Recap of July 20, 2022 Abortion Healing Provider Webinar
The July 20, 2022 Support After Abortion Webinar for Abortion Healing Providers featured guests Angela Burrin of The Word Among Us and Elias & Audrianna Falero of Falero Studios on the topic of self-guided abortion healing.
Angela Burrin is Director of the Pregnancy Hope and Healing and Prison Ministries Outreach of The Word Among Us. Angela is the author of the Support After Abortion Keys to Hope and Healing resources, which are offered in both faith-based and not-faith/clinical versions for men and women. Before working at The Word Among Us, Angela spent 20 years in the education field as a teacher and principal.
Elias & Audrianna Falero of Falero Studios – Elias, who goes by E.J., is the Creative Director of Falero Studios, and his wife Audrianna is the Producer. Falero Studios is the videography and production group for Support After Abortion’s newest video series. Audrianna is also a lactation consultant and care coach who thrives in helping women to understand their bodies. Together they are parents of four children, who range from one to nine years old.
The Story Behind Keys to Hope and Healing
“The story begins in the women’s prison in Jessup, Maryland where I volunteer on Sundays,” started Angela.
One Sunday Angela was told that two female inmates were really suffering from their abortion experiences.
“My heart really went out to them,” Angela said, “because there was nothing that I could offer them. They were alone in their grief, and their shame, and their guilt.”
On the drive home Angela decided she needed to put together a resource to help women find healing after abortion. That was the start of what later became the Support After Abortion Keys to Hope and Healing faith version for women.
“I thought it would just stop there,” Angela said.
She distributed the booklet in the women’s prison, and also in the men’s prison through the chaplains. Then someone from Project Rachel in the Catholic Archdiocese of Arlington, Virginia reached out to ask if Angela could adapt it for non-prison populations – removing all the references to cells, sentences, chaplains, etc. After that was printed, Vicki Thorn from Project Rachel asked if Angela could create a men’s version. Then Spanish versions were requested. These were all faith-based.
Support After Abortion’s founder, Janine Marrone, read an article in the Word Among Us magazine about Luncheons4Life bringing together men and women interested in pro-life ministries. She met with Jeff Smith, President of Word Among Us. They began speaking about Angela’s healing after abortion booklet.
“Janine spoke about the need for resources for those who are not ready for faith-based messaging,” Angela remembered, “because our faith-based versions are very scripturally-based. God is mentioned on every page.”
“At that time, I said I don’t think it can be done,” Angela said, “Then Janine commissioned some amazing research. She found out that something like nine out of ten people don’t know where to go for healing. And something like 85% don’t want a faith-based approach. That just struck my heart. It struck all of us. With that, during Covid, I worked with my friend, Karin [Barbito, Support After Abortion Special Projects Manager] to create a not-faith based version, which we called Keys to Hope and Healing. We then created a Men’s not-faith based version [with the help of the Support After Abortion Men’s Task Force] and Spanish not-faith versions for men and women.”
“The latest thing, which I find so incredibly exciting, is that it’s now videos!” Angela exclaimed, “I would never have thought a little inspiration in a prison [would become what] it is now.”
“We’re so inspired by your journey. It’s that first step that you took that allowed us to continue on. Thank you for being open,” Lisa Rowe, CEO of Support After Abortion said, “that the way you saw the resource serving people initially could be modified, could be adapted, could be connected, which invites more people into the [healing] journey, and we’re so grateful that you could see that.”
Lisa invited Karin to share a bit about their dream to create a multi-faceted approach to the abortion healing journey.
Karin spoke about the success of the Unraveled Roots program, which consists of a book, facilitator’s guide, training videos for facilitators, and client-facing videos.
“The client-facing videos are really important,” Karin said, “because they speak directly to the client about things they may be experiencing as they’re going through the book.”
Karin explained that the videographer who collaborated with Support After Abortion to produce the Unraveled Roots videos now focuses only on short videos, so a new videographer needed to be found. Support After Abortion explored a few different agencies and ultimately selected Falero Studios, which is located in Greenville, South Carolina.
Karin’s excitement and pride in this project were apparent as she spoke enthusiastically and with huge smiles. “These guys are so professional,” Karin raved, “They made it so easy for me to keep up with what they were doing. They were so well organized. I can’t wait to show you just the little clips of one of the videos. Audrianna was our narrator, so she had the biggest role. Then we hired six actresses to do the testimonies for each chapter. It was a big production and a big deal. It’s done, and it’s on our website. I’m so excited! It was a big project, and I’m very proud of it.”
“I hope you all will go to our learning platform and check out what’s in there,” Karin encouraged the attendees, “Our website is really becoming developed with a lot of content. And it’s only going to continue to grow.”
The People Behind the Camera
“How did this project and scripts start to stir in your heart?” Lisa asked E.J., “And what was something really big that came out of that?”
“Well, obviously it’s a sensitive topic,” E.J. said, “so when I saw it I thought, ‘Okay, this is something I’ve never filmed before.’ It turns out that I actually have personal experience on two aspects. It was very close and personal to my heart and my wife’s heart. So, it was an honor to be a part of this. I really wanted to be able to film this because I knew that I would take care of it. I feel that I did it to the best of my ability, and I’m really proud of the outcome and what we’ve been able to produce and deliver to all the potential viewers.”
Lisa asked Audrianna what it was like for her when she read and absorbed the scripts.
“At first I was taken aback [by the idea of the project],” Audrianna said, “I thought, ‘Whoa, this is a big deal.’ Like E.J. said, it’s a sensitive topic. I was really in shock. I thought I would have a part as one of the testimonies, but E.J. told me they wanted me as the narrator. It was a big moment of can I really do this. This is an amazing opportunity, of what I’ve personally been through, and to be able to help others. It’s been amazing.”
“Thank you for saying yes,” Lisa said and asked E.J. to share more about his personal experience.
“I recently found out, maybe a couple of years ago, that my mother had an abortion with my father,” E.J. said, “I would have had a sibling four years older than me, but now I’m the oldest of five. It was a very emotional meeting when she told me and my brothers. So, when I saw this topic, I definitely wanted to be a part of it. Now my mother has gone through her own healing.”
“Before I found out about my mother, a few years into our marriage, I learned my wife had an abortion experience,” E.J. said, “I’ll let her take it from here.”
“I do have my own personal experience,” Audrianna share, “When I was in my teenage years, I made the decision to have an abortion. I didn’t find that healing we’re talking about. You don’t really know what’s available for you. You just experience it all alone.”
“I remember thinking to myself, ‘This is something I’m going to take to my grave,’” Audrianna continued, “Like, I’m not telling anybody about this. Then when I got married, I was still dealing with emotions, and the root issue was from my abortion.”
Audrianna said, “We discussed it together, and I felt I really needed to get some healing. found a local group and was able to experience healing, and that really helped. I don’t think I’d be here today if I hadn’t experienced that healing to be able to talk about it and share with others.”
“Like he said, we found out about his mother a couple years ago, and I recommended to her the healing that I went through,” Audrianna said, “She said she’d been to healing and thought she was healed. Then she took the local course and said there was nothing else like it. She felt like she was able to love her grandchildren more. She realized she hadn’t experienced true healing before. It’s definitely important to really experience true healing.”
Lisa thanked E.J. and Audrianna for sharing their stories and commented that “there’s so much purpose in our pain, and you guys are seeing that purpose illuminated right before you. Thank you so much for saying yes.”
Karin interjected, “This was Divine Providence: finding this studio that could film our videos and then finding out the connection they had to the content – was just not something we could have done on our own.”
Karin reflected on E.J.’s mother saying she was all good and had healed, “We hear that so often. Healing from abortion is different from any other kind of recovery or healing we can do because it’s so personal and there’s so much shame behind it. Thanks for sharing that so eloquently.”
In comparing filming Keys to Hope and Healing to the experience she had locally, Audrianna said, “It was different because I wasn’t going through it as someone who needed healing at the time, but I feel like I was able to provide that emotion for how it feels before, during, and after an abortion because I had already experienced those things.”
“Of course, being local is amazing. You can actually go and meet someone in person, which I think is very important. The books are great, and I love the books. But, sometimes it’s hard to motivate yourself to self-care and read what you need to read,” Audrianna said, “So, the videos are a wonderful idea, especially with Covid happening, and people not wanting to be together. They don’t have to. They can watch these videos and experience healing in their very own homes, which is amazing.”
“What we know to be true,” said Lisa, “is that so many programs are similar in the way they present content. A lot of times it’s very faith-based, a lot of scripture, and you have to meet in person. Keys to Hope and Healing swung to the other side of that spectrum, really trying to meet the needs of women and men who want a non-faith based approach, so we really wanted to pay attention to that when we produced [the client-facing videos for] Keys to Hope and Healing with The Word Among Us and Angela.”
