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Therapeutic woodworking program in Dartmouth an overwhelming success

Using woodworking as a way to start feeling better
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LakeCity Works has been helping the people of Dartmouth since 1982, but it was only a year-and-a-half ago they started one of their most successful programs.

The Therapeutic Woodworking program is a 12-week group session that allows people to work with their hands to help overcome trauma.

"In the first pilot we were working with a group of veterans with PTSD, and then after the success of that first pilot we decided to branch out," says LakeCity Works' Executive Director Liam O'Rourke.

Now the organization also works with the LGBTQ community and people with mental illness.

O'Rourke says in its simplest form, it's using woodworking as a way to start feeling better.

"It's kind of making sawdust to make you feel good," he tells NEWS 95.7's The Sheldon MacLeod Show.

The fall session of the program is just finishing up, but a new one will begin in the New Year.

"We've basically just opened up our shop Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings," explains O'Rourke.

Participants have pretty open reign to create and build what they want.

"The very first iteration we had this idea that we were going to do one project with the entire group," says O'Rourke.

But in the end participants wanted to create furniture they could take home items to use in every day life.

"It was an opportunity for them to get out there and make something to bring it back to their family and that made them feel really good. It made us feel really good too," says O'Rourke.

So far the three rounds of participants have given overwhelmingly positive reviews.

But despite this, LakeCity Works still doesn't have official proof that there are therapeutic benefits to woodworking.

"When we were planning the project, starting to look towards the literature to find just some support for the fact that working with your hands is of benefit to your mental health," says O'Rourke.

But the group only found one study, and that one was about wood carving.

"If there's a researcher out there that wants to work with us and demonstrate the value of this program," O'Rourke says they're more than welcome to study the group.

Currently, there are 32 participants in the fall sessions. But O'Rourke says there's so much interest there's already a wait list for the winter.

"Over the past year and a half we've served probably close to 100 people through this programming, and our wait list is just enormous," he explains.

The executive director says if there was enough funding, the Therapeutic Woodworking groups could run five days a week, all day long.

"We need to find ways to expand that program and offer it on a more regular basis. What we can do to improve the program, try to serve more folks, and just keep it going into the future," he adds.

"If there's a funder out there that's looking to support veterans then we'd be happy work with them."

To learn more visit the LakeCity Works website.

Victoria  Walton

About the Author: Victoria Walton

Victoria is's weekend editor and a Halifax-based freelancer. She is originally from Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley.
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