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- Sex Addiction Survey Results by CandleX
In Dec 2022, we sent out a survey to gather information on sex addiction in China amongst the international community. Until 22nd Jan, we have received 53 responses, in which 49 are valid, from those who identified themselves as struggling with sex addiction. In the meantime, we are calling for applicants to join our sex addiction recovery group. To understand what sex addiction is, check out our article here. Let’s look at the results based on 49 responses. Gender The majority of our responses come from men, 86% compared to from female of 14%. This is in line with the academic research findings in many papers that the majority of individuals that struggle with sex addiction are men. Age 52% of the responses come from people between the age of 18 to 40. Limitation: this does not reflect the make-up of sex addiction people. It is possible that those who were willing to fill out the questionnaire, or those the survey reached are people who are under 40. This make-up of the active international community members tend to be those who are below 50 years old. Relationship status About half of the responds are in a committed relationship, while 35% are single. Severity of self-assessed addiction level We asked people to rate their level of addiction from 1-10, 1 being no addiction and 10 of being the worst addiction they could imagine. On average, it’s 7 that people feel like they are addicted to sex. 85% of the respondents rate their addiction at and above level 6. Limitation: self-assessment is subjective. Everyone’s understanding of what each level means could differ. Length of sex addiction The average duration of their addiction that respondents filled out is 11 years. This could be due to the shame and lack of social and professional support. Some respondents found it difficult to know the length. It could be due to the lack of awareness on the onset, and the debatable line (for self-assessing) when it’s healthy sex and when it becomes an addiction. We want to thank our partners for promoting the survey, Date Night China, Youman Potential, BARE, Fun Beijing, Men are Humans Too, and Hopelessly Tatiana.
- Sign Up | Sex Addiction Recovery Group
Sex addiction is a topic that is not yet openly discussed in the international community here in China. This can be attributed to low awareness, and lack of support, which has in turn led to those who struggle with sex addiction finding it even harder to recover. In order to improve mental health in this domain, in 2023, CandleX initiated Sex Addiction Recovery Project, supported by our partners including Date Night China, Youman Potential, BARE, Fun Beijing, Men are Humans Too, and Hopelessly Tatiana. The project has three elements: survey and understanding of the needs in China, psychoeducation and psychosocial support. In Jan 2023, this month, we have received dozens of responses to our survey from people who opened up to us about their sex addiction, and we will share the result in the upcoming weeks. As of now, we are inviting you to join the Sex Addiction Recovery Group, that will run for 6 weeks starting in mid-February 2023 online for people who are currently struggling with sex addiction. Check out our last article on: what is sex addiction? What is a recovery group? CandleX Sex Addiction Recovery Group will be facilitated by Xiaojie Qin, a psychotherapist and director of CandleX. Through psychoeducation, and facilitated peer support, the group will go through a process of learning, reflection, discussion on sex addiction, your own story sharing and learning of self-management tools to start or continue the recovery. Please note that the relationship between you and the facilitator does not constitute a therapy relationship. The facilitator provides psychoeducation and facilitate the process to ensure group rules are followed and dynamics are managed so the process is non-judgmental, safe, confidential and equal to all members. What will be covered in the 6-week? During six weeks, you will Get to know each other, and develop authentic connections with others Deepen your understanding of what is sex addiction. We will use a sex addiction self-screening tool, and you can track your progress along the way. Share personal stories. look at your experiences in relation to others, what’s the same and what’s different. Understand what format of addiction yours takes place, its frequency and severity. review how it has changed your relationships with yourself, family and friends, and your intimate relationships. Review the onset of addiction, and its progression, barriers to recover in the past and relapses. Develop an awareness of your desires, motivation. Most importantly, identify your own resources and strengths. Learn to regulate emotions through building up emotional tolerance and behavioral changes. You will learn tools that used in psychotherapy, drawing