“We also wanted to be very cognizant that we need to pivot in this world,” Lisa said, as she spoke about how Support After Abortion offered virtual groups in 2021 that had participants from across the country and from other countries.
“Not everyone is fortunate to have a group right in their community,” Lisa said, “but sometimes they’re not willing to go to that group right there in their community.” Virtual groups can be a way to meet their needs and desire for anonymity or remote access.
*NEW* Keys to Hope and Healing Online Healing Resources
Karin walked attendees through accessing Support After Abortion’s new online resources for Keys to Hope and Healing.
The Provider Training Center offers training and many resources for abortion healing providers. After creating a user ID and password and logging in, you can access all the Training Center content.
When you click on Keys to Hope and Healing Begin Course, you can view or download the Facilitator’s Guide. It coordinates with both the men’s and women’s not-faith/clinical Keys to Hope and Healing programs.
Karin walked attendees through the course content for each key (chapter), which is found immediately after the Facilitator’s Guide in the training center.
She then played clips from the newly released client-facing videos. Karin played a clip showing Audrianna narrating and a clip of a client testimony. She pointed out the text boxes within the videos that “pull out words that we really want to emphasize.” Providers can use these videos with their clients individually or within their Keys to Hope and Healing support groups.
Through the Support After Abortion Client Healing Center, clients can access the Keys to Hope and Healing women’s not-faith English booklet and watch the client-facing videos, providing a multi-faceted, self-guided, beginning-level abortion healing program.
Karin encouraged providers to watch all the new videos. She said, “the testimonies are just so relevant. That testimony [that I played] is something we hear quite often. It’s real.”
“Abortion healing is not a one-size-fits-all,” Karin said, “and our consumer research shows that. So, we’re trying to provide for clients what they’re asking for. Keys to Hope and Healing is great for that person who maybe isn’t ready to start healing, says that she’s fine – or he’s fine.
Lisa said, “We also have pregnancy centers that use Keys to Hope and Healing for a woman who is deciding whether or not to have an abortion.
“It could be for an abortion-minded client,” Karin explained, “so she can find out on her own, self-guided, going through the booklet, what it might be like for her if she does have an abortion.”
“[This not-faith version] is great for people who don’t want to start with God,” Karin said, “It’s an entry point. We know healing lasts a lifetime. It’s not a one-and-done. This is just the beginning.”
“I could see someone doing it by themselves and journaling it,” Karin said. When Karin shared that Support After Abortion is considering creating a fillable journal to accompany the booklets, there were audible gasps of excitement.
“We know that when you put thoughts down on paper, it makes it real, Karin said, “When we keep it in our head, it’s not as impactful as when we can see it in print on paper.”
Considering the many client situations for which Keys to Hope and Healing would be beneficial, Karin chuckled and said, “I would give one to everyone I came across! It’s really simple, it’s relevant, it meets the masses. It can be used one-on-one, in a group, virtually, in person, however you want to use it.”
Lisa echoed Karin, “This is not the only healing tool. Support After Abortion isn’t endorsing just one way of healing. We’re saying there’s a variety of healing. What Keys to Hope and Healing offers is that entry-level conversation with someone. There’s been a void in our industry of a tool like this, and that’s what Keys to Hope and Healing is. There’s a purpose behind its very thin nature, the eighth grade reading level – it’s entry level.”
“There may be some who say “You can’t heal with this book,’ Lisa said, “that’s not what it’s ever been meant to be. It’s meant to start a conversation because sometimes we can’t start at 8, we have to start at .5 for some people, if we’re looking at a spectrum. We’ve seen a huge void in [the abortion healing movement] for that beginning level connection.
Future Program Development
Karin shared, “Right now, we’re in the process of writing the script for the Facilitator Training, which E.J. and Audrianna and Falero Studios will be videotaping for us. It’s going to be different. Audrianna has agreed to be the narrator again. Once the scripts are done, we’ll videotape them, then we’ll have a complete package: the booklets, the Facilitator Guide, the client-facing videos, the facilitator training videos, quizzes after each video. And hopefully in 2023, BrightCourse will pick them up for any agencies that subscribe to what they have. And they’ll be available to thousands of pregnancy centers around the country. E.J. said they’re hoping to complete the Facilitator training videos by the end of the year.
Keys to Hope and Healing Resources
Keys to Hope and Healing resources currently include:
– Men’s Faith and Not-Faith/clinical, each in English and Spanish
– Women’s Faith and Not-Faith/clinical, each in English and Spanish
All are available for free download individually or as a bundle of all eight.
Printed booklets are also available for purchase individually or as a bundle or in bulk.
Facilitator’s Guide – English – accompanies men’s and women’s not-faith / clinical versions. A Spanish version is in the works.
Q. For Angela: Is the Prison Ministry version with the prison ministry language still available?
A. Angela: No, it isn’t. The language of the whole booklet is the same, whether it was the original prison version or what it is now. All I really did was take out any references to cells, sentences, and chaplains. But, I would be very happy to connect with anyone who would like to use this in a prison setting. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Q. For Angela: Have you ever used it in a prison? Is it still happening? What does it look like?
A. Angela: I have not personally used it. But, I have sent so many copies of both versions to chaplains, and I’ve seen them on the table when I go to Sunday services at the prison. It’s up to the chaplains whether or not they’d like to hold a support group. But, I think most likely, it’s individual men and women who pick it up and work through it themselves.
Q. Lisa: That was the intention behind the thin, magazine feel booklet [that people would see it as an easy read and pick it up.]
A. How do you suggest we get the word out in the community that there is after abortion healing available?
Q. Karin: We have to start the conversation about abortion healing. We have to go to our churches, and our community social service agencies, and whomever. We have coined the phrase Be an Ambassador for Abortion Healing, which is your opportunity, in your community, to let people know where they can go for help. Align yourself with a local pregnancy center that’s perhaps offering abortion healing. We have to start talking about it.
A. Lisa: That means making meetings with your pastors, your social service organizations, your local therapists, your gynecologist, anyone that could be entering in and having those conversations.
Q. Do you suggest conducting multiple teaching courses on the materials from the faith-based and non-faith based? Do you suggest on the intake form to ask this question? (That is, should we offer a variety – faith and non-faith, and how do you ask when you’re starting the conversation with a client?)
A. Karin – We ask clients, Do you prefer something that’s Bible-forward or religious in nature, or would you prefer to start with something that’s more clinical and secular in nature? We let them decide. This is about what they want, not what we may want. We promote everything. We know that people gravitate toward whatever it is that they gravitate toward, and it’s their decision to make. And now that we have options on both sides, we can provide that for them. So, we don’t shy away from questions like that.
Q. When giving this wonderful booklet out to women in pregnancy centers, do they say I don’t really want to abort, but I must. Then I will use your information to heal.?
A. Lisa – We get asked this a lot, basically By leading with a Support After Abortion message with someone who hasn’t made that abortion decision, does that push them toward choosing an abortion. And I would say, absolutely not. From my experience, it simply offers them an opportunity to heal sooner, if they do choose that course of action, so they don’t have to feel alone in that decision.
A. Karin – We have abortion-minded clients call the HOPE Line frequently, really feeling like having an abortion is the only option they have. I can relate to that because that’s how I felt when I had an abortion when I was eighteen. The only thing I considered was abortion. I wasn’t pro-life or pro-choice, I was pro-me. We hear it all the time – people coming to us conflicted about making the decision, but feeling like they have to. Some people don’t really want to talk about what it might be like afterwards. So, giving them a booklet might be good. I’m very honest and non-judgmental when I tell them what they can expect after abortion. Oftentimes they’ll go through with the abortion, and then come back to us and say Everything you said was right. And now we have an opportunity to connect them to healing. Now we have that open door to be able to say You’ve come back to the right place. We can help you. And then we guide them on that journey of healing.
A. Karin – When a woman who is pregnant comes in who is unsure of whether or not she wants to continue that pregnancy, I am looking at her – the woman who is facing the unplanned pregnancy. That’s who my concern is for – that woman and what her life is going to be like if she decides to abort. I can only share my experience with her, and tell her what we’ve learned from the thousands of people that we’ve worked with. And if she decides to abort, my goal is to make sure that she feels comfortable enough and trusts us enough to be able to come back to us for healing. It’s her decision to make. We don’t, at Support After Abortion, focus on the baby when we’re interacting with that woman who’s in a crisis situation. Now, are we an agency that believes in God and is pro-life, absolutely, but our focus is on the woman when we’re dealing with that abortion-minded client. My focus is on her and how this decision is going to impact her life, and to plant that seed so she’ll come back to us if she’s struggling afterwards.
A. Lisa – Often times it’s nice to pull this away from the abortion conversation. I see this a lot [in my clinical practice] with my clients who have suicidal ideation. If they’re struggling with depression in a session with me, and we contract for safety, and we know that this is a real issue for them and that being in isolation could be a real struggle for them, I give them a series of support systems they can lean on should they feel they are in a really tough situation. So, by giving Keys to Hope and Healing as a resource for a woman and man who might be considering abortion, it’s not saying Go have an abortion, here’s your healing tool, it’s saying Here’s a resource should you make this decision. You are not alone. We will be here with you on this journey.
