Grounding activities assist women to focus on their present experience and detach from their emotional pain. These activities are intended to help women regain control over their emotions, as well as to connect them to the present and to reality.
Women can learn to do grounding exercises on their own. These exercises can be done at anytime and in any place, including in any circumstance in which women experience a trigger, a flashback, a substance craving, emotional distress, or dissociation.
The following strategies are important when completing any grounding exercise:
Forms of grounding may be organized into mental, physical and soothing exercises.
Mental grounding refers to focusing one’s mind and exercises can be used when working with a woman in person or on the telephone. Examples of such exercises include:
Physical grounding focuses on the woman's senses (e.g. touch, sound and smell). Examples of such exercises include:
Soothing grounding exercises involve talking to one’s self in a kind and gentle manner. For example:
Containment exercises are intended to "contain" painful emotions, allowing the woman to manage overwhelming feelings. These exercises provide a way for women to take action and assist them to be in control over their own healing process. Containment is not about denying or repressing emotions, but consciously choosing to put intrusive, painful or disruptive emotions aside for a temporary period of time. For example:
Counsellors can help women to learn about self-soothing, which can provide alternatives to any unhealthy self-soothing activities women may be using such as consuming alcohol and drugs. Encouraging women to identify and use new self-soothing techniques can be promoted by equipping the counseling space with activities that may bring comfort, such as:
Counsellors should give women a notebook or pen and paper to enable them to confidentially and safely express their thoughts and feelings through writing or drawing. Journaling provides women with a way to consider and clarify evolving and emerging thoughts and emotions (Vermilyea, 2002).
Women can be invited to keep a journal with suggestions for using it, such as:
(Alberta Council of Women's Shelters, 2009. Sheltering Practices)
Audio-visual and other methods using creative expression
In addition to individual and group counselling support, many shelters across regions have integrated audio, visual and other forms of expression (e.g. theatre, performance, yoga, etc.) as part of their psychosocial support to survivors. Both the creative process and products resulting from it have been noted by survivors and advocates as beneficial in the process of overcoming abuse.
Viet Nam: Since 2004, the Center for Studies and Applied Sciences in Gender – Family - Women and Adolescents (CSAGA) has integrated theatre and performance art as part of its work with domestic violence and trafficking survivor self-help groups. CSAGA has engaged professional directors and artists in the process, with the material led by survivors and based on their experiences. The drama aims to not only empower survivors, but raise awareness of domestic violence in the community.
Scotland: The Glasgow Women's Aid shelter supported the creation of a book 'A Way With Words' based on six storytelling, creative writing and art sessions. Emerging from the idea of survivors who wished to hear from others with similar experiences, they knew that reading these stories would inspire their own journey of recovery. In the safe and comforting surroundings of the Sensory room, traditional Aboriginal, Bedouin and English tales were told by a professional Storyteller as a springboard for discussion, creative writing and art work, led by a Community Artist. The poems, stories and art produced form a moving portrayal of life before, during, and after refuge. The book is offered free to women using the shelter’s drop-in service. In addition to the product made available to survivors, the process of making the book was very positive, with women reporting many benefits, including a better understanding of themselves; an increased sense of confidence and healing; an increased focus on plans for the future; and feelings of achievement. The project was displayed and made available for sale in Glasgow's Kelvingrove Art Gallery until October 2011. Music was created to accompany two of the poems from the book by workers, with discussion of creating a CD to raise funds and awareness of domestic abuse. The book is available for purchase in English.
United States: In 2003, The Trauma Center at the Justice Resource Institute in Massachusetts developed a specialized trauma-sensitive yoga practice supported by trauma therapists, which has been used in shelters and community-based programmes for survivors of violence across the country. The yoga environment, exercises, instructors and their methods of assisting and communicating with students is tailored to survivors of trauma, including service providers who may experience vicarious trauma. The practice incorporates components of trauma response techniques, providing an opportunity for women to practice: being in the present moment; making choices/ being in control; taking effective action, feeling strong and competent; and moving/ being connected to others. Benefits of the approach include: immediate physical contributions (relaxation, lower body tension, ability to sleep); creation of a predictable ritual; supporting body awareness; sense of accomplishment; focus on the survivor rather than the abuse; building community; promoting a sense of strength thorough the poses; and strengthening individual ability to self-regulate over the long-term. Read more about the method and findings from pilot interventions (Adapted from Grube, Laura [Child and Family Services Haven House, Buffalo New York]. “Trauma-Sensitive Yoga for Survivors of Domestic Violence”. Presentation at the Second World Conference of Women’s Shelters and Transition Houses. February 2012).
Webinar: Developing Trauma-Informed Practices and Environments: First Steps for Programs (Terri Pease for the National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma & Mental Health, 2012)
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