Our conversations during our free monthly meet-ups take us in a variety of directions, and in order to ensure we circle back for reference, we post these resource blogs the day (or two) following a meet-up. The intent is to provide a roundup of resources or references from the conversation that night.

Last night, we had some new faces and some inspiring regulars. It was a night of many gifts and many lessons for us all, but there were some recurring themes to make note of.


  • Trauma and control: trauma takes our control from us so it’s natural that survivors and victors of traumatic experience look for control in other areas of their lives. Disordered eating, addictions, compulsive behaviours — all examples of looking for control. Is it possible to seek control over something that is not unhealthy? Yes! We can choose healthier food options, we can choose to exercise and how we exercise. This leads us into the next point…
  • Mindfulness: mindfulness and meditation were constant themes last night, as many participants noted these as being important tools in their toolbox. One of our favourite participants, Susan Rochow of Eckert Centre, explained the notion of mindfulness in this aspect so perfectly:

“It’s really the issue of intentional dissociation.  There is a time to be present with thoughts and feelings, and there’s a time to turn them off.  When we do it via auto-pilot, that’s dissociation – great survival technique, but not particularly “healthy” as a lifelong strategy.  When we do it mindfully, we are saying to ourselves, “this is important and needs my attention, but not right now.”  This is a really important skill to develop….to be able to be with our stuff, or put away our stuff, depending on what we need in that moment.  For example, it’s important for me to be able to contain my stuff when I’m going to work, when I need to sleep, when I’m tired of crying, etc.” — Susan Rochow

  • Forgiveness: this question always gets asked, and it’s the hardest one to answer. There is no secret recipe for getting to forgiveness. Try not to pressure yourself into forgiveness. Forgiveness is a feeling, not an action. Forgiveness can be difficult for many reasons: we haven’t let go of our anger, we want to harm those who’ve harmed us, or simply the notion that forgiving will free our offenders from justice. When battling with being able to forgive, it’s important to note that forgiving does not mean forgetting, nor does it mean justifying the actions of your offender. [Read more]

“Remember, real forgiveness does not make excuses for the other person’s hurtful behaviour. Forgiveness is a decision that you make with your whole self after you have done your emotional work.” — Kim Barthel, from ‘Conversations with a Rattlesnake’ 


  • Spirituality: this is a concept that circled back into the conversation last night. Spirituality often gets mistaken for religion, but spirituality is broader than religion, it’s a simple belief system that helps us connect to ourselves, others and things beyond us.

“To me, spirituality is all about relationship. Most addicts are traumatized in their family of origin situations, so what they really lose faith in is relationship. That’s a setup for addiction. The trauma causes emotional pain for which the best answer is spirituality.” — Theo Fleury from ‘Conversations with a Rattlesnake’


  • EMDR: EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, which is an integrative psychotherapy approach. This type of therapy uses a patient’s own rapid eye movements, to take emotionally charged memories out of traumatic events. Using eye movements and “tricking your brain”, therapists can essentially reprogram the memory of a traumatic event to more positive or neutral emotions. [Learn more about how it works]
  • Eastside Family Centre: this is a walk-in counselling service provided by Woods Homes. If you are looking for help between meetings, this is a great option.


Because our meet-ups are growing each month (which we are so grateful for), we now have the need to provide more structure to these meetings so everyone gets more out of them. Last night we introduced a few rules and ideas for the meetings:

  • Please no cross-talk. We want to be respectful of people’s stories and their time, so please allow others to finish their piece, before adding on.
  • We encourage participants and members of our community to reach out to new joiners and offer to support them or be a mentor of sorts. This type of thing is a successful structure in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) with their ‘sponsor program’.
  • As BFF members, we are at the meetings to facilitate a safe conversation, but a reminder that we are not therapists.
  • If you need someone to talk to between meetings, please reach out to the Calgary Distress Centre or call their 24-hour line at 403-266-HELP.


We are in a dire position. Funds are extremely low and as a result, we have a long waiting list for our Therapy Grant program. Many Calgarians are reaching out, in desperation with their PTSD and mental health symptoms, and BFF is left in the saddest of positions — unable to help.

Because of this our Chair, Amber, has organized an emergency fundraiser to help our organization stay afloat! Trauma comes in all forms and BFF sees it all, and we need your support. On February 24th, you can take part in an incredible evening in support of BFF. Some of Calgary’s most talented artists have stepped up to help us put on a night that will drive incredible conversations and much-needed funds.

At the event, you’ll be able to bid on inspiring art — all inspired by trauma or PTSD. The stories behind these incredible works of art will flood you with emotion. Not to mention, these are breathtaking pieces that anyone would want to have in their homes! In addition to the silent art auction, songwriters and spoken word poets will be performing pieces, inspired by their own trauma experiences.

It is going to be an incredible night. Space is limited, so get your tickets! The event is taking place at the gorgeous new Railyard Brewing. Please note: there is no kitchen on-site, but we will have a small concession open with proceeds to BFF.

