In this post, the use of “NANC” and “ACBC” are interchangeable terms for the same organization.  The use of the terms “resident” and “patient” are also interchangeable.

This post is for Vision of Hope at Faith Ministries East on 5652 Mercy Way in Lafayette, IN.

Ideas of things to answer:

  • When were you there:
    • July 2011 – January 2013
  • How many patients on average?
    • 24 residents
  • Does it treat both males and females? If so, is treatment separate or combined.
    • Female only.
  • How often do you see a medical doctor, psychiatrist, psychologist (therapist), nutritionist, etc?
    • Never.  There wasn’t even a nurse there except for the occasional meeting to discuss potential residents (new admits).
    • Counseling sessions with your biblical counselor is about once or twice per week.
  • What is the staff ratio to patients?
    • There were about 2 or 3 interns on staff per shift that directly dealt with the residents and then one head staff person in charge of the interns per shift.
    • Residents were split up into 2 groups, at times, and one intern would be assigned to each group.
    • Each counselor (senior staff) was responsible for counseling about 4-6 residents per week.
      • Per diem counselors were acquired directly from Faith Ministries’ counseling program across campus when Vision of Hope’s counselors were unable to take on additional clients.
  • What sort of therapies are used? (DBT, CBT, EMDR) etc?
    • Nouthetic Counseling (a form of biblical counseling) is the only “therapy” utilized.
    • All counselors were either NANC certified or in the process of being certified (and were under supervision).

Describe the average day:

