June 12, 2019

Women find healthier outcomes in trauma recovery and empowerment group

women standing around a heart

Photos: top, Women who participated in the first TREM group say they have found both physical and mental health benefits; below, Espinoza and Bauda-Lopez serve as co-facilitators.

The death of a parent at a young age, a sexual assault–whatever the cause of trauma, the new Heartland Health Centers women’s Trauma Recovery and Empowerment, TREM, Group provides a structured opportunity to learn more and benefit from both the therapists and other participants’ experiences.  

“Group provides community and support that you just don’t get in individual counseling,” says Margaret Espinoza, LCPC, Behavioral Health Consultant at HHC-Lincoln Square and TREM group co-facilitator. “If individual therapy is an oven, group therapy is like a microwave.”


Women who participated in Heartland Health Centers’ first 12-week TREM therapy group offer a powerful evaluation of how it has helped both their physical and mental health:  “The group taught me self care and self love,” said one; “I have learned how to accept myself more, to not feel ashamed anymore,” another added; “This group has opened my eyes to experiences that I did not realize (or did not want to realize) that I was holding on to,” according to a third.

“Women understand here how they’ve developed negative coping skills to survive and that they have the ability to change the patterns,” says group co-facilitator Maria Lopez-Boada, LCSW, a Behavioral Health Consultant at HHC-Albany Park.  “They see they are not responsible for what happened to them, but they are responsible for their healing and how they are going to go forward and respond,” Lopez-Boada says.

Espinoza echoes that:  “I think a lot of women walk into groups like this and say ‘I have been sexually abused, I’ve been beaten and that’s the identity they walk in with,’” she says.  “One of the main tenets of the group is, that happened to you but that’s not who you are. We highlight properly allocating responsibility for traumas against them and encourage accountability for being proactive in their recovery.  Some things are not our fault, but we’re accountable for our actions moving forward.”

The facilitators and participants noted they had found both physical and mental health benefit through the group. That’s not surprising, according to Espinoza: “If you feel empowered and you feel like you have responsibility and ownership of your body, you are able to get more done,” she says.  

That fact, is part of why she joined Heartland Health Centers in October 2018:  “What attracted me to work here is the way it incorporates mental health in a medical setting. You can’t separate one from the other.”

For more information:

The Trauma Recovery and Empowerment, TREM, Group is held Monday mornings and is part of patient centered care free for Heartland Health Centers patients.  The group is for adult women who have identified themselves as having experienced trauma, such as physical, emotional, sexual, or domestic violence, in the past (other options are available for those in immediate danger, Espinoza says).  

For more information, please contact the appointment line at 773-751-7800 or call and/or leave a message for Espinoza at HHC-Lincoln Square, (773) 275-1680 or for Lopez-Boada at HHC-Albany Park, (773) 366-7777.