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Group Counselling
group counselling clients
pre-counselling psychoeducation participants
of participants felt more in control of their life and emotions
group counselling session attendances
group psychoeducation sessions

The Group Counselling Program offers tailored group counselling and psychoeducation groups for people who have experienced sexual violence.

Group Counselling supports clients in re-connecting to community. The Group Counselling Program at SACE currently offers six processing-based counselling groups, outlined below. A psychoeducation group called Skills for Change is also offered to anyone on the waitlist to access counselling. An additional offering for partners and supporters of individuals who have experienced sexual violence is available as an online course delivered by the SACE Public Education Program.

Our counselling groups: 

ASHA (Adult Survivors Healing From Abuse)

Runs once per week for 8 -10 weeks

Who It’s For

Women and femme-identified adults who have been impacted by childhood sexual abuse


ASHA is a closed therapeutic group for women and femme-identified adults who have experienced sexual abuse in childhood. In order to participate in this group, individuals need to have completed individual counselling. This group offers counselling clients the opportunity to continue their therapeutic process in a group setting.  Each week focuses on a topic addressing the impacts of sexual violence.

The first part of the group is spent exploring the topic of the week, and the second half is spent engaging in open circle. Open circle offers participants the space to express how they feel or understand the topic of the evening, or to share about experiences occurring in their day to day lives. This group can be condensed to run in 8 weeks and run as long as 10 weeks depending on the needs of the group.

Topics include:

Trauma, Attachment, and the Inner Child
Group Introduction and Coping Skills
Post-Traumatic Growth and Celebration
Offender tricks
Myths & facts

SASS (Sexual Assault Survivors Support)

Runs once per week for 8 -10 weeks

Who It’s For

Women and femme-identified adults who have experienced sexual assault as adults


SASS is a closed therapeutic group for women and femme-identified adults who have experienced sexual assault as adults. The group is designed to provide support, build community and reduce isolation. This group can be condensed to run in 8 weeks and run as long as 10 weeks depending on the needs of the group. 

Topics Include:
Healthy relationships
Post-traumatic growth
Grief & loss
Shame & guilt
Healthy sex

Men’s Group 

Runs once per week for 10-11 weeks

Who It’s For

Men and masculine-identified adults who have experienced sexual abuse and/or assault, as children or as adults.


The SACE Men’s Group is a closed therapeutic group for men and masculine-identified adults who have experienced sexual abuse or assault, as children and/or as adults, and who have already accessed individual counselling support. The group is designed to further healing by building community and decreasing shame and  isolation. Each week focuses on a topic addressing the impacts of sexual violence.

The first half of each group is dedicated to check-in and administrative items, the weekly topic, and an associated exercise, and after a break the second half is reserved for an open circle to connect and share with other men about trauma-related experiences, as well as a soothing nervous system activity and check-out activity.

Topics Include:
Anxiety & depression
Myths & facts
Impacts of trauma
Post-traumatic growth
Shame & anger
Boundaries & trust
Sexual healing & intimacy
Male socialization
Sexual problems


Runs once per week for 9 weeks

Who It’s For

2SLGBTQIA+ adults of all genders who have experienced sexual abuse and/or assault, as children or as adults.


This closed therapeutic group is for 2SLGBTQIA+ adults who have experienced sexual violence. Participants must have completed individual counselling related to sexual trauma, whether at SACE or with another counsellor or agency. While the program’s main focus is on supporting processing and healing from sexual trauma, it also provides an opportunity for participants to connect with other people from 2SLGBTQIA+ communities to share intersectional experiences around sexual assault and healing.

Topics Include:
Skills and strategies for coping and self care
Understanding the issue
Shame & anger
Sexual impacts and healing
Trust and finding community
Post-traumatic growth

* Group topics can also change based on the needs of the group.

Wîwîp’son Healing from Sexual Trauma Circle for Indigenous Women

Runs once per week for 10 weeks

Who It’s For

Indigenous women and femme-identified adults who have experienced sexual abuse and/or assault, as children or as adults.


This closed therapeutic group for Indigenous women and femme-identified adults works to create a safe space to give voice to experiences of sexual abuse or assault, and to feel validated by the experiences of others in their communities. The group was developed in recognition that the experiences of Indigenous women are unique, and processing trauma from sexual assault or abuse needs to involve education about the bigger picture of colonialism and its inter-relationship with sexual violence.

The group’s format includes traditional teachings and ceremony, as well as education about trauma and its effect on the brain and body. It also covers skills to self-regulate triggers, and aims to reduce shame, and build self-confidence and self-esteem.

The program commences with an in-house pipe ceremony, and ends with an optional sweat. The group is co-facilitated by an Elder (Kohkom), an Auntie, a SACE staff therapist, and an Indigenous student therapist.

Each session begins with a smudge and prayer, and includes an educational component and cultural teaching. A healthy hot meal is provided. In line with the holistic teachings of the four aspects of self, each session and the whole group itself are structured in a way that honours this view of healing.

The four phases of the group are:


Circle 1: Pipe ceremony, introductions & creating safe space

Physical: Preparing

Circle 2: Boundaries/self-sovereignty & self-care
Circle 3: Sexual abuse: definitions, myths & facts

Mental: Learning

Circle 4: Trauma & impacts
Circle 5: Self-compassion

Emotional: Processing

Circle 6: Living with difficult emotions
Circle 7: Healthy sexuality

Spiritual: Moving Forward

Circle 8: Journeying with Grief
Circle 9: From surviving to thriving


Circle 10: Healing & hope

The circle closes with a trip to Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation for a sweat for those who choose to attend, with transportation support.

