development. Art is used to explore and express emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in a personal and creative way.

Indigenous Elder

Aboriginal Elders are available for consultation at Heartwood. Some of these Elders work within other community organizations. The Native Friendship Centre and the Aboriginal Wellness Program are available in Vancouver and visits can be organized to attend these organizations and to meet with Elders.


Nurses at Heartwood provide and coordinate nursing support to clients. This includes assessment, attending to medical concerns and managing medications. Their goal is to work with the inter-disciplinary team to ensure that a client’s health care goals are met at Heartwood. They also provide psycho-educational groups and individual support. 

Nurse Practitioner

The Nurse Practitioner provides ongoing primary care for women during their stay at Heartwood, working as a team with the physicians and other healthcare members. The Nurse Practitioner focuses on women’s wellness examinations and various other medical assessments based on individual needs.

Recreational Therapist

A recreational therapist plans and implements recreation programs and provides leisure education for clients recovering from substance dependence and mental health issues. Activities include exercise, art, music, crafts and outings.

Social Worker

The Social Worker at Heartwood provides services to clients and their families to reduce stressors at home and in the community both during the program and afterwards. The Social Worker, together with the client and the interdisciplinary team, works on a plan for the client to transition back into the community.

Yoga Practitioner

The yoga practitioner works with the basic principles of alignment and yoga philosophies in the program. These encourages a well-rounded practice that promotes a deeper sense of inner stillness. Yoga allows us to remain more flexible in body and mind which can open us to more opportunities in our daily life.

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SOURCE: Heartwood Centre for Women ( )
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