Q. We use Unraveled Roots first, then Keys to Hope and Healing, and then we move them to a further healing program. Is that your recommendation for use?
A. Lisa – We’ve done it that way. We’ve done it flip-flopped – Keys to Hope and Healing followed by Unraveled Roots. It’s simply the opportunity to follow along with that client, offering them the support services that they need.
What we like about Unraveled Roots as a way to enter in is that it kind of addresses all the things – all the stuff from the past, all the possible reasons that client might be sitting in front of you. And then Keys to Hope and Healing can get more focused on the abortion experiences. Then further [resources] can follow because we know that healing is a journey. So, either way. We’ve had success with both. I would just say it’s based on your client – where they want to start.
Some of our clients want to start with Unraveled Roots because they say they’re unhappy in their relationship, or their relationship didn’t work out as they hoped. For others, they say their abortion experience is right in front of them, [so Keys to Hope and Healing would be appropriate first]. We need to listen to our clients and their needs.
Q. I’ve had men shy away from healing material written by women. I would love to see resources written by men for men. Were there men involved in this project?
A. Karin – For the men’s versions, we developed a Men’s Task Force, which is led by Nathan Misirian. Greg Mayo, who’s here today, is on the task force. So, I’m going to defer to him to explain what that process was like, where you sourced the testimonies, and why the change in language was so important.
Greg Mayo is a member of the Support After Abortion Men’s Task Force, author of Almost Daddy, and creator of a 12-Step abortion healing program for men.
A. Greg: The Men’s Task Force was a brilliant idea. What it did was take a bunch of guys that are involved in the after abortion healing movement and put their ideas together on how to reach more men and how to help more men.
When Keys to Hope and Healing [not-faith/clinical version] for men came up, what we really wanted to focus on [was the language]- especially me, someone who has an abortion story in my past. When I started recovery, all I found were materials written by women. I say all the time that I’ve been married for 24 years, and the one thing I’ve learned is I don’t know how women think, and they don’t know how I talk.
So we sat down, and we went over this material. We paid really strong attention to the verbiage and to the way things are phrased. If you walk up to a guy, for example, and you say Bob, share with me how you feel right now, Bob’s going to turn away, or he’s going to laugh, or he’s going to punch you in the arm or whatever. So, we wanted to pay attention to that. We wanted to pay attention to how men process their emotions, which oftentimes is not talking directly about their emotions. I think it was super important that it was a collaborative effort because all six of us [on the Men’s Task Force] have different experiences and come from different backgrounds. I think by going over it a few times, we were able to make it more effective for a male reader.
Q. What part of this is now available on BrightCourse?
A. Karin – Keys to Hope and Healing is not yet available on BrightCourse. We need to create the Facilitator Training Videos and quizzes in order to have it meet their requirements. However, it is available on our website free of charge. Everything that we’ve completed so far is on our website as of right now.
Q. I have used this book in groups, and if all participants are okay with a faith discussion, I have added my personal testimony about forgiveness and about a next steps study. There’s no need to fear that it’s non-faith based.
A. Lisa – Angela, you had a very strong conviction that God had to be on every page, then you were a convert, so to speak, in saying let’s not do it that way, the research shows otherwise. What has helped to shape that for you? How did you come to terms with that?
A. Angela – After my initial, No, it can’t be done, I think it was the statistics [that changed my mind]. I think every woman and every man deserves to have a tool to facilitate their healing. And we realized that there was a whole group of people that we just weren’t reaching. So, that was my inner conviction, my conversion. In the clinical/not-faith version, I had a quote from Mother Teresa, but I realized that even that could turn someone off. We need to meet people where they are. I can’t remember who said this, You go through their door first, so that they will come through your door. We want to open every door to allow every woman, every man to receive some beginning level of healing and know they’re not alone.
A. Lisa – When we first launched Support After Abortion in 2020, in the midst of the Covid pandemic, we were able to collect a lot of demographics. Our first [virtual] conference was attended by over 8,000 people. The majority of the attendees – the demographic we attracted as an abortion healing organization – was 60-year old white women. That’s incredible shocking to me because the Audrianna’s of the world – the many young men and women we see – were part of the statistic [of 9 out of 10 people] not knowing where to go for help, but also not being served in a way that met them right where they were in this place and space in their life. So many of the men and women have been hurt by other things. Their abortion experiences are the symptom of something way deeper that has clouded everything. So, Angela, when you speak about entering their door and then finding their way through our door, it’s such a gift to me that you would be open to that. Otherwise, there’s no conversation happening. We’re not serving a bulk of our population. And with abortion shifting and growing to more medication abortions, people are in a more isolated state than we’ve ever been. So, it’s really important that the mindset you carry, Angela, and the conversion you had, that we all embody and share that with the world.
Q. Catholics with abortions are more often married mothers. (Lisa commented, “I haven’t seen that statistic to know that.”) We need to offer resources that meet a busy parent in their lives.
A. Lisa – Angela, talk to me about what it might be like for a Catholic versus a Protestant versus a non-believer from your perspective.
Angela – In the Keys to Hope and Healing booklets, we’re asking the woman, whatever her denomination may be, to really acknowledge where she is at. And then we’re encouraging her to talk about where she is at. I think, if she can, from a non-[religious] place begin to share openly, I think she would gain comfort and consolation. And, if she feels the need, she can then go and talk with a priest for the sacraments, or a protestant may want to talk to their pastor to receive a blessing. Keys to Hope and Healing opens it up, provides a base of healing to go further forward. As we’ve said, it’s a stepping stone. Someone may come back to you and say I’ve done the [non-faith/clinical] Keys to Hope and Healing, but I’d like something more God-based, and you can give the other booklet.
A. Post-Webinar Commentary –
According to Guttmacher Institute’s 2014 abortion demographics1:
Of women experiencing abortion:
60% are 20-29 years old
14% are married
59% have 1+ prior births
24% self-identified as Catholic, 30% as protestant
According to American Magazine2, using Guttmacher’s 2002 data, one out of every 16 women procuring an abortion is married and Catholic. The author states, “This data suggests that the face of a Catholic woman choosing abortion is … a stretched-thin married mother with children at home.
A. Post-Webinar Commentary
Karin – Keys to Hope and Healing is perfect for any busy person. It’s an easy read. It’s self-guided. The new videos are available to help them as they go through each key (chapter). They can do it by themselves on their own time.
We especially want to know about openings you have in virtual abortion healing groups and necessary details, so that we can refer clients to your groups.
If you, or someone you know, is struggling with an abortion experience, we’re here for you. We’d like to support you in a private, confidential way. You can reach to us via our no-cost HOPE Line. A member of our Support Team, who has training and experience, will meet you with compassion and love anonymity and walk you through this journey. We don’t want you to do it alone.
Recap of June 16, 2022 Abortion Healing Provider Webinar
Music has the unique ability to speak to us in a way that connects to our deepest emotions, as such, music can be healing for those dealing with trauma and grief. Support After Abortion has licensed two songs from Music for the Soul with related course content and created a journal for client reflection. CEO Lisa Rowe, LCSW, together with our guests, Steve Siler and Greg Hasek, MA/MFT, led this month’s webinar discussing how abortion healing providers can incorporate music in their healing programs.
Steve Siler is a professional songwriter with a lengthy career first writing music for TV and then for contemporary Christian recording artists. He is the founder and director of Music for the Soul, a multi-award winning Christian not-for-profit that creates music to help people in recovery or going through difficult life circumstances. Steve is a Dove Award winning singer with over 500 recorded songs. He is the author of three books, the latest being a devotional entitled Twenty-Three, based on the Twenty-Third Psalm.
Greg Hasek, MA/MFT, is a licensed counselor for 18 years who incorporates music into caring for some of his patients. He is the Executive Director of Southwest Florida Christian Counseling, a non-profit counseling agency. Greg specializes in sexual addiction, PTSD within the couple relationship, male specific trauma, and the impact abortion trauma has on men and women. He is an expert on identifying how unresolved male trauma is often at the root of many addictions and on how abortion affects men.
The Story Behind the Music
“My songs that had been attached to issues of pain, I didn’t intentionally write for that, but it just wound up happening,” Steve said, “I felt there was a gap – a void if you will – because I had seen so much pain and seen the power of song to provide healing for people struggling with difficult issues.”
Steve shared that he thought, “What if someone got up every day and made it their purpose to look at issues of pain that were not being addressed through song and intentionally worked to do that.”
He continued, “With the issue of abortion remorse, I thought, there’s so much here that’s not being talked about. It seems like I’m hearing about it all the time, but all I’m hearing is arguing from polar opposite sides, and the people who’ve actually been wounded by it aren’t even being addressed, so I felt if we could help with songs, that would be a blessing.”
