Programs for Survivors

In response to the thousands of letters that Mariska Hargitay received as she began her role on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit —and to the stories of pain, shame and isolation that they told—she created Joyful Heart to help survivors heal and reclaim their lives. 

Since our inception, Joyful Heart has served survivors through our retreat model, through Wellness Days, a one-day retreat experience and through Namelehuapono Wahine, an innovative Hawaiian cultural group program for survivors. 

Our programs are designed to address trauma through a holistic approach—addressing the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual effects of their experiences. Participants explore and engage in modalities like creative arts therapy, guided writing, body work, yoga and meditation, music, dance, movement, play and mindfulness and learn about the effects of trauma—all in the nurturing environment of community.

“I am forever changed into feeling I am not alone." - Program Participant

We see the goal of healing as not only surviving after experiencing a traumatic event such as sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse, but opening up to the possibility of thriving and reclaiming joy.

Joyful Heart’s programs are designed for adult survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse. Our programs are not a first response to crisis, but rather a next response along the healing journey. To learn more about crisis intervention services, click here.

Our survivor programs include:

  • Signature retreat programs. A multi-day program guided by trauma experts and practitioners during which survivors can learn about the impact of trauma on the body, mind and spirit, and explore trauma-informed methods of holistic healing, all in the nurturing environment of community.
  • Wellness days (one-day retreats). A full-day program facilitated by trauma experts and trauma informed practitioners during which survivors can explore healing modalities in the nurturing environment of community.
  • Namelehuapono Wahine. An innovative Hawaiian cultural group program for survivors that integrates Hawaiian values and practices with other modalities to provide a pathway to healing.
  • Improving community response. Our work that focuses on improving systems to lessen the trauma survivor's experience, ensuring greater access to justice for survivors and changing attitudes about violence and abuse.

Through our evaluation efforts, we have found that these programs have had lasting and transformative effects on the survivors who have been directly served by them. Our retreat programs, in particular, have been found to jump-start the healing process, break isolation, inspire healing and a (re)connection to spirituality and create an opportunity for survivors to come home to themselves.

As our community of retreat participants and professionals serving survivors has grown over the years and, at the same time, a greater understanding of trauma’s long-lasting impact on the entire self has developed, the demand for the kind of services Joyful Heart offers has grown exponentially. To meet this need, Joyful Heart is working to bring this model of healing to the field so that it can be shared and replicated by organizations far beyond our own reach. To help achieve this, we have convened a National Advisory Committee, a group of 20 preeminent leaders in the fields of trauma and holistic healing, with our efforts being documented by Mary Ann Dutton, Ph.D., an expert in interpersonal violence and trauma and professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University. The National Advisory Committee members are currently advising, supporting and guiding the development, research and dissemination of Joyful Heart’s healing programs for survivors, starting first with the retreat model. 

Our goal is to not only ensure that each survivor who reaches out to us is met with a clear path to the holistic resources that they need, but to transform, support and enhance the way the field responds to and cares for survivors—in mind, body and spirit.

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