MHA has launched an innovative and very well-received discussion group for men incarcerated in the Rockland County Jail. Co-facilitated by our clinic’s director, Juliet Stiebeck, and clinician Jennifer Conforto, the group draws ten men each week who choose to participate in discussions about their lives, hopes, and dreams. Some of the participants will likely be released shortly while others will be serving long-term sentences upstate.
The topics have included how addiction took control of their decisions, how their resilience has helped them to survive, and what they still have control over while incarcerated.
The participants have been tremendously open with and supportive of each other, which speaks to the safe environment that the facilitators have helped create with the group’s assistance. While Juliet and Jennifer come prepared with a particular topic for discussion, they make it clear that this is the participants’ group and will follow their direction.
Juliet reflects on this new endeavor as one of the most meaningful projects she has taken on at MHA. It helps her to see the participants in the group as people who “want the same things out of life as I do.” Unfortunately, she says, “the drugs took over their lives and they lost all sense of self.” This group is intended to help them reconnect with who they are and envision a better future.
After piloting and learning from this experience, we plan to expand the program and start a group for women.