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Red Cross Workshops Help Service Members and Their Families Manage Stress

Martha Teater is a licensed Marriage & Family Therapist based in Western North Carolina. Originally drawn to the Red Cross as a Disaster Mental Health volunteer following Hurricane Katrina, she was soon drawn to lend her professional expertise supporting the military, veterans and their families as part of Service to the Armed Forces in 2008. She has played a key role in the development of Red Cross SAF mental health programs, including the newest – Mind-Body Workshops. We spoke with Martha about this new, innovative program:

Martha, tell us a little about yourself.  

I’ve been a therapist in Western North Carolina since 1990. I’ve done a lot of volunteer work over the years, but was drawn to support the Red Cross in Disaster Mental Health following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Not too long afterwards began my involvement with Service to the Armed Forces, which has been the longest-lasting and the most important to me.

About 11 years ago, I became part of the work group focused on the development of mental health programs to strengthen the resiliency of service members, veterans and their families. It feels great to be able to offer practical support to military and veteran families!

Martha Teater, who helped develop the Mind-Body workshops.

What are Mind-Body Workshops, and what are the goals and purpose of this new program?

Mind-Body Workshops are two short, one-time sessions that teach service members, veterans and their families easy-to-use skills that help participants to improve wellness and manage stress. Participants learn and practice new skills, like breathing and meditation, that will help them feel calmer and more comfortable. These tools can be learned by anyone, anytime and anywhere.

There are so many unique stressors that military families face, and we know that these mind-body practices can be helpful. Chronic stress has such a negative impact on service members, vets and their families, and the research is clear about the dramatic impact of the tools that we are offering.

Mind-Body Workshops are targeted for service members from all branches, family members, veterans (recent and long-term vets), and members of the National Guard and Reserves. Right now, we are serving adults but hope to modify this material for children and teens.

What was your role in the development of the new Mind-Body Workshops?

I was part of the team of experts in mental health, mind-body practice, military culture, and complementary and integrative healing. After extensive research and analysis, we ultimately developed two workshops that teach service members, veterans and their families simple tools to help them stay grounded and refocus during times of stress.

Who else can benefit from participating in Mind-Body Workshops?

Anyone who is connected to the military can benefit. We’ve even found that these skills can be helpful for Red Cross staff and volunteers. It’s likely that the facilitators even benefit since they’re being reminded of the power of using these tools on a regular basis.

A mind-body workshop in action.


In your professional opinion and experience, what are the benefits of this type of intervention (compared to more traditional interventions)?

Mind-body techniques are evidence-based interventions that have been proven to heal chronic stress and address the unique way trauma sits within the body. By learning about and practicing easy techniques that heal the brain by engaging the mind, service members will be provided with a toolbox of skills to utilize alone and/or with family members and friends on an ongoing basis.

To combat the risk factors for chronic stress and suicidal ideation, participants are also provided with a resource list with local community organizations that they can continue to be engaged with at the conclusion of the workshop.

How do participants react and respond to the workshops that you provide?

We are getting rave reviews from participants who have taken these modules. Even during a 60-90 minute module, they report feeling more optimistic and positive about their ability to help themselves and to begin using these approaches immediately. Since we practice these exercises during the workshop they get to experience the benefit in the here and now, right in the room.

We’ve had an enthusiastic response from early workshops held, and we’re getting loads of facilitator applications from all over the country. The professional expertise of our facilitators is impressive. They are all top-notch facilitators and have so much to offer. There’s a lot of excitement around this program and our facilitators are energized and ready to lead these workshops!

How can someone register for a class?

You can register to participate in a Mind-Body Workshop here.

A mind-body workshop in action.