from cognitive behavior therapy, EMDR, Art therapy, Narrative therapy. Develop further steps for recovery and gain access to local resources for your continued healing. There might be homework between sessions as reading chapters of a book, or journaling. All of what will be covered is subjective to change depending on the progress of learning and recovery as well as group preferences. Key Information Participants: adults (18+) who are currently struggling with sex addiction. Gender: mixed group including men and women (see FAQ section for other possibilities) Date: every Wednesday evening, 15th, 22nd Feb, 1st 8th, 15th, 22nd 29th Mar 2023 Time : 19:30-21:00 Via online platform Voov (腾讯会议) Language: English Max number: 8 people each session Fee: 900rmb (6 sessions, no refund) Registration: add summer on Wechat Recovery Group coordinator will reach out via private message to confirm your registration. Group Principles We shall not be held responsible for group member’s safety. If you are experiencing mental illness and are engaging in self-harm or experiencing suicidal ideations, you need to seek clinical mental health treatment. You will find useful information on our crisis page All information shared with the group is confidential. Other rules and key information will be listed in the consent form, which requires your signature as a perquisition to participate. If you have any concerns or feedback of the support group, we welcome you to let us know by emailing it to email@example.com . About the Facilitator Frequently Asked Questions I cannot attend this time. Will there be another round? We are not sure given that this is a semi-pro bono service from Xiaojie. We strongly encourage you to make time for this one as we cannot guarantee if the next one will be available or if the fee will stay the same. I don’t feel comfortable being in a mix group. Should I still apply? Although both men and women are encouraged to apply, there is a chance that it turns out to be a single gender group. We encourage you to apply, and you can withdraw from it if it turns out to be a mixed gender group. I am worried that the group will be dominated by other people, or others will enforce their ideas and opinions on me. Am I too worried? These are possible when the group is not facilitated well. The facilitator Xiaojie has over a decade of experiences with group work. She’s a positive parenting trainer, facilitated CandleX’s peer support group for 5 years, developed trainings and provide them to facilitators of different levels, and she provided group therapy to abusive relationship recovery groups. Xiaojie would manage any situations that could harm the group to ensure safety, confidentiality and emotional wellbeing of the members. If you have any concerns or feedback during the process, you can also email her directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org CandleX’s other resources One on One Support with a mental health professional: if you are looking for information about mental health treatments or have a close friend or family member who is living with a mental health condition like depression or anxiety and you want to support them, our Pre-treatment Guidance Program is perfect for that. Mental Health Peer Support Group: it’s an open generic group for people with different mental health issues to attend at any time. Sex Addiction Recovery Project is supported by our awareness raising partners: Date Night China, Youman Potential, BARE, Fun Beijing, Men are Humans Too, and Hopelessly Tatiana.
- What is sex addiction?
Is sex addiction a real thing? although there are still many debates on this even within the academic and clinical mental health field, it is a real thing. ICD-11, International Classification of Diseases, added ‘Complusive Sexual Behaviour disorder’ into its newest edition in 2018. Check out our video on ‘what is sex addiction?’ by Xiaojie Qin, a psychotherapist and director of CandleX. Starting in Dec 2022, at CandleX, we have been exploring possible ways to support people with sex addiction. We sent out a survey for people who are aware of their addiction to fill out and received many responses that indicates that there’s a great need for support. The survey is still open, we would love to hear from you. In the next few months of 2023, we will start a series of activities online and offline in China with the support of our awareness raising partners including Date Night China, Youman Potential, BARE, Fun Beijing, Men are Humans Too, and Hopelessly Tatiana. In the next few months, we’ll start community mobilization, and potentially start a psychosocial recovery group for people with sex addiction. To keep in touch with us, you can also join our CandleX’s WeChat group by adding our WeChat coordinator on it. We’d like to thank our partners, Date Night China, Youman Potential, BARE, Fun Beijing, Men are Humans Too, and Hopelessly Tatiana for raising awareness on sex addiction with us.
