Hope for Moral Injury
Resilience Strength Training or RST: A New Program for Military Veterans
RST is a program that helps military veterans process moral injury and other difficult life experiences that interfere with their ability to thrive and have satisfying lives. The evidence-based pilot project, funded by a grant from Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation, processed a total of 95 veterans in Los Angeles and New York City. The first group met in early November 2017 and the last group took its last survey at the end of October 2019. Research results will be published in 2020.
RST goals include:
- Reducing individual isolation;
- Restoring capacities to form relationship bonds;
- Enhancing inner self-knowledge and emotional awareness;
- Lowering moral injury distress and self-destructive coping;
- Increasing habits of self-care and self-esteem;
- Learning emotional sharing and compassionate listening;
- Avoiding high-risk behaviors;
- Creating new meaning together that can integrate traumatic memories;
- Reestablishing connections to families and communities;
- Reintegrating with anticipation, curiosity, and hope.
The RST accomplishes these goals by:
- Providing information about moral injury and self-care;
- Creating groups with strong bonds and ethical practices;
- Teaching ways to attend to inner emotions and manage strong emotions through body-awareness and spiritual practices such as yoga, mindfulness, and TRE (Trauma Release Exercises);
- Offer ritual times for expressing and processing grief and moral emotions;
- Focused writing and art-making to express and process traumatic memories;
- Enhancing capacities for empathy and offering emotional support through deep, focused listening;
- Encouraging examination of beliefs, meaning, and moral identity and resolution of conflicted relationships with the past; and
- Increasing self-awareness and behavioral control to sustain long-term, satisfying relationships.
Currently, RST groups for veterans are being regularly offered via the Volunteers of America Florida Affiliate. Contact Pat Norstedt, firstname.lastname@example.org, for more information.
In addition, the Shay Moral Injury Center has teams of facilitators and program staff who are available to contract to operate groups, if your organization is interested in trying the RST program with veterans in your area. Contact Rita Brock, email@example.com, if you are interested.
Plans are underway to expand the use of RST to new populations and, as funding is secured, we will announce new plans via our newsletter.