Steve recounted attending a concert for which he had written the songs and meeting a woman who had an abortion healing prayer ministry. This intial encounter with the idea of abortion healing immediately inspired him to write his first song on the topic, We Forgive You, which appeared in his Mercy Great Enough project.
Steve and Greg had known each other well at that time and Greg was already using some of Steve’s projects in his counseling practice. Steve said, “When I began to look at doing a full-length project on this, he was my go-to consultant, insisting we not leave the men out, of course, but also in making sure that we hit all the target specific issues that needed to be addressed on the project.”
Why Use Music in Therapy?
Greg said that he and Steve “share a heart for healing music.” Greg explained that he had learned through counseling men that words were not enough.
“In graduate school we learned to talk to people about their trauma, but I realized in working with men, that’s not effective,” Greg said, “Men are defensive. Trauma causes people to develop walls of survival…they wall off their memories of trauma and emotions of trauma.”
Greg shared, “Before YouTube was around, I developed PowerPoint presentations creating slides with music clips that I showed my clients. Through the process of visuals and music with different topics – at the time mostly sex addiction issues – I was able to get beyond the wall a man had when he was sitting in front of me.”
“In graduate school, I was taught that talk therapy is most effective to get to trauma,” Greg continued, “But, through my practice, I discovered that because trauma is stored in the right brain, music was a much more effective tool to get to those areas of trauma versus just words.”
Steve added, “That’s because melody is processed in the right hemisphere of the brain.”
“If I show them a video with music, the men’s defenses come down,’ Greg expounded, “They think, ‘This guy’s not trying to challenge me. He’s trying to get to some of my emotions that I’ve not dealt with my whole life.’ It’s really powerful.”
Greg shared an anecdote of talking with a client recently who came in very defended about the pro-choice position and the right to a woman’s body. Greg knew she was coming from a place of trauma. He explained he was going to show her a song with a video and would like her to share with him her thoughts.
“As I was watching her watch the song, tears started coming down her face, and she started to cry,” Greg said, ‘All of the defenses because of her previous trauma started to come down by watching this video and music, and now, we could talk about her pain as a pro-choice woman. There’s no way I could have done it just through words. It was a very powerful experience.”
Steve commented that “many therapists have told me they have clients who haven’t been able to talk for literally years about abuse or trauma, and they play one song, and the tears are like this speed of light thing.”
“There’s no defense against that because of where music goes,” Steve said, “It goes right under the door or through the cracks in your wall or whatever, and opens up that heart. Then, once you open up that heart, you can put that message in.
He explained, “Melody is a memory device. People remember 90% of what they hear in songs as opposed to 10% of what they’re told. That’s why advertisers sing to us about toilet bowl cleansers and beer and all sorts of things. But we can harness that power to sing a healing message to somebody. And if they hear it in a song, they’re going to have a much harder time forgetting it. So, you want to speak truth, life, and healing words into those wounded hearts once you get that opening that then they can carry with them.”
New Resource: Music as a Bridge to Abortion Healing
Lisa introduced Karin Barbito, Special Projects Manager for Support After Abortion, to describe the new abortion healing resource that came about as a result of what Greg and Steve shared.
Karin laughed and said, “I gotta be really honest and say I wasn’t a believer at first. I thought this is not going to work. But, I’m converted because what we’ve been able to develop is exactly what we’re talking about. It’s another option for a client or someone working with a client to use in order to help people get in touch with their feelings and emotions.”
I’ll be the first to admit, I shoved my abortion down and I didn’t think about it for years,” Karin shared, “When we’ve facilitated groups, we’ve experienced that it does take quite a while for people to connect with their emotions depending on how big, how deep that wall is they’ve built.”
She explained, “Steve sent over a whole curriculum from his project Mercy is Great Enough that Greg had been instrumental in developing. We took a look at them and decided to test it out. We picked out a couple songs to have on our learning platform and created a pretty journal to go with it to test as a proof of concept.”
“We haven’t even rolled it out yet, and over 70 people have already accessed it on our site without our even promoting it or telling anyone about it,” Karin said, “That, to me, is a win. We haven’t even told people about it yet, and somehow they found it. I’m super excited to share it with you.”
Support After Abortion Learning Platform
Karin shared her screen to walk attendees through the new Support After Abortion Learning Platform. She showed the Client Healing Center side with six options:
She scrolled through the Music as a Bridge to Abortion Healing, played one of the songs, Hidden Things by Music for the Soul, and showed the accompanying Journal which people can write down their thoughts and feelings after listening to the songs as a way to process through their pain.
How to Use Music as a Bridge to Abortion Healing
Greg shared that in his Christian counseling practice, “I take guys back to the Garden of Eden where shame began and God said, “Where are you Adam?”
“Because I work a lot with addictions and abortion, I connect [guys] to the reality that shame has been there since the beginning, and men have been hiding since the beginning and how can we come out of hiding,” Greg said, “Then I might play [Hidden Things].”
He shared that he’s been using music in therapy for 20 years. He said he has all of Steve’s products plus others. He explained that he selects songs for certain stages of healing. For example, if they are focused on forgiveness or shame, he might use the song, Your Life has Made a Difference. He told providers that the more they use music, the more intuitive it will become knowing what songs to use for a particular issue and the timing of when to use them.
Lisa shared that “Support After Abortion has worked to integrate songs into the weekly sessions for Keys to Hope and Healing.” Karin suggested using Your Life Has Made a Difference during Celebrations of Life in abortion healing programs because it talks about bringing dignity to the child’s life. Lisa advised providers to give virtual support group clients the link to the song they want to play, so they can listen on their own devices to avoid bandwidth and streaming issues. Each can mute themselves, listen privately, then unmute for discussion.
Steve offered other ways to incorporate the songs into abortion healing programs. He said, “I hear from therapists that song can be a great way to introduce a topic, and also a way to follow up a discussion as a way to reinforce the message and be that memory piece – like Your Life Has Made a Difference where the singer is realizing their child’s life made a difference even though lost to an abortion decision.”
Greg shared that when working with couples, he will sometimes have them hold hands while a song is playing and provide time for reflection and ask one simple process question afterwards, like What was that like for you? Then be silent. He said, “You’d be surprised what comes out of the discussion with that one question.”
Steve elaborated, “Music expresses the inexpressible, and in the silence that Greg is talking about, feelings are being processed that may not be able to be put into words quickly, but there’s processing going on, and making room for that is something music can do, also.”
Using Songs with Men
Karin shared that Support After Abortion is going to develop or get Men’s songs, along with creating a journal, and packaging them for men noting that “for every abortion there is a man involved who has been impacted, whether they know it or not.”
Greg said he had suggested two main topic areas for songs for guys. He shared, “The most inspiring song that I helped Steve develop was I Wasn’t There. That came from my work with men feeling like they abandoned their partner and their child at the abortion clinic and the healing process that has to happen. When a guy says to his partner or spouse, ‘I wasn’t there for you, and I acknowledge that and how can we heal together,’ that song has been very powerful in my counseling.”
Steve shared the experience a female counselor relayed to him from her work with couples who have been through an abortion. “She talked about playing the song I Wasn’t There for a wife and husband who were having trouble talking to each other about it. The man had never really talked about it or opened up about it. She said that as they…got further into the song, she saw his hand inching toward his wife, and by the time the song was over, he was holding her hand. After the song ended, they talked together. It was the first time he had ever spoken with her about it.”
“Musical tastes differ. On the Mercy Great Enough project, some songs are more of a country flavor sung by a man, one is more pop rock sung by a man – that was deliberate. It’s a matter of a therapist knowing the right time for the right song,” Steve said, “For that couple, that was the moment that broke the ice for them and got them started talking together. And I checked with the therapist, that couple made it. They’re still together several years later.”
Greg said, “I use a lot of the women’s music. It’s an interesting way to access a male’s empathic responses to their partner. Then I use questions like What do you think that was like for your wife as she was going through that experience? or Do you want to say something to your wife right now, now that you have more empathy? You’d be surprised at how a man can get empathy by listening to a song that he’s never connected with before – or about what the woman might have experienced.”
Steve mentioned the Somebody’s Daughter video project on healing from sex addiction. In the song Is it me?, a woman is singing about rejection, asking Is it something wrong with me that you’d chose pornography?
Greg explained, “I have a guy listen to that song. He’ll say, ‘That sounds like my wife when she’s screaming at me.’ I’ll ask, “But, what is that like for her in those moments to say ‘Is it me? And can you communicate to your wife now what that must be like for her in an empathetic way, all the rejection she’s feeling, sadness she’s feeling.’ You’d be surprised how it gets [the men] there.”