- VOLUNTEER APPRECIATION POST
#InvisibleHeroes at CandleX Nourouz, Mental Health Peer Support Group Coordinator
- Sign Up | Mental Health Peer Support Group in Beijing
Moving to a new country, going through a breakup, losing a job, or living with mental conditions are very challenging. Yet, there’s no reason to suffer alone when one can choose to join hands with others and let the power of connection and group support encourage and heal us. In the absence of such social support in Beijing, CandleX established the peer support group in October, 2015, with the goal to provide psychosocial support to Beijing community. It provides a safe and supportive environment for people living in and out of Beijing to share personal thoughts and experiences in small, confidential gatherings. To understand this project, or if you’d like to read our 1st, 2nd and 3rd year support group review, please visit https://www.candlex.cn/mental-health-support-group (or click on “read more”). NOTE: If you are looking for information about mental health treatments or have a close friend or family member who is living with a mental health condition like depression or anxiety and you want to support them, our Pre-treatment Guidance Program is perfect for that. Please read here and sign up accordingly. Key Information Peer support group Participants: Our support groups are for people living with mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety or suicide ideation. The support group is especially effective for newcomers who are in situations of lack of social support, experiencing shame and guilt of having depression or people who present an elevated risk of mental illness. Date: every second and fourth Tuesday (both offline by default) Time : 19:30-21:00 Location: near dongdaqiao (details will be communicated via a confirmation email after 4 pm, the day before each meeting) Language: English Max number: 7 people each session Fee: 50rmb or 30rmb (income ≤6000rmb/month) Registration via scanning QR code, or click on https://yoopay.cn/event/05475102 Support Group coordinator will reach out via private message to confirm your registration after screening and payment. Content and Approach: During the meeting, the core elements are as follow: Share our stories and feelings, and let others help you and give you emotional support when dealing with the difficult emotions alone. Help each other recognize the importance of tending to and promoting our own self-care The meeting is generally conducted in talking and sharing, but we offer other approaches to make sure that we feel relaxed and comfortable to share, including some guided meditation, breathing exercises, etc. There is one facilitator to throughout the session, monitor the progress of each session and facilitate group interactions. Keep in touch with each other, as we have a WeChat group (that you may join after attending at least one meeting) where you would be informed of Beijing community mental health events, other information that might be helpful for your recovery. Peer Group Principles We shall not be held responsible for group member’s safety. We are all peers. There are no professionals in this group. CandleX will not be responsible for people engaging in self-harm or suicidal ideations. By signing up to the peer support group, I understand and agree to release CandleX and its staff or volunteers from any or all liability connected to my own participation, including but not limited to any forms of self-harm or suicide. If you are in a crisis, please seek a professional immediately at the same time. Your will find useful information on our crisis page, visit: https://www.candlex.cn/crisis-support All information shared with the group is confidential. All new participants will need to register first for eligibility screening. no graphic description of suicide, self-harm and death as it may trigger some of the attendees. Please note that this is a Peer Support Group, there will be no professional therapists attending. If you have any concerns or feedback of the support group, we welcome you to let us know by emailing it to email@example.com . The concern would be handled sensitively directly by CandleX’s director.
- Talking about suicide: What I learned | Event Review
M, attended the panel discussion event on suicide. She shared her own experiences and reflection on this topic . If you didn’t get a chance to attend, you can still learn the key points from her key takeaways. For psychoeducation content accuracy, I, a certified psychotherapist, have reviewed it. Xiaojie Psychotherapy, Director of CandleX Author: M (panel discussion attendee) Time: Sep 2022 Supporting Survivors of Suicide Loss To support someone who is a survivor of suicide loss, it’s important to have empathy, and for them to be able to trust you. It’s also important to be honest. Additionally, while people are encouraged to ask their friends and family if they are suicidal, sometimes, when we are aware that someone knows someone else who died by suicide, we may feel uncomfortable or unsure what to ask, about the person who died or the situation. But as one of the mental health experts pointed out, in these situations, sometimes not asking anything is a