Redding Woman Finds Way to Help Carr Fire Survivors through Trauma Healing Project

Hi, Amy. Welcome to A News Café. By way of introduction, could you tell us a little bit about yourself? I first met you years ago when you were doing development work for a local philanthropic foundation and then was privileged to bump into you again at All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Redding.

I spent my teenage years in Redding, promptly left after graduation, and swore I would never come back. After completing my bachelor’s degree at San Francisco State University, I spent about 10 years making good on that promise before I returned home to marry my high school sweetheart and raise a family. I’m a wife, a mom, a runner, a reader, a blogger, and a community volunteer. I’m working as a consultant assisting local nonprofits with social media, grant writing, project management and committee organizing.

One of your current efforts is helping spread the word about an internationally recognized trauma healing project that is coming to Redding this fall to train facilitators to lead small groups. The Center for Mind Body Medicine is encouraging North State participants to register by Sept. 1 for this 8-day intensive training that takes place in October and January. How did you first hear about CMBM and what led to you deciding to be trained as a group facilitator?

Amy Cavalleri leads a small group in simple, practical skills for managing stress and healing trauma. // Photos courtesy Tyler Faires

I was introduced to CMBM through my work with the Shasta Health Assessment and Redesign Collaborative (SHARC). After the Carr Fire, SHARC realized immediately that our community had suffered a collective trauma, and they got busy looking for a pro-active approach to help manage those challenges. SHARC worked closely with the Community Recovery Team (CRT) Emotional & Spiritual Care committee to determine the best approach to helping our region heal.

Our research led us to CMBM, and three of us from Shasta County were trained in the small group model this winter. I went to the CMBM training purely as a scout, trying to determine if this approach would work for our community. After the training, all three of us were incredibly motivated to bring this work to our local area. We witnessed the simplicity and the healing power firsthand.

Everyone in the North State has been impacted by our recent wildfires one way or another, even though not everyone lost a home. As you noted, it’s been a collective trauma for this region. If you don’t mind sharing, what was your experience like with the Carr Fire?

Living on the east side of Redding, the fire didn’t pose an immediate threat to my home. However, as I watched the fire progress, I became increasingly uncomfortable. I didn’t feel safe unless I was glued to the TV watching for the latest updates. Realizing that was not a healthy way to exist for me or my two young children, I packed up and left town. I spent three days in Sacramento and Santa Cruz breathing clean air and sleeping soundly knowing that the flames were far, far away. When I returned to Redding, I felt a twinge of guilt knowing that so many had stepped forward to volunteer and help with the fire efforts, and I had immediately run the other direction. I knew that the recovery process would be a long-term effort, and I vowed to find my place in that effort. The CMBM project is my place.

It’s inspiring that you looked for a way to help and found one that fit your interests and abilities, one you could be passionate about. What has your experience been like thus far leading small groups?

I’ve led two, 8-week small groups, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. I’ve had people struggling with all kinds of stress and trauma, not just fire-related. Some people come into the group experience a little nervous or skeptical, and I’m always amazed at the beautiful community that develops among a group of 10 strangers.

Being a facilitator for the groups is a great accountability tool for myself to continue utilizing the self-care skills that we teach. It’s also quite comforting and healing to be in a safe, confidential, small group where you can share your truth openly and honestly without anyone trying to give you advice or “fix” you. The groups teach very simple, practical skills for managing stress and healing trauma. It is NOT therapy.

What is the format for the small groups?

  1. Opening meditation
  2. Check-in (people share about how they are feeling, to whatever level is comfortable)
  3. Didactic (mini-lecture about the skill being taught)
  4. Experiential (learn and practice a new self-care skill)
  5. Sharing (talk about the skill practice)
  6. Closing meditation

Participants learn and practice self-care skills such as meditation, guided imagery, movement, breathing, and biofeedback.

What type of person should consider being trained to be a facilitator? Does it require a certain background or skillset?

Anyone with the time and heart for helping the community should consider being trained. Facilitators should have some connections in the community to help recruit participants for their small groups, and they should be capable of participating in a self-reflective learning process. We particularly encourage participation from people working with vulnerable populations.

By design, the model can be learned and facilitated by anyone, not just licensed clinicians. This is especially important for us in the North State, since we have a shortage of mental health professionals. Training community volunteers, religious leaders, educators, etc., helps the promote healing on a larger scale than what we could accomplish with individual therapy alone. CMBM provides ongoing support and supervision as facilitators begin leading group.

Licensed clinicians (MFT, LCSW, RN, psychologists) can receive continuing education units (CEUs) for the training.

What has been most rewarding for you as a facilitator?

I love watching the group develop into a community. People come into a group from many walks of life, and carrying many different burdens. Slowly the group of strangers comes to understand that they are not alone in their suffering, that they have some power over their own healing, and that community is a powerful antidote for stress and trauma.

What if someone reading this would like to participate as a group member, not a facilitator? How would they get connected with a local CMBM group?

Right now there are only three of us trained to lead CMBM small groups. Upcoming group opportunities are listed on our webpage: www.hillcountryclinic.org/cmbm. People can also follow the CMBM project on Facebook to stay up to date on group opportunities: www.facebook.com/NorCalCMBM. After our group of facilitators is fully trained, we will have many opportunities for people to participate in groups.

What else would you like to share about this training?

The CMBM project is building a long-term resource for our community. Some people may not be ready to participate in a small group today, but perhaps they will six months or a year from now. With a robust cohort of trained facilitators, this resource will be available to the community when people need it.

The training is open to our entire region including Shasta, Trinity, Siskiyou, Butte and Tehama counties. We have scholarships available for those that have a need, and there are some stipends available to help defray travel expenses for those coming in from the surrounding counties.


For those interested:

The intensive, 8-day training (October 2-5, 2019 and January 22-25, 2020) is open for applications at www.cmbm.org/shasta. Participants from Shasta, Butte, Siskiyou, Tehama and Trinity counties are encouraged to apply by September 1, 2019.

Candace L. Brown

Candace L. Brown has been a newspaper and magazine reporter and editor since 1992, including eight years at the Redding Record Searchlight. She lives in Redding and can be reached at candace.freelance@gmail.com.

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