Collective healing is a model which supports and empowers individuals by honing their skills and building on their capacities through reflection on one’s strengths. Identifying and using these strengths is not limited to helping oneself but also others within the family or community. It involves bringing together people with similar experiences and providing them with a safe space to explore, identify and care for their needs.
A healing centred approach such as collective healing views issues, distress and trauma as not only an individual phenomenon but rather a social, collaborative or community one. This expands the notion of a holistic perspective to enhance well-being as well. This approach is similar to South African term “Ubuntu” which suggests that humanness is discovered through collective engagement, being of service to others and recognising the interdependence on one another. When people indulge in understanding and transforming the source of distress for many, they begin to look at how various institutions are affecting individuals at large. This promotes community care and broadens the focus from individual care to a collaborative one.
One can understand collective healing through the following main characteristics (Ginwright, 2018):
More political and less clinical: Each individual has the capacity for the betterment of their own well-being. It can begin by addressing the conditions that cause them in the first place. Well-being and its power to be influenced by communities have been well-researched. It indicates better health when more control is experienced within a broader context. Thus, collective healing also looks at the function that the environment plays in an individual’s life. It may also address issues related to inequalities, liberation, emancipation, discrimination and brutality at the hands of other individuals/communities. Community care brings into perspective how mental health access is not accessible to all and how organisations can help in reducing the crisis. When one engages in a dialogue regarding issues in a broader context, it helps to provide them with a sense of purpose and control over their life situations.
Culturally grounded approach: Culture and identity are delicately but deliberately interlinked. Collective healing places an individual in the cultural context to remain grounded in their purpose, meaning and self-perceptual habits. For culturally bound individuals, the forum can provide a community, opportunity for shared experience and sense of inclusion. Healing can then be shared or collective where elements like gender, similar traumas, common family backgrounds, race or sexual identity can play a vital role. Since collective healing is holistic in nature and hence may look at mental health through cultural and social practices/rituals too.
Asset driven approach: Most approaches look at harm reduction or suppression of symptoms, whereas collective healing looks at a strength-based approach. Any distress experienced by an individual is seen as only one part of them. The worst thing that might have happened to them does not define their whole identity or story. Collective healing takes the individual, builds on their experience, skillset and acquired knowledge while tapping on how their positive traits can be enhanced. A salutogenic approach such as this centres around maximising well-being and health and drawing on stimulation of mind to create healthy coping with satisfaction.
Sustenance of healing: Adults, elderly or youth everyone can benefit from and see collective healing as a means through which distress can be reduced as well as a pathway for maintaining well-being. Recovery is a continuous process and in most likeliness never linear for anyone. This suggests that while on the journey, any individual will sense gradual ups and downs which can be alleviated through community help.
Collective healing through support groups
Support groups are a great way of finding collective help as these groups comprise of individuals with shared goals despite some differences in backgrounds. The premise of any support group involves empathy, where almost all individuals take an emotional risk of sharing their issues and being vulnerable. When one puts themselves in that spot, they begin to realise the difficulty of opening up about their raw emotions. As this happens, there is a build-up of sensitivity regarding what others are sharing because a level of understanding from the group promotes an individual to feel accepted and validated. With increased discussion around emotions, people also feed their emotional intelligence and literacy with an advanced expression of complex emotions.
As one feels safe, they can move beyond their feelings of sadness, shame, guilt or anger associated with their past and decide what they want to move forward. When one can imagine and dream what they want their life to look like within realistic demands, it can foster hopefulness and optimism. By reimagining and envisioning, what may lie ahead, one can strengthen their orientation towards the future. This motivates action where people can begin to look at processes, practices and other socio-political or economic decisions that exacerbate distress and trauma.
Why join a support group?
They provide a sense of belongingness and makes one feel that they are not alone in their distress. This is an innate need in humans which is fulfilled by a connection with others and a mutual need for support. One engages in it by offering support to others as well as seeking it. During this, people also find that their issues are shared by many, and they are not alone in feeling a particular way.
Self-help groups provide strength to the individual who needs a safe space to voice their experience and opinions. The strength is converted into motivation to show up to the group and to eventually start their process of sharing/confiding in others.
Support groups are a great source of information sharing and networking. Each individual contributes to the group and by disseminating any pertinent information like helpful books, therapists or activities; one can find useful resources to guide themselves on their healing/recovery journey.
For individuals who are inhibited or shy, a support group can provide a safe space to explore their social skills and build on them. One can find or understand their patterns of communication and learn from others (if need be) on how to effectively put forth their thoughts.
The most common benefit of these groups is catharsis which means people can emotionally unburden themselves of the distress they are experiencing by narrating it. When one experiences a reduction in pain, they can take the next step towards healing from it.
While introspecting during the group process, one develops a greater understanding of self. This awareness of self comes concerning others as well as in a relationship with oneself. People can thus become more aware of how they identify and regulate emotions emerging within oneself while also becoming conscious of how they react to others.
It encourages enhanced self-efficacy by showing the individual that they can take control of their journey and use their motivation, determination and self-care to make a change in their lives.
At Mindful Mesmerisms, we also provide free support groups for individuals undergoing anxiety and depression. We have experienced facilitators and a staff that constantly works towards your betterment and reaching out to more people through mental health awareness and positive catharsis and healing. For more information on our support groups, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ginwright, S. (2018, June 1). The Future of Healing: Shifting From Trauma-Informed Care to Healing Centered Engagement | by Shawn Ginwright | Medium. https://medium.com/@ginwright/the-future-of-healing-shifting-from-trauma-informed-care-to-healing-centered-engagement-634f557ce69c