good place to start. Sometimes simply sitting with them, or being with them, and allowing them the safety to feel their feelings, is a good choice. It’s important to provide people an environment in which they feel safe and listened to, and where their feelings can be expressed safely. Survivors tend to grieve in isolation, so providing a connection is incredibly valuable. Supporting Someone Dealing With Suicidal Ideation One of the focal points of the night was asking and answering the question “How can we support someone dealing with suicidal ideation?” This question was posed by the moderator and returned to several times. According to the mental health experts on the panel, the following are all good things to remember: Listen to the person and let them tell you what they are feeling and what they need. Validate their feelings. Allow them a space to feel how they feel. Don’t try to fix their problems. Consider the relationship you have with the person (are they family? a close friend? a coworker?) and allow that to guide your response. Provide resources such as hotline numbers or therapy information. Ask the person what they need and how you can help or support them. Accept and acknowledge them where they are. All of these points are important, because otherwise there is the possibility that the person will not continue to have the conversation with you because in addition to dealing with their own feelings, they also have to worry about their relationship with you or the role you take in that relationship. Event photo credit: Eric The mental health experts also discussed the Safety Plan, which I think is an invaluable tool. Safety Plan 1. Who are your people? Who are the important people in your life, your friends? Those who really uplift you? Even one person you can think of who can be a safe place or a trusted person to confide in and look to for strength and support. 2. Where is the hope? Is there anything, no matter how small, that you can hold on to? What can you look forward to, that gives you hope? 3. Emergency numbers What Support Do People Who Have Struggled With Suicidal Ideation Wish They Had Gotten? At a certain point during the event, the panelists who brought some kind of personal experience to the discussion were also asked what they wish others had done to support them when they needed it. They wished they had been encouraged to get help or given some sort of practical guidance. They wished their feelings had been acknowledged. They wished there had been a lack of judgment. They also stressed the need to commend the bravery of the person who comes forward about their struggle with suicidal ideation. Given the stigma, the shame, the fear, and the sheer difficulty of talking about the issue, it takes a great deal to make that step to reach out. The person who does is doing so at great effort and potentially great cost. The value of support groups was also stressed, as these spaces can allow survivors to talk about their experiences and express their feelings, and know that they are not alone in what they are and have been going through. CandleX provides peer support group twice a month, and you can sign up here. Support group link Event photo What If There Are No Signs? Much of the conversation of the night centered on what to do, and how to help, when we know the people in our lives are struggling, either with suicidal ideation, or as survivors of suicide loss. But I kept thinking to myself: What about when we don’t know? One of the panelists with personal experience voiced what is a common experience of those who are survivors of suicide loss: They didn’t know. There were no signs of what their loved one was going through. While there will never be a perfect answer, or a 100% effective solution for preventing suicide, I think all of the advice and information given during the panel can serve as valuable information even when there aren’t signs, because all of it lays out an ideal way to treat people generally, suicidal or not. Over the discussion I noticed common threads in the stories of the panelists. There was often no discussion of or dealing with feelings and emotions in their families or friend circles. They had intense feelings of guilt and shame, and suffered from an acute lack of feeling of self-worth. All of the panelists discussed the difficulty of talking about how they felt. For some of them, these things were major factors in what could be described as a spiral towards greater intention of suicide. I have to wonder how many lives can be saved if all of us are able to talk, to reach out for help, to feel supported, valued and believed, and given the chance to be accepted for who we are. The Suicide Awareness Panel was so much more than simply a panel. It was a personal reawakening to my own history of struggle with mental health issues. It was a small but important step toward creating a better and more open society capable of supporting those suffering. It was an invaluable resource for saving lives. At the end of the night, I left the panel more informed than I had been coming in, more in tune to my own place in a connected world, and more committed than ever to keeping such an important and urgent conversation going.
