VOA|ReST 4 First Responders are trusted small group support sessions designed to help First Responders process feelings of moral distress while reclaiming strength and remaining committed to their profession.

Nothing. Thanks to support from HCA Healthcare Foundation and Humana Foundation, and in alignment with the mission of Volunteers of America, VOA|ReST4FirstResponders is free to all First Responders in the United States.

VOA|ReST 4 First Responders is an opportunity for participants to connect with other first responders in a non-therapeutic setting. Therapy, while a valuable resource, generally requires some sort of diagnosis and creates a one to one, and often asymmetrical, relationship between those involved. VOA|ReST 4 First Responders can be a great compliment to traditional therapy or 1:1 support, however should not be viewed as a replacement for those options. The VOA|ReST 4 First Responders format is a group model and open to all first responders. It offers each participant opportunities to gain and build resilience while practicing deep listening and mindfulness alongside facilitators who are peers. Participants are welcome to join as often as they prefer because groups are not dependent upon having the same people attend each time.

Many other programs pair a First Responder with a single peer, from within their organization, usually immediately following a crisis. Meeting locations might be unfamiliar or inaccessible and scheduled times may not be convenient. VOA|ReST 4 First Responders sessions foster interactions in peer groups of up to 10 people from the comfort of home, on an ongoing basis, whenever support is needed.

Volunteers of America and its Shay Moral Injury Center, under the direction of Dr. Rita Nakashima Brock, have studied moral distress and resilience since 2017. Dr. Brock is a leading national expert on moral distress and injury. She is co-author of Soul Repair: Recovering from Moral Injury after War, Beacon Press, 2012, and Proverbs of Ashes: Violence, Redemptive Suffering and the Search for What Saves Us, Beacon Press, 2001. VOA|ReST uses skills and strategies developed in VOA’s evidence-based program for military veterans called Resilience Strength Training™ (RST). Published in 2020, independent research showed that RST significantly improved participants’ reported post-traumatic growth, perceived meaning in life, propensity to trust, dispositional optimism, positive attitudes toward themselves, personal self-esteem, and sleep quality, while decreasing their dependence on both alcohol and sleep medications. Based on post-meeting surveys, 82% of VOA|ReST participants report feeling significantly calmer and more peaceful after a meeting.

Online sessions allow participants to choose a private location where they feel most comfortable. To protect identity, participants can use their first name only or even an alias screen name, as well as login from anywhere in the country for greater anonymity. If a participant is in a session with someone they know and do not feel comfortable with, joining a different session is always an option.
Both! VOA|ReST 4 First Responders is available to all First Responders within the United States. In the Dallas, Denver, and Miami metro areas, VOA is also fostering local relationships with First Responder agencies and mental health organizations to educate on moral distress and resilience, and promote peer group support as a valuable resource.
Sessions occur several times per week, on the HeyPeers platform, at different times of day in order to create a variety of options for attendance across multiple time zones.
Joining is easy! Click here to sign-up for an online session.
VOA is always looking for volunteer First Responders, either active-duty or retired, to be trained as VOA|ReST Facilitators.

Remote training takes approximately 10 hours and includes an overview of the technology, instruction on the peer group facilitation model, practice facilitation with a trainer, and co-facilitation of at least two actual VOA|ReST 4 First Responder group meetings. Once training is complete, volunteers should be available to Facilitate at least two meetings per month.
For more information, email rest@voa.org.

The Impact of Moral Injury on First Responders

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