For more on the meaning and connections of this name, visit our Wîwîp’son page.

Hope for Healing

Runs once per week for 10 weeks

Who It’s For

Teen girls and femme-identified youth ages 13-17


The SACE Hope for Healing group provides a safer space for teen girls and femme-identified youth to learn about healthy relationships, boundaries, coping, and trust. Each session includes a weekly topic and activity.

Topics Include:
Healthy relationships

All counselling programs at SACE are rooted within the triphasic model of healing first outlined by Judith Herman in Trauma 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.

Triphasic Model: Phase one: Education, stablization and safety, Phase two: Processing, remembering, & mourning, Phase three: Meaning & reconnection

Moments of Learning

In order to ensure that clinical staff receive consistent support navigating the nuances of providing group therapy, this year we implemented a consultation at the mid-point of groups. The groups generally begin at around the same time each year, so all those facilitating group will have a sense of any unique challenges within their group at around the same time. From these conversations, counsellors shared feedback from participants as well as their own perspectives about the duration of the groups.

Across groups, participants consistently express the wish for groups to continue for a longer period of time. The counsellors also shared that they felt that running the groups longer would be of greater benefit to the clients we serve. Best practice in group therapy research indicates that process-based counselling groups should run for longer than SACE groups have historically run for. This allows for a deeper development of group cohesion and collective processing. In response to this feedback, we have elected to extend our core groups. Over the coming months the curriculum of each group will be extended to run for 10-14 sessions. We are excited to gather feedback from clients and staff as these changes are implemented.

Group Counselling Program Development Highlights 

Elder support within the Wîwîp’son Healing from Sexual Trauma Circle for Indigenous Women was initially done with collaboration from Buffalo Sage, a community residential facility for conditionally released and federally sentenced Indigenous women. Over the course of this past year, we also ran a pilot group for the women living at Buffalo Sage. This group was collaboratively developed by a SACE counsellor and SACE Indigenous liaison, with input from an Elder. It was introduced to the women at Buffalo Sage through a pipe ceremony led by an Elder. The pilot saw 13 women express interest and commitment to attending. At the conclusion of this group, the participants named the group “Reclaiming Otipaymsowin”, which speaks to being the boss of oneself or to self-leadership. Following this initial group, SACE and Buffalo Sage continued to expore ongoing opportunities for collaboration. The importance of Reclaiming Otipaymsowin was indicated by both agencies, and SACE committed to continuing to facilitate this group as a monthly drop-in group at Buffalo Sage. 

SACE has also committed to completing content development for a post-court support group. While there are a number of factors that still need to be determined for this group, we are excited to run a pilot in fall 2023. This group will create a unique space for adults impacted by sexual violence who have navigated the legal system as an outcome of these experiences.

of participants said they use skills gained in group
partners and supporters course psychoeducation participants
felt supported by the group facilitator
felt like the people in their group understood what they were going through

“The group really went beyond my expectations especially in combination with the power of indigenous culture and most importantly from a women’s perspective.”

Wîwîp’son participant

“I would like to see this program be a part of BSWH because it is needed for our healing. It makes me recognize and realized I need healing, lots of healing in this area.”

– Reclaiming Otipaymsowin participant

Community Impact

After an experience of sexual violence, people often feel isolated and alone. When these experiences and feelings are kept inside, shame can thrive. Group counselling at SACE creates small pockets of community where individuals feel safe to share with peers about their experiences of sexual violence. Two specific examples of community impact through community creation within the group counselling program at SACE this year are Men’s Group and Reclaiming Otipaymsowin.  

We often hear from participants at the beginning Men’s Group that sharing their experiences of sexual violence with other men holds potential to be one of the most difficult yet important pieces of their healing journey. In 2022-2023, we saw several participants in Men’s Group who returned to complete this group for a second time after having completed it in previous years. To us, this indicates that the group is succeeding in creating community and sustained connection for men who have experienced sexual violence.  

Another example of community impact from the group counselling program this year is Reclaiming Otipaymsowin. Research consistently indicates that at least 50% of people in prison have histories of sexual abuse, with even higher prevalence rates for Indigenous women in prison (Bodkin et al., 2019; Native Women’s Association of Canada, 2023). Because of the restrictive nature of prisons, incarcerated individuals can experience challenges with accessing external community supports. The creation of a group specifically for residents at Buffalo Sage Wellness House brought community support to where it is greatly needed, and created a space for incarcerated women with histories of sexual violence to take the next step toward healing.


Bodkin C, Pivnick L, Bondy SJ, Ziegler C, Martin RE, Jernigan C, Kouyoumdjian F.

History of Childhood Abuse in Populations Incarcerated in Canada: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.

American Journal of Public Health. 2019;109(3):e1–e11.

Herman, Judith Lewis (1997) [1992].

Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence – from Domestic Abuse to Political Terror. New York: BasicBooks.

Native Women’s Association of Canada (2023). A Metastasizing Problem: Incarceration and

Intergenerational Effects of the MMIWG2S+ Genocide. Intergenerational Effects of Incarceration and MMIWG2S+ Final Report.   

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