Altered Books, Altered Self-Compassion

Guest Blog by Anne Sutton, MA LPC, HAVEN – Counseling Program

“Self-compassion is extending compassion to one’s self in instances of perceived inadequacy, failure, or general suffering.” – Dr. Kristen Neff, author of Self-Compassion

Self-Compassion as a daily practice can be very difficult for survivors of intimate partner violence and sexual violence. Trauma alters our inner self-talk, increasing our critical voices and muting our loving compassionate voices. The negative voice can become so strong it becomes a bully. It bellows and overwhelms our quieter, loving voices.

art1 art2Survivors’ representations of the “inner bully,” their negative self-talk

It is important to train our compassionate self because that’s the part of us that is most helpful. If we only listen to the anxious/angry/self-critical part of ourselves, we get a biased view.

We all want to be more loving to ourselves but HOW? What are the tools? What can help us to remember to have self-compassion for ourselves? What can help us quiet our inner bully?

The group members in HAVEN’S on going trauma support group, Surviving and Thriving through Trauma began a lengthy group project focused on increasing feelings of self-compassion and developing a daily self-compassion practice. Each group member developed a personal handbook of self-compassion by creating an Altered Book.


Four of the group members with their completed Altered Books. 

Altered books are an art therapy technique that takes an old hard cover book, destroys it and transforms it into something completely different, something amazingly beautiful and personal.




The group started on this project in early May, 2016 and had a final celebration of their hard work in September. The women started by destroying the original books (most were brought from home or garage sales) to craft pages to create upon. We ripped out pages in the books, leaving large gaps in the books and filling the group room with discarded pages.

We then glued the remaining pages together leaving 10-12 thick and solid pages. These became our foundation to paint, draw, write and collage upon. The group members spent the next 10 weeks reflecting upon and making creative representations of ten key aspects of self-compassion:

  • May I be kind to myself
  • My inner bully
  • Compassionate people in my life
  • A compassionate place
  • A compassionate color
  • Wisdom
  • Strength
  • Responsibility
  • Warmth
  • My perfect nurturer

Here are some more amazing creations:


May I be kind to myself


My compassionate color



My perfect nurturer




The project became a fun, messy and very creative way to address a difficult issue for trauma survivors, learning to be loving to ourselves.


Self-compassion is an important part of ALL of our lives. The group and I would like to share with you one of our favorite self-compassion meditation practices (from Kristen Neff) to use when your inner bully shouts at you or life is just hard:

This is a moment of suffering

                  Suffering is a part of living

                  May I be kind to myself

                                    May I give myself the compassion I need

                                    May I learn to accept myself as I am

                                    May I be strong

                                    May I be safe


My Compassionate Self – cover art



Strength and Wisdom

If you’d like to learn more about the HAVEN Counseling Program, click here.

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Collective Strength


Guest post by Karen Wullaert DeKett, MA, LPC, DV/SA Therapist, HAVEN

With one in three Michigan families impacted by domestic violence, it can seem like a daunting task to bring it to an end. But, by working together we can make great strides through our collective strength in protecting those impacted by this crime.

This month is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. It’s a chance for everyone in the movement – victims, survivors, advocates, law enforcement, supporters and politicians – to unite in our work to end abuse. If you’re wondering how YOU can support this effort, here are some ideas:

  • Many of our supporters encourage their coworkers to wear purple and collect funds to donate in support of survivors. If your organization does this, please be sure to send us a picture or post on social media with the hashtags #LiveWithoutFear and #DVAM.

You can also:

  • Explore our website to learn about the issue.
  • Hold your friends accountable when they disrespect women and girls.
  • Engage others in discussions about violence against women.
  • Speak out against racist, sexist or homophobic jokes.
  • Learn how to take action if you witness a violent act against a friend or neighbor. While it can be a scary or awkward situation, the difference between not doing anything and doing something could mean the difference between life and death.
  • Applaud others who speak out against violence and oppression.
  • Reconsider spanking or hitting your children.
  • Open the dialogue with your children and teach them that respect is the minimum in a relationship and lead by example. Let them know what acceptable behavior is and what the limits are.

