Stitching the Unspeakable

   Survivors of sexual and gender-based violence– even if they are trapped in war zones or displaced as refugees– deserve a full opportunity to heal from the deep psychological wounds they have suffered. But rarely are long-term psychological services available where rape is a pervasive weapon of war.
Inspired by ancient cultural practices, and validated by current neuro-scientific understandings of trauma, Common Threads Project has developed a unique and effective group recovery program.

   In a safe and supportive environment, women create story cloths to depict experiences that may be hard to express in words. This becomes an entry point for a multi-dimensional therapeutic process. We build local capacity through training and mentoring, build successful interventions and conduct rigorous research. The CTP approach empowers women as they make their journey

From victims to survivors to agents of change

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Empowering women as they make their journey from victims to survivors to agents of change

Capacity Building

We partner with local organizations to adapt and implement CTP. We provide an 80 hour training course, and ongoing supervision and mentoring.

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CTP develops partnerships with local organizations so that we can collaborate together to adapt the CTP model to meet community needs.
Our 80 hour experiential training course prepares local practitioners to conduct the program.  After completion of the course, the facilitators lead women’s circles in teams.  Common Threads Project continues to mentor, supervise and support the staff as they lead the women’s healing circles.


Intervention is comprised of three phases.

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Phase I consists of 14 weeks of workshops. During this time, the women’s healing circle creates emotional safety, teaches skills for stabilization and techniques for managing symptoms, provides psycho-education about trauma, and engages in art therapy activities. As part of phase I, women design and sew story cloths and begin to speak to each other about the experiences they depict.
Phase II sees a deepening of the clinical work during the next six months of sessions. The participants discuss common themes that have surfaced in their story cloths such as loss, grief, self-blame, survivor guilt, self-esteem, etc. They continue to consolidate the gains that began in Phase I. They practice leadership skills so that increasingly they can take on responsibility for facilitating the circle.
By Phase III, the participants create their own self-directed independent support group. They set goals and activities of their own choosing, and may decide to pursue income generating work, advocacy, in addition to sustaining their support network.


To investigate the effectiveness of our programs, we are conducting rigorous pilot studies.

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Using both quantitative and qualitative methods, Common Threads Project tracks well-being, mental health symptoms, coping capacities, community cohesion, and changes in attitudes about gender roles and violence against women among both participants and a control group before the intervention, and after each phase of the program. In addition, independent evaluators conduct in-depth interviews of participants in order to understand their experience of the program.
The findings demonstrate that CTP is an effective approach to support women in their healing process following experiences of sexual and gender based violence in the context of mass conflict and displacement.