Art Helps Heal
February 16, 2018
Columbus House embraces the practice of TAG - Trauma and Gender informed care in a gender-responsive environment - across all program areas. Staff are trained to understand the effects that trauma has on individuals, and how to help them with the resulting issues that may arise. Whether during one-on-one case management sessions, carefully choosing the wording on signage throughout our facilities, conducting client satisfaction surveys, or holding consumer council groups, the five core values of TAG (Trauma and Gender) – Safety, Trustworthiness, Choice, Collaboration, and Empowerment – are at the forefront of our person-centered approach to serving those experiencing homelessness.
Recently, Allahna Torres, a Post University graduate student completing her Master’s in Human Services with a Clinical Concentration, came to Columbus House to run a women’s Healing Journey Group as her practicum. Allahna’s goals for her project aligned with Columbus House’s mission of fostering the personal growth and independence of those we serve, as well as with our TAG values. For weeks, Allahna met with a self-elected group of Columbus House’s female guests. Through the use of the Beyond Trauma curriculum, and theory- and research- based exercises, she encouraged participants to “realize the strengths they already have and teach them new skills to help them heal.”
Some of the activities that accompanied Allahna’s group sessions included therapeutic artwork. The women engaged in mindfulness based coloring while practicing grounding techniques and breathing exercises. They also composed collages that represented their personal definition of and experiences with trauma. The resulting pieces were both powerful in helping the women to heal, and in illustrating some of the difficult issues our neighbors must cope with.
One of the most difficult, yet healing, activities the women took part in was creating “survivor boxes.” The boxes, Allahna says, “give the women a place to contain or hold overwhelming feelings and the survival tools to manage them, so that they can access those feelings when they are ready and put them away. Some of the women filled their boxes with positive affirmations which they felt would help remind them of their internal strength, others felt a single worry stone or a single soothing item was most appropriate."
On behalf of Columbus House staff and clients, we are grateful for Allahna’s work with those we serve -and for the many other interns and volunteers who spend their time helping those experiencing homelessness. You truly make a difference!
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