At HAVEN, our Counseling Program recognizes Domestic Violence Awareness Month by holding a Candlelight Vigil for survivors every year. Our goal is to bring survivors together to celebrate their inner strength, their connectedness, and their resilience. We want to honor our past and all of the survivors and supporters who have come before us. We also look forward to the future and creating a world free of violence and fear.

This year, residential and non-residential clients came together to celebrate their personal healing journeys and their collective strength. The evening started with a meditation focused on loving-kindness, encouraging each survivor to focus on her worthiness and strength.

Next, clients created a group art project. The foundation of the art piece was a tree in the Meditation Garden. The tree represented the movement to end domestic violence. The movement has deep roots, spanning generations. The tree represented all survivors and supporters, past, present, and future. Each person was given a cutout of a hand; it represented their “leaf” on the tree, their own unique healing journey. It’s their story in the larger narrative.


After they finished creating their handprints, they were given the option of sharing with the group. They shared stories of courage and faith in the face of abuse and adversity. They shared what grounded them and what has helped them heal. They shared inspirational words, quotes, and poetry. After each person shared, the group offered applause and kind words.

Next, the survivors hung their handprints on the tree and gathered around the fire pit. Each woman took a candle and one-by-one, they lit each other’s candles. As they touched candles, they shared an affirmation or words of encouragement with one another. There was a moment of silence to honor all survivors of domestic violence.

I have so much gratitude for the women who came to this year’s vigil. It was inspiring to be in their presence, not just to hear their stories of hope and empowerment, but to see the compassion and warmth they shared with each other. Sometimes HAVEN’s mission seems so big to me. But on nights like the Candlelight Vigil, I am reminded of how powerful a small group can be and how much of an impact HAVEN has in the lives of survivors.

If you’d like to learn more about HAVEN, visit our website at

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True Teamwork


The team from Lear Corporation, also the event’s presenting sponsor, poses with the Lions’ mascot, Roary, at the 2015 HAVEN Tailgate Party. 

Guest post by Lindsey Ransone, HAVEN Intern

It’s wild to think that the Olympics ended three weeks ago. The image of Rio’s Mayor, Eduardo Paes, handing over the Olympic flag to Tokyo’s Governor, Yuriko Koike, at the closing ceremony, is left engraved in our memories. It gives us the feeling of unity – anyone, regardless of our differences, or locations, can come together and participate in a global event that symbolizes teamwork.

Not only was true teamwork exhibited by the US Women’s gymnastics team, allowing them to take home the gold, but the team efforts of Abbey D’Agostino of the United States and Nikki Hamblin of New Zealand in the Women’s 5,000-meter run were astounding. Both D’Agostino and Hamblin, who were competing against one another’s country in the event, fell a mile into the race. Instead of leaving one another behind, D’Agostino and Hamblin exemplified great compassion and leadership by helping one another get up and move forward. The message for us is that you can find supporters to help work towards a common goal outside of your group and help each other reach the finish line.

Like those two women, HAVEN has been blessed with a partnership with the Detroit Lions. Both organizations, HAVEN, and the Lions understand that though we are two separate entities, together we are more effective in working towards ending crimes that affect everyone. And it will take all of us to tackle these issues, because sadly one in three Michigan families have been impacted by domestic violence and one in four women and one in 33 men have experienced an attempted or completed rape.

On September 25, HAVEN will be partnering with the Lions once again for HAVEN’s 4th annual Tailgate Party at the Birmingham Athletic Club. The event coincides with the Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers game and features a buffet lunch, raffles and auctions, beer and wine, special liquor tastings, as well as speakers to share HAVEN’s mission during halftime.

Together we can achieve the level of teamwork that was showcased during the Olympics and through the Lions’ partnership, to collectively end domestic violence and sexual assault. Won’t you join us?

For more information about HAVEN’s 4th annual Tailgate Party on September 25th and to purchase tickets click here. 

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Women’s Equality Day 2016

imageGuest Post by Nkenge Burkhead, Prevention Education Specialist, HAVEN

For nearly 100 years, women fought, marched, and rallied against the cultural norms of the time. Women came together to establish the National American Women’s Suffrage Association. Their goal was to ensure women had the right to vote. August 26, 1920, the goal was realized, the constitution was ratified to allow women the same voting rights as men.