- Suicide Awareness: My Reflections | Community Writing
In Sep 2022, I invited M to attend the suicide prevention panel event that I was going to attend as a panel guest, with the intention to have an article written about the key learnings from the panel discussion. M has been in China for more than 8 years, and comes from the US. I would never have known her own experiences and reflections on this topic if I had not invited her to come to this event. I want to thank her for her bravery and openness to share her story, which becomes part of our join our September Suicide Awareness Raising Month. It is normal to feel uncomfortable and tense when talking, reading, hearing about suicide topics. But once they are felt, heard, and accepted as part of our joined human experiences, we can heal and recover a bit better on the other side. Xiaojie Qin Psychotherapist, Director of CandleX Author: M (Anonymous Beijing Community Member) Time: September 2022 A few years into my college experience my mental health took a nosedive and I was forced to take time off from school. Looking back, it’s pretty clear that a lot of the issues I was struggling with (and their contributing factors) had actually had their inception many years earlier, but it was in college that everything fell apart. Initially, after leaving school, I moved back home with my parents, and it was there, at that time, that I had my first experience with suicidal ideation. The World Health Organization defines suicidal ideation as “thoughts, ideas, or ruminations about the possibility of ending one's life, ranging from thinking that one would be better off dead to formulation of elaborate plans .” In my case, I have experienced instances of this kind of thinking at different times for more than a decade, sometimes more intensely than at other times, sometimes more frequently than at other times. Thirteen years on from that first instance my life is in a much better place. I have been in therapy for years, I feel I have true friends and strong personal connections that nourish and support me in a number of ways, I am not in a precarious employment position, and at the moment things are going fairly well. Things could always be better, of course, and no day is absolutely perfect, but to be honest, my own personal experience with suicidal ideation has not really come to mind for a while. So, that’s great and all, but why the long preamble? When I first heard about the Suicide Awareness Panel discussion taking place on September 6 and hosted by Hopelessly Tatiana and moderated by Helena from BARE, I thought it sounded like an interesting event for a good cause. With my own history of depression, the de-stigmatization of mental health issues has long been personally important to me. But that was essentially as far as I got in my thinking before the panel—other, deeper aspects of my personal mental health history just did not come to mind. The event began with the moderator onstage with the panelists. There was a full audience in attendance. The moderator was very intentional about laying down ground rules for the night, which I appreciated. It was clear to me that this topic was going to be handled in a compassionate and respectful way, and any trepidation I may have felt beforehand of exactly how the conversation would be handled, was alleviated. The panel portion of the night began with panelists discussing a range of topics, including their own feelings around suicide, whether the suicide of someone close to them or their own attempt. Deeply personal stories were shared, some of which left me and much of the audience in tears. There were mental health professionals present on the panel as well, and they provided valuable expert experience dealing with suicide and suicidal ideation. Not far into the discussion it hit me that this was the first time I had ever seen the topic of suicide and suicidal ideation discussed so openly, in this kind of forum. Event Photo, Credit: Eric I’m not exactly sure what I expected to get out of attending the panel. I think I thought it would be a good, interesting event to attend. I think I had externalized my interest in the topic, along with any connection I may have felt. I definitely hadn’t expected to be as affected as I ended up being. Sitting in the audience, a lot of memories came back to me, things I hadn’t thought about in a long time. Particular times when I had felt or possibly was close to giving up. One last-minute, fortuitous intervention in particular. Uncomfortable memories, however far away they seemed now. It was sobering to be reminded that I was more intimately connected with the topic of suicide and suicidal ideation than I had been prepared to admit when I first walked in to the event space and took my seat. The night’s discussion also prompted me to remember with sadness the struggles of people in my life who had had even closer encounters with the topic than I had. A friend from middle and high school who had one time later on told our little ragtag group of friends that if it hadn’t been for our friendship she might not have survived. A former boyfriend who in high school had lost his older brother to suicide and who later in college had made his own attempt. It’s not that I was shocked, necessarily, by what I remembered. But I wondered how I could have not realized the topic was closer to my own life. I realized that, even though the topic had been out of my mind and I was doing well, it was and continues to be a pressing issue for so many. The stories and feelings and pain shared on that stage reminded me that for so many people, suicide is not simply a “topic” they can disengage or disentangle themselves from. It is with them every day. And I think that is really an important takeaway: Suicide is something that, in some way or another, is closer than we think. Certainly for those of us who experience suicidal thoughts and ideation, and for those of us suffering from the loss of a dear one to suicide. But suicide is also close for those of us who don’t. We may never have had a suicidal thought, but it is quite possible that people we know and love have. Perhaps we don’t personally know anyone who has ended their life, but we know people who have lost loved ones to suicide, and who are struggling every day in silence and isolation. Whatever the specific circumstances, this issue is something that, while immensely difficult to discuss, must be discussed, must be de-stigmatized. Over the years, we have published other personal stories on this topic. You can read them here: In the Moment of Blur | Sam’s Story with Depression The Fine Line between Life and Death l Xiaojie’s poem Making Up for My Existence | Depression Stories Michael’s Journey to Alcoholism Recovery | My Stories, My Emotions In the next article, we will publish the key learnings from the panel discussion. References 1: ICD-11 for Mortality and Morbidity statistics
- Suicide Awareness Raising Sep
September 10th is the World Suicide Prevention Day. In response to that, CandleX makes this September month a suicide awareness raising month. Check out the video to see what we are doing this month, and know where resources are available in China.
