Groups and Events

*All groups will meet via Zoom until further notice

MONDAY

  • Children’s Group
  • Coping Skills Group
    7 – 8 p.m.
  • Meditation (Arabic and Spanish)
    1 – 2:30 p.m.

  • Client Collage Group Classes 12:30 p.m.

TUESDAY

  • Client Art Classes
    11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
  • Free Monthly Brown Bag Learning Luncheons for providers-self-care
    12 p.m. (noon)

WEDNESDAY

  • Meditation (French and Nepali)
    11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

THURSDAY

  • Case Management Group/Resources
    3 – 4:30 p.m.

FRIDAY

  • Children’s Group

CST’s Groups in Central Texas

At Center for Survivors of Torture — or CST as it is more commonly referred to — we see many people who have been forced to leave their countries because of threats to the health and safety of themselves or their families. These events combined with the journey to the United States and the challenges people commonly face after arrival can make it hard to adjust to a new environment and to feel like yourself. After surviving these kinds of circumstances, it is common to experience feelings of grief or anger, to have problems sleeping, having too many thoughts, forget things easily, feel very lonely and isolated, or to experience headaches or other kinds of pains.

CST’s groups focus on helping you feel better by targeting these areas using different approaches depending on the group. Some approaches emphasize practical information about community resources, others incorporate education about common reactions to distressing events, and others emphasize applying and practicing new skills to cope during highly stressful times and to enhance resilience and wellbeing. Regardless of approach, all groups recognize the importance of social connection and community and of maintaining a safe space where group members can learn from and empower one another.

Emergency and Crisis Resources

If at any time between CST group or individual sessions you find yourself feeling extremely overwhelmed, hopeless, or otherwise in distress here are some helpful resources:

  • For immediate or life threatening emergency, including if you are having thoughts about killing yourself, call 911

Other helpful resources include:

  • The National Suicide Prevention Hotline. Their phone number is 800-273-8255.
  • The Integral Care Crisis hotline. You can call this number any time of the day or night and speak with a counselor for additional emotional support. Their phone number is 512-472-4357. Once you get a person on the phone line you can request an interpreter by saying the word interpreter and then your language, or by simply repeating the name of the language that you speak if that is easier.
  • For Austin Area Psychiatric Emergency Services (PES): A walk-in clinic for adults and children having a mental health crisis. Their hours are Monday – Friday 8am to 10pm and Weekends 10am-8pm. They are located in the Richard E. Hopkins Behavioral Health Building. The address is: 1165 Airport Blvd., Second Floor, Austin, TX 78701

One common goal across all CST groups is for all group members to feel safe and respected. The choice to partake in any CST group is always voluntary and you can choose to discontinue a group at any time for any reason. To promote a safe and supportive group environment, we do ask for a commitment from all group members to the following:

Privacy and Confidentiality

Please keep everything that is shared by members of the group private, meaning do not share it with anyone outside of the group. This includes group members’ names, stories, or feelings that are shared in group, or any kind of identifying imagery. Please do not take any photos or screenshots that capture any names or images of other group members. Please also be mindful of group members’ privacy by refraining from connecting to Zoom video until you are in a private space where your screen is outside of public view or the view of roommates, friends, coworkers, etc.

Group facilitators and interpreters are required to maintain confidentiality. Group facilitators will not release or share any information about any group member to anyone outside of CST without your explicit permission and authorization to do so unless releasing this information is required of counselors because it falls under one of the three exceptions to confidentiality such as a person reporting the intention to kill themself or someone else, in cases of abuse or neglect of a child, an elderly person, or a disabled person here in the United States, or judge’s subpoena.

Group Start Time

One of the key benefits of having a group format is the social support that it offers. Many groups will begin with some type of check in or greeting (of course, sharing is always optional). When everyone is present at the start of the group, the quality of the experience is better because we can give one another our full time and attention. Groups work best when we can all get started together and have enough time to cover everything by the end of the group. Being present for the full time will help you get the most out of each session.

Attendance

We highly recommend regular attendance so that you can experience the full benefits of a group. We realize that from time to time a prior obligation, appointment, or illness may come up causing you to miss the group. In these cases, it is helpful if you can let your group facilitator or individual counselor know that you will be unable to attend. This is helpful because sometimes we might wait to get started otherwise. In some cases, because of a new job, a change in work schedule, or starting a new class, etc., you might find that you are no longer able to attend a group. In these cases, it is also helpful if you can let your group facilitator or CST counselor know.

Supportive Listening

When someone is sharing with the group it feels good to have everyone’s full attention. For this reason we ask people to please minimize any side conversations. Over Zoom video we will often ask group members to mute themselves during the group unless they are speaking. Facilitators at times will help with muting too. This does not indicate that we do not wish to hear you share but rather we do this because it helps to reduce background noise that can make it hard to hear a person when they do share. If you are on mute and would like to share something with the group, you can always unmute yourself or if you need help unmuting yourself you can wave your hand to get the attention of a facilitator to help unmute you.

