Healing & Wellness

Our Healing & Wellness programs are designed to provide survivors and those who care for them improved access healing techniques and wellness practices that are holistic—addressing the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual effects of their experiences, all in the nurturing environment of community.

In response to the thousands of letters from survivors that Mariska Hargitay received after starting her role on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, she created Joyful Heart to help survivors heal and reclaim their lives. Our small staff and board consulted with experts in the field of trauma response to formulate not a crisis intervention, but a next response—a way to help those who were on their healing journeys thrive and reclaim joy.

We know that survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse have had to encounter some of the worst that life has to offer, and Joyful Heart’s Healing & Wellness programming is designed to reintroduce some of the best life has to offer: safety, compassion, connection, community and possibility.

"I am no longer just alive, I am now living." - Retreat Program Participant

Since our inception, we have taken a holistic approach to healing. We know that the effects of trauma long outlast the experience itself; they live on in the mind, body and spirit. Our healing approach addresses trauma from each of these angles—we engage the body through movement, the mind through creative expression and the spirit through group sharing experience. In a safe and nurturing environment, modalities we may use include creative arts therapy, guided writing, body work, yoga and meditation, music, dance, movement, play and mindfulness. Our goal is to increase the understanding of the effects of trauma and the use of integrated trauma-informed wellness models to improve quality of life for survivors.

Today, our Healing & Wellness initiatives include the following programs for survivors:

  • Signature retreat programs. A multi-day program guided by trauma experts and wellness practitioners that give survivors the opportunity to explore healing modalities for the mind, body and spirit in the nurturing environment of community.
  • Wellness days (one day retreats). A full-day program facilitated by trauma experts during which survivors can process experiences and explore healing modalities in the nurturing environment of community.
  • Namelehuapono Wahine. An innovative Hawaiian culturally-based group model for survivors that integrates Hawaiian values, traditions and practices with other modalities as a pathway to healing.
  • Improving community response. Our work that focuses on improving systems to lessen the trauma survivor's experience, ensuring greater access to justice for survivors and changing attitudes about violence and abuse.

We recognize that this approach to healing is a unique—yet needed—response to trauma. Under the leadership of our National Advisory Committee, a group of 20 leaders in the fields of trauma response and holistic healing, Joyful Heart is working to bring this model of healing available to the field so it can be shared and replicated by organizations far beyond Joyful Heart’s own reach, starting first with the retreat model. We invite you to read more about this process and our National Advisory Committee.

We also know that undertaking healing work often comes at a cost. Our Heal the Healers program addresses the effects of helping those who have experienced violence and suffering, costs that can include feelings of helplessness or hopelessness, a sense that one can never do enough, guilt, fear, hyper-vigilance and anger. We also recognize that we as a healing community are best able to care for survivors when we care for ourselves first. 

We offer the following programs for those whose work brings them in contact with the suffering of others:

  • Transforming Trauma days. A full-day workshop for healing professionals from local service agencies that includes education about vicarious trauma and breakout sessions for professionals to explore self-care practices. 
  • In-office wellness sessions. Sessions for an professionals working within a single organization that can include education about vicarious trauma, exploration of self-care practices and discussion of the culture or practices of the organization that can facilitate vicarious trauma among employees. 
  • Partnerships and collaborations. Our work with survivor-serving partner organizations that are taking strides to address vicarious trauma, which can include providing educational presentations on vicarious trauma, resources and educational materials, expert consultation and scholorships.

“I sat with my clients today and felt like I was present and attuned in a calmer, more loving, peaceful way than last week. I can actually feel the difference, and I know they can too. I so desperately needed what you so freely and skillfully gave—thank you.”

- Heal the Healers Program Participant

Though our Healing & Wellness work is only part of our program portfolio, the uniqueness of these programs and our holistic approach to healing is what many might say Joyful Heart is best known for. We hope that in time, more and more organizations will adopt these practices and apply them to their own work with survivors. Not only do we seek to transform the lives of the survivors and healers who participate in our programs, we seek to transform the way the field responds to trauma—to create and share a model for healing that can be replicated far beyond Joyful Heart’s own reach. 

Learn more about Joyful Heart’s Education & Awareness and Policy & Advocacy work.

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