All groups at the Clinic are for women – transgender, cisgender and non-binary inclusive.
The common denominator is the personal experience of gender-based violence or abuse.
By Holly Miles, Counsellor
Here at the Schlifer Clinic, we offer a variety of groups throughout the year. For many folks who have never attended group therapy, they may have many questions about what to expect. Groups can vary widely in terms of theory, approach, expectations, and guidelines. Some may be more instructional, providing education and teaching skills, or they can be more experiential and offer more space for discussion and processing between groups members, with facilitators in a more supportive role. Some groups are talk-based, while others may use expressive arts. Understandably, just figuring out if the group is right for you, or what you can expect, might seem overwhelming. You may be wondering, then, what are the groups here at the clinic all about? Would I be welcome? How might they help me? Hopefully, this article can help answer some of those questions.
All the groups offered at the Clinic are for women (transgender, cisgender and non-binary inclusive) who identify as having experienced interpersonal trauma, including sexual, physical, financial, spiritual or emotional abuse, sexual assault, sexual harassment, or human trafficking.
There are two ways that groups at the Clinic are offered, drop-in groups and registered groups. Drop-ins are more accessible, can be attended anonymously, and do not require registration or commitment. Whereas registered groups run for a specific period of time, and participants register and complete an intake before the group beginning. Drop-in groups may have different participants each week, whereas closed groups are intended to run from week to week with the same participants.
The drop-in group offered most frequently at the Clinic is Spirited Women. The drop-in nature of this group allows for women who may not be able to commit to weekly attendance still benefit from attending sessions whenever they can make it. Each activity or topic discussion is an invitation and women can choose how much they want to participate. If women need to leave early, arrive late, or step out to attend to themselves, they can do so. Tokens, snacks and teas are also offered.
Spirited Women is facilitated by counsellors at the Clinic who have extensive experience working with women survivors of violence. The counsellors structure and run the group in a trauma-informed manner, but they also offer the space for women to collaborate on group guidelines that can enable a sense of safety. Each group session includes education and discussion about a topic related to the impacts of trauma. Some examples of topics might consist of setting healthy boundaries, cultivating self-compassion, or practicing self-care. Women can learn about resources and skills, come to understand themselves better and feel like they are not alone. Trauma can be very isolating, and attending a group can be the beginning of a journey back into connection and community.
We also offer the space each week for women to express themselves through creative activity. This might be in the form of painting, drawing, crafting or sculpting. Whether someone is an avid creator of art, or trying something for the first time, being creative and playful can help access a part of the brain that sees the world differently, invites curiosity, and provides a ‘language’ to express oneself in a way that may not be possible to put into words.
Finally, each group will include a brief mindfulness activity. Mindfulness is a skill that can be learned through a variety of different ways but offers the opportunity for women to practice being in the present moment, notice what is coming up for them emotionally, and what they might need to do to care for themselves. As this skill is developed, it can be an essential tool for managing the impacts of trauma and building self-awareness.
Spirited Women has been created in a way that is both based on the science and research of trauma recovery, while also evolving with the wisdom and feedback from the women who attend. Our goal is for Spirited Women to continue to provide a supportive first step for women who wish to explore group counselling to address their experiences of trauma.
For more information about clinic groups, please visit our website or call Central intake at 416-323-9149 extension 234.