Before coming to a therapy or counselling group for the first time, one might understandably feel a bit of anxiety about the unknown. Not knowing what a therapy group does, what will be discussed, or who will be there can be daunting. We have run groups at the Clinic for many years, knowing there are several important benefits to healing amongst others. Group counselling can spark joy, encourage growth and remove people from isolation in a safe environment that creates community. It can also normalize one’s experience of gender-based violence in the context of a globally-recognized pandemic that affects one in three women in their lifetime.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, counsellors went out of their way to ensure the environment of our on-site group counselling room was welcoming and comfortable with chairs, pillows, blankets and a sofa. Often, we made art together. Beyond the freshly brewed coffee, the snacks offered included fruit, vegetables, cheese, crackers, and cookies. And it wasn’t uncommon to hear the sounds of laughter or joy coming from the Clinic’s group room.
We’ve had to adjust, like everyone else, during the pandemic. We were among the first to offer an online variation of our counselling groups. We procured the technology needed and were able to get it into the hands of participants to join safely. Supplies they would have used at the Clinic, such as clay and other art materials, were either picked up or delivered to ensure their full participation. This year, we’ve been able to successfully offer various psycho-educational, trauma-informed groups essential to a survivor’s health and well-being during the pandemic.
Being able to adapt and continue to reach out to clients is critical to us. Gender-based violence, recent or historical, is an isolating experience. Rape myths, victim-blaming, fear of not being believed, and coercion are among the many reasons why a survivor might be hesitant to seek support. Add to this list the combined complications that come with being thrust into the belly of a global pandemic. Overnight, women were forced into isolation with their abusers as areas of the province shut down. Without a reason to leave home, opportunities to seek help were reduced significantly, directly increasing their risk.
The support of our community, funders and donors helped ensure the Clinic was swift to respond to women’s needs at risk. Our agility kept counselling groups available and running. Our commitment to delivering relevant information to a diverse audience of participants – those who self-identify as “woman” including cisgender, transgender, intersex, and Two Spirit and gender non-conforming folks – ensure they can find support, community, and relief from isolation with us in a welcoming, safe and non-judgmental environment.
Beginning in April, the Clinic is offering the following groups:
Open Studio: An opportunity to join with others in creative ways, share feelings and experiences surrounding art and life, and generate connections with the community. Learn new art techniques, practice mindfulness using art materials, and explore your creativity in a safe, non-judgmental, and supportive community.
Deliberate & Afraid of Nothing: A workshop series for Black women who have experienced gender-based violence. Connect with others through yoga, art, poetry, and dance. Learn about your nervous system and how to connect with your body’s wisdom.
Tender Hearts: A Queer Series: Designed by and for queer survivors of gender-based violence.
Returning Home: A Racialized Youth Series: Designed for racialized youth and women (self-identified), intersex, non-binary, and Two Spirit people between the ages of 16-29 who have experienced gender-based violence.
Visit our group counselling webpage for specific group information Group Counselling – Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic (schliferclinic.com)
For more info or to register, please call 416-323-9149 ext. 234 or email: [email protected]