  • What were meals like?
    • Meals were “family style” in a dining room.
      • There were several tables and an intern would sit at (almost) each table to supervise Phase 1 residents.
      • I remember being assigned seats at times and not at other times.
      • Whichever group of residents didn’t cook/prepare the meal would be responsible for cleaning the kitchen and dining room after each meal.
      • Breakfast was split into two groups/shifts where half of the residents would get breakfast as Group A and then shower after.  The other half of the residents were Group B and would shower before breakfast.
        • This not only organized the shower schedule, it also prevented Group B members from possibly purging.
        • Group B was responsible for cleaning up breakfast every day, Group A was responsible for setting up breakfast and starting the coffee.
    • You had to “clean your plate” (finish everything you were served).
    • Half of the residents each day would cook the meals for the entire house (about 40 people) with one intern supervising meal prep.
    • Meals were decided by the Household Manager (who was equally responsible for finances, house chores, schedules, and nutrition… but had no dietetics degree).
    • There were optional snacks throughout the day.
      • Sometimes underweight residents were required snacks.
      • I remember there being a snack before workout, an hour before lunch (before leaving to clean the Community Center and Gym), and a snack around night meds.  There may have been one more.
  • What sorts of food were available or served?
    • Just normal family food.  Somewhat southern but mostly traditional American platters.
    • Everyone got the same thing.
    • Seconds were optional.
    • Dessert was optional and offered about twice per week.
  • Did they supplement? How did that system work?
    • No.
  • What is the policy of not complying with meals?
    • Consequences, Consequences Homework, Probation (involving more consequences, being dropped a level, more homework, and having counseling sessions taken away), and being asked to leave the program- in that order.
    • Consequences can include losing the “privilege” of being able to speak.
  • Are you able to be a vegetarian?
    • No.  Vegetarianism is not allowed and Kosher is not accommodated as it goes against their religion.
    • Food allergies were hardly accommodated without specific medical documentation.
  • What privileges are allowed?
    • Residents were allowed cameras but the cameras had to be locked in sharps/contraband when not in use.
    • All residents exercise at the gym each day.
      • Exercise usually consisted in walking in circles at 6 am for an hour on a track.
      • Underweight residents were restricted to sitting during workout but were required to still be awake while watching.
    • Phase 1 residents were allowed iPods (no internet) at night, during morning workout, and on weekends.  Sometimes iPods were allowed during week day house chores, as well.
    • Phase 2 residents were allowed to have their cell phones at all times.
    • Phase 2 residents were allowed to use the classroom computers upstairs or check out their personal laptops from the secretary during the day.
      • Computer use was only allowed if they were specifically approved to do so by their counselor and had it put it on their approved daily schedule.
        • If a resident missed their planned computer time, they were not allowed to use the computer that day.
      • What a resident specifically did on the computer also had to be approved.
        • If a resident wanted to watch videos on YouTube, she had to write exactly which videos she wanted to watch and have her counselor sign off on it.
          • Ex: “Christian music videos” might not have been specific enough get approved but “music videos by Jeremy Camp and MercyMe” would likely have been approved.
    • Phase 2 residents were required to have a job nearby that paid.  It was about a 3/4 mile walk to the nearest bus station.  A couple of jobs were available on campus (through the church’s daycare or gym).  Very few residents were exempt from this requirement.  Residents who were disabled (couldn’t legally earn money) would get volunteer jobs.
    • Phase 2 residents could apply to local colleges to do some classes.
    • Phase 2 residents were allowed to use the gym cards to access the exercise equipment (and maybe also the pool?) at the Community Center next door.
  • Does it work on a level system?
    • Yes.
      • Phase 1: is a minimum of 6 months for all residents and is the most restrictive.
      • Phase 1b: is where you are still in Phase 1 and do everything a Phase 1 resident does but you also go out to job interviews.
        • The sole purpose of this level is to get a job so you can be in Phase 2.
      • Phase 2: is where you’ve completed Phase 1 and now have a job.  Your day consists of working at your job, eating some meals at Vision of Hope, counseling homework, working out, and sleeping at Vision of Hope.
      • Phase 3: is where you no longer live at Vision of Hope.  You either move back home, move somewhere else, move in somewhere locally, or some ladies would apply to stay at the Sunshine House (which was a Christian transitional living program in the area but was not affiliated with Faith Ministries).
        • Counseling would occur either long distance by phone/Skype/email or on campus (for those who chose to stay in the Lafayette area).
      • Graduation: is when you complete Phase 3 and have a special ceremony.  It can take years to graduate the program.
  • How do you earn privileges?
    • The only way to progress from Phase 1 to Phase 2 is by “getting saved” (even if you were a Christian before joining their program, you’ll likely have to re-convert or do salvation homework to prove you’re “actually saved”) and making it through the minimum 6 months of Phase 1.
    • Do your homework.
    • Don’t sin (not limited to, but including eating disorder, self harm, or addictive behaviors).
    • Be submissive.
  • What sort of groups do they have?
    • Curriculum groups include decades of recordings from Faith Church sermons and worksheets you have to fill in while listening.  The curriculum recycled about every 6-8 months.  This group is usually an hour per day.
    • Book groups are an hour or so of group study on particular Christian books that function as the textbooks for this group.
      • Examples of books used are: “Momentary Marriage” by John Piper, “Girls Gone Wise” by Mary Kassian, “Heaven” by Randy Alcorn, “Soul Physicians” by Robert Kelleman, and several books written by members of Faith Ministries (namely, Amy Baker).
    • Devotionals/Study Hall… you just do your homework and study your bible and journal about it.  There were specific devotional worksheets required.  Interns would typically assign a bible passage for everyone.