One of the male abortion healing providers attending the webinar said, “I Wasn’t There sounds like a real winner.” He asked Steve, “In my own experience with Father’s Day triggering me, I was wondering if you’ve ever thought about writing a song for Father’s Day [like Another Mother’s Day].”
Steve reflected that whenever they write a song from a certain perspective, they are asked about creating a song for the other perspective. He said “My heart would love to write and record every day, but we have to make choices.” He explained that Another Mother’s Day was written by two women sharing their experiences, and when he heard it, he knew he needed to share it.
“If you listen to Another Mother’s Day, I think, as a father, everything it references would resonate with you because the experiences the mother is talking about – okay, now you’d be 35 and what would that be like – you’re going to have had similar reflections as a father,” Steve said, “I would be curious for you to listen and let me know how you receive it.” The provider said he would listen and email his thoughts to Steve.
Another provider commented, “Based on mine and my husband’s own healing journey, the title alone I Wasn’t There is a profoundly powerful statement. I will play it for my husband and share his thoughts (with his permission, of course). We both want to see couples heal from their abortions and other relationship fracturing.”
Steve explained, “On every project, we do a lot of research, spend a lot of time talking to people, hearing their stories, a lot of time reading, talking to people who counsel on the issue, and we let the folks who’ve lived it and who counsel it… approve our content before we record.”
“Whenever we go to write, I always pray the same prayer,” He continued, ”’Lord, we know the target that we are feeling called to aim at. But, we also know that You know where each and every song is going to go and each and every person who’s going to hear it, and we don’t know that.’ So, I always pray that the songs are specific enough to resonate with the lived experience of the listener, but open enough that they might go somewhere else.“
Steve shared what he called a perfect example of this phenomenon in the first two responses they received when they did the More Beautiful project for breast cancer survivors.
“A lady who was a throat cancer survivor who had been ashamed of her scar said that song made her throw away all of her turtlenecks. Well, I didn’t write a song about throat cancer, right?”
“Another woman wrote and said she’d had a miscarriage, and hearing the song More Beautiful enabled her to not hate her body anymore.”
Steve shared another example:
“There’s a song on Mercy Great Enough called Stain Upon My Heart, and I was specifically writing about the stain of abortion on somebody’s heart and the feeling that they could never be washed clean, and we want them to know that that’s not true, that again – there’s Mercy Great Enough. But the truth of the matter is that whatever the stain may be, whatever it is in your past that you feel like is beyond the pale and God could never forgive, that stain can be washed clean, too.”
Steve invited the providers to browse his Music for the Soul website and “as you go around the website, there may be a song that wasn’t even about abortion healing in my mind when I wrote it, and you’ll hear it, and [think a particular client] really needs to hear that. It might be on a completely different project, because, let’s face it, abortion remorse is grief. So, we have lots of songs about remorse, and grief, and sorrow in all the topics that we deal with. So, I invite you to use your imagination. And, like Greg said, once you start thinking like this, you’ll realize that there are songs you can cherry pick when you hear something and think someone needs to hear that message…Abortion loss is grief and other songs will fit.”
Greg mentioned that before Steve’s music addressing the abortion issue, he used a secular rap song Happy Birthday by Flipsyde, an African-American singer with abortion in his history. “That song has 10 million views on YouTube and we’ve used that over the years…it was our only men’s song back then.” He said it has been great to integrate some Christian music in his practice.
Clinical Usage Guidance
In answer to a provider’s question about how to handle a situation where a song brings up powerful emotions the client isn’t ready to deal with, Greg explained, “I have a process I go through before I even touch trauma…I’m working on coping skills, addiction recovery, staying sober, healing trauma with a spouse, PTSD. I’m doing all this work before I even get to touch the abortion issue or the abuse issue or whatever is there in their past.” He discussed the stages of developing the therapeutic relationship and assessing when they are ready to address the issue, then using songs at the right time along those stages when it’s appropriate.
“For the longest time, I was not a fan of having people do things self-guided for that very reason,” Karin said, “We know that the process of going through abortion healing is emotionally painful. And when you get to the What If stage – when you’re replaying what happened in your head – that’s a dangerous place to stay. As a facilitator we want to make sure that they don’t get stuck there, that they continue through the grief and loss process.”
She continued, “I’m starting to change my mind because we’re finding more and more people don’t want us to know who they are, they want to be able to do things anonymously. And the only way that we’ve been able to figure out how to allow them to do it completely anonymously is to have something on our website that they can go to completely anonymously.”
Karin said, “They have the ability to hit the pause button any time they want. All over our site we have information to call or text the HOPE Line, a contact form, inviting them to reach out if they’d like to talk to someone about what they’re processing through.”
Lisa added, “We want to make sure we always follow our clients, never push them into places they can’t or don’t want to enter into.”
“Abortion healing can often be healing a wound,” Lisa said, “When we’re addressing wounds, we need to think of them in a clinical manner. When we’re walking alongside someone to grow and strengthen, it’s more of a coaching model. It’s always important that we stay present to our client’s needs.”
Accessing Music for the Soul Songs
Karin explained, “Support After Abortion has entered into a licensing agreement with Steve for one year, so however may people want to listen to [the songs] on our website can.
She also gave information about downloading songs directly from the Mercy Great Enough page on Steve’s Music for the Soul website. The songs are downloadable individually for $1.29. The whole record is downloadable for $11.97. Steve has created a discount code (SAA) for our abortion healing providers to receive 15% off.
“If you’re counseling or working with clients, once you download a song, it’s yours to use with unlimited clients,” Steve said, “Our heart is that people be served. We didn’t create this stuff so it could be hidden away, so if you’ve got somebody who needs that song, and you downloaded it, and you play it for them, and tomorrow someone else needs it, you go ahead and play it for them. That’s what they’re for.”
“If you want to put our songs on your website, please ask and pay the small license fee,” he requested.
Steve added, “It’s kind of the wild, wild west out there. It’s really the honor system at this point. We’re a small nonprofit, records are expensive, and videos even more expensive. So, we appreciate it when people pay.”
Providers’ Reception to Music as a Bridge to Abortion Healing
The reception to this new resource among the abortion healing providers in attendance was immediately positive. Comments included:
“This is amazing! Excellent work! Very impressive!”
“I am thankful that you are acknowledging the value of music therapy in support after abortion.”
“Such great work!”
“A great addition to the abortion healing movement! Music has played a wonderful role in our retreats, especially Rachel’s Vineyard.”
“Such a wonderful tool!”
“This will be wonderful to add to our healing ministry.”
“I am always enriched and encouraged by the work of Support After Abortion – always learn something new!”
“Thank you so much for today’s information. Today’s presentation was excellent.”
Future Music Projects
“Hopefully these two songs will take off,” Lisa said, “and we can get some forward momentum, so we can build out more music, maybe change up some of the tunes to be more relevant or relatable.”
“We really believe in this project,” she continued, “So we hope you take this back, and share your feedback with us, so we can continue to grow it and make it really powerful for those who need healing – in Support After Abortion fashion – providing options, so it’s not just a single way to healing.”
Recap of May 18, 2022 Abortion Healing Provider Webinar
“Answering the questions was like getting undressed in front of someone,” Jane Abbate said as she described what it felt like when she first reached out for support after her abortions. “Each question was like taking off a different piece of clothing. My anxiety increased as the questions got more personal.”
Jane has succeeded as an Executive Director and entrepreneur. She is the author of Where Do Broken Hearts Go? Healing and Hope After Abortion, and currently serves as part of the after care teams with Rachel’s Vineyard in St. Louis. Her passion is to support people on their abortion healing journeys. She leads small groups to explore the emotional aftermath of abortion and to grow beyond that painful experience. She also offers mentoring to build the mindset, skills, and habits that lead to a life of purpose and happiness.
Her own healing journey began in 1999 with a phone call to Rachel’s Vineyard. She had seen advertisements for a few years before finding the courage to make that call. It was the first time she had told anyone about her abortion experiences other than her husband. She recalls the advertisement read Are you suffering from an abortion?
Jane said, “I was suffering from abortionS – and not just two, but three. I was mortified to have to say I had had more than one.”
Jane recounted how after taking that first frightening step of calling, she had to muster up the strength to drive into the parking lot. She had to summon the courage to get out of her car and walk inside. She had to push past feeling intimidated and fearing judgment and condemnation. She was relieved the staff members were compassionate and welcoming. They provided emotional care and support to help her through filling out the paperwork.
Reaching out, getting support, and finding healing after her abortions “changed my life, saved my life. It was the most important thing I’ve ever done,” Jane declared.
Eventually Jane wrote a book, Where Do Broken Hearts Go? Healing and Hope After Abortion, about 19 different emotions she experienced – from numbness, anger and fear to freedom, joy and peace. She explained, “I wrote it that way because I didn’t experience my abortions in my head. I lost my children – the only children I would end up having – through my emotions and the bouts of anger, loneliness, and guilt I was drinking away.”
