16th March 2018

On 9-10 March the Irish Mission had the privilege of hosting a Community Resiliency Seminar provided by Loma Linda University International Behavioural Health Trauma Team. During these seminars we were introduced to the Community Resiliency Model (CRM), a set of skills that are designed to help individuals understand the biology of traumatic stress reactions and learn specific skills to return the body, mind and spirit back to balance after experiencing traumatic events. These skills can awaken the hope that has, for some, been lost after natural and human-made disasters.


Dr Beverly Buckles and her team took it in turns to discuss the biology of the brain and how it

physically switches to survival mode when it is placed under stress or when it faces a threat. Survival mode brings with it many of the symptoms that are known with trauma. Resiliency decreases.

The amazing thing about the human body, however, is that you can recognise or track these physical effects in the body. This is the skill of 'Tracking'. It is also possible to switch one's anatomy out of survival mode and therefore reduce the trauma effects. This can be done through a few very simple exercises like 'Resourcing', and 'Grounding'. The words sound te

chnical, but the skills are very easy to learn and implement. Much of the group's time was spent practising how to explain these skills to somebody who is interested in a peer counselling context.

Dan-Serb-addresses-the-group-on-Sabbath-morning-640px-1-of-22It was interesting to hear how this model was devised by Elaine Miller-Karas. In one presentation Dr. Buckles reflected on how learning this model changed her relationship to the Church as well: "As an academic in the field of Social Work, I have often felt that my skills and chosen profession was relegated to the gritty side-lines, away from daily church life, where the main focus tends to be on spirituality and doctrine and the survival needs of the organisation. In learning this CRM programme this has changed. I believe it contains an essential set of skills that integrates beautifully into the lives of church members and general public alike, and truly has the ability to enhance wellbeing and life satisfaction. I feel that in teaching these skills, we are really making a valuable contribution."

Trying-to-describe-mystery-objects-in-a-brown-paper-bagThe training event was attended by 35 members from across the Irish Mission, with good representation from both Lifestyle centres – The Cuisle Centre and Prehen Lifestyle Centre. At one point the CRM team remarked that the Irish Mission were by far the most responsive group they have encountered. There was plenty of discussion and questions. During the final activity and prayer of the event, the group formed a circle. We went around the room and everyone had to say one word about how they felt about the training. Words that came up were, ‘Hopeful, re-energised, enthusiastic, calm, empowered….’ It was great to hear such positive words and feel the enthusiasm of all the participants.

There has been very positive feedback following these seminars, especially regarding a mobile phone app, the iChill app, that has been created by the Trauma Resource Institute. It is a useful tool, available for Android and iOS devices, which goes along with CRM and explains the model and some of the key techniques.

Peer-Counselling-demonstrationSimone Coetser reports, "I'm a learning support assistant in a school in Derry/Londonderry. When I arrived at work on Monday after the training, a colleague asked what I learned. I immediately launched the iChill app on my phone and showed her the resiliency images. I also played the audio of the Grounding exercise. We've been practising similar skills with the learners that we support, but this is by far the best resource that we have found in this field. My colleague was impressed, and my supervisor arranged for a 30-minute slot for me to talk to the staff about what I have learned."

Health Ministries Sponsor for the Irish Mission, Betty O’Rourke responded by saying “I thought the Training was very beneficial and useful. It was a new dimension in mental health support- one I haven’t experienced before”. Betty goes on to say “The ‘oneness’ of the group was unusual and there were no barriers as everyone was like minded. I can see CRM working well in either our interaction with church members, the homeless people we meet each Thursday night in Galway City - who need some hope in their lives - or our family and friends”.

CRM-Training-640px-16-of-22There were also very positive responses from volunteers who lead out in the Lifestyle Centres, Pastor Weiers Coetser says, “Over the last year the fitness classes that we have been running in our Prehen Lifestyle Centre have been growing in popularity. We have been trying different strategies to link our fitness classes to a broader framework for wellbeing and flourishing. We were very grateful to be able to send a team of six volunteers to attend this training. Having completed this introductory course, we are all in agreement that we have been given unique and powerful tool to boost the mental health component of our programme. We have already scheduled our next team meeting to discuss how we will practically do this and promote the programme as well”. Dr. Shereen and Rick Roberts, who are actively involved in the Prehen Centre, stated that “We really enjoyed the Community Resilience Model training. It was very thought provoking and relevant. We are looking forward to finding ways that we can implement the given tools in in our personal life’s and work in the community by God’s Grace.”

CRM-Training-640px-19-of-22With regards to the Cuisle Centre, Heather Keough excitedly reports that “we have many people come through our doors who have had a trauma in their lives, suffered from depression and anxiety, or are lonely. Many of the skills that we learnt will help our team in our interactions with not just the church members but also members of our community. We are excited about putting these strategies in to place in the different programs we run in the Cuisle Centre. Joan Burch who regularly volunteers at the Cuisle Centre was impressed with what she learnt. She states that the story of the soldier who suffered from PTSD for 12 years was so encouraging, that after 1 ½ hours with the CRM program he had the tools to spot reliving the trauma and move on to a better life.

Dr. Petar Popivanov, from the Ranelagh church was also enthusiastic: “At the workshop a very simple tool to reduce stress was presented. This can be applied by anyone at any circumstances. It also reminded me of how amazing our nervous system is. How reserves and abilities to recover are deeply woven into our very nature by the Creator. Isn’t this what God was trying to tell us all along? With David who said, “when I kept silent my BODY wasted away (tracking)”. And ‘resourcing’ from his experience as a shepherd and God’s care and forgiveness he wrote Psalm 23. It was great to see the modern achievements of the modern neuroscience, psychology and behavioural therapy hand in hand with the ‘old time religion’ in the powerful healing of brokenness and distress. After all isn’t that what salvation is – healing of our body, mind and spirit”

Pastor Greg Davis from Dublin West Church, is currently studying Psychotherapy. He summarised his experience: “The seminar was timely, empowering, and practical. The techniques are simple but very effective. I’m going to use the experience and skills to enhance my self care and to improve my practice as a psychotherapist and an Adventist Chaplain”.

Claire-and-Simone-640px-20-of-22Many in the group were also delighted to see Claire Muldrew who grew up in Banbridge Seventh-day Adventist Church lead out as part of the CRM team. She is currently living and working at Loma Linda University. We look forward to hopefully in the future having the CRM team return and provide more intensive training that will benefit the lives of the people within our churches in Ireland and those that we encounter every day.

More photos of the training weekend are available on our gallery page.

Further Resources:

A book by Elaine Miller-Karas that describes the model.  

The iChill app is available for Android and in the App Store for iOS devices.

Visit the website of the Trauma Resource Institute.

[Heather Keough]

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