    • Worship… an intern would select lyric videos on YouTube and project them onto the wall and we’d sing along.  The good interns let us take requests.  The musically talented interns would use their own instruments (one even had a harp).
    • GNO “Girls’ Night Out” on Fridays were the weekly field trip.  Every other week it would be a free activity (like a hike or visiting someone’s house to make fudge).  The odd weeks would be a paid activity (paid for by the ministry or by a sponsor) such as ice cream, Chipotle, photo scavenger hunts, bowling, roller blading, or the annual school play (there was a private Christian school on campus).
    • Girls’ Night In on Saturdays was typically doing nails, a craft, a game, maybe something fun in the kitchen, or a movie.
    • Wednesday night “FCI” (Faith Community Institute) bible study classes at the church which involved going to the church and joining a “class” with the other parishioners.  Each course lasted quite awhile, a couple of months maybe?  Phase 1 girls had to join the same course and attend with a VOH intern.
    • ABF “Adult Bible Fellowship” every Sunday morning.  Phase 1 girls usually had to go to an ABF with a VOH intern there, unless they got special permission or a VOH volunteer to supervise them.
  • What was your favorite group?
    • Probably worship because it was fun.
  • What did you like the most?
    • Not having to worry about insurance cutting out.  The only people who determined my length of stay there were myself and the staff at the program.
    • Really comfortable house.
  • What did you like the least?
    • The inflexibility of the program.  They don’t treat us as individuals with needs.  Just as people with sin.  Everything and anything is considered “sin” and will be punished as such.
    • Being denied medical care even when I offered to pay for it myself.  I couldn’t even access a phone to call an ambulance myself.
  • Would you recommend this program?
    • In general, no.
    • There is no dietitian on staff to prescribe meal plans to residents and Phase 1 residents never get to learn how to eat.  Phase 2 residents were assigned exchanges but by a staff member with a finance degree, not a dietetics degree.
    • If someone is truly interested in this program because it is in line with their own religious beliefs, I highly recommend going to a secular program first to become medically stable (either with psych meds, detox for substance, or refeeding for eating disorders) and then going to this program.  There is no medical support at Vision of Hope and the program has even denied seeking medical care for certain residents who clearly required it (myself as both witness of this and as victim of this) and even asked for it.
  • What level of activity or exercise was allowed?
    • Lots and lots of physical chores in the house, in the church, on campus, in the school, in the community center, and on the grounds.
    • Workout every morning.
      • Exercise usually consisted in walking in circles at 6 am for an hour on a track or around the pond.
        • Despite being specifically advertised that we would use the gym equipment and pool facilities, we never got to use them.
        • One time we got to use the pool, but it was a Church event and essentially a one time deal.
      • Underweight residents were restricted to sitting during workout but were required to still be awake while watching everyone else walk around the track.
      • Sometimes we got to play basketball or do circuit training.
    • GNO activities like hikes or visiting a lake.
  • What did people do on weekends?
    • GNO on Friday night.
    • GNI on Saturday night.
    • A laid back Saturday morning group where we’d listen to a recreational book such as Hinds’ Feet on High Places or A Pilgrim’s Progress.
    • Extra chores on Saturdays, deep cleaning style.
    • Church all morning on Sundays plus Church Family Day once per month on Sunday nights.
  • Do you get to know your weight?
    • No, but sometimes you’d be told if you’ve been stable.
  • How fast is the weight gain process?
    • No idea.  Some people took ages to visibly gain anything.
  • What was the average length of stay?
    • A year and a half or longer.  Sometimes years.
  • What was the average age range?
    • Mid-teens to early thirties.  But I don’t recall what the oldest cut-off age was.
  • How do visits/phone calls work?
    • One 15 minute phone call per week on one of two phone call nights.
      • Special cases would get a second phone call or a 30 minute call.
      • A staff person would listen in on all phone calls and take notes on what you said, which were forwarded to your counselor.
    • There were visiting arrangements available after your first month was over.
    • After about 2 months you could get “checked out” for the weekend by family, if approved.
    • I recall some residents being allowed to sit with family members at church, if their family attended.
    • A resident was allowed to go to a different church on Sundays with her family because it was “good enough” by Vision of Hope’s standards for Christianity.
  • What kind of aftercare do they provide? Do they help you set up an OP treatment team?
    • None.  No.
    • If you stay in their program, you keep whatever counselors that get assigned to you while you’re in the program (including Phase 3).
    • If you finish the program, you don’t need counseling anymore but can stay in touch.
    • If you quit, or are “asked to leave”, they do next to nothing for you.
      • Those who did not complete the program were essentially shunned for a period of 6 months after leaving.  VOH had a “zero contact” policy during this time for both staff and residents. (No phone calls, letters, or messages to those who left the program.)
    • If anything, they’ll “pray for you”.  That’s your aftercare.
  • Are there any resources for people who come from out of state/country?
    • Not really.  Most people came from out of state.  Quite a few were from other countries.  You just show up on the day/time you’re supposed to show up and how you get there is up to you.
  • Other?
    • We cleaned the community center and gym almost every day.
    • After I left, they also added daily house chores.
    • There were room checks every morning for cleanliness and bible verse drills while waiting for checks.
    • Room searches occurred infrequently but were rather thorough.  There were only a couple of things that ever got overlooked while I was there.
    • We were put to work every single day.  It was like we were working to pay off our “free treatment”.
      • I’m all for “giving back” to a program that literally housed me for free (at the time, room and board were free) and I didn’t even mind the work existing (because I was happy to “give back”, which is how I personally viewed it) until after I left the program and realized that it had zero therapeutic value and the time could have been better spent doing actual therapy.  It was just teaching us to be drones.
