Common Threads Project offers a unique group recovery program for women who have survived sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), war, and displacement. The model incorporates current evidence-based trauma treatment with a traditional practice that has allowed women to access healing and resilience in diverse cultural contexts.
Common Threads Project builds community capacity to provide an innovative and effective psychological intervention, leading to transformative change for survivors of violence. Our model establishes a culturally responsive, group-based program in collaboration with local partners. It is designed to promote survivors’ strengths and empower participants as they make their way from victims to survivors, and from survivors to agents of change.
Common Threads conducts systematic research on the efficacy of this model in order to refine it and establish this approach as an effective element of a trauma treatment toolbox.
Summary of relevant work
In order to address a critical gap in the humanitarian sphere, Common Threads Project offers a pathway to deep and enduring psychological recovery for survivors of violence. Even many years after the guns fall silent, survivors may still be experiencing the psychological costs of the violence endured.
Communities have rich and valuable traditions for healing and promoting resilience that can be adapted to support recovery. The making of story cloths is a prime example of such an approach. In diverse cultural contexts, when women have faced unspeakable atrocities, they've come together to share their experiences, to support one another, and to sew their stories onto cloth as a means to find their way out of despair. What survivors may not be able to say, they can depict. Neurobiological research affirms that non-verbal channels allow access to traumatic experiences. The powerful artwork our participants have produced on cloth speaks to us not only of their pain, but also of their resilience and strength. Through it, they find a way to connect to one another and to the world, share their experiences, and activate their capacity to cope with what has happened to them. The rhythmic, meditative, stabilizing activity of hand-sewing allows Common Threads Project participants to tolerate the emotionally challenging aspects of trauma processing. The supportive group experience provides a crucial antidote to the stigma, shame, and self- blame associated with sexual violence. Engaging creativity and self-expression in designing these textiles offers a pathway from silence to voice and from helplessness to agency.
Common Threads circles engage in a comprehensive six-month recovery process that includes best practices from contemporary trauma therapy. These include somatic processing to develop skills that reduce the neurophysiological consequences of traumatic experience, psychoeducation, and carefully guided trauma processing.
Common Threads Project was successfully piloted in Ecuador in 2012, and projects were subsequently launched in Nepal, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
In preliminary studies the approach has been effective in facilitating transformative change for survivors:
Reducing symptoms of depression, anxiety and severe distress