Making Connections: Low Barrier Support Groups - Facilitator Training

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The Woman Abuse Response Program, in collaboration with community and health partners and women with lived experiences of violence, have developed the Making Connections support group model.  

The curriculum Making Connections: Supporting Women with Experiences of Violence, Substance Use and/or Mental Health Concerns (pdf) and the companion workbook for women Making Connections for Women with Experiences of Abuse (pdf) provide a women-centred, integrated and low-barrier approach for supporting this population of women.

The Making Connections Approach

This curriculum is designed to help communities offer support groups that give women an opportunity to share their experiences and develop their own knowledge and understanding about violence, and how violence may be connected to substance use and/or mental health concerns. The groups offer women support and information about the dynamics of abuse; the intersecting issues of abuse, substance use and/or mental health concerns; how these impact women’s lives; and how women can begin to rebuild and heal from these experiences. The opportunity for women to connect with other womens with similar experiences and discuss the connections between these issues helps to validate their experiences and reduce their feelings of isolation, failure and shame.

Using a 16-week group model, the support groups are designed to be low-barrier and are intended to be co-facilitated by a service provider from the anti-violence sector and a service provider from the mental health and addictions sector. Making Connections support groups offer a violence-and trauma- informed, low-barrier, and harm reduction model that reflects the interconnection of women’s lived experiences. These groups recognize women’s experiences of oppression, power and control from a partner, and commit to ensuring that these power dynamics are not echoed in women’s interactions within the group. 

This curriculum and approach is intended to ensure that all women with experiences of abuse can have access to the Making Connections support groups- regardless of active substance use or mental health concerns. The fact that Making Connections support groups are open to women regardless of their mental health level, and regardless of whether they are abstinent or not from substances, can be a shift in practice for facilitators. Women who have mental health concerns and/or are using substances are often not welcome in group settings, but it is these women who have the greatest need for connections and support.

Hard copies of these resources are available for purchase through the Woman Abuse Response Program: Facilitator’s Guide ($30.00) and Workbook ($12.00) 

Starting a Making Connections Group

In this 2-day workshop, participants will learn how to deliver the Making Connections Curriculum.  The Making Connections support group model offers facilitators a meaningful and supportive way to connect with women who have overlapping experiences of abuse, substance use and/or mental health concerns.  Facilitators will enhance knowledge and skills to:

Implement violence- and trauma informed, women-centred and harm reduction guiding principles

Create a respectful, egalitarian and safe group environment

Ensure improved, accessible and meaningful services for women

They encourage co-facilitation teams from the anti-violence and mental health & addictions sectors to attend together.

The following 2-day trainings are scheduled for Fall 2013:

-  September 26-27: Kelowna (Coast Capri Hotel) -  sign up here!

-  October 3-4: Prince George (Coast Inn of the North) – sign up here!

-  October 31 & November 1: Parksville (Tigh-Na-Mara Resort) – sign up here!

-  November 21-22: Vancouver (BC Women's Hospital & Health Centre) – sign up here!

*Registration fee ($285) includes a copy of the curriculum and workbook, as well as lunch and refreshments for both days. Group rates also available.

Questions?  Please contact Alexxa Abi-Jaoude at