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NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors

STARTTS organises groups of people from refugee backgrounds from similar cultural and linguistic backgrounds to come together on a regular basis to socialise, participate in joint activities, learn new skills and information and talk over problems they might be facing. Groups are facilitated by a STARTTS’ staff member who is able to support group members and help them to process any issues that arise.

Without the group I’d probably be much more sick and more lonely. It makes me very happy when we are united. It’s beautiful when we support each other. The group is my family, the workers, everyone.

For some of our clients, groups can provide a more effective healing environment or can be a valuable adjunct to individual counselling. While all groups broadly serve the purpose of supporting survivors through their trauma experiences, there are several ways in which this can be achieved:

  • Exercise groups – To increase mobility and fitness, help trauma survivors relax and improve mental health.
  • Therapeutic groups – Which allow members to work through the impact of torture and trauma on people’s thoughts, feelings, behaviour and relationships.
  • Support groups – Where people meet to socialise, go on outings and undertake activities.
  • Arts and crafts groups – Where people work together on artistic activities such as painting, pottery or craft.
  • English classes

Why group work is important

The experiences that refugees have may make them fearful or suspicious. When torture and trauma survivors come together in safe groups, they are able to learn to trust again. They can make friends, support one another, learn together and share their grief. In addition, group members can benefit from the experiences and insights of other group members.

Torture and trauma survivors are also able to approach counsellors for advice and assistance in an informal manner in a group environment.

Many newly arrived refugee communities are unfamiliar with western notions of counselling and one-on-one talking therapy. Attending groups is a much more comfortable way for members of those communities to seek help.

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