Group sessions teach mindfulness techniques
Mindfulness techniques have long been an important tool for therapists helping patients deal with a variety of mental health problems and anxiety disorders. A new eight-week session aims to help those who are experiencing stress, anxiety, and depression through the use of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT).
Led by Danielle Black, MSW (Masters of Social Work) and Psychotherapist Natalie Goerner, the adult group sessions will be offered in Westmount on Monday evenings starting in January 2023. Throughout the 2.5-hour sessions, participants will learn different types of meditation and mindfulness. One skill that will be practiced is a body scan — where attention is focused on different parts of the body, to help develop mindful awareness of sensations and to relieve tension. Participants will also learn about being in the moment with informal mindfulness, where mindful awareness is brought to everyday activities, such as putting on hand lotion or washing the dishes.
Participants will be welcomed in a compassionate, inclusive, and non-judgemental environment that is conducive to achieving emotional balance and self-awareness. Black and Goerner will lead the group through the meditations in the sessions, and they also stress the importance of continuing the practice at home. “The more you use something, the more you develop it,” Goerner says. “They can take the new skills home with them and then also work on their own. Then they come back to the group and we ask them to share a bit — how did it go at home? Did you have obstacles? Were you able to do that meditation?”
Over the eight weeks, session topics will include Awareness and Automatic Pilot, Living in Our Heads, Gathering the Scattered Mind, Recognizing Aversion, Allowing/Letting Be, Thoughts Are Not Facts, How Can I Best Take Care of Myself?, and Maintaining and Extending New Learning.
Goerner explains that people can sometimes be nervous about opening up in group sessions, but that everyone is invited to share only as much as they are comfortable with. “People can be very anxious to come [to group sessions]. But then once they do, they’re so happy they came and so glad to connect with other people. It’s a really powerful, unique and rich experience.”
Increased demand for help
According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health’s (CAMH) ninth survey of Canadians’ pandemic health and substance use, conducted between January 7 and 11, 2022. a quarter of survey participants reported feeling moderate to severe anxiety, significantly higher than the 19 per cent reported in their previous survey completed in July 2021. Similar escalations were found during the same time frame in reports of loneliness (24.1 per cent compared to 18.8 per cent) and feelings of depression (22.3 percent compared to 18.6 per cent).
The survey also found a significant gender gap in the results. Reports of moderate to severe anxiety, loneliness, and feelings of depression increased significantly among women, but only slightly for men. “These larger increases among women may reflect that they are often carrying a disproportionate burden, including imbalances in care giving responsibilities and frontline work,” said Dr. Samantha Wells, survey co-lead and Senior Director at the Institute for Mental Health Policy Research at CAMH.
Also of concern is the significant increase in reports of unmet mental health needs and lengthy wait times. Goerner notes that she has seen an increased number of people in need of aid, in both the public and private sectors. “There are many, many people reaching out for help,” she said. “We’ve never seen this kind of demand before in the private sector. Before COVID you could call and get an appointment with a psychologist in a week or two or less, and now there are wait times just like there are in the public sector.”
Importance of connections
In addition to the skills taught in the sessions, Goerner shares the benefits people can experience within a group setting, especially as they grapple with the mental side effects of the pandemic restrictions. “People benefit from the skills we’re teaching them, as well as the social aspect and physically being with other people. I think people are in need of major social connection right now.”
For more information visit nataliegoerner.com