emotional wellnessMost health issues have deep roots lying in our emotional well-being. Addressing this area of our life complements physical healing and sometimes alone may be sufficient to encourage most critical health improvements.

At Fresh Start we have a number of in-depth workshops focusing  on a variety of emotional well-being issues, such as:

  • Depression
  • Grief
  • Childhood traumas
  • Addictions, including smoking, sugar and others (we do not specialize in addictions that need hospitalization or strict containment in an institution – the person needs to make a personal choice and able to stay substance free while on the program without external control)
  • Sexual or physical abuse
  • Post-traumatic stress
  • Life transitions (divorce, post-partum depression, career change, ageing)
  • Unhealthy behavioural patterns, self-sabotage
  • Issues with relationships, connection and trust
  • Anxiety
  • Stress Management

Emotional Wellness Education at Fresh Start

At Fresh Start, we offer 2-3 times per week workshops dedicated to emotional well-being. Though for people who want to focus on that area it may seem not too many, after extensive testing, we found that this amount is optimum for most guests. Please consider that people come to Fresh Start with various health needs and goals. Additionally, processing time and pauses are involved, as you cannot do too much emotional work at once (or you can get overwhelmed). Emotional wellness is not just “worked on” when in a class room. It is also done through nature therapy, art, nutrition, relaxation body work and many other components.

For people who come to work on their emotional health and habits re-patterning in depth we schedule additional private one-on-one sessions with an emotional wellness specialist, as well as small group classes (certain min number of guests interested may be required for the small group sessions), where you can work on your specific issues more in-depth, laser-focused and in a more private setting. Additionally, once a week we organize group bonding times for the entire group, where program participants have an opportunity to share their stories and to create a deeper connection with each other in a unique and non-intimidating way.

Workshop Topics

(Sample, may differ from the list below)


Facilitator: Addictions and emotional wellness specialist, Professional group facilitator at Cedars at Cobble Hill, an addiction recovery center near Victoria, B.C. Geri has completed 3-year degree as Intermediate Level Somatic Trauma Counsellor with comprehensive understanding of neurobiology.

“Power of Vulnerability”

This talk will be based on Brene Brown’s PHD, L.M.S.W. presentation about the gifts of imperfection.  It is in letting go of who you think you are supposed to be and embracing who you are that creates connection and worthiness in our lives.  We are hardwired neurologically to connect; it is our disconnection and isolation that brings us suffering and pain.

Some of the topics that will be discussed include:

  • What it means to live from a place of whole heartedness and vulnerability.
  • We will find out what is the true meaning of courage, compassion, and connection.
  • We will explore the power of love, belonging, and being enough.
  • We will discuss what gets in the way of belonging, and being enough.
  • What does it mean and can we let go of what other people think of us (addressing people pleasing)

“Addictions Recovery”

This workshop is based on materials by Gabor Mate. Gabor Mate M.D. is a physician and best-selling author whose books have been published in twenty languages internationally. His interests include child development, the mind-body unity in health and illness, and the treatment of addictions. Gabor has worked in palliative care and as a family physician, and for fourteen years practiced addiction medicine in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. His most recent book, In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters With Addiction, won the Hubert Evans Prize for literary non-fiction. He is Adjunct Professor in the Faculty of Criminology, Simon Fraser University.

During the workshop we’ll discuss:

  • How to say no to the destructive aspects of addiction. Recognizing and addressing that we have a problem, and how to come out of denial.
  • The importance of being teachable and receiving support; importance of healthy structure and discipline to overcome addiction.
  • Component on brain illness and attachment of the vulnerable nervous system.
  • Purpose of self-regulation in our own nervous systems.
  • The importance of aftercare and community in healing.
  • Connection between support and health of our nervous system (some explanation on neurophysiology).
  • How to reclaim your lost self and to admit that the addiction has contributed to self-abuse.
  • How to behave in more loving ways towards ourselves, and how to heal our nervous systems and brain from the trauma of living with our own addiction.

“When the Body Says No: Caring for Caregiver”

Based on research and science by Dr. Gabor Mate, it is not accidental who gets sick and who does not. There are certain personality traits, which can unintentionally bring on the dis-ease. In this workshop we’ll learn how to recognize these patterns in ourselves and how they affect our immunological and physiological centers, how to break the cycle of suppression of emotions, drop our unhealthy roles and be more authentically ourselves.

In this workshop we will explore:

  • The mind and body are not separate: what we think and feel, how we take care of ourselves, will reflect in our bodies.
  • Sometimes in early childhood we learn how to be lovable by suppressing our feelings. This has an effect on the emotional centers in the brain, which are connected to the physiological and immunological centers.
  • Our emotional center keeps us alive by motivating us to satisfy our needs. We will explore attachment issues and provide understanding that we as spiritual beings are more than our attachments and roles in life. This understanding and reflection is crucial because this provides us the information of “who will get sick and who will not get sick”.
  • We will explore why it is so important to be kind to ourselves, and which steps to take, in order to create that support on an ongoing basis.

