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Healing Transitions: Lighting the Way to Recovery

Photo credit: James Kirkman

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Special to the Philanthropy Journal

By Leah Ferguson

Imagine falling down into a deep dark precipice, and you cannot climb out. There’s no family or friends. There’s no shelter or feeling of safety. You don’t know where your next meal will come from. There’s no hope.

This is how many who suffer from alcohol and other drug addictions feel.

However, there is a place to find hope again, a place where a supportive community of peers is built. Healing Transitions (formerly The Healing Place of Wake County) is a 501(c)3 non-profit located in Raleigh, NC.  The organization opened the doors of its men’s campus in 2001 and its women’s campus in 2006, making Healing Transitions an integral resource for those seeking recovery. Their mission is to offer innovative, peer-based, recovery-oriented services to homeless and underserved individuals with alcoholism and other drug addictions and to rekindle a person’s desire and ability to return to a meaningful and productive life. The recovery community at Healing Transitions gives every newcomer a sense of belonging and a home that many of them have never had before.

Photo credit: Gary Ryan Photography

For over sixteen years, Healing Transitions has provided three integral services to individuals in need: overnight emergency shelter, non-medical detoxification, and a social model recovery program. Healing Transitions offers these services at no cost to the participants. The only requirements are that the individual is a citizen of Wake County, and they are over the age of 18.

The organization has made a powerful impact on those in need. Even with Raleigh’s fast-growing population, Healing Transitions and its partners have helped to reduce the Wake County homeless population by 25 percent and more than 80 percent of those who complete the recovery program are still in recovery after a year.

How do these positive recovery outcomes come to fruition? How does a person who has reached such a low point in their life find the strength to start their recovery journey? Where do they start? At Healing Transitions, they start with their newfound sense of community.

When an individual walks through the doors of the organization’s non-medical detox, they are immediately paired with a participant that has found recovery and is about to complete the program. This provides hope to the newcomer in detox, to show them that recovery is possible. Other people have been where they have been and they will support them in their recovery, no matter how long it takes.  

Photo credit: Gary Ryan Photography

Healing Transitions is unique in that its recovery program is completely peer-run. There are key staff members that help the men and women through the program, but their peers decide, through a community discussion led by a staff member, the next steps an individual should take through the program.

For example, if an individual has a job assigned to them and is late to their shift one day, the participants in the program will determine the consequences. Should they write 1,000 words on why tardiness is not acceptable? Should they be moved to a different job entirely? Their community of peers votes and decides. Ultimately, the community is what carries an individual through the program. The community gets to know them and all the behaviors that an individual may need to work on the most. This peer program is the key to successful recovery for so many of Healing Transitions’ participants.

Once someone chooses to enter the recovery program, it is self-paced and usually takes anywhere from a year to a year and a half to finish the program.  By the time the participant leaves the program they will leave with a job that they worked to acquire and money saved in the bank. Healing Transitions encourages participants to move into recovery housing with roommates who are also in recovery. Through the Healing Transitions program, they have built a recovery community, full of strong friendships that can last a lifetime and support them in their long-term recovery.

Photo credit: James Kirkman

With these support beams in place, and a silver chip they receive in hand when they complete the program, each individual is now ready to not only become a productive member of society but to truly live a fulfilling life. Most alumni of the program at Healing Transitions reconnect with family members and in some cases their own children. They have started to rebuild those relationships, healing the pain and destruction that addiction has caused not just them, but their family as well.

The process of climbing out of the dark place that addiction creates and finding recovery isn’t easy, but Healing Transitions provides hope, community, guidance and the path to get there. Through peer-based counseling, those in that deep precipice receive a helpful hand from perhaps the most meaningful person, someone who has been there before.


Leah Ferguson graduated from Flagler College in St. Augustine Florida with a Bachelors degree in Communication. She moved to Raleigh, NC in 2014 with the dreams of working for a non-profit organization. She is now happily the Communications Coordinator at Healing Transitions and can honestly say she loves what she does for a living. Being able to promote a place like Healing Transitions so they can make the largest impact has been the highlight of her 5 years in the field of strategic communication.

Philanthropy Journal’s readers are invited to our annual Holiday Open House on December 21st starting at 6PM at our men’s campus (and if you can’t make it, you’re welcome to come by anytime for an inspirational tour!)

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