New Program: Helping the Helpers in the LGBTQ+ and BIPOC Communities

LANCASTER, PA Content warning – this post discusses thoughts of suicide. If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, help is available. Call or text 988, available 24 hours in English and Spanish.  

Touchstone Foundation announces a new program, coming Fall 2024 to Lancaster County. “Helping the Helpers: Healing Circles and Group Therapy for LGBTQ+ and BIPOC Leaders” will offer a free six-week series of healing circles and group therapy for Community Benefit Organization (CBO) leaders who serve the LGBTQIA+ community, and those organizations who serve the intersections of the Black Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) populations.  

Touchstone Foundation is grateful for the support to launch “Helping the Helpers: Healing Circles and Group Therapy for LGBTQ+ and BIPOC Leaders” from the LGBTQ+ Giving Circle at the Lancaster County Community Foundation. Grant funding covers the cost of two facilitators for each session. Facilitators will be a clinical psychologist, and a licensed clinical social worker. 


Leaders in this space have shared with us that they are hurting, burned out, grieving, and tired. Touchstone Foundation will bring mental wellness, self-care, and group therapy to individuals in the leadership space, including staff, volunteers, and advocates. These sessions will provide a safe space for connection and healing in a series to build community and connection. Bringing mental health care to the CBO leadership can support people in their mental wellness so that they can continue to lead and serve our community.  

Healing Circles are deeply rooted in the culture of North American indigenous people, specifically the Lakota and many First Nations peoples of Canada. A talking stick or other sacred object is passed around the circle to remove hierarchy and ensure equality among all participants in the group. Studies have indicated that this format is particularly helpful for a shared experience, such as trauma and resilience, grief, cancer diagnosis, restorative justice, and more.  

Group Therapy offers the option of identifying, treating, managing, and promoting recovery for multiple patients who share a similar diagnosis or experience. It can be used to treat and support various conditions and experiences such as emotional trauma, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and more.  

Touchstone Foundation will plan, convene, and host “Helping the Helpers” once per week for six weeks, beginning in October 2024. Registration is free and will open in August, on a first-come, first-served basis. Space is limited to 20 participants. Four six-week series will be held during the year. Registration will be open again in December for the second session starting in January.  

Touchstone Foundation affirms the need for intersectional and equitable strategies in our programs. We received numerous requests for healing circles and group therapy from CBO leaders in the LGBTQ+ space, as well as those serving the BIPOC population. These leaders have confided in us that they are struggling to maintain their own mental wellness. We offer the Mental Health Access Assistance program, but it is limited to serving individuals whose household income is below 250% of the Federal Poverty Level, or approximately $76,000 per year for a family of four.  

Touchstone Foundation already offers the “Rise Above youth summit” for high school students to facilitate support around eliminating stigma in youth mental wellness, and “A Moment to Breathe”, a resource group for parents and caregivers of young children, with childcare.  

Welcoming CBO leaders who serve the LGBTQ+ and BIPOC populations into a series of Healing Circles and Group Therapy affirms and supports the challenging work of trauma, vicarious trauma, and healing necessary to ensure mental wellness among leaders serving these communities. We know that with the tragic death by suicide of many young people in our community who identified in the LGBTQIA+ communities, leaders are hurting.  

By establishing the “Helping the Helpers” program, Touchstone Foundation will promote and raise awareness for the importance of mental wellness, especially among the CBO organizations who serve individuals in the LBGTQ+ and BIPOC communities. It is important to distinguish that rates of mental health need are not higher among these groups because of the LGBTQ+ or BIPOC identities, but rather because of discrimination and harassment from bigotry, intolerance, hate, and injustice suffered and endured.