      • Two persons each week were assigned to do “House Laundry”, which included various linens and used cleaning rags/dish rags.
      • We were frequently utilized for menial tasks such as stuffing envelopes, to ask donors for more donations, as well as making and signing tons of cards for various purposes.
      • We would be utilized for other fundraising opportunities, setting up the Race for Hope, setting up the banquet, giving speeches/testimonies, speaking a public hearings on behalf of the church, gift wrapping for an annual holiday ministry, serving at the Living Nativity and Stewardship Celebration, volunteering for the ACBC conference, and running a table at the Subaru factory’s Halloween festival (which was weird considering VOH doesn’t recognize or support Halloween…. it took a lot to even get them to let us do Valentines).
      • In the mornings we would clean the church’s gym/workout equipment (at the community center which was essentially like a YMCA).
      • In the afternoons we would alternately clean the Christian school or the church sanctuary (depending on the day).
        • This included cleaning bathrooms, locker rooms, and handling cleaning chemicals and equipment.
      • I remember doing a lot of window washing, water fountain sanitizing, vacuuming, and mopping at the community center, as well, throughout the week.
      • We were responsible for shoveling Mercy Way drive ways and sidewalks.  If the snow fell overnight, shoveling would replace our morning workout.
      • We were responsible for outdoor chores once or twice a week.
        • Mowing the grounds at Vision of Hope and around the pond (huge property) with gas powered push mowers (even the underweight residents).
        • Weed whacking.
        • Weed pulling all of the garden beds on the Mercy Way side of campus and around the pond.
        • Watering all of the giant flowering pots.
    • You were required to ask family and friends for donations for the annual Race for Hope fundraiser 5k and the annual banquet.
    • Laundry was assigned at specific times for each resident once per week.  If you missed your laundry day, or if you had a schedule conflict, you’d have to try to swap with another resident.  If you couldn’t swap or pull favors (“hey can you put some of mine in with yours?”), then you were either SOL or had to wash by hand in the basin and hang dry.
    • Speech and expression were highly censored.
      • Speech:
        • No cursing.
        • No talk about past or current sins (including past history of eating disorder behaviors, addictions, promiscuity, and self harm).
        • No “glorifying sin”…. hard to explain but essentially don’t talk about anything that isn’t G rated.
        • Some residents would lose the “privilege” to speak at all.
        • Some residents would be required to say the same phrases over and over, regardless of whether they agreed with those phrases.
          • Example:  “Yes ma’am, I will obey joyfully and whole heartedly.”
        • Phone calls were strictly monitored by a staff person who would listen in on phone calls and take notes on what you said, which were forwarded to your counselor.
      • Writing:
        • All mail and phone calls were monitored.  Residents were not allowed to receive mail until the counselor had opened, read, and signed off on it.  Outgoing mail also had to be unsealed and approved, iirc.
        • Vision of Hope implemented “thought journals” for some residents, where a resident would be required to write all of her thoughts down every 15 minutes.  These then would be reviewed by her counselor.
      • Physical expression:
        • The church campus itself banned dancing, but Vision of Hope would allow it.
        • There was a strict “no touching” policy for all staff and residents.  To the point of having to ask for permission to braid or curl someone’s hair.
        • No sharing of belongings was allowed.  No hand-me-downs, either.
          • Unwanted belongings could be donated to the “Blessings Closet” where other residents could “buy” those items with Blessings Bucks earned by memorizing scripture.
          • Lost and Found items also went to the Blessings Closet and had to be “bought” back by their rightful owner.
      • Reading:
        • All reading materials had to be approved by your counselor.  Anything that wasn’t fundamentalist Christian or required for school would not be approved.
        • Materials from other religions (including Catholicism) were likely not approved.
      • Music:
        • Only approved Christian music was allowed.
      • Clothing:
        • Vision of Hope had a very strict and very detailed dress code.  Residents were expected to dress conservatively and modestly, and as if they were at their job.
          • Sweatpants, yoga pants, jogging pants, etc were not permitted during the day and would even be taken away if caught wearing them.
          • Jeans were allowed but couldn’t be revealing.
            • Vision of Hope didn’t allow their residents or interns to wear jeans to church services.  But the church itself didn’t have a rule against jeans.
          • Blankets were banned outside of bedrooms during the day and so wearing layers was encouraged.  Winters were cold and summers brought some frigid air conditioning.
            • I would secretly wear sweatpants under my long skirts and dresses in order to cope with the climate indoors.
          • Spaghetti straps, camisoles, necklines that showed chest or cleavage, short shorts, plumber butt pants, and more were banned.
            • If you were caught wearing these items without a modest layer underneath or over it, you would be asked to change your clothes and the offending item would be locked away until discharge.
            • I bought the entire collection of Cami Secret modesty guards and it was worth every penny.  I was able to continue wearing all of my shirts and dresses without risking confiscation.
              • The nickel in the buttons gave me a rash, but still worth it.
              • Honestly, it might have been more worth it to have never done this program at all.
            • One time VOH hosted a clothing swap where no Blessings Bucks were required and all clothes were available to whomever needed them and anyone could give away their unwanted clothing to someone else who could use them.
              • This was in response to a lot of residents complaining about their clothes getting confiscated due to being “too revealing” after the resident had gained weight.
    • The only information we could access about the outside world was through a daily local newspaper (The Journal & Courier) and the rare occasion where the TV would be allowed on for local news.
      • Sometimes we’d get to peek at the televisions in the gym while cleaning, which were frequently tuned to CNN.

