A trauma healing and empowerment workshop takes place in a natural setting over 3 days and 2 nights. 8-10 participants are guided by 2 facilitators over 8 sessions, which we call ‘circles’. Victims may recommend inviting perpetrators. In most cases we combine 4 healing workshop sessions (being 32 participants with 8 facilitators) at one venue, where select sessions are done in a bigger group.
During the Tree of Life healing and empowerment workshop, the tree is used as a device for the telling of stories, and participants communicate their lives through depictions of a tree, with the soil (culture), roots (family), trunk (early development), branches (later development), leaves (significant people), fruits (high points), and scars (disappointments/traumas), providing the frame for this communication.
The telling of stories takes place in a circle which offers a step by step process of building trust and respect. It allows participants to share the accounts of their experiences (often given for the first time) in an atmosphere of openness, understanding and empathy. The concept of using the circle was welcomed as very similar to the traditional method of talking about problems within a family or community. This is known as dare in the Shona language. Confidentiality is critical, we abide the circle principle: ”what is said in the circle stays in the circle”.
3-day trauma healing and empowerment workshop is guided by the following 8 circles:
Circle 1: “Welcome and Introductions”
In the first circle, we welcome participants and discuss the aims of the intervention. Participants make circle “agreements’, noting how they wish to respect each other during and beyond the workshop.
Circle 2: The Tree Meditation
During the second circle, we try to extend participants’ sense of themselves by observing and connecting with the natural world. This is done as part of a nature walk. Participants are encouraged to see themselves as part of larger natural systems where they both influence the system and are influenced by it.
Circle 3: The Roots Circle
The third circle encourages participants to connect more closely with their own history and ancestry. In this circle, participants reflect on how their history shapes who they are today, and how their line will continue on into the future.
Circle 4: The Tree Trunk
In the fourth circle, participants are invited to revisit their childhood and reflect upon how their early experiences shaped who they are today. This circle focuses on those who helped and inspired them, as well as the difficulties they overcame as children.
Circle 5: The Trauma Circle
The fifth circle provides a circle of trust and respect in which people can tell stories about the difficult and traumatic parts of their lives. Facilitators work to ensure that each person feels that every person’s life is equally important, and that all present are human beings and deserving of respect and compassion.
Circle 6: The Power of Togetherness Circle
The sixth circle encourages participants to explore the ways in which they are connected to each other and the world around them, and how these connections are sources of support and allow them to shape their worlds in powerful ways. In this circle, different kinds of power are discussed and compared.
Circle 7: Leaves and Fruit Circle
In the seventh circle, participants are asked to reflect on the ways they have changed as a result of the difficulties they have faced. During this circle, participants reflect on the gifts that they have which enable them to deal with difficulties and to recognize ways in which they are able to take control of their lives as well as make a positive difference in their families and communities.
Circle 8: The Celebration Ceremony
The eighth and final circle is a closing ceremony designed to bring the work to a close and to symbolically move forward into a new phase of life with power and strength – in celebration.
Download a healing workshop brochure