Rehabilitation with others: group-work

Many Freedom from Torture clients come together for a vital part of their rehabilitation: group-work. Exploring their experiences using creative therapies (such as drama, horticulture, art, music, textiles and movement), or working in psychotherapy groups in Farsi, Arabic, French, English and other languages –  using interpreters were necessary – clients speak and listen or take part in activities (such as chess) with other survivors of torture.

Developing trust

Group-work provides clients with a protected social environment. It is part of the holistic service that Freedom from Torture provides to meet the complex and diverse needs of survivors of torture and can be offered in combination with individual counselling. Joining a group enables survivors to meet people who have had similar experiences and share their feelings about torture, exile and loss. It encourages survivors to adopt a self-help approach through the giving and receiving of support from fellow group members. Group-work supports clients who have recently arrived in the UK and need help finding their way in a new environment. Torture affects people in a complex and profound way and Freedom from Torture recognises this by continuing to provide group-work for clients who are more settled but need help adjusting and adapting or are having ongoing difficulties.

Creative tools 

Clients are guided through their rehabilitation in a therapeutic space. Clients who participate in the Natural Growth Project receive psychotherapy in nature, whilst other clients communicate across cultures and languages, for example through the mixed chess club.  

‘Group-work at Freedom from Torture doesn’t rely on the classic therapeutic model. The coffee-making group for Amharic-speaking women is culturally appropriate for our clients. Coffee plays an important part in Eritrean and Ethiopian cultures. With survivors from both countries, clients are encouraged to reconnect with aspects of their culture and explore issues of identity. Not all groups require clients to talk.’

Alex Sklan, Former National Director of Clinical Services

In the mixed Creating a Way group, clients use movement, drama, art and storytelling as a creative means to cope with problems of transition and uncertainty. Meanwhile, in Freedom from Torture’s North West centre, the male drama group stage public performances of their work. The women’s Textile group in the North West centre takes a different approach – using textiles to explore women’s experiences in their home countries and in exile. The groups are a creative way for clients to deal with the unspeakable.