National Domestic Violence Hotline Healers Retreat

Friday, 28 August 2009 to Sunday, 30 August 2009
Austin, TX

As part of our Heal the Healers program, Joyful Heart has partnered with the National Domestic Violence Hotline (NDVH) to create a year-long pilot program to determine how structured self-care coupled with an organizational focus on creating sustainable working conditions can have an impact on individuals working in the field of trauma.

The retreat, held at the Crossings in Austin, Texas from August 28 - 30, was the first of its kind to bring together healing professionals who all worked for the same organization. Previous HtH retreats had included professionals from a number of different agencies. The group from NDVH represented leadership, frontline and executive staff, men and women, and individuals with varying tenures in the field.

Identifying the Need

NDVH—which works on the front lines of this issue and is the gateway to services for domestic violence victims and their children—was a clear choice for this year's pilot program. Due to the economic pullback, the staff at the hotline has faced two rounds of staff reductions and has seen their budgets cut as well. Call volume has increased 25% year-over-year and that, coupled with the reduced capacity of the call center, will result in over 40,000 calls going unanswered this year.

The Hotline faced so many challenges during the past year as a result of the economic downturn. First and foremost, we lost key staff, and among them was our Training Coordinator, Volunteer Recruiter, and Database Manager. All of their responsibilities were divided and parceled out to coordinators and other members of management. Additionally, in order stay within budget, all of management took a pay cut.

- Sheryl Cates, CEO, National Domestic Violence Hotline

Heal the Healers Retreat

Based on Joyful Heart's retreat model for survivors, our Heal the Healers retreat has been developed over the past four years with the guidance of Elena Hull, LMFT, LCAT, Retreat Specialist & Clinical Consultant. The Heal the Healers weekend sought to connect participants with a variety of healing modalities ranging from yoga and breathwork to creative art therapy and massage.

During an art therapy session, participants are asked to create a portrait of their internal landscape using collage and arts materials. The group begins by listening to music, poetry and guided self reflection. Participants are then directed to express what they feel or are experiencing within themselves emotionally or physically in that moment using the materials provided. At the close of the group each member shares what they have created and their connections to it.

Before focusing on self-care techniques, the group was introduced to the signs of vicarious traumatization by Laura van Dernoot Lipsky, a trauma worker and author of Trauma Stewardship. In partnership with Laura, Joyful Heart has developed a program model for healers that first reviews the 16 signs of the trauma exposure response, and then provides practical guidance for how individuals and organizations can establish sustainable self-care practices.

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