Jane served on the Rachel’s Vineyard team in Pittsburgh for nearly 15 years. Now she leads after-retreat groups in St. Louis that meet for 4-6 weeks using her book as a basis for discussion and support.
How to Ensure Your Intake Process Prompts Truth
Based on her lived experience as someone who sought support and her expertise gained as a leader in providing abortion healing to others, Jane offered several tips on how to ensure your intake process prompts truth. She emphasized the need tocreate a safe space for clients to open up and share their stories.
Use Language to Ease Client Fears
Her first suggestion is to use language that eases the client’s fears of the unknown by gently explaining what you’re doing and why. Jane said it would have been helpful and less scary if she knew what to expect. For example, she suggests starting an initial phone intake with a statement such as I’m going to ask you some general questions about your abortions. I won’t ask you to share your story, yet. We’ll do that later when we meet in person.
“That would have relieved the tension I was feeling not knowing what was coming, when I would be asked about my story, or how deep the questions would be.” Jane said.
Jane suggested pausing periodically during the intake process for “you are here” type updates and to affirm the client with words such as I know this has been tough. Thank you for sharing. Now we’re going to _______. Jane shared, “it would have been helpful to know I wasn’t going to have to tell it all in that first conversation.”
Lisa Rowe, LCSW and CEO of Support After Abortion, agreed and advised abortion healing providers that “It’s not just the abortions. Clients are exposing the vulnerable places they’ve traveled, so don’t do that all at once.” Lisa also discussed the need to help clients distinguish between shame (I am bad) and guilt (I made a bad decision).
Create a Safe Space for Trust and Sharing
Continuing with her tips for intake that prompts truth, Jane recommended providers reflect on what our purpose is – providing a safe space for clients to trust and share. She explained, “There are so many things you [providers] want to know and that are important to know, but consider if they all have to be asked at the same time.” She talked about the discomfort that many providers have felt “moving from being the compassionate, caring caregiver to the data-collector” and how it’s possible to blend both necessary roles.
Jane encouraged providers to recognize the difference in how questions that require more sensitive and vulnerable responses may affect clients, for example benign answers such as my email address is _____ compared to I’ve had five abortions to I was abused as a child. She discussed how by adjusting our language and intake process and mindfully listening and empathetically engaging with clients, we will put clients more at ease, foster trust, and elicit truth.
Practical Suggestions to Create Space to Prompt Truth During Intake
Karin Barbito, Director of Special Projects at Support After Abortion and a former pregnancy center program director, then shared practical suggestions to create space to prompt truth during intake. She recommended examining your agenda noting, “Barring anything else, you want them to connect with healing, and they’ll know that if you focus on them, not judging. Time during intake is just to be present with them, to normalize their feelings. They’re sharing stuff with you they may not have shared with anyone before. We want them to know they’re not being judged, they’re being loved, and we’re here to serve them. Create that space.”
Tip 1 – Let Clients Know Why We’re Asking Questions
Karin echoed Jane’s advice to let people know why we’re asking these probing, personal questions. For example, “I’m going to ask you about the type of abortions you’ve had, so we can help you with what you’ve been through because the type of abortion often affects people differently. Similarly, we ask the date of the most recent reproductive loss because someone whose loss was only two weeks or two months ago presents much differently than someone 20 years removed from their experience.”
Karin said her purpose for the questions she asks is always “to understand what the client is going through, so I can serve them well. We ask questions in order to offer better support.”
She asked, “How many of you lied when asked about reproductive losses or abortions? I did because I was ashamed and I didn’t want to talk about it.”
Karin said to keep it very relational and create a safe place that will help them to be honest with us, so we can help them find healing.
Tip 2 – Review and Revise Your Intake Regularly
Karin started with saying, “Let me be completely transparent. We did it wrong, and we’ve changed our questions and language along the way because we learned. There’s no shame in pivoting the questions you ask because of personal experience – yours or ours.”
Lisa shared, “We’ve discussed intakes at least once a month for several hours since starting Support After Abortion because we’re constantly learning new things. We’re always open to new understanding. I encourage you, if you haven’t taken a look at your intake in a while, to do so. It’s one of the most important things to begin a conversation and start the relationship on solid footing. It needs to be something you review regularly.”
Karin recommended providers allow clients anonymity during the initial call. She noted that at Support After Abortion, we only need one thing at that point – some form of contact information they’re willing to share so we can follow up. We also try to get a zip code, so that we can connect them with resources near them or in their time zone.
Tip 3 – Use Gentle, Non-Judgmental Language
Karin spoke about using gentle, non-judgmental language. A key example is not to use the term post-abortive because “it’s a label with some really negative connotations.” She shared her personal experience saying, “I had my abortion in 1977, I don’t want to be labeled by that for the rest of my life.”
Another critical language term to avoid is using abortion singularly, as it stigmatizes those who have had multiple abortions. Instead, always use the plural, such as abortions and reproductive losses.
A third language change is to move away from only asking about abortions – or only about miscarriages and stillbirths – rather asking about reproductive losses you’ve experienced including miscarriages, stillbirths, infertility, infant/child death, adoption placements, children removed from the home, abortion pill reversal failures, and abortions. This better captures client experiences and enables us to refer them to organizations and agencies that can support them.
Tip 4 – Meet Clients Where They Are
Karin said, “Politics aside, religion aside, I just want to help people find freedom and walk into their destiny.” She explained that “not everyone wants to start with religion. They may feel judged and condemned.” She encouraged providers to use and provide clients with Support After Abortion’s beginning abortion healing resource Keys to Hope and Healing, which is available in secular or faith-centered editions for men and women, in English and Spanish.
As she continued offering practical suggestions for prompting truth during intake, Karin suggested using a Likert scale instead of the usual How are you doing emotionally? Noting that clients often simply respond fine, Karin shared that we can elicit more genuine responses if we instead ask, How are you doing emotionally on a scale of one to five, with one being “feeling bad most days” and five being “feeling good most days”? It validates the range of emotions clients may be feeling and encourages conversation.
Jane affirmed the value of Likert scales, stating that “it helps give the client something to focus on.”
Additional Likert scale questions on a client’s emotional and mental health well-being were made available to participants after the webinar by sharing the Intake Questions presentation.
Karin suggested following up one month after the client’s retreat, one-on-one, or group and asking the same questions in the same way to see if there has been progress – if healing helped. Karin said this helps us further support the client and capture information confirming that “If someone goes through healing, the likelihood of their choosing abortion again for a future unexpected pregnancy goes down.”
Tip 6 – Determine If Clients are Ready for Support Groups or Therapy
Karin then addressed how to determine if a client is ready for a support group or is in need of clinical therapy.
Karin emphasized the importance of assessing a client’s risk of suicide and encouraged providers to ask the question directly, Are you currently, or have you in the past, had suicidal thoughts? with answer choices being Yes Currently, Yes in the past, and No. If you are having the client complete the form independently, we recommend you include If you are having suicidal thoughts now, please call 800-273-8255, which is the number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. This question is essential to determine whether to refer a client to a support group or therapy and to immediately connect clients with current suicidal thoughts or ideation to effective help.
Karin affirmed the need to ask Are you currently in therapy? and If you’re in therapy, has your therapist approved your participation in this group? Karin stated, “Many groups aren’t professional clinical help, so we want to make sure their therapist is okay with their participation.”
Additionally, Support After Abortion encourages providers to use the Likert scale emotional assessment responses to help determine how to best direct clients. For example, if a client were to answer “1” to all four emotional assessment questions, they should be referred for clinical support. If a client answered “1” to several questions, providers should discern together with the client if clinical support or a support group is best for their needs.
Tip 8 – How to Respond to “I’m Fine”
Lisa urged providers to “see that 20-30 year old man or woman who’s going to expose their deep selves to you, or that 60 year old self who feels like they’re undressing in front of you.” She also addressed providers in pregnancy centers engaging in conversations about previous reproductive losses with pregnant clients, who aren’t expecting these questions.
Karin added, “The client comes into a pregnancy center because they’re pregnant and they’re either happy about it or not. They’re looking for an ultrasound, maybe an education program, maybe gestational age to pursue abortion. We need to slow them down. As people in crisis, they’re not thinking about or hearing what you say.”
If a client indicated they had reproductive losses, Karen shared she would ask them about their losses, and they’d say “I’m fine.” She would ask ‘Can you spend another 10 minutes with me after your pregnancy test to circle back to how you’re doing after your losses?’”
“Then, for example after a negative pregnancy test and sexual avoidance test, I’d say, ‘I’d like a few more minutes, please.’ I made sure I was completely available to them in that moment.”
Her voice softening with compassion, Karin said, “I would then share, I had an abortion, and I thought I was fine, but I really wasn’t. So, tell me, how are you really doing?” She added, “Usually, they started crying because someone was asking about them. Give the opportunity to let people share those secrets that are eating them up. Invest our time in them. In order to love and help them, we need to have the conversation. Consider that when that person leaves your center, you may not see them again. Seize every opportunity.”
