Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Thinking of you - postcards from the Art group

Being part of an art group with other survivors of sexual abuse and domestic violence transforms participants' lives.   I invited the women to write a postcard to you out there - the readers and perhaps those of you who have had similar experiences.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Starting in a new art group

Starting any new group is usually very exciting as well as nerve-wracking for survivors.  Before we start an art group at SECASA I try to meet up with all the participants – mainly to have a chat about the group and what they hope to get out of coming.  This time we spend together is helpful in us getting to know each other a little so that it is not quite so scary for a new participant to join the art group.

Over the years that I have been meeting participants before the art groups at SECASA I have noticed a few themes emerging.

Most of the people in the group love the idea of being creative.  But many think they are likely to be “hopeless” or “no good” or a “failure” at it.  This loss of self-confidence is one of long-term consequences of abuse.  I often see a little spark of self-belief and many have told me that they think they could be an artist, or get good at art if they were taught.  Most tell me that they would like to make something they feel proud of, to learn something new and get good enough to make something lovely for their homes.  This is why we take time to teach skills in art-making.

When I show the SECASA calendar I hear “oohhs and ahhs” about how beautiful the work is  but of course “I could never do that”.   New participants are really inspired when they learn that most of the work in the calendar has been made by people who, like themselves, were saying the same things at the start of their art group.

Another consequence of abuse is that many are lonely and isolated.   People who have been hurt by others often prefer stay away from any potential to be hurt again ... but this can mean they are lonely. One of the great comforts of being part of a SECASA group is knowing that there are other people in the group who have had a similar experience and will understand how they feel.

We focus our attention on art making – rather than talking – and many participants are really pleased to be able to do just something creative alongside other people.  After a while conversations open up and friendly exchanges happen between group members at a gentle pace.

The art groups have been a place where participants can learn to create, learn to relax in company, share and enjoy the company of others.   We always start slowly and gently, with a small project like these mosaic trivets (for putting hot things onto the table).

Anne Riggs
Project artist

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

SECASA Yoga group

SECASA thought about holding a Yoga Group based on the idea that traditional therapies, like talk therapy, can at times downplay the moment to moment shifts in our inner sensory world.   In yoga you focus your attention on your breathing and on your sensations moment to moment.  You begin to notice the connection between your emotions and your body, for example, how anxiety about doing a yoga pose actually throws you off balance or how it tenses causes tension in your shoulders.   Through Yoga you can begin to experiment with changing the way you feel.  For example, will taking a deep breath relieve the tension in your shoulder?  Will focusing on your exhalations produce a sense of calm?   Two important phrases in therapy, as in yoga, are ‘notice that” and “what happens next”.  Once you start approaching your body with curiosity rather than with fear, everything can shift. 

The SECASA Yoga Group started in April with 8 clients from Melbourne’s south east.   Clare Pritchard, a Certified Iyengar Yoga teacher is leading the class.   She is passionate about bringing Yoga to survivors of trauma.  This type of trauma work is recognised widely as being immensely valuable in recovering and healing.    This interest has led Clare to work with clients of both Western and Northern CASAs    The Group is being supported by SECASA counsellor Wendy Miller and is run on Thursdays for 1 hour from a Community Hall.    The group will run for 8 weeks.

If you are interested in being a participant in a any of our groups, please contact SECASA 9928 8741.