Tidewater Residences, a half-way house for addiction recovery in Canaan, CT, needed to grow its customer base past local referrals. We proposed a number of business strategies that laid out short term and long term plans for Tidewater to expand its offerings around the idea of “Social Recovery.” We did this to create a strong brand and business identity for Tidewater so that it could have a compelling story to tell about its mission and attract new members and their families. After presenting these strategic proposals to Tidewater, our team was recently hired to rebrand the company and build the website.





My Roles

  • Design Researcher

  • Design Strategist

  • Business Designer

  • Consultant


We worked as consultants to Tidewater Residences, a sober living community for people recovering from opioid addiction. How can we redefine the way we treat addiction, by using the power of community to aid in the healing process? How can we do this while creating an aspirational and purpose-driven business model, for a small business dealing with a big problem?

Our Process


In this project, we collaborated with the founder of Tidewater and its first employees to develop strategic proposals for their business model and brand identity. The core of our proposal is guided by the notion of what scientist Bruce Alexander calls “Social Recovery.”


Lourica Halteh, Linda Xin





We need to start talking less about individual recovery and more about social recovery.

We started this project by getting a broad understanding of the causes and effects of the opioid crisis. The biggest problem is that we treat addiction today as if it is a short-term illness, but addiction is a life-long threat. We came across an idea about “Social Recovery” that speaks about the power of relationships in the process of healing.

Source: www.addiction.mobydigg.de

Source: www.addiction.mobydigg.de

Rats raised alone in isolation got addicted to water laced with opioids

Bruce Alexander, a psychologist, did a series of rat park experiments.

In the first experiment he left a single rat in a cage with two bottles of water, one laced with opioids. The rat got addicted.

Source: www.addiction.mobydigg.de

Source: www.addiction.mobydigg.de

Rats raised with a community did not get addicted to the opioid water

We need to start talking less about individual recovery and more about social recovery.

In the second experiment he left multiple rats in a cage with toys and opportunities to socialize, in addition to the two bottles of water, one still laced with opioids. The rats did not get addicted.



Client Interviews


Interviewing Tidewater’s founder and first employee

Since Tidewater is a growing small business, it’s founder and first employee are both heavily embedded in the day-to-day activities and operations of the business. We prepared a set of questions about their mission, business model, competitors, strategic goals, vision for the industry, challenges, partnerships, etc.


Our client values personalization and sustainable recovery

After interviewing both the founder and first employee of Tidewater, we got very different perspectives of the business.

How Tidewater is different

  • Personalized treatment, not corporate

  • Focused on sustainable recovery


  • Finding people like Manny to grow the business

  • Scaling past 100 beds

  • Local competitors

Plans for Expansion

  • Create a scholarship fund for members who cannot afford their 3-month recovery program

  • Expand Tidewater with a greenhouse or community garden

  • Expand houses and reach 500 bed occupancy

How Tidewater is different

  • Attachment based therapy

    “I live my life and I take them with me.” -Manny

  • A sense of community


  • Building relationships with each individual and helping them find their purpose

  • Overcoming member’s resistance to being a part of the community

Where can the opioid industry go?

  • More emphasis on preventing relapse and long term care

  • More integration of the community at the town, county, state, and federal level



Business Model


Understanding Tidewater’s existing business model

Throughout the client interviews we asked them about their revenue model and costs. We flow charted this out, so that we could make quick and informed decisions about business decisions later.

Tidewater only has one channel of reveenue

Tidewater’s business model is simple to understand. However, it has many outgoing costs, and only receives payment from patients’ membership fees. If part of our goal is to promote community integration, could we use that as an opportunity to generate more revenue?

Tidewater’s patients become employees

One thing that is different about Tidewater is that members who recover there oftentimes become employees. According to Manny, Tidewater’s first employee, he was able to stay sober because he had found his sense of purpose by helping others heal at Tidewater. This idea of “pay it forward” really resonated with us.



User Journey


Understanding a Tidewater member’s journey, in months and days

Tidewater’s business model is simple to understand. However, it has many outgoing costs, and only receives payment from patients’ membership fees. If part of our goal is to promote community integration, could we use that as an opportunity to generate more revenue?

There are many opportunities for improvement throughout the entire journey

One of the biggest learning from this journey map is that there are many small opportunities to reinforce a more curated social recovery process. Another thing they were missing was care beyond Tidewater. What happens when a patient leaves Tidewater and is left alone again? How can we prevent relapse?

There are many hours throughout the day where community events can be integrated

Attachment based therapy requires each member to complete 90 community meetings or events throughout their 3-month journey at Tidewater. Tidewater has a series of community events that they recommend to their members, but do not offer any of their own. How can we create a more integrated community experience?



User Interviews


People who have recovered frequently talk about relationships being critical to their success

We also wanted to get a better understanding of the emotional aspects of addiction recovery. We spoke to several people who had recovered.

Peers, community support, and finding purpose are major factors that led to sustained recovery

Our intuition about how important a sense of community is in the recovery process was validated. Here are some of the insights we learned:



Competitor Research


Tidewater’s can differentiate with an emphasis on holistic care through “social recovery"

We researched some direct and indirect competitors to understand how other people were approaching the problem. After looking into the competitors, we knew that we had to take a clear stance on what Tidewater meant for the opioid industry altogether.



Mountainside is a nationally acclaimed alcohol and drug addiction treatment center dedicated to healing an individual’s mind, body, and spirit. It is set in an all-inclusive, luxury recovery center in a serene environment.

