Heal the Healers

When trauma occurs, it is as if a pebble has been tossed into a pond: ripples of the event are felt far beyond the original point of impact. Violence touches all the people and systems that come in direct contact with survivors, as well as those that play a role in managing the community response to the trauma. Police officers, judges, lawyers, advocates, therapists, nurses, friends and loved ones—to just name a few—all have the opportunity to contribute to a community response of healing. They are also vulnerable to the very real cumulative effects of bearing witness to suffering. Guilt, fear, feeling helpless and a sense that whatever we contribute will never be enough are commonly reported experiences. Experts refer to these experiences in different ways such as vicarious trauma, secondary traumatic stress or compassion fatigue, however the common thread is that healers are suffering. All too often, these professionals pay a profound cost in their lives in an effort to meet a demanding need, a cost that we at Joyful Heart believe is too high. One study, for example, found that 70 percent of domestic violence advocates met criteria for clinical levels of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Our Heal the Healers program recognizes this cost and is dedicated to supporting the field in finding ways to uplift and support those who work in service of others. We also recognize that we, as a healing community, are best able to support others when we have replenished and taken care of ourselves first. Heal the Healers programs educate participants on the signs and effects of traumatic exposure and offer healing professionals concrete tools they can use to develop practices of self-care and sustainability. 

“It’s a proven fact that we hold on to trauma. How can somebody who’s holding so much trauma be of service to someone else if they’re full up? You’ve got to empty the glass.”

 – Mariska Hargitay

Through our Heal the Healers programs and partnerships, as well as through tools like our print and online publication, Reunion, our website and social media community, we seek to bring greater awareness to the issue of vicarious trauma and tools for prevention and intervention, as well as to create a systemic shift in the way the field cares for survivors and ourselves. 

Current Heal the Healers programs include:

  • 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 scholarships.

Through our evaluation efforts, we’ve found that 95 percent of participants said that their Heal the Healers program increased their awareness of trauma exposure response and that since participating, they are committed to integrating various self-care practices learned at a program into their daily lives.

“I am starting to see just a glimmer of gratitude and joy that I started with all those years ago. A glimmer I know can grow. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.” 

– Program Participant

In our most recent fiscal year, our Heal the Healers programs have served over 2,000 professionals from over 85 organizations. Healers served by these programs include police officers, social workers, therapists, advocates, attorneys, judges, child protective specialists, crime lab technicians, organizational leaders and support staff at all levels who dedicate their time to caring for survivors.

If you would like more information on our Heal the Healers program schedule, we invite you to email info@joyfulheartfoundation.org. For resources on vicarious trauma and self-care, as well as a list of more experts and leaders on vicarious trauma, click here.

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