Here’s How The RWJBarnabas Health Institute For Prevention and Recovery Hope And Healing Program Is Helping During COVID-19


Over a year ago, no one could have ever predicted how different our lives would be from the stress COVID-19 has caused. Among ever-changing information and situations, it’s been a challenging time, but RWJBarnabas Health Institute for Prevention and Recovery’s Hope and Healing Program is here to help. With their community-based program, anyone who’s been affected by COVID-19 emotionally and physically can find free education, emotional support services, and resources that aim to provide comfort and assistance during this unprecedented time. We spoke to Michael Litterer, the Director of Prevention and Recovery, to learn more about the program and how it can help you and your loved ones. 

featured image via John O’ Boyle

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Hope and Healing

The Institute for Prevention and Recovery at the Edison vaccination site in March 2021. Photo by John O’Boyle

Hope and Healing with the Institute for Prevention and Recovery

The RWJBarnabas Health Institute for Prevention and Recovery (IFPR)’s Hope and Healing program helps individuals and families in New Jersey to adjust to their new reality, develop coping strategies, and find assistance within the community. There are weekly virtual support groups, workshops, and other virtual events available for many populations. “What’s unique about this program is we’ve taken IFPR’s peer-based approach and applied it to emotional support, meaning you are getting support from someone going through the same thing—parents are helping parents, and nurses are helping nurses, seniors are helping seniors—which fosters trust based on shared experience,” says Litterer. There are programs for all family members too: Kids can participate in Smile, Breathe, and Go: Stress Management For Kids; teens can join From Stuck To Soaring: Stress Management For Teens; and college students can participate in College Corner. There are also support groups for first responders, healthcare workers, individuals with substance abuse disorders, seniors, and the Spanish-speaking population.

Hope and Healing

Supporting a variety of populations

Not sure if the Hope and Healing program is for you or a loved one? “Anyone who’s had an increase in stress or has had life changes as a result of this pandemic is a good candidate for Hope and Healing,” says Litterer. “Our goal is to offer a diverse suite of services because we believe everyone needs emotional support, but it should be delivered in a way that would be most beneficial for them.” Litterer also recognizes that parents have been through a lot during the past year, taking on multiple new roles and juggling responsibilities they’ve never had before. “Parents have been called to action—managing working from home, helping their kids through the virtual school, or caring for other family members,” he says. “In all the chaos of this past year, it can be very easy to neglect support. To be the best parent, you need to be your best self, and for that, you need to get help when you need it.”

Positive outcomes are happening

Throughout the pandemic, having breaks from the stress has been the keys to getting through. And that is how the program has been helping, especially with the family-focused activity workshops, which give parents and their children a chance to unwind and have fun together over a shared activity virtually, like making play dough, learning to cartoon, or “visiting” a pet shelter. One popular event was a webinar on “wