Family Shelter Support Groups: Healing Together

Family Shelter support groups offer a safe environment where participants can explore family violence and abusive relationships. As a group, they can promote healing and build self-esteem while breaking down the isolation that is the hallmark of many abusive relationships.

A host of life-changing benefits can be gained from these group sessions, which foster acceptance, kindness and non-judgemental support critical to recovery from traumatic experiences.

“I personally feel very privileged to be a part of both of the groups I facilitate,” said Michelle Pihlaja-Olson, Family Shelter Adult Services Coordinator. “As traumatic as the stories are, these individuals have the resiliency and strength to give back and support others while healing from their own experience. It’s very moving and reminds me why I decided to go into social work in the first place.”


The Connections support group covers topics such as verbal abuse, boundaries and healing from trauma. This once-weekly session provides the opportunity to drop in without advance notice.

Art Expression

The weekly Art Expressions Group uses a variety of art materials to help clients give creative expression to their ideas and emotions. Funded in part by a grant from the Wheaton Franciscan Sisters, this form of support group helps participants gain new insights that can lead to positive changes and healing.

Women’s Support Groups

Family Shelter’s three Women’s Support Groups meet at different times throughout the week. In these sessions, the group discusses how to process stress, manage emotions and co-parenting challenges, as well as other topics relevant to particular group members.

Mom & Kids

A new Mom & Kids Group begins each fall, winter and spring. This innovative approach to healing from abuse brings mothers and children together to discuss domestic violence, safety planning and talking about feelings and emotions. These sessions, which help to strengthen the child-parent bond, are also designed to teach children how to improve their relationships with their siblings, peers and teachers.

At Family Shelter Service, support groups have increasingly become an important tool in the healing process for individuals affected by domestic abuse. “The ability to find hope and support from others sharing a common experience is so important,” said Pihlaja- Olson. “The responses from our participants are a real testament to that.”

* * *

Feedback from Support Group Members

“Sharing helps me get ideas from others in the group.”

“My children love Mom & Kids and can’t wait to come.”

“I feel as if I’ve made strides for the safety of my children.”

“I get a sense of bonding with others and not feeling isolated.”

“I look at life differently since attending the group.”

“I’m so grateful my children are learning from knowledgeable and supportive people about domestic violence so that they don’t feel like it is a secret they have to hold in.”