LGBT:
You will essentially go through conversion treatment for gender and sexuality issues to conform with being a cis-female heterosexual.  Even asexuals are not entirely safe from this as residents are taught that sex is a requirement to honor G-d in one’s marriage and to honor one’s husband.

Handicap Access:  There was one deaf resident when I was there who was oral/auditory.  There weren’t any special accommodations given to her, other than for subtitles on videos and ensuring that she had a hearing roommate for emergencies (fire evacuations).  My blind friend tried to apply to Vision of Hope back in 2011 and they denied her access to their program because they were unwilling to utilize braille resources or accommodate her screen reader laptop (with which they could have emailed her digital texts so her computer could read them to her).  There was one disabled patient that required mobility equipment there who was accommodated for the most part but was mostly on bed rest until she left.
The house was two stories with no elevator (unless they’ve converted the downstairs and upstairs closets into one since I left, you’ll have to ask) and three staircases.  A majority of the groups are upstairs in the classroom.  The upstairs is entirely carpeted.
The downstairs has both tile and carpet.
I recall one bedroom suite had a fully handicap accessible bathroom.  I believe this suite was on the first floor.
The main entrance to the building had steps but the side entrance is mostly wheelchair accessible.  The back porch is not accessible.
The dining room and downstairs living room are both accessible.  The “public” toilets downstairs and upstairs are not accessible.

The community center/gym is generally wheelchair accessible except for the upstairs walking track.  The church and Christian school are generally wheelchair accessible with one elevator available on the school side to access the upstairs bible fellowship groups.

Service Dog Access:  I did not have a service dog when I went to this program.  Churches and ministries such as Vision of Hope are not required to abide by ADA law.  There was a teacher at the Christian school on campus who had a guide dog, which implies that Faith Ministries has worked with service dog handlers at least once before.  Now that Vision of Hope charges for room and board (not treatment), they might be required to adhere to the Fair Housing Act (which requires certain landlords to allow assistance animals in no-pets housing), but I can’t say for sure that they actually fall under this.  You would need to ask.  And you would need to be prepared for the possibility that your service dog/assistance animal may not be able to accompany you to certain areas on campus.

Disclaimer:
this is my blog.  I can do or say whatever the heck I want. If I want to post incomplete articles and finish them later, I’ll do just that.  Check back every now and then to see if I got around to finishing it. Comment if you want more info sooner/now/sometime this century.
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