Trauma and mental health issues are not necessarily more prevalent now, but the awareness about these issues is certainly growing. According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, 57 per cent of Canadians believe that the stigma associated with mental illness has been reduced compared to five years ago; and 81 per cent of Canadians are more aware of mental health issues compared to five years ago.

In understanding these figures, we know that stigma is slowing decreasing in Canada, and therefore the prevalence of disclosures will likely increase as people feel safer with sharing their stories. People in our lives: friends, family, coworkers, etc. can be dealing with a trauma or mental illness at any time. In order to create the safe and supportive space necessary to receive a disclosure, here’s some tips to prepare yourself with.


  •  Make eye contact, give this person your undivided attention.
  • Point your body towards them (focus on the feet) instead of appearing disinterested by facing another direction. Things like crossed arms can read negatively in another person.
  • Man-to-man, it’s the best to stand beside them, instead of face-on.
  • If you don’t know the trauma or source of the problem (especially if it’s a stranger), avoid physical contact, regardless how tempting it can be to hold that person. For someone who has been through sexual trauma, physical touch can be a trigger if it comes from the wrong person.


  • “Thank you so much for sharing.” This is something you should always say in response, especially if you’re the first to receive this information. It can be an anxiety-inducing feeling to share your story for the first time, so thank them for choosing you.
  • “I’m here for you.” This is an excellent choice for someone that you know, but may be an inappropriate response to someone you don’t know, who you can’t fulfill this commitment to.
  • “You are not alone.” Many times people who are going through a trauma or mental illness can feel like they are the only one in the world going through it. Vulnerability can be a powerful tool, if you can offer someone a “me too” moment, it can be incredibly comforting and freeing for them (and you).
  • “Let me go with you.” Again, this is something you can offer to someone you have a relationship with. Maybe going to their first group therapy meeting or counselling session is too difficult for them, you can offer physical support in certain cases.
  • “What can I do to help you?” We don’t always know what we need from someone else, so being proactive with helping this person identify their needs, can be very helpful.
  • “How are you feeling about that?” Give this person an opportunity to put their emotions into words, this can help with processing and can also help you gauge where they are at.
  • “That must be so tough.” Validate their feelings by expressing your genuine response and recognition of how hard this must be for them. What can be triggering for many, is to respond in a ‘silver lining’ way, by saying things like “well, at least”. Brene Brown has an excellent explanation of empathy responses in this short animated video.
  • “Have you thought about getting help?” While we cannot force someone to seek help, we can certainly help navigate them in the right direction.
  • Nothing. Sometimes just creating a safe space is all someone needs to hear. They obviously have something they need to get off their chest, being there to receive it can be very helpful.

If you or someone you know is struggling to cope with trauma or mental illness, help is available. Contact us on Facebook to get access to resources in your area. If you’re in Alberta, learn more about our Therapy Grant Program, which gives access to high-quality, trauma-specialized therapy for FREE.

— Written by Amber Craig (follow her on Twitter)

Going to see a therapist for the first time, can be understandably nerve-racking, but if you know what to expect it it will likely put you at ease. Understand that taking this first step is something to celebrate, and that progress can happen quicker if you know what to expect from the experience.

Your first session with a therapist will be somewhat of an assessment, an opportunity for the therapist to get to know you, and why you’re there. It’s also an opportunity for you to get a feel for the therapist, and take the first step towards a safe relationship with that person.

Here’s what your first therapy session will likely look like:

  • An understanding of what brought you to therapy: while you will uncover many layers during your therapy, it’s important to clarify a specific reason why you are seeking therapy. Therapists do an amazing job of seeing below the surface to deeper causes, but let them in on what’s on the surface level first.
  • Your current symptoms and feelings: you will be asked by the therapist (and likely in a questionnaire too) about any symptoms you may be experiencing at the time. Things like: insomnia, flashbacks, loss of appetite, etc. Based on whatever type of trauma has led you to therapy, you will be asked a broad variety of questions regarding symptoms and emotions. Be honest with yourself and the therapist, there’s no shame in the safe space of a therapist’s room, and your progress comes quicker when you’re upfront about these types of things.
  • Family tree and relationships: relationships and family origin play a big role in how we’re shaped, so your therapist will likely ask you a variety of questions about your family history and important relationships in your life.
  • Be honest, be open, be ready: since you know now that your first session will largely be an interview (for which there are no wrong answers), try to formulate what your answers will be ahead of time.

Your therapist will probably leave you with something to think about for the next session, but keep in mind that therapy is a process not a quick solution. Be patient with yourself and the process, and you’ll reap the benefits of safe, open conversation.

If you’d like to learn about how you can access free therapy from a trauma therapist, read about our Therapy Grant Program. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more updates and resources.

— Written by Amber Craig
[Follow me on Twitter]