Free, group ther­apy of­fers a way through

Matamata Chronicle - - News -

Mata­mata res­i­dents don’t have to live un­der the dark cloud of de­pres­sion or deal with any men­tal health is­sues by them­selves – they can get help from a group.

Lo­cal psy­chol­o­gist Les Con­way has had many suc­cesses with Mata­mata res­i­dents through his group ther­apy.

‘‘We have a great deal of suc­cess sto­ries with peo­ple over­com­ing their ad­dic­tion de­pen­den­cies and also learn­ing to cope bet­ter with men­tal health chal­lenges and al­le­vi­at­ing de­pres­sion so that peo­ple can find more pos­i­tive en­gage­ment with life rather than liv­ing un­der a dark cloud,’’ he said.

The psy­chol­o­gist uses his three decades of ex­pe­ri­ence to ed­u­cate the group on ways to deal with many men­tal health is­sues.

‘‘The group is very ef­fec­tive at pro­vid­ing support and an ex­plo­ration on how things can be done dif­fer­ently.’’

He also mon­i­tors group par­tic­i­pants to en­sure their needs are be­ing met and they are pro­gress­ing. The group also pro­vides safety for those at risk of self-harm be­cause those is­sues are mon­i­tored.

Con­way also knows the ben­e­fits of par­tic­i­pants hear­ing from peo­ple in the group who have had suc­cess with var­i­ous chal­lenges, rather than just lis­ten­ing to him.

‘‘It is the art of shut­ting up,’’ he said.

‘‘Some­one who has ex­pe­ri­ence with anx­i­ety and has mas­tered it is the best per­son to talk about it and demon­strate what it’s like to come out of it.’’

He said there are a lot of ben­e­fits in at­tend­ing the free, con­fi­den­tial group ses­sions. It gives the par­tic­i­pants more so­cial skills and helps them to open up, although he stresses that par­tic­i­pants can do it at their own pace.

He recog­nised that peo­ple are of­ten shy in a group sit­u­a­tion at first but the par­tic­i­pants are gen­tle with it.

‘‘We stress that peo­ple can di­vulge what they want to di­vulge.’’

There is no set num­ber of vis­its, as Con­way recog­nised that some par­tic­i­pants might just at­tend un­til they have found the right way to ad­dress one spe­cific prob­lem, such as OCD or anx­i­ety, while oth­ers, like those liv­ing with bipo­lar, will need on­go­ing support.

The group has been run­ning for two years and is now be­ing sub­sidised by Con­way’s psy­chol­ogy clinic which has been run­ning in Mata­mata for three months.

Con­way has three decades of ex­pe­ri­ence in help­ing peo­ple deal with men­tal health prob­lems and ad­dic­tions, and es­pe­cially where those com­bine.

If the group can’t pro­vide the right re­sources, Con­way can use his links, in­clud­ing with Waikato Hos­pi­tal, to help get the right support. Con­way has most re­cently worked with the Waikato Dis­trict Health Board.

The for­mer en­gi­neer said his pas­sion for help­ing peo­ple in­spired him to vol­un­teer for Youth­line – a sui­cide preven­tion phone line. This then in­spired him to gain var­i­ous qual­i­fi­ca­tions, in­clud­ing a masters in psy­chol­ogy. Mata­mata’s David White is a White Rib­bon amabas­sador.

On the morn­ing of Septem­ber 23, 2009, White’s daugh­ter He­len Meads was mur­dered by her hus­band Greg at the sta­bles on their Mata­mata farm. It was the fi­nal chap­ter in years of con­trol and abuse.

‘‘I’m proud of my daugh­ter He­len,’’ White says.

‘‘She was a won­der­ful per­son who was cut down in the prime of her life by a con­trol­ling and vi­o­lent per­son. There is some jus­tice in know­ing that He­len’s killer is be­hind bars, but I need to do more than that.

‘‘I need to make sense of the aw­ful sit­u­a­tion we found our­selves in, and do my part to en­sure the vi­o­lence against women is both un­der­stood and ended.’’

As part of his mis­sion to change at­ti­tudes, White wrote the book He­len, the He­len Meads Tragedy.

‘‘This book is an at­tempt to shine the light on abu­sive re­la­tion­ships. As par­ents, Pam and I didn’t recog­nise the warn­ing signs, we didn’t know what to do, and trag­i­cally, nei­ther did our daugh­ter. If we had known to look on the Women’s Refuge site, He­len would have un­der­stood that the most dan­ger­ous time is when you are leav­ing an abu­sive re­la­tion­ship.’’

The White Rib­bon Ride is an ini­tia­tive to tackle this coun­try’s crip­pling do­mes­tic vi­o­lence record. Vi­o­lence af­fects one in three women. This week-long motorcycle tour hap­pens ev­ery Novem­ber – White Rib­bon Month. A lead group of rid­ers steers con­voys through towns in the North and South Is­lands, pick­ing up support rid­ers along the way. In many re­gions, lo­cal rid­ers will lead the White Rib­bon ride into their town.

Events are or­gan­ised in ev­ery town, rang­ing from school vis­its, marches and break­fasts, to fash­ion pa­rades, quiz nights and Dads and Lads days. Ev­ery event is an op­por­tu­nity to bring this is­sue into the open and get peo­ple talk­ing.

In 2013, thou­sands came out to meet the rid­ers and hear their im­por­tant mes­sages.

– whi­terib­bon.org.nz

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