Hurricane Harvey was one of the costliest tropical cyclones in America’s history, leaving Houston and the surrounding areas with $125 billion in damages. The Houston Metroplex is the fifth-most populous metropolitan area in the United States and all of its nearly 7 million residents were impacted by the massive storm. Although the flood waters have receded, the FEMA applications have been submitted and most of the mucking and cleaning is now finished, the emotional and psychological healing from Hurricane Harvey continues.
Eager to help Houstonians recover, The Center for Mind-Body Medicine (CMBM) reached out to our program graduates in the area and received an immediate response from Gwen Brehm, M.Ed., LPC, the Founder and Executive Director of Houston’s Center for Mind Body Health. Gwen reached out to her friends and colleagues in the mental health community and we soon joined with the leading Houston-based behavioral health and social service organizations – the Institute for Spirituality and Health (ISH), the Menninger Clinic, Houston Galveston Institute, the Jung Center, The Center for Mind Body Health, Compassionate Houston and Healing Circles Houston – to create the Greater Houston Healing Collaborative.
In late November 2017, with funding provided by the Greater Houston Community Foundation’s Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund and The Rotary Club of Houston District 5890, the Collaborative began organizing a community-wide trauma relief and resilience building program for persons impacted by Hurricane Harvey in the City of Houston and Harris County, Texas.
The mission of our Collaborative is to disseminate CMBM’s “train the trainer” model of self-awareness, self-care and mutual support to Houston-based therapists and counselors to first decrease their own symptoms of stress and trauma and then to teach them to effectively implement the model in their communities.
An Enthusiastic Response
Through intensive outreach and marketing efforts, the Collaborative partners recruited an impressive cadre of mental health counselors, therapists, school counselors, and religious and spiritual leaders. Within just three weeks, more than 150 people had applied for the scholarship positions available for the 3-phased, intensive training. The trainees mirrored Houston’s diverse cultural, ethnic, religious and socioeconomic communities, with native languages including Korean, Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese, Vietnamese and Farsi. More than 25 local behavioral health and social service organizations and institutions were represented (see below).
Some Houston Organizations
Represented in this Program
Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston • Clear Creek ISD • Channelview ISD • Communities in Schools • Compassionate Houston • Dia de la Mujer Latina (DML) • First Presbyterian Church of Sealy • Harris County Felony Mental Health Court • Healing Circles Houston • Healthcare for Homeless Veterans Program • Houston Galveston Institute • Houston Independent School District (HISD) • Institute for Spirituality and Health • Legacy Community Health • Lone Star College Counseling and Disability Services • Memorial Assistance Ministries • MD Anderson Cancer Center • Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center • St. Paul’s United Methodist Church • The Center for Stress Management • The Jung Center • The Menninger Clinic • Urban Paths Houston • UT HEALTH, Harris County Psychiatric Center
Passion and Commitment
120 physicians, nurses, counselors, educators, and spiritual leaders have now been trained in CMBM’s model of self-care and group support. Trainees are integrating the model into their work in hospitals and clinics, schools, community-based organizations and houses of faith across Houston, already reaching over 10,000 traumatized children and adults. GHHC-trained facilitators have focused on heavily impacted areas across Houston, including Kashmere Gardens, Bear Creek, Bellaire, Meyerland, Third Ward, Katy, Pasadena, VA hospitals, and the Felony Mental Health Court, among many others.
The program kicked off with a 4-day initial Professional Training Program (PTP) on December 7-11, 2017. Attendees learned the comprehensive foundation for CMBM’s approach – the biology and psychology of stress and trauma and the research supporting it – and experienced mind-body techniques in both small and large group formats. Then they immediately began outreach efforts to share their new skills with people in their workplaces and communities who were affected by Harvey. We created a Facebook page for them to interact, ask questions and exchange ideas with each other and our team. This remains a very active forum for them to seek guidance, share their successes and to exchange creative ways to market their groups through their networks and other social media sites such as NextDoor.
After Harvey, I was unable to cry; I was so afraid my tears would be overwhelming. Today I was able to cry- but they were tears of joy and relief for the compassion and support shared through this process. Thank you CMBM and your healing work.
LaVonne Carlson, UT Health HCPC
On January 4-7, 2018, 79 participants returned for the 4-day Advanced Training Program (ATP). Here, they learned how to lead small Mind-Body Skills Groups (MBSGs) as well as Mind-Body Skills Workshops (MBSWs) with members of their community. They each had the opportunity to put their knowledge to practice – leading groups and teaching the techniques with their peers and with support and guidance from senior CMBM faculty. The commitment and enthusiasm of our Houston colleagues is palpable. They have been highly focused on learning this model, engaging with us and with each other with impressive motivation, inquiry and dedication to serving their fellow Houstonians as soon as possible.
It was amazing how fast we were able to put our group together. Now we have people asking about our group and wanting to join. Looking forward to this amazing journey we will have with our group members and I am humbled that I can be part of this big initiative to bring healing to our community.
Susan Kamfar, MD, M.A.Ed
(posted in Greater Houston Healing Collaborative Facebook group)
The Greater Houston Healing Collaborative itself is organizing as a permanent body, creating a charter for membership and structuring to position itself as an effective framework to provide long-term, sustainable mind-body programs, as well as rapid response in future disasters, for the entire Greater Houston area.
Funding for this program generously provided by:
Direct inquiries about our work with the Greater Houston Healing Collaborative to Tina Fisher ([email protected]).