- Chapter 2: In Dance, I Expanded | My Story With Swing Dance
“You’ve loved dancing since you were a little girl,” my mom said to me one time. “There was a time when you always came home much later than the other kindergarten kids. One day, I went to see what you were doing on the way and saw you moving three steps forwards and two steps back. You were dancing on your own on the way home.” Read Chapter 1 to learn about my dancing life before swing dance and how I met swing dance in 2010. Author: Xiaojie Qin Date: 2022 After I moved back to Beijing in 2011, I continued to go to swing dance parties. My Monday evening routine back then was to come home, rest, have dinner, dress up and go to swing dance. I often was one of the last few to leave. There were no other dancing nights, so every good dancer in town would show up at CD Blues on Monday evenings. That same year, I went to Swing Time Ball for the first time. It might even have been the first one ever, although I can not be sure. I didn’t know Swing Time Ball would eventually become the biggest annual swing dance event in China and internationally reputable a few years later. For me, that December night was just a night where we had a special dance event for all the dancers that we all knew in town. There were performances, dance competitions, and what was just a social dance. Now, looking at some old videos, I realize we even had a band at the ball! I joined a Jack and Jill competition, and back then it was all nanshen (男神, the very popular lead dancers) that were in the line up! Swing Time Ball 2011 Beijing The next year, in 2012, I went to Great Wall Swingout, which was happening for the first time Beijing. From then on, there have been a lot of swing dance trips! I’ve gotten to dance at the best annual party in the country, and with the best and most enthusiastic dancers around the world in many events, including CSI in Korea (2014), Blues Weekend in Boston (2015), Big Bang in Bangkok (2016), and Herräng Dance Camp in Sweden (2019). Of course, I attended Swing Time Ball annually as well. What a blessing it is to be able to dance, be inspired, be free and to feel deeply connected with the world! CSI Korea, 2014 Blues Weekend, Boston, 2015 China Lindy Hop Championship, 2015 Great Wall Swing Out, 2015 Great Wall Swingout, 2016 Oh, looking back on those times, it seems like life was all good then! But, not quite! Those were the years that I always had a full calendar, being in my 20s and early 30s, throughout which I was so caught up in “trying to figure out my life.” I thank swing dance for creating a space for my mind to calm down, and for my goals and confusion to be put on the shelf. In many ways, swing dance was my anti-depressant during times that I struggled with depression. When the music was playing and I was not haunted by my thoughts, I was okay. Thankfully, I always get through depression one way or another—I never stopped dancing! Certainly I dance more when I want to connect with children. If you give them a chance, children really show you how to have fun in life. In dancing we are all equals, and we can play and laugh together. Back when I had a job that took me to many rural areas in China, I was thrilled to just hang out with the kids. I would always show them some swing dance moves. It made so many people happy, just kicking our legs and turning our hips. And just like that, a decade has gone by. These trips, events and people have given me so much joy, simplicity and inspiration that I feel greatly expanded.