Soba Recovery

Soba focuses on a systematic, future focused recovery program for college students. The treatment is focused on finding new beginnings for its members, like a new career or getting into college.

Berkshire Network

Berkshire uses a holistic and individualized treatment plan designed to bring all areas of life (live, work, grow) into balance. Their goal is to get members to engage in in a process of intentional Lifestyle Design: crafting a life free of addiction and filled with purpose and well-being.


Tidewater needs to differentiate by being and aspirational brand

We wanted to make sense of the competitive research, and set goals for where we want Tidewater to be in the future. While it’s current state was between the Functional and Benefit-Driven areas, we wanted to give it a long-term mission.



Define Opportunities


Using SWOT to synthesize findings and define opportunites

We compiled a SWOT analysis and chose 3 major things to focus on in the weaknesses category.


From this analysis, we identified three key areas of opportunity for our strategic proposal.


Extend transitional care beyond Tidewater’s physical boarders

Codify Tidewater’s treatment process and pass it on to new hires


Expand impact through community integration and outreach



Our Business Strategy

Propose a business strategy

We used the ripple effect as an analogy for how we’d like Tidewater to make an individual impact on its members, and a collective impact in its community.


Redesigned the logo to embody our business strategy

We used the ripple to represent the idea that our business starts with the individual. This single person that Tidewater can help heal, can go on and have a much larger affect on the Tidewater community and beyond.

Used the ripple effect and community as the core of our strategy

We proposed that Tidewater’s goals and plans for expansion should impact communities from the inside out. While Tidewater can start within its own community, it can impact the way the recovery community, and beyond, think about addiction.


Created a business identity through a new mission and a set of defined values

We started off by establishing three core principles to the Tidewater business identity.



Our Treatment Strategy


We proposed that Tidewater should codify its personalized treatment process as it scales

The treatment process was integral to our business strategy. Below is an overview of our proposed treatment process.

1. Start with the individual

When members first come to Tidewater, we want to personalize their treatment by helping them find their purpose and set long term goals.

2. Connect members with the Tidewater community

Create a buddy system by pairing members who are further along in the recovery process with new members. Provide opportunities for Tidewater members to integrate with the Canaan, CT community.

3. Extend treatment beyond Tidewater

Create structured follow ups, either through phone calls or in person, with members who leave Tidewater. Use this opportunity to maintain each member’s network of counselors, family members, and friends, to prevent members from relapsing.


Our Expansion Plan


We came up with an expansion plan for Tidewater

Tidewater was expanding while we were working on this project with them. The first half of this timeline includes benchmarks Tidewater set for themselves. The second half of the timeline includes our proposals for expansion.


1. Start a community garden

Use the garden as a place for Tidewater members to integrate with the Canaan, CT community. Proceeds from the produce would be donated to future Tidewater members who need financial aid. A small portion can also contribute to Tidewater’s revenue streams.

2. Start a community gym

Introduce a community gym that enables Tidewater members to integrate with the Canaan, CT community. This would also offer an alternative source of revenue for Tidewater

3. Start a service for care after Tidewater

Develop a simple platform that allows Tidewater members, who are transitioning back into independence, to keep in touch with their network of counselors, mentors, and Tidewater staff members. The goal of this platform would be to reinforce a sense of community beyond Tidewater, and prevent relapse.


4. Use these initiatives to grow Tidewater

All of these services could be used to create a scholarship fund for incoming Tidewater members who can’t afford the full 3-month program. We did a simple revenue model to see how cost effect this proposal could be if we had 20 people sign up for each of these services.



Other Business Recommendations


We also developed other long-term recommendations for Tidewater

Recommendation 1

Develop and codify an on-boarding process for new hires

While Tidewater is a small business, as it expands it will become increasingly difficult to keep its treatment as personal as it is now. We proposed that Tidewater codify a process for recreating what they’ve created with the first house.

Recommendation 2

Re-position the brand to communicate a deeper meaning

While Tidewater has grown from referrals, as it scales they will need to reach patients in new ways. Their website should tell the story of their business, and what it means to the recovery community at large.


Tell the story through the Tidewater website

While the goals for this project were not initially to develop a website, we found that the story of Tidewater needed to be told in order for them to become a trusted name in addiction recovery communities. We proposed three main features to the future development of the Tidewater website.

Tell the story of Tidewater by including channels for every member of the community

The first feature involves having different website portals for members, family, Tidewater partners, and the Canaan, CT community. If Tidewater’s long term expansion plan is to grow and integrate with communities beyond, these portals would ensure that the content created is curated for each stakeholder involved.

Provide a chat window for potential members to ask questions and get advice

We redesigned the main page to appeal to Tidewater’s target demographic. We included the option to online chat with a staff member on duty. This would help overcome barriers for people who would like a bit of anonymity in the process.

Use storytelling as a way to inspire a mentality of social recovery

We also proposed creating video content for the website that would tell the story of Tidewater alumni who have recovered as a result of finding a sense of belonging through their community. This would reinforce Tidewater’s core values revolving around social recovery.



Present to Tidewater


Feedback from Tidewater showed us we were on track

We presented our proposals to the client, and Tidewater’s feedback was that our proposals accurately embodied its long term goals and created a cohesive and aspirational vision for moving forward. Since Tidewater was looking to expand by reaching customers beyond referrals, its most immediate goals were to tell the story of Tidewater through their website.

Next steps are to put these strategies into action

After the client presentation Kyle, the founder of Tidewater, reached out to our team to redevelop the website and rebrand the company. This will be finished in the coming months, and we are excited to see how the project develops.