Giving Thought: Healing in community

Allison Alexander
Giving Thought
Allison Alexander
Courtesy photo

Mental Health Awareness Month might be drawing to a close, but the need for support and connection continues.

In our region and beyond, mental-health organizations and advocates have repeatedly stated the importance of connection and finding support during times of struggle. For a variety of reasons this can be challenging — including lack of resources, shortage of therapeutic practitioners, finding individual support, others.

At the same time, there are instances when traditional talk therapy modalities might not be the most beneficial or even necessary for individuals. Emerging research supports using a host of alternative modalities for mental health and well-being. A number of local non-profits are exploring community offerings to support mental well-being in times of crisis, periods of healing, and as prevention.

Human beings are wired for connection. We are social by nature, and communities and groups have supported our collective evolution throughout history. Healing in community is common practice in many cultures, and it is finding its way into ours.

Much has been written in recent years about the impact of social isolation from the pandemic and its long-term impact on our collective well-being. By offering opportunities for community members to come together, even if only for an hour, organizations are healing, repairing, and building resilience.

While Pathfinders, a local non-profit, was founded to address the needs of cancer patients, caregivers, and their families, their programming has expanded to offer support around all forms of grief and loss. In addition to connecting individuals with grief counselors and support groups, they have expanded their offerings to include alternative modalities including sound healing and breath work that are open to the entire community. These offerings reduce the barriers present in many traditional healing modalities.

Using high-frequency sounds and vibrations-sound healing is meant to generate a sense of peace, well-being, and healing on a cellular level. The sound-healing sessions allow anyone to relax, surrender and potentially heal. Sound healer Megan DiSabatino offers these sessions as an opportunity “to reconnect with ourselves and to feel our hearts and souls. A time to honor oneself and our loved ones and feel a sense of acceptance.” 

Despite being a modality yet to reach mainstream popularity, sound healing has existed since recorded history began. Evidence suggests that sound healing experiences reduce stress, improve sleep, and can lower blood pressure among other health benefits. By offering this experience to the community, Pathfinders has created opportunities for healing in community that supports healing on multiple levels.  

Aspen Strong, a local, mental-health non-profit, focuses much of its work on supporting mental fitness in our community. Mental fitness focuses on creating habits and using a variety of modalities that can act as protectors when life events shake our sense of stability.

Through collaboration, they offer a wide array of opportunities for community members to work on their mental fitness and well-being. Fly Casting for the Soul, offered in late June with John Dietsch, founder of Fish for Wellness, will focus on the meditative experience of fly casting as a tool for mindfulness. Its repetitive nature has been likened to similar rhythmic processes used in therapy to promote positivity, calm, and focus.

“We call it fishing for a reason because we are always fishing, whether we catch or not: We consider nature and waters as a means of healing,” according to Aspen Strong’s website.

The Art Base in Basalt has also partnered with Aspen Strong for an incredibly popular artist series: Art for Hope in Healing. These sessions frequently sell out almost immediately and are held in person and virtually. The power of art on well-being and mental health has been well documented but is often considered an afterthought. By specifically naming its role in this series, both organizations are elevating its place in the local mental health landscape.

Talk therapy might not be the right modality or accessible for all members of our community. However, knowing that many in our region are impacted by mental illness and struggles, our non-profit community has found new ways to support our community both in times of crisis and in periods of prevention. These offerings foster connection, build resilience, and create a sense of community for the benefit of all.

Allison Alexander is the director of strategic partnerships and communicationsfor the Aspen Community Foundation, which, with the support of its donors, works with non-profits in the Roaring Fork and Colorado River valleys.