- A Snapshot of Project A’s Group Therapy | The Therapist’s View
From March to April 2022, Project A (independent of CandleX) held its second round of in-person group therapy for women who were in abusive relationships. In this round, group therapy lasted 6 weeks. Each session was 2 hours long, meaning participants spent a total of 12 hours together in the sessions. In addition, each participant was offered the chance to have supplemental individual sessions with the therapist. The therapy was led by Xiaojie Qin, a certified psychotherapist/counselor in China and Australia, and the head of programs at Project A. Megan Purvis, head of operations, provided on-site support during the sessions. We want to present our review of this round from the therapist’s point of view to give you a snap shot of how group therapy works, and the benefits or challenges that come with it. Special note: Consent was gained from all participants. We want to thank all participants for their kindness and bravery for allowing us to publish this article, which we hope will encourage more women (and men) to seek professional help. Author: Xiaojie Qin Time: April 2022 Megan and I laid out 6 chairs, 5 of them were for the therapy participants, a group of women who were in abusive relationships. I love group therapy because it builds authentic connections between people, which is the real antidote of feeling separated and alone in their own traumatic experiences. I am also a firm believer that each one of us is wise and can offer something to the world. By creating a group setting, it allows the participants to offer their support and wisdom to each other, which is really empowering for them in return. I looked at the chairs in the room and felt curious, excited, a little restless and joyous that finally our second round of therapy was about to start in 30 minutes. Then they came in, five ladies in their 20-40s, each from different countries, and sat down. We were going to spend six Sunday afternoons together and that day the journey began to unfold itself. The first session is always about getting to know each other, setting group rules, hearing everyone’s stories that brought them there, and agreeing on group goals. The difficult part was talking about their own experiences with abuse, ranging from physical abuse, emotional abuse, and sexual abuse in their intimate relationship, to when they were growing up in a violent home. Some ran away from their partners as soon as they had a chance, without time to pack up. “I know he would have killed me if I stayed,” one participant said. Some of them sleep with a weapon by their beds even now. The first session was overwhelming, but was also a great opportunity to install emotional regulation skills in SOS situations. I like the Chinese word wei ji, opportunity in crisis. I led the group to practice different skills as a breather between sharings. For example, I asked them to name different colors, guided them in breathing exercises, muscle relaxation exercises, body tapping and bi-lateral eye movement. These exercises invite the peaceful sensations back into the body and help calm down from intense feelings brought up by their traumatic memories. We had advised them to plan something fun or comforting after the session, so their bodies and minds could recover. We had one participant reporting that she had a few days of feeling hopeless and depressed after the first session. We knew this could happen to some people when their trauma was not properly dealt with. I was very glad to see her back in our sessions, and making progress along the way. That’s persistence and courage, which would help her to live a more fulfilled life down the road. Sometimes people ask me if it’s too much to take in this negative information. I always say it’s the subtle positives in their traumatic stories that I saw which confirms my decision to stay a therapist on a daily basis. I also take it as a privilege that I get to point that out to them, so they start to notice in their mind and their heart that ‘I’ve got this’! Then we take it from there. One participant got silent when we stayed with a moment back in her childhood where her mom was being beaten by her stepdad. “I could not do anything to help my mom when my dad was beating her. She asked me to go to my room, but I stayed”. “Why did you stay and watch?” I asked.” I don’t know. he would hurt her less badly if he knew I was watching. ”She said. I stayed there and said, “You were three years old. You couldn’t do much. But you being there, by staying, did make a difference. Then came the magical silence. That’s when our mind and heart integrate with one another. “And although I didn’t know it at the time but me staying is most probably what saved her life- him knowing I was watching. ”She paused and tears ran down her face. “I matter.” She said this beautiful thing that I know was so rarely felt in her heart. In that moment, she saw her own worthiness and strength. As I primarily used mindfulness-based CBT in the group session, we continued to work on unpacking important moments in life. As we progressed, participants were given the opportunity to unpack for each other, enhancing their active listening skills and self-awareness. In this process, it became clear where the weaknesses are for each one of them. For one participant, it is the disconnection with body sensations. As that was pointed out in our session, homework was given to work on body awareness for that week. She came back reporting that she actually noticed how her body reacts to stress, and started to develop intentional more effective responses to stressful situations. She came back to the session saying that she felt more relaxed, and was feeling great that week. This is a young lady who grew up with a difficult dad that showed symptoms of dissociative identity disorder, and she deals with long term sleep problems, including frequent nightmares, difficulties falling to sleep, etc. People who have endured big trauma can become triggered very easily. In our session, as a group goal, we were working on emotional regulation, which is a gigantic skill to master. A baby step is to develop curiosity when dealing with inter-personal conflicts. We