The Violence Intervention Program (VIP) at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) provides trauma-informed intensive case management services and trauma therapy to youth and families impacted by community violence. The work is incredibly rewarding and at times also difficult due to the pain, suffering, and injustice that we witness. In an effort to support staff in processing the challenges this work brings, our Clinical Manager, Laura Vega, DSW, LCSW, developed the Stress-Less Initiative (SLI).
SLI is a group model used to prevent, address, and reduce secondary traumatic stress (STS) for frontline, caregiving professionals. SLI acknowledges that STS is a normal and common response to this work and is not a result of an individual’s weakness or deficit. STS symptoms need to be addressed to avoid long-term physical or behavioral health issues, as well as to better support the needs of our patients. SLI tools focus on building personal and team resilience, which have been shown to be effective protective factors against STS.
As we navigate a “new normal” and face the collision of COVID-19 disparities and racial injustice, we encounter new challenges and witness additional pain. Many of the youth and families we serve are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and are experiencing racism, oppression, and injustice. Witnessing these disparities and injustices can lead to STS symptoms for some, and can be triggers of a primary trauma for others.
SLI teaches that resilience can be developed and grown by:
- Building connections with those around us. We can engage with empathetic and understanding people to remind us that we are not alone. Some people tend to isolate when feeling high levels of stress, but literature shows the importance of social support.
- Taking care of our bodies by eating healthy and exercising. Getting good nutrition and hydration, enough sleep, and daily exercise will increase our personal resilience.
- Maintaining a positive outlook and keeping things in perspective. We may not be able to change the landscape as it relates to COVID-19 and racial injustice, but we can change how we interpret and respond to it.
- Finding meaning in our work and remembering why we do what we do. Having a sense of purpose and self-worth can empower us to grow in resilience.
Across our team, we have an understanding of the unspoken challenges in our work, as well as systemic limitations and the value of what we do. There is power in being validated by those who truly understand. Literature suggests that group cohesion is an effective protective factor in reducing the effects of traumatic stress. When we create safe and supportive work environments, we increase opportunities for individual and group resilience. Now, more than ever, we should be leaning on our social supports and resources.
SLI is an invaluable group model that emphasizes and fosters individual and team resilience. In challenging times like these, staff have remained connected and supported through virtual sessions. Learn more about the group model here.
For more information on implementing SLI on your team, please email Stressless@email.chop.edu.
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