Sharing with the Group and Avoiding Retraumatization

All participation including whether to speak in group is fully voluntary and is for you to decide based on what feels right for you. However, we do request that within a group setting, people refrain from sharing certain types of information. Specifically, we ask group members to refrain from describing explicit details about past torture or traumatic experiences within the group setting. We make this request to ensure a safe space for everyone and to minimize triggering others or retraumatizing oneself or others. Should you find that you would like to share more of your trauma story, which under certain therapeutic conditions can be healing for some, please follow up with a CST counselor to discuss some options and find what is right for you.

Group Offerings

CST hosts several group offerings. At the time of this recording, all groups are virtual and conducted over Zoom video. Should this change, we will keep you informed. If you are unfamiliar with Zoom and the concept of joining a virtual group seems a bit confusing, please do not worry, we will be covering it in detail toward the end of this orientation video when we discuss technology).

Please note that specific group offerings and schedules do change from time to time, so we recommend speaking with your CST counselor or point of contact to learn more about group availability, schedule, and how to join. For right now we will just mention that once you sign up for a group you will be added to a texting group and receive a weekly reminder about the group that will include the link to attend the group. This text message will be sent from the number (512) 352-9760. Should this procedure change in the future we will let you know.

We will now provide a brief summary of some of CST’s current (or recent) group offerings. If you have additional questions about the groups, please reach out to your CST counselor or point of contact for more information.

Coping Skills Group

This is a weekly 8-session course with the purpose of providing information and skills for managing stress and anxiety. The focus will be on what we can control right now to help us feel better. During each group we will learn and practice a new skill which you can use whenever you feel overwhelmed. Each group is accompanied by a handout that you can keep to practice the skills between sessions and to review the material covered in group as needed well after the 8-session course.

Resources Group

Adjusting to new culture can be extremely challenging because everything is different and new including the language, the laws, and the healthcare system. The resource group focuses on connecting you with practical information and resources to help you meet your basic needs. Some of the areas covered include legal referrals and medical referrals, referrals to English classes, resources for food, and providing information on other community resources and programs.

Art Class

Art class meets weekly for two hours. No prior experience is necessary and all skill levels from beginner to advanced are welcome. This class is led by Dr. Karin Montero, CST’s Medical Director who is also an artist. Dr. Montero provides instruction on different art techniques while also facilitating lively conversation that routinely includes a lot of laughter. In preparation for the week, each group member will be texted a series of images in advance of the art group that you can then use to paint or draw as you practice new techniques during class and between classes. Art is another way to practice mindfulness and many people find it relaxing and healing – this class might serve as a testament to the saying that “sometimes laughter is the best medicine!”

Meditation Group

Meditation is an ancient wisdom tradition that over time has been incorporated in various forms by almost all major religions and spiritual traditions. CST’s weekly meditation group is welcoming of all religious and non-religious backgrounds and spiritual traditions. The objectives of this group are to promote a sense of safety and stability, facilitate healing and empowerment, enhance resilience and wellbeing, improve emotion regulation, and to create community and social connection and support. Meditation has been linked to improvements in sleep, attention, memory, emotion regulation, blood pressure and chronic pain. It has also been shown to enhance wellbeing and compassion. Meditation is simple but not easy and so we use the power of coming together in a group format to provide encouragement and support to one another as we establish a meditation practice that fits our daily lives.

Women’s Yoga Class

CST hosts a weekly yoga class that is open to all female identified clients. Yoga is an ancient mindfulness practice with origins in northern India and a philosophy that emphasizes connecting the mind, body, and spirit. In this class we also place a special emphasis on practicing kindness and compassion towards ourselves by meeting ourselves where we are, befriending our bodies, and cultivating appreciation for what our bodies can do. Yoga has been linked to health benefits such as improved sleep, increased strength and flexibility, and improvements in circulation, blood pressure, mental clarity, and wellbeing, among others. If you would like to learn more about this group, availability in the class, and to discuss options to get connected with the materials that you will need, please see your CST counselor or point of contact.

Some additional notes about CST’s yoga group: No prior experience with yoga is necessary. This group is unique from many of the other CST groups because it relies primarily on movement and gestures for communication. Although having your Zoom camera turned on is optional for most CST groups, having your camera turned on and positioning it such that your whole body and yoga mat is in full view, takes on a special importance in this group for safety reasons. Having your camera on enables the instructor to provide feedback to help you with the poses. Without your camera on, the instructor would have no way of knowing when important adjustments should be made to ensure proper form and reduce risk of injury.

Survivors Support Group

This group aims to promote empowerment, resilience, and healing by leveraging the power of social support and the wisdom and experience that exists within the group. This group will provide information about common reactions to distressing life events, discuss and share coping strategies and community resources. Above all, this group seeks to provide a safe space for people to connect with other survivors who have also had to leave their country and face many challenges in adjusting to a new country and culture.

Thank you very much for taking the time to learn about CST’s Groups. If you would like to join a group or if you have questions, please reach out to your CST counselor or point of contact. We hope to see you in one of our groups soon!

Client artwork from Zoom art class with Karin