Today girls and women are able to walk into voting polls without fear of arrest, knowing their vote will matter. We know that the freedoms we enjoy are often a result of activism by those who came before us. We remember the National American Women’s Suffrage Association, we honor August 26th as Women’s Equality Day.

Susan B. Anthony is recognized as a leader in the suffrage movement. She understood women needed to have a voice in laws that especially affected women and children. While participating in the suffrage movement she also started a campaign for the expansion of married women’s property rights. Alice Paul was also a member of the National American Women’s Suffrage Association. She is responsible for organizing the historic Suffrage parade. She strategically planned the march to coincide with President Wilson’s inauguration. She was later arrested for being non-patriotic. Her arrest, and treatment in jail drew necessary attention to the movement. The president ordered her immediate release and announced his support for their cause.

Many women celebrate this victory all over the United States. Some organizations have large annual celebrations. Wisconsin Women’s Network and The Women’s Intercultural Network in San Francisco host events honoring women’s suffrage. San Mateo County History Museum hold a rally for ratification of the ERA. In Albuquerque, Women Organized to Resist and Defend also host a celebration.

2016 marks the 96th anniversary of women voters. It is also a history making year in politics. When voters go into the voting booths this election there will be a woman on the ballot. I am not endorsing or suggesting a vote for any party or candidate. I am observing the connection. The Suffrage Movement was about women having a voice. Women have the option to elect officials of their choosing, and furthermore the option to become an elected official themselves. Casting your vote is using your voice, running for office is using your voice. Voting and asking the women around you if they’ve registered to vote is the best way for all of us to celebrate Women’s Equality Day!

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Engaging Men in Gender Equity

Redefine Blog

Guest Post by Averett Robey, Prevention Education Specialist, HAVEN

This year marks (the end) of the first year of the Detroit Lions partnership with HAVEN to bring redefine, our young men’s leadership development program, to Oakland and Wayne Counties. As the school year closed earlier this season, I reflected upon all the schools, classrooms, educators, and dedicated and awesome students we had the opportunity to engage and meet. We were fortunate enough to celebrate these students’ dedication and commitment to ending violence in their communities in a big way. Together we celebrated the young men’s completion of the program with an event at Ford Field. It was an opportunity for them to meet former and current Lions players, get signed memorabilia, and go on a tour through the locker room and field. Not only was the event remarkable, but having an opportunity to hear students say “This is the best day ever,” “Thank you for bringing this to our school,” and “Can’t we be in the program next year?” was an awesome experience.

To anyone looking from the outside, they would most likely assume that hearing those statements was the best thing about the whole experience. However, to me it is not. You see, redefine is not only about building empathy and teaching young men about the epidemic of intimate partner and sexual violence. It is about working with young men to redefine what it means to be a man. To develop a definition that is not rooted in violence, domination, or control, but centers on respect, equity, and empathy. This is crucial for a couple of reasons. First, the current definition is taught, and then reinforced, to help build a foundation where violence is linked to masculinity. Sayings like “get up, and act like a man!” and “don’t let nobody disrespect you” are great examples of how we teach men and boys this toxic definition every day. All of these things work together to create the reality where 90+ of every 100 violent crimes are committed by men, 88.8% of homicide offenders from 1980-2008 were men, and where 99.8% of convicted rapists are men. These statistics do not mean that most men would commit these crimes, it is a small percentage of men that do, but what is important is how we work with the men and boys who would never perpetrate that violence to intervene and become change agents. This is important because violence affects everyone, people they love and care about; as well as, themselves. Its impact on men and boys is great. This toxic definition of masculinity, linked with stoicism, works in tandem to create a framework where less than 50% of boys and men with mental health issues seek help and every day in the U.S. 3 or more boys commit suicide.

For me the greatest part of our redefine program is working with young men to redefine masculinity, to establish working definitions that help create the change that we desperately need. Our program is an intentional push away from other prevention efforts that focuses on putting women on pedestals and “protecting” them, and instead centers on working alongside women and girls to eliminate intimate partner and sexual violence. This is key because it is only in equity that we can create sustainable systemic change. It is on all of us to come together to eliminate violence in our communities.

