The lights are dimmed, and strands of twinkling holiday lights fill the space with a warm glow. The room invites conversation; handscripted words -“choice”, “hope”, “acceptance”- decorate the walls, posters from the late 80’s tell the histories of feminist conversations past. The room is unpretentious with its well-worn carpeting and rugged floors, yet inviting. This is a caring, welcoming place. This is the home of WHC’s The Circle.
Meeting with Candace Neufeld, a counsellor at WHC, her energy matches the same accepting, non-judgmental vibe as the group’s meeting space. Neufeld helped create the idea for The Circle, and will be guiding the conversations in the women’s group.
The Circle, a monthly group counselling session at Women’s Health Clinic, serves as a supportive place for all who identify as women to gather together and discuss topics that relate to being well. While Neufeld is present to guide the conversation, the topics come from the diverse women who attend. The group focuses on deconstructing the wellness messages we are exposed to everyday, which sometimes can be overwhelming and unsupportive.
Neufeld believes that conventional ideas and expectations of being well can sometimes actually undermine women’s wellness.
“I think many women feel like they are constantly in pursuit of wellness and that many women feel like they never quite achieve this sense of wellness. This sense of failure isn’t good for us,” said Neufeld.
“To be well is relative. What it looks like for one woman and what it looks like for another can be quite different.”
Neufeld defines being well as an interaction between mind, body and environment. Mainstream messages often don’t account for women’s experiences of poverty and other hardships that get in the way of the wellness they seek.
While The Circle was created to help more women access WHC’s counselling services, the group setting isn’t just about accommodating need, it offers an intentional benefit. Historically, WHC have always valued women getting together to support eachother group work.
Neufeld is inspired by a mentor who would often say that one good group experience is equivalent to 10 individual counselling sessions.
“I think it speaks to what is transformative and uplifting about groups. I think we can validate each other’s stories and authenticate our experiences. Even though each of us has unique aspects to our lives that make us unique, we are not separate, – there are lots of places where our lives overlap.”
“This,” Neufeld continues, “is the beauty of The Circle. Even if we are having a hard time, we can still be healers, have something to offer, and give support. The motivation in creating The Circle is knowing that good things happen when women come together.”
The Circle is a directed discussion group open to all women that takes place on the 3rd Tuesday of each month. A set of reflective questions will be used to guide the discussion. Topics will be women-centred, created by the group, and related to being well. The first discussion group took place on October 20th, from 6:15pm-8:15 at Women’s Health Clinic, main floor of 419 Graham Ave. Registration is requested.
To register, please call Sharon at 204.947.2422 ext. 204. Refreshments will be served and bus tickets available. This group is free.