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The Wellness Collaborative: A Holistic Approach to Health, Balance and Recovery

The garden is growing here at The Wellness Collaborative and so is the program. The flowers are reaching towards the sun reminding us of the light we need to soak up in preparation for the winter months.  We are growing root vegetables, onions and carrots, which remind us to ground ourselves on the earth and soak in the nourishment that the earth offers.

sunflowersThe mission and aim of The Wellness Collaborative is to provide the tools to raise the wellness and quality of life for clients who are dealing with severe challenges and the stresses of daily living, through a trauma informed holistic approach to health, balance and recovery. We aspire to support empowerment and self-sufficiency through self-care techniques and wellness-based therapies as a means of healing and coping in daily life so that clients can achieve their highest potential and thrive in their environments.

Working with clients growing and caring for our garden together is just one of the ways in which we accomplish our mission.

The Wellness Collaborative clients tend the garden mindfully during individual therapeutic sessions and participants in our Mindfulness Groups also actively garden when they meet together. Clients who tend the garden take home armloads of produce and also pick produce for our Cooking as Self-Care Group. garden signProduce is used in this group to cook food that is nourishing and healing and is also given to the clients to take home as “homework” to be prepared using recipes learned in the group. Lisa Mase, of Harmonized Cookery, teaches the group, and is one of our community partners, who come to WCMHS to work with us. In addition to the garden serving as a place for mindfulness practice and produce production for clients of the Wellness Collaborative, it also provides extra produce for the Sunrise Recovery Center (part of the Community Support Program at WCMHS) for their community meals. This is one of the many ways we are engaging in intra-agency collaboration.

The Wellness Collaborative offers many different groups based on the needs of the clients we serve. The groups offered are:

garden sign

Groups serve as a way to bring clients together to support one another in a therapeutic environment with the focus of skill building. They are also a fun way to learn skills for the duration of the series on a weekly basis, each week reinforcing the previous week’s teaching. Groups provide the support and structure some clients need in order to support their skill building, self-care practices and daily coping strategies on the journey to seeking overall wellness.

Peers Teaching Peers

The Peers Teaching Peers Program is a new program that we are very excited about in the Wellness Collaborative. We have recently invited three different peers to teach a session of the Self-Care Group. These peers will be teaching a skill that they practice that helps them cope in their daily lives. This new program provides the opportunity for peers to provide support to each other, and empowers these teaching clients to share and simultaneously reinforce their skills that have worked for them on their own personal path to wellness. A win-win for all involved.

The Results

Most clients reduce their stress level and improve their mood by the end of a group series. Clients practice using the coping skills learned in the groups and apply this knowledge in their daily lives. As a result, they are becoming more empowered and self-aware. Through weekly self-assessment, participants notice that their stress has been reduced and their mood has improved by the end of group. This creates the awareness that by using these tools, they themselves, have the capability of lowering their own stress level and improving their overall wellness. They learn techniques for checking in with themselves and noticing when they are dis-regulated and need to use their personal tools. Many clients have reported that they are becoming more aware of what does and does not work for them and are more confident in using their skills. Clients learn that self-care and coping skills can be fun, and that this holistic approach is one of their many options of support on the road to healing. A large majority of the clients come back to do several more of our wellness groups.

Wellness Graph

Twenty-five clients were surveyed, from May 2013-Oct 2013 (HY1 2013), after their six-eight week group series. Twenty-four of the twenty-five surveyed, or 96%, had a decrease in stress level by the end of the group series. One person stayed at the same stress level and was the only person who took the survey weeks after the series was over.

From November 2013-April 2014 (HY2 2013), nine clients were surveyed, after their 6-8 week group series. All nine clients, or 100%, reported a decrease in their stress level by the end of the group series.

Wellness Collaborative Staff and Community Partners

At The Wellness Collaborative, our success is contributed to the myriad of internal and external partners we work with. Seven different clinicians from the greater WCMHS staff, as well as one expert in cooking and nutrition (from the community), are hired by The Wellness Collaborative to run our groups. The Wellness Collaborative also works closely with, and accepts referrals from, community partners. This includes, but is not limited to, Central VT Medical Center, the Plainfield Health Center, the Department of Human Services, Capstone Community Action, and the Peoples Health and Wellness Clinic. A very big thank you goes out to these WCMHS staff and Community Partners for your support and expertise and another very big thank you to Karen Kurrle and Margaret Joyal for believing in and overseeing this program.

The Wellness Collaborative was started in Feb of 2013 and since its inception, has seen some amazing successes. We are very proud of our group series where we are seeing continued attainment in reduced stress levels and improved mood. We are especially excited about the great group of internal collaborative partners who are working across WCMHS Programs and Divisions. Most of all, we are elated to see the ways in which we can help our clients achieve health and wellness by using different supportive holistic methods of treatment. We are looking forward to another great year!

For more information about The Wellness Collaborative please contact Ellia Cohen, Coordinator, at (802) 479-4083.


Written 8/2014

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