Process Matters...

Monday 23rd May

Of the many elements which go to make up A New Future (the first phase of our two step programme) our Process Groups go right to the heart of the way Nehemiah works and are one of a number of activities on which our successes hinge. 

Process Groups are the twice-weekly morning sessions attended by our residents. Unlike our Educational Workshops, which rely on a teacher/pupil relationship aiming to impart skills and new information; the Process Groups encourage group sharing with the focus very much on resident input. Their purpose is to get participants to open up and confront complex emotions with a view to looking for ways of acknowledging, and subsequently managing, them. 

The sessions can be painful as they probe tender nerve endings but are regarded as an essential part of successful recovery. Without them our group co-ordinator, who has been working with men breaking free from addiction for over twenty years, believes the healing process cannot really begin to take place and recovery will never be properly achieved.

…Talk to enough recovering addicts and it quickly becomes evident that, for many, a huge part of their addiction has been driven by the need to blot out pain of one type or another. The substances they use, whether drink or drugs, are there to create numbness and shut out issues which are just too raw to tackle. To an outsider addiction may seem like an unintended consequence of an action which has spiralled out of control but scratch the surface and, as often as not, a great deal of anguish becomes visible…

Our group co-ordinator believes that one of the ways to break an addiction is to confront, head on, the issues that her residents are running away from. The Process Sessions always take place in a group setting and are carefully managed. Residents are encouraged to open up in front of each other and talk about feelings which may have lain dormant for a very long time. Exposing wounds in this way, though, can be hugely painful and requires a great deal of sensitivity as well as professional management. Knowing how to manage highly charged and emotional situations, should they occur, is a key skill and requirement of the job.

Our group co-ordinator brings with her a number of resources which she uses to assist her group. One is her ‘word-box’, a tin from which individual words can be picked out at random to kick start the process of confronting suppressed feelings. The words, singly presented on small laminated cards, cover a variety of emotions, both negative and positive, and have a surprisingly powerful effect once the connection process begins. Even testing this activity on other staff members has brought remarkable outcomes with participants acknowledging how uncannily accurate the word selection has been in relating to their own personal issues.

…In encouraging group expression in this way our men not only feel the benefits of exploring their own emotions but also appreciate the experience of sharing with like-minded others, something that many of them will not have done before. Positive outcomes include a huge sense of trust which, in turn, instils feelings of safety - something else that may have been missing from their lives. In some cases it’s the first time in a very long while that our residents have challenged themselves in this way and that too has a strong positive impact…

Process Groups take place twice a week on Mondays and Wednesdays and are integral to the Nehemiah programme.