went through the skills of pausing, asking questions, and engage in active listening that make up the development of curiosity. It was really great to see one participant continued to use that skill and making progress in her current relationships over the course of six weeks, every time we had our group check-in. The weekly check-ins were one of my favorite parts of each session. I tend to give my clients “homework”, which would help them to continue to exercise their brain ‘muscles’ during the week. It also helps me to know whether we need to add another skill, or work on fine-tuning the current skills. The check-ins also help me to know the progress we are making as a group towards our goals. We always heard someone was making progress, and it inspired the group to continue to use the skills they learned in the sessions. They’d also share what worked for them in their recovery. Developing a vision is a tool that’s common for us to tap into positive neural networks. We had one participant who has gone a long way in her own recovery. She shared the tools she has been using that she found helpful. One of them is visualization. “Now, everything that I’ve ever wanted and envisioned is here except (censored for privacy reasons).” This is more powerful than me as a therapist sharing a skill. This is a testimony. After we finished our program, I was happy to read some feedback from one participant. She wrote, “I believe Xiaojie directed the sessions to make them less about her as a therapist and more about us as active participants in the process of recovery. We were encouraged to practice active listening while others were unpacking, and then report on their body sensations, thoughts, emotions and beliefs that we noticed in that narrative. We even had a chance to sketch it out in a diagram. What I mean by this is that this program is not for us to passively receive information but to actively participate in the creation of material.” This is also the power of group therapy of actively engaging participants to interact with one another. While another advantage of group therapy is cost-effectiveness in psychoeducation, it’s also good for participants to develop the skills they need to have healthier social interactions. People with trauma often need more skills on being assertive. Instead of having five separate individual sessions, we could talk about and practice assertiveness in one group session. This allows us to not only better allocate the funding to help more people, but also offer participants the chance to work on interpersonal skills. Similar to our first round, this group members also are on different levels in the spectrum of being passive and aggressive. We had one participant, very in touch with her emotions, behaviors and thoughts, come to the realization in our third session that she might be on the aggressive spectrum when dealing with conflict of interests and needs with friends and partners. It was very interesting to see each person map themselves out in sub-categories of aggressive or passive behaviors in terms of frequency and intensity. We had two participants who struggle with “asking for help” for two different reasons. The passive one stems from the difficulty to express their needs and opinions, and the aggressive one stems from the fear of appearing to be weak. By being in the group, it was so clear how different each person is. By talking about their stories and unpacking their critical moments, it puts their own stories in a picture that’s bigger than them too. We ended the sessions by looking back on the journey we had by being honest, vulnerable and strong together for six weeks. “It was foggy to me when I recalled the image of what's ahead of me six weeks ago. Now, I closed my eyes, and that image of mountain ahead of me became clear, and I have this grand 180 degree view.” I could picture that as she was saying it. It brought a smile to my face when I heard that. I, being the therapist, looking at them in the circle in our last session, seeing their shoulders relaxed, smiles on their faces, had a sense of accomplishment and joy. I felt like I was sitting in the garden with sunlight and flowers. So much ease, growth and inspiration unfolded during our time together. This is by no means an end to any recovery, but a start for some, a continuation for others. As for Megan and I, I look forward to welcoming the next group onto this journey in a few months. We encourage you to share this article with other women who were in abusive relationship to apply for our next round of therapy. We also encourage you to donate to Project A, which provides funding to make therapy possible for people who have lived through abusive relationships. Please find our contact information below.
- Press | CandleX Interviewed on ABC News Australia
On Monday, 28th March 2022, Qin Xiaojie, Founder and Director of CandleX joined Jinghua Qian, China Tonight journalist, in an interview for ABC News Australia on the topic of how the attitudes towards mental health have changed within the communities in China under the influence of the CoVID-19 pandemic. Xiaojie shared her observation of how in recent years, the tendency of Chinese people to refrain from discussing the bad things or presumably shameful aspects of their lives is shifting and they are making room for practices that enable them to share what’s going on in their lives. According to statistics, the rate of suicide in China has fallen significantly over the past decades and along with support from the government, the public health sector has also been equipped and revamped to cater to the efficient provision of various physical and mental health services. However, there are still major obstacles as far as the provision of reliable mental health services is concerned. Amidst all the limiting factors, the nationwide shortage of experienced mental health professionals in the field stands poses the biggest challenge; for every 100,000 people, there are only 2.2 psychiatrists and this has led to increased inaccessibility of mental health care by a large percentage of the population. Please follow the link for the full story: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lNTOWB5qyJI