Coping with Christmas
Trauma centre helping clients plan for holidays

Kirsten Larsen
Northern News Services

NNSL (Dec 23/98) - Christmas music plays softly in the background of a Yellowknife residence, creating a warm, calming atmosphere for four women who are learning to re-condition their lives.

Every morning, as their children head off to school, four women gather in the home-like trauma treatment centre "Down the Block". The centre, which has been in operation since April 1998, offers women a chance to work through issues of trauma in their lives while living at the centre or living in their own homes.

The centre is operated out of a home owned and lived in by a Yellowknife couple who provide the service.

"It's my husband, myself and our dog," said Elaine Williamsen, a registered psychiatric nurse who provides the clinical services at the centre. "We try to make a comfortable place open for women to take a look at how their trauma has affected their lives and their families."

The centre offers its clients 24 weeks of one-on-one therapy as well as group therapy which conforms to the clients individual needs.

"Whatever the needs are of the women, that's what we do, be it addressing abuse that they're dealing," said Williamsen, adding trauma can stem from everything from sexual abuse to alcohol problems.

"The women that are here were referred to us or they referred themselves after taking a look at their lives."

Since the women attending the centre are currently residing in their own homes, the healing which the women are experiencing has been transferred directly back into their home lives.

The therapy and activities in which the women partake are reflective of what they are dealing with in their everyday lives as well as past issues. With the Christmas season pressing, the women have been focusing much of their attention on the holiday issues at hand and learning to dispel much of the stress which comes with it.

"There is an expectation in the media and society where we are taught that at Christmas time everyone is happy," said Williamsen. "The reality is (during Christmas) families continue the way they were. Plus the financial part of (Christmas) has an expectation for kids to get gifts, which adds pressure." Williamsen said the sessions at the centre are helping the women not only cope through the holidays, but help their families through as well.

"The women are learning how to make the most of the holidays by planning and learning how to make special moments (with their family)," said Williamsen. "When things don't work out they have plans set up to get help."

In the quiet atmosphere of the centre the women have been able to relax and prepare for the holidays.

"They have been making Christmas (crafts) like centre pieces...baking...and things to take home that will help make their homes more festive."

The women were able to share their second home with their families during the centre's Christmas party, Tuesday. Santa even popped in to taste-test some of the baking the women had done for the event and to hand out presents to their children.