Lisa encouraged providers to have someone on their team who has experienced abortion and found healing. Support After Abortion’s consumer research shows that a majority of people would like to speak to someone who has walked in their shoes.1
For providers who have not experienced abortions, Lisa recommended using wording similar to what she says, “That is a very common response. I understand this isn’t an easy place to travel to, but would you mind sharing with me a little bit about your story? The minute their brain is engaged in sharing that story, that’s when the tears come and there is something that then presents. When those tears come and their story generates emotion, I’ll say, I’m so glad you shared that with me. We have support programming for that.”
Lisa encouraged providers, “Don’t stop at ‘I’m fine.’ Start the conversation. Ask more in-depth questions, encourage greater understanding. This is a conversation, not a fill-in-the-blank.”
Tip 9 – Focus on the Client
One provider reflected, “It isn’t about the process so much as the person.
I have to put aside all of my preconceived notions about who she is, and where she is, and what she ought to be, so she can heal. She needs to know that we see her as she is – or he is – in that moment.”
In closing the training session, Lisa said, “We want to be that soft landing place. It’s about her and what she needs, or about him and what he wants to do next.”
She continued, “It’s not about pro-life or pro-choice or about what numbers you need to report to your board. It’s about the client in front of you and what they need and want to do next.”
Jane concluded by urging providers to approach clients from their viewpoint: “I’m not a program participant or member, I’m a woman (or man) – at whatever stage of life – who has come to you at great expense of my shame, guilt, experience, and I need your help and support.
Click here to register for the next Abortion Healing Provider Webinar.
How to Help Clients Experiencing Anger After Abortions
Excerpt from April 21, 2022 Abortion Healing Provider Webinar
During the March 16 Abortion Healing Provider webinar, hosted by Support After Abortion, Fr. Shawn Monahan, OMV, shared great insights on forgiveness in response to questions about how to help clients deal with anger after abortions – toward others and themselves. These ideas and steps can be applied to other anger situations or trauma, as well.
My Client is So Angry, What Can I Say?
Anger is a huge obstacle to healing. You can say, “You may be angry at someone else, God, the world, or even yourself. Working through your anger and pain – and forgiving those who caused it – is for you, not for them.
Forgiveness isn’t forgetting or saying what happened is okay, or letting someone off the hook, and it doesn’t have to be something you feel. It is a decision of the will to move away from punitive anger and focus on your own healing and loving yourself.”
What’s Holding My Client Back From Forgiving?
If you want to figure out what’s holding your client back from forgiving – why they are struggling to forgive – it can be helpful to ask, “What do you feel – or what do you fear – would happen if you were to let go of this anger and forgive this person?” Then ask, “Is that true?” For example, a client might say, “If I forgive my boyfriend, maybe that means what he did to me was okay.” You ask, “Is that true?”
Learn how to ask questions to effectively dialogue with clients from Chris McClusky, President of the Professional Christian Coaching Institute and member of the Board of Directors for a Pro-life Center with this Coaching Clients article and training video.
How Can I Coach a Client Through the Forgiving Process?
Fr. Shawn presented 15 Steps to Forgiving Someone. As you share these steps with a client, emphasize that it is a process and that they are not alone. Remind them that healing and forgiving take time and can feel overwhelming. You can say, “Just begin wherever you are. And, know that while it is your healing and your forgiveness, it isn’t a Do-It-Yourself project. You are not alone. Jesus is inviting you to walk with him and share your wounded heart with him. And, I am here for you.”
15 Steps to Forgiving Someone
Ask the Holy Spirit to show you who you need to forgive. It could be a family member, friend, abuser, God, or yourself. Let that wound surface and take you where the Holy Spirit wants you to go.
Picture that person in front of you. Just look at them and pay attention to what you feel. What do you notice as you look at them? Are you angry? Disgusted? Little? Powerless? Nothing?
Make a full account of the debt they owe you. What did they take from you? How did they hurt you? Don’t gloss over or censure your thoughts or feelings. How has what they did to you affected you? It’s okay to feel angry.
Imagine yourself telling them to their face what they did to hurt you and how it has affected you. Say it however you want to say it.
Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you what you believe about yourself based on that incident – what you believe about yourself in this area of sorrow. This is called an “identity lie.”
Renounce that identity lie. For example, “I renounce the lie that I am not loved or cared for.” “I renounce the lie that this is my fault.” “I renounce the lie that I am too little, or a failure, or ugly, or I will never be…” Then ask, “Holy Spirit, reveal to me now what the truth is.”
Announce the truth. For example, “In the name of Jesus Christ, I announce the truth that I am seen, worth defending, protected, cared for, good, and whole. God is always with me.”
Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the judgments you hold toward the person who hurt you.
Renounce those judgments. (“I renounce the judgment that…” refer to Step #6)
Picture yourself at the foot of the cross. Place yourself and that person who hurt you somewhere in the scene with both of you looking at the face of Christ. Think about what it’s like to see Jesus gaze upon you, to know that he knows your heart, your sorrow, and that He cares for you. Think about what it’s like to have Jesus look upon you with such love and understanding. Think also about what it’s like to see Jesus gaze upon the person who hurt you. He knows their story and why they did what they did. He loves them too and knows the pain in their heart that caused them to do what they did.
Ask Jesus to forgive the person for they know not what they do (or did). Pray, “Please forgive them.”
If you are willing and safe enough – bring that person close to you, to see their face, look them in the eye, and stand there with Jesus, and say, “Through the power of this cross, I forgive you. I choose to forgive you. I choose to release my desire to make you pay for what you have done. I surrender that desire to Christ and ask Him to make it right. I don’t seek revenge. I choose to bless you. I forgive you today and ask Jesus for healing.” Pray for every person who has hurt you, wherever they are, for healing and restoration for them.
Pray a prayer of blessing over that person. Ask God to bless them in the opposite way that they hurt you.
Ask Jesus to seal this forgiveness and heal the wounds.
Thank God for his healing.
Encourage your client as they work this difficult process. You can say, “Through your healing and forgiving, you will experience a ripple effect, particularly in your relationships with others, with family members, with your community, with your church community, with God. While it involves and affects others, your healing journey is for you – for your wholeness, your restoration and your well-being.“
Recap of March 16, 2022 Abortion Healing Provider Webinar
Most abortion healing programs and providers are faith-based, while consumer research shows that 84% of individuals wounded from abortion report preferring a non-faith based approach. This begs the question that was the topic of our March 16 Abortion Healing Provider training: Is God Necessary for Abortion Healing?Pastor Marc Little and Fr. Shawn Monahan, OMV, members of the Support After Abortion Board of Directors, offered valuable insight into how faith-based ministries can help bring healing to those who may not be open to a message of faith.
God is always necessary for healing, but we can’t always lead with Jesus or prayer. We need to lead with love. Our role is to be the merciful presence and compassionate heart of Jesus.
Some people just aren’t ready for faith-based messages or healing due to brokenness, trauma, shame, fear, anger, and belief that God has abandoned them. They need to start with “small h” healing – therapy, counseling, or other non-faith approaches where they can start to acknowledge their symptoms and what’s happening inside.
Anger is a huge factor in abortion woundedness and an obstacle to healing. It is a sign of some other emotion being pushed down. But, anger can be a GIFT revealing what could be underneath it (Guilt, Inferiority, Fear, Trauma).
To get to a place of forgiveness, we need to identify what keeps the anger, unforgiveness, and bitterness in place. We can share with those who are struggling that forgiveness isn’t forgetting or saying what happened is okay, or letting someone off the hook, and it doesn’t have to be a feeling. It is a decision of the will to move away from punitive anger toward someone else and focus on our own healing and loving ourselves.
We can only be healed when we feel safe. So, we need to be a safe, non-judgmental, confidential listening space. Let our words be free of judgment and full of compassion, understanding, and active listening.
Tremendous healing happens through listening to someone’s story. So, encourage story sharing – yours and your clients’. Being heard and affirmed builds trust. The power of saying, “Thank you for sharing that with me. This can’t be an easy thing for you.” can’t be underestimated.
Many women think they are the only one who feels this way, has had this many abortions, is too old for healing, etc., so they keep quiet. Affirm that they are not alone. Knowing that others have been through this and would like to walk the journey with them, can release that obstacle to seeking help.
Just like with physical wounds, it takes time to heal emotionally. Stress that healing is a journey, not a one-and-done or D-I-Y project.
In responding to provider questions, Fr. Shawn spent some time sharing insights on forgiveness and explained 15 Steps to Forgiving Someone.
