YWCA Focuses on Trauma Informed Mindfulness in Programming

YWCA New Britain is incorporating trauma informed mindfulness experiences like yoga, breathing, and meditation into its programs and services to empower the community and eliminate injustices caused by trauma.

In getting these efforts off the ground, Membership & Wellness Director Heather Labbe has completed 40 hours of Trauma Center Trauma-Sensitive Yoga (TCTSY) training and has become certified in trauma informed yoga, Mental Health First Aid, and Yoga 4 Classrooms.

Heather now leads trauma informed yoga classes for survivors twice weekly through YWCA’s Sexual Assault Crisis Service (SACS) to help promote mindfulness and empowerment. Classes are also held regularly for the agency’s fitness members, childcare students, and youth development program participants, as well as for community members through the Yoga From the Museum series in partnership with SACS and the New Britain Museum of American Art (NBMAA).

“The whole idea of offering this in a trauma informed way is that it’s invitational,” Heather explained. “It’s a non-fixing and non-judgmental experience.”

In addition to trauma informed yoga, the YWCA is offering free mindfulness trainings. This includes Empower Workshops which explore subjects that impact trauma survivors in a holistic format and are tailored to an organization’s goals and services. YWCA facilitators have led workshops for Prudence Crandall Center, the American School for the Deaf, the Green T.E.A.R. Initiative, and other groups to train staff and promote mindful self-compassion.

Another mindfulness opportunity is the Empower Lunch & Learn Workshop series. Offered twice monthly, participants can learn about topics such as self-esteem, healthy relationships, breathing for stress, and more through virtual platforms with YWCA facilitators.

Workshops are also being held internally for YWCA staff. All group exercise instructors participated in trauma informed training in July 2020, becoming the only fitness program in Connecticut to have a fully trauma informed team. Most recently, the childcare staff underwent a similar training to help them in their work with students who might be experiencing trauma and to learn about coping with stress and burnout. YWCA staff members now have access to a stress management support group and to a Staff Quiet Room, as well.

“Trauma informed programming is really a direction we wanted to go in for a while,” explained YWCA New Britain Executive Director Tracey Madden-Hennessey. “This becomes one example of integrating skills and programming through our wellness department into other programs at the YWCA.”

In addition to trauma informed programs and services, the YWCA is using a Trauma Informed Community Development (TICD) model in its work on New Britain’s East Side. A Behavioral Health Community Organizer (BHCO) and a group of youth Community Health Workers (CHWs) will screen and monitor residents for COVID-19 related health needs to then provide intensive trauma informed outreach and link them with vital resources.

Moving forward, the YWCA plans to integrate its trauma informed experiences with more programs internally as well as with other groups and organizations in the community.