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Group Counselling
of participants said they use skills gained in group
of participants felt more in control of their life and emotions
felt supported by the group facilitator
felt like the people in their group understood what they were going through

Group counselling supports clients in re-connecting to community

All counselling programs at SACE are rooted within the triphasic model of healing first outlined by Judith Herman in Healing and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence (1992). This model asserts that supporting clients impacted by sexual violence first requires establishing safety and stabilization. This occurs when clients participate both in Skills for Change and in early stages of counselling. Following this, in phase two clients are supported in processing the impacts of their traumatic experiences. The third phase, supported by our Group Counselling Program, is re-engagement with meaningful activities and reconnection to community. While healing is not linear and movement between stages is anticipated, creating opportunities for connection is essential to supporting ongoing growth. 

Psychoeducational Groups

Skills for Change was implemented in 2019 to support adult clients on the waitlist. Despite being on hiatus while we navigated the outset of COVID-19, 165 clients on the waitlist accessed this support in the 2021-2022 reporting year. Skills for Change provides psychoeducation on sexual violence trauma, common post-trauma symptoms, and simple strategies clients can use to cope while waiting for services. Further to this, the simple act of accessing a group begins to challenge the belief that they are alone in their experience.

“I found the material to be excellent. There was nothing that came across as “problematic” or “out-of date”; the content and presenters were incredibly informed about intersectionality, systems of oppression, and more.”

– Skills for Change participant

“In all my many years trying to meet various health and mental health professionals, never have I received such a helpful, concise kit of actual tools I can use to process my emotions. While I still have a long road ahead of me, at least now I have a functioning car to get me there.”

– Skills for Change participant

Processing groups

Following individual counselling, several process-based groups are available for clients to continue healing while connecting to others and building a sense of community.  SASS (Sexual Assault Survivors Support), ASHA (Adult Survivors Healing from Abuse), Men’s Group, RefleQT and Wîwîp’son each offer unique spaces for clients to process their experience while holding in mind intersections of marginalization, colonialism, and discrimination, and how these experiences can compound the impacts of trauma. This information is an essential part of healing for many clients given the diverse demographics and associated barriers present for those we support.

Over the year, the clinical team worked to update the content of our core groups. We worked to ensure that they continue to reflect best practices, create space for culturally relevant conversations, and incorporate feedback from those accessing the groups. While each time a group is run it shifts to best meet the needs of the participants, the implementation of a framework has allowed us to ensure consistency across client experiences in our group counselling program.

Our community’s demand for group counselling is growing, with 209 clients accessing group counseling this year. In response to this we have increased the frequency at which our groups run, and are also exploring innovative ways to offer services in collaboration with other agencies. We are currently working with The Yellowhead Youth Centre in both their sexual exploitation and detox units, and with Buffalo Sage Wellness House to explore the facilitation of groups within secure settings.

“This group counselling was a powerful reminder of the strength and resilience that flows through my blood memory. It was healing to be alongside other Indigenous women to sit in ceremony and share about our experiences.”

Wîwîp’son participant

“I feel seen and heard. I know I am not alone. I haven’t once felt like a burden or that I should push aside my trauma to help others. I have been accepted and heard. It seems so small BUT it is a huge step in the right direction.”

– ASHA participant

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