Building Resilient Communities: The Role of Group Therapy in Trauma Recovery
Abstract: Online group therapy is an accessible and effective treatment option for trauma survivors. Online group trauma therapy allows multiple survivors to receive treatment simultaneously, reduces waitlist times and costs associated with treatment, helps reduce social isolation by normalizing trauma experiences, and allows people from all over the province, particularly those in rural areas, to access and participate in live, specialized trauma services. Group trauma therapy has also been shown to significantly decrease trauma symptoms with a diverse range of trauma presentations. Despite these well documented advantages, group trauma therapy services offered in communities are limited. This presentation seeks to introduce attendees to a practical way of implementing groups into practice. First, we will discuss the use of Trauma Practice, a phasic approach to trauma therapy as applied in individual session. This discussion will include didactic exercises of unique and integrative strategies when working with trauma survivors. We will then explore how we adapted Trauma Practice in the context of group therapy. We will discuss the development and implementation of four phase-1 trauma informed groups: Recovery and Resiliency, Lean-in for Connection, Trauma-informed Meditation, and Anger Regulation. While these groups focused on different aspects of recovery, they shared 4 main goals: (1) to increase connection and decrease isolation among trauma survivors, (2) increase emotional awareness, expression, and regulation, (3) to teach safety and stabilization skills, and (4) to learn to manage interpersonal conflict. Using both clinician and client perspectives, as well as clinical research, we will explore what worked well and discuss future directions and areas for improvement. We will discuss the safeguards we took to promote safety in a group setting (e.g., balancing equal engagement from all members, reducing the risk of possible re-traumatization and dysregulation, respecting confidentiality, and acknowledging limits, and developing strong therapeutic relationships with group members). Last, we will discuss the unique consideration of online vs. in-person group therapy and provide recommendations on how to evaluate the progress and success of offered groups.
Potential to Distress: No
At the conclusion of this presentation, participants will be able to:
- Describe the Trauma Practice Approach to tri-phasic trauma therapy for individuals
- Explain tri-phasic trauma therapy in the context of group therapy
- Discuss advantages and challenges to delivering trauma-informed support in group settings
- Evaluate risks, plan for challenges, and implement strategies to safeguard against re-traumatization in group therapy settings
- Demonstrate strategies for facilitating the development of effective interpersonal skills among members in a trauma-informed support/therapy group
Presenter: Cassandra Harmsen, PhD
Presenter Bio: Cassandra Harmsen is a Ph.D. student in the Clinical-Developmental Psychology program at York University, in Toronto, Canada. She obtained her B.Sc. in psychology from McMaster University in 2014, and her M.A. in Clinical-Developmental Psychology from York University in 2021. As a Ph.D. student under the supervision of Dr. Robert T Muller, Cassandra’s primary research focus is understanding effective interventions for trauma survivors. Her work has been presented at various conferences, including the 40th annual ISSTD conference and she currently has two publications in review on this topic. Cassandra has other published work in the areas of Emotion Focused Family Therapy, barriers to trauma treatment for LGBTQ+ individuals, and complicated grief during COVID-19. Cassandra has several years of experience working with children and young families in several clinical settings. She has practiced in hospitals, including the Centre for Addictions and Mental Health (CAMH), and most recently at Ron Joyce Children’s Health Centre (Hamilton Health Science) as an intervention practicum student. She has also worked in private practices focusing on assessing and treating youth with various presenting concerns. She uses evidence-based practices, including CBT, ACT, Family Based Therapy for eating disorders, and EFFT most prominently.
Presenter: Kristina Cordeiro, PhD
Presenter Bio: Kristina is a senior PhD student in the Clinical-Developmental Psychology program at York University, in Toronto, Canada. Supervised by Dr. Robert T. Muller, her research has focused on intrafamilial trauma and attachment-based treatments for children and their families. Most recently, she’s been collaborating on a large clinical trial of the effectiveness of Emotion Focused Family Therapy for caregivers supporting children living with mental illness, and she has been studying the clinical benefits of using the Adult Attachment Interview as an add-on to therapy. Her research has been recognized by the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation, and she has received numerous grants in support of her research and clinical training. Kristina has over 15 years of experience working with children and young families in educational and clinical settings and is a trained behaviour therapist. Currently a Doctoral Associate at the Family Psychology Centre, Kristina works with youth, adults and families presenting with a variety of mental health concerns, providing both assessment and treatment services. She is passionate about increasing access to effective and timely mental health services and considers the caregiver-child relationship to be a critical entry point for preventative interventions. Her hope is to affect systemic change in how we involve parents in the treatment of their children.
- 3.00 APAThe International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. The International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation maintains responsibility for this program and its content.
- 3.00 ASWB ACEThe International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation (ISSTD), #1744, is approved to offer social work continuing education by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) Approved Continuing Education (ACE) program. Organizations, not individual courses, are approved as ACE providers. State and provincial regulatory boards have the final authority to determine whether an individual course may be accepted for continuing education credit. ISSTD maintains responsibility for this course. ACE provider approval period: 08/20/2021 – 08/20/2024. Social workers completing this course receive 3.00 continuing education credits.
- 3.00 ISSTD Certificate ProgramThis program is eligible for 3.00 credits in the ISSTD Certificate Program.