For more information on violent masculinity and its impact, access these hyperlinks.

To bring prevention programming to your school in Oakland County, Michigan in the coming year contact our Prevention Education Program at HAVEN.

If you or someone you know is a victim of intimate partner violence or experiencing power and control dynamic in their relationship that feels abusive or unsafe HAVEN is here to help. Our crisis and support line is always open for you 877-922-1274. 

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A Healing Space

Meditation Garden

HAVEN’s Meditation Garden

Guest post by Karen Wullaert DeKett, MA, LPC, DV/SA Therapist, HAVEN

HAVEN clients frequently come to us in crisis. They feel angry, scared, and sad. HAVEN is a place where they can come to feel safe and supported. It can be a sanctuary from the chaos that experiencing trauma creates.

Research has shown that meditation can be a critical component of well-being. Meditation increases positive emotions while reducing negative feelings like fear, anger, and sadness. Meditation also offers an individual the chance to reconnect with themselves. For survivors of domestic and sexual violence, meditation can be both healing and empowering. It can help them feel in control of their emotions and more connected to their bodies.

HAVEN has long encouraged our survivors to utilize meditation as one tool of healthy healing. When we were in our Bingham Farms office, we had a special room designated for meditation. Clients could come and use the room before or after their counseling sessions. The move to the HAVEN Community Center has allowed us to offer an additional healing space, the meditation garden.

I encourage my clients to use the meditation garden, as well as other quiet spaces, as part of their self-care practice. The meditation garden is a beautiful and restorative place where they can reflect and find center. It gives them a break from the pressures and stresses of their days. It helps them feel calm and connected to their thoughts and feelings.

For survivors of domestic and sexual trauma, the road to healing is long and challenging. Offering spaces like the meditation garden is one way that HAVEN helps support survivors along on their healing journeys.



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May our Paths Cross Again

Board2-OAK-Jul (2)

L. Brooks Patterson and Oakland County Commissioners honor Beth Morrison for her many  years of service at HAVEN. 

Somewhat unbelievable but here it is, my final days at HAVEN.  When my husband and I first began to discuss making our dream happen, returning to Tucson, the idea seemed so far away. Now, our home is nearly packed up, my office is looking rather bare, and the to do list is significantly shorter. These last two months have flown by so quickly.

When I reflect back on my time here, there are so many memorable moments. It is hard to capture what stands out the most but what I loved most about HAVEN is the relationships created. HAVEN gave me the opportunity to meet and connect with many wonderful individuals – staff, board members, volunteers, donors, supporters, and community leaders.  I have felt blessed a thousand times over by having such great support; vital support as we worked daily together to make the world a slightly safer place.

I have also been honored by standing witness to the stories of survivors, hearing their struggles and triumphs. Many of these stories I will forever carry with me, forever imprinted in my soul. Although my new position will not be domestic and sexual violence centric, I will remain a strong ally and advocate for survivors, fueled by standing witness for so many years to the injustice they encounter.

Over the past week, I had the simple daily task of adding water to our meditation garden fountain. Each day that I stood, garden hose in hand, a shelter resident sat quietly under the pagoda. She always greeted me but then went back to her reading, writing, or just simply sitting in this quiet and reflective space.  After a couple of days, she shared with me how full of gratitude she was for having this space, a  place where she could just be. We chatted for a bit about how we all need sacred space, personal space to be safe and be free. She shared how she had lost herself and how slowly, with HAVEN’s help, was slowly rediscovering who she was and who she wanted to be going forward.

And that is what HAVEN does – sometimes we just simply provide that safe space, that safe moment, that safe listening. We are facilitators of personal change and growth. And through the literally thousands of moments that I too had at HAVEN, I have grown beyond measure. My heart is full.

In closing of my final “Beth’s Blog”, I thank each of you for your support over my tenure at HAVEN. I, like you, look forward to following HAVEN’s next chapter and its success in advancing its mission. I know that good things lie in store for the organization and am excited for its future leader. I will remain, even if 2,000 miles away, one of HAVEN’s biggest ambassadors and supporters.

Best wishes to one and all, may our paths cross in the future.

Gratitude is a poem…..whispered from one heart to another.  Thank you.


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