Fr. Shawn and Pastor Marc ended this month’s webinar with elevating words of peace for Abortion Healing Providers themselves:
Understand we are not God. Oftentimes we find ourselves in a position where we want to make something so. But, the client has free will. So, we lift up the standard, then let God do the work. When we are really in a life and death situation, we can feel a lot of pressure to find the right words, right here, right now. In those moments, we may not have those words – we need to ask and trust the Holy Spirit for the words to speak that will lodge in their heart. Give us Lord, the words of everlasting life and words of hope. May God’s grace be upon us as we seek to be agents of hope and healing in a world that’s so hurting and in need of both.
Click here to watch the March 16 Abortion Healing Provider webinar.
Register now for the next Abortion Healing Provider webinar!
Recap of April 21, 2022 Abortion Healing Provider Webinar
“Allow men the opportunity, to be honest, transparent, and safe,” Pastor Stevie Burke advises, “Protect their vulnerability and allow them to expose themselves completely – hear their heart without pointing fingers. Just hear their heart.”
During the April 21 Abortion Healing Provider webinar hosted by Support After Abortion, Pastor Stevie shared the beginnings, growth, and approach of a weekly men’s program he has been leading for 14 years and how it dovetailed into abortion healing.
Fourteen years ago, Pastor Stevie was the first member of the church he now pastors. At that time, they organically decided to have an open conversation with some men. By the third meeting, he felt called to share his own trauma experience of being raped for two years by his father’s brother.
“Black men don’t talk about being raped. It made them suspicious, but after the dust settled, the feeling was ‘If he can say this, then I can say that.’” Pastor Stevie remarked, “It felt like a safe place to talk about things. Men could come in and unload their trash without worrying about being gossiped about.”
Pastor Stevie said that men have a number of problems they haven’t spoken about with anyone and the group talks about everything that men contend with. Over the years, the group grew by word of mouth. During the coronavirus pandemic, the group shifted to virtual, which enabled them to go national, then international.
What types of ground rules help create a safe sharing space in your group?
Pastor Stevie shared the Ground Rules for Healthy Group Conversations that his men’s group practices:
Meet prospective participants before allowing them to join the meeting. Explain the ground rules, what we do and stand for, and ensure that they understand and fully agree to abide by the rules.
Promise never to repeat any of the participants’ stories.
Allow men to say what they want to say in the way they want to say it.
Don’t ostracize men for their language, appearance, education, etc.
Don’t use any titles – it’s all about relationship, not position.
Keep conversations and discussions non-political.
Give people the freedom to speak even if it’s off-topic.
Allow each man to speak freely about his pain.
If someone violates a rule, they can’t return. The safety of the men is most important.
Pastor Stevie shared that while he announces each week’s topic in an email blast, “nine times out of ten, there’ll be a man there hurting in a different space than the topic.” His approach is to always meet men where they are and allow space for that sharing. “What I want to say isn’t as important as what he needs to say. I want to make sure he’s not ashamed to be emotionally naked and vulnerable.”
How has Support After Abortion equipped you to have broader, deeper conversations?
Pastor Stevie’s heart was moved during an event when he heard about Janine Marrone (Support After Abortion Board President) and Lisa Rowe and Support After Abortion’s focus on men. After the conference, he introduced himself to them and shared his thoughts. They introduced him to Nathan Misirian, Chair of the Support After Abortion Men’s Task Force, who became a conduit of learning for Pastor Stevie on men’s experiences and abortion healing journeys.
“I am grateful to them for the opportunity to hear me, which allowed me to have relationships with them to where I can hear them now,” said Pastor Stevie, “and I can take their communications to my neighborhood where this is not talked about.”
“In 13 years of weekly meetings, we never once discussed abortion – it never came up in any topic,” Pastor Stevie said.
After his interactions with Support After Abortion, Pastor Stevie began to have conversations about abortion. They began to talk about it in general, trying to figure out how to help men recover from the pain of abortion “because we don’t talk about it in our community. But, we’re going to talk about it a lot more because now I’m an advocate on this topic.”
How can you get past the taboo of talking about abortion?
With his heart atuned to helping men open up and then heal from abortion wounds, Pastor Stevie shared his own story of abortion with the group – that as a married man he got another woman pregnant and she had an abortion.
Pastor Stevie said the “leader has to be vulnerable and most transparent – that’s why I told my story.”
After he shared his story, it was “a domino effect of men sharing their abortion experiences.” He described how men cried while telling their stories for the first time ever. Even gentlemen in their 80s spoke “who had never shared their pain about being a contributor to the abortion of their child.” The men have since engaged in a lot of dialogue about abortion.
Pastor Stevie remarked that it was “rewarding for me to share my story and get that weight off me and help them get the weight off them.”
What might surprise people about a man’s reaction to and feelings about abortion?
“Crying. A lot of crying,” Pastor Stevie responded. “The narrative that’s been painted is that men don’t care – and that’s not true. You can’t say that about every man who’s been caught in this situation of not being able to have that child in his life.”
Nathan pointed out that we all need to watch out for stereotypes and that it might surprise people that a man might react first with tears, not anger.
Pastor Stevie shared some of the common reactions men communicate, such as:
I never wanted my child to be aborted, but I didn’t have any choice.
I wanted the child, but couldn’t convince her, so I had to go with the program.
I would have kept the child, but there was no advocate for me to have the child be born.
It’s her body, she can do as she wants to with her body, but that’s my baby.
I don’t have a say in the survival of my child because she chooses to take my child.
“Hopefully you can hear my heart,” Pastor Stevie said, “and know that we too struggle.”
How can women speak to men about abortion?
Noting that many of the webinar attendees were women, Nathan asked how they can effectively speak to men about abortion. Pastor Stevie explained that men react, think, feel, and sound differently than women.
He noted that “Society allows women to talk about this in a way that doesn’t give men the opportunity to do that. So, we’re told to just deal with it and keep moving forward. But, men have a lot of pain when it comes to having lost a child and not having the privilege to have a conversation around that. She says it’s her body, she can do what she wants to with it and she does, so we’re left holding our own pain and we have nowhere to dispose of it. We need to provide the opportunity for men to tell their story.”
“Men need safe places,” agreed one participant, “After my speaking events, they have wept on my shoulder over and over because no one before had given them permission to grieve. Giving men the space to be honest with you will change your experience of healing after abortion.”
“My husband and I have abortion in our past separately,” shared another participant, “His story is so different than mine and I had no idea until he told me about his lack of choice how men really felt.”
Pastor Stevie shared that a man speaks honestly when he believes he’s found a safe place, so he encourages women to be that safe place. He advises women to give a man the opportunity to be completely honest and to say exactly how he feels in his own words without criticizing. He said, “If you allow us to feel and express it the way we do as men, we’re going to be more forthcoming with a lot more than you would think we would.”
Talking about Abortion with Men of Color
Pastor Stevie shared, “As a man of color, whenever someone who doesn’t look like us talks to us about abortion, we get offended by that. Because the problem that we have is that you care about this, but you don’t care about that (other issues)… I believe the answer lies with a lot of you. But, if all you’re coming to me about is abortion, and not about being hungry, it’s hard for me to hear you talk about a baby if I can’t eat.”
He said by focusing only on abortion when communicating with men of color, the men are less likely to engage. He emphasized the importance of relationships, listening, and sharing stories.
Through building relationship with the Support After Abortion team, Pastor Stevie now recommends Support After Abortion as a resource for his members.
“I have an off ramp for you called Support After Abortion,” Pastor Stevie shares with the men, “let me introduce you to some people who can help you.”
He explained that “they’re going to trust me because I look like them, I’m from the same neighborhood, I speak the same language, and I have the same story. So, I can bring them to you, and they’ll trust you because they trust me.”
Perceiving through the lens of dysfunction
Lisa wrapped up the webinar acknowledging her own tendencies, as a recovering codependent, to not be ready to hear the truth. She explained that “clients’ belief systems are often rooted in such dysfunction that they manifest their own experience with men. They perceive men’s inability to speak up or the inability of a man to share with courage and strength about their unexpected pregnancy as rejection because it reminds them of previous trauma. When in all reality it isn’t that, but they can’t see anything different because they are often viewing and trying to make sense of this situation through the lens of childhood dysfunction.”
Have conversations. Build relationships. Help change hearts and minds.
Consumer research shows that 44% of men impacted by abortion said they didn’t have a choice or didn’t know they had a choice.
“Men are hungry for healing,” Lisa said, “but they don’t know where to go. I hope this inspires you to dig deeper into your own stereotypes, your own understanding, your own service model and to be patient with yourselves and caring for yourselves in order to be able to meet people like Stevie right where they are.”
Lisa closed by challenging participants, “From here on out, we need to make sure when we’re speaking about abortion, it’s not just a woman’s conversation. Make sure we are including men in the conversation. Let them know we are not making them the villain, we know they have a past, too, and there is somebody who can meet them right where they are, as well. We want you to replicate this in your communities, within your sphere of influence, among your family and friends. Have conversations. Build relationships. Help change hearts and minds.”