“Understanding Trauma”  & “Post-Traumatic Growth”

Post-traumatic growth is the experience of positive change that occurs as a result of the struggle with highly challenging life crises. It is manifested in a variety of ways, including an increased appreciation for life in general, more meaningful interpersonal relationships, an increased sense of personal strength, changed priorities, and a richer existential and spiritual life.

Although the term is new, the idea that great good can come from great suffering is ancient. We propose a model for understanding the process of post-traumatic growth in which individual characteristics, support and disclosure, and more centrally, significant cognitive processing involving cognitive structures threatened or nullified by the traumatic events, play an

important role. It is also suggested that post-traumatic growth mutually interacts with life wisdom and the development of the life narrative, and that it is an ongoing process, not a static outcome. Post traumatic growth is not opposite of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) but rather a positive psychological growth born out of a stressful or traumatic circumstances in ones life.

Survivors are not only able to manage the trauma they actually thrive because of it.

In the last several decades science has begun to redefine health as a presence of well being and not just the abstinence of disease.

Research states that 90 percent of survivors report one positive change as a result of the trauma. Many people who have suffered significant trauma don’t return to the people they once were. In fact some of them lead healthier lives for having dealt with emotional challenges

Who Experiences Post traumatic growth?

  • Soldiers who fought in combat
  • Parents grieving form the loss of a child
  • Those recovering from substance abuse
  • Survivors of sexual abuse and assault
  • Victims of childhood emotional and abuse and neglect
  • Those who have sustained debilitating physical injury from car accidents
  • With PTG, progress does not come out of the trauma itself, but rather the struggle to cope and deal with the new reality of life after a stressful event.

Research shows that more victims experience growth than develop psychiatric disorders.

Survivors of a traumatic event who were able to turn things around discovered the following benefits of post-traumatic growth:

  • A greater appreciation of life
  • New priorities in life
  • An improvement or renewed relationships with family and friends
  • Increased personal strength
  • More rewarding career path
  • Spiritual growth

In an interview with Dr. David Feldman said, Trauma survivors who experience PTG acknowledge their own sadness, suffering , anger, and grief, and are realistic of what happened to them, adding that they then ask the question, “How can I build the best future possible .“

The chance to be at Fresh start retreat helps to build on those layers of growth as you go through the experience with us!!!!!

“Nervous System and Somatic Experiencing”

The SOMATIC EXPERIENCING technique was developed by Peter Levine PHD, to address the effects of trauma. Levine developed this approach after observing that prey animals, whose lives are routinely threatened in the wild, are able to recover readily by physically releasing the energy they accumulate during stressful events.  Humans on the other hand, often override these natural ways of regulating the nervous system with feelings of shame and pervasive thoughts, judgement and fears.  Somatic experiencing aims to help people move past the place where they might be “stuck “in processing a traumatic event.

During the workshop we will:

  • Watch a video with Peter explaining how trauma gets locked into our nervous system.
  • Learn how our rational brain holds us back from discharging trauma from our nervous systems.
  • Explore using the word dis-regulation instead of trauma which will help us each look at the state of our own nervous system.
  • With the use of handouts, look at healthy nervous system function and the difference of being stuck on and stuck off in nervous system dis-regulation.
  • Work in pairs and facilitate the release of any activation in our nervous systems.  This process will help us discover safe containment and tracking of sensations, emotions and facilitate the release of activated charge in our own nervous systems.

Facilitator/ Guest Speaker: Richard Osler , Internationally known speaker and facilitator at Cedars at Cobble Hill

Self-Discovery Workshops: “Recovering Words”

Being a poet himself, Richard masterfully uses poetry to help people explore their inner world and to discover what’s really deep down in their heart and soul, what are they searching for, what are their most secret dreams and needs. You do not need to be a poet to write a poem, and you do not need to have any experience in poetry to participate in this workshop. It is truly amazing to see how one can bring to the surface something they totally did not expect they would. This is what we see on each workshop with Richard. Being so engaging, fascinating and interactive, this workshop is a must to come to for everyone!

Words from Richard:

Worlds matter; words can change lives in recovery. How is this possible? It is possible because poetry picks the lock of the persona. Thoughts, feelings, images, often buried, appear on the page as if written by someone else’s hand.

Using the extraordinary resource of contemporary poetry the Recovering Words workshops introduce people to poems that speak to their lives, their circumstances. Using poems written by published poets. Poets pay attention. They are experts of our world, of our human hearts. It is their voices that begin the conversation in the recovery centre meeting rooms. Time and distance shrink.

Workshop participants are inspired to write their words. Tell their own stories. And to stand up and share their creative words with each other.

Note: The Emotional Well-being Workshop topics and presenters may change without notice.

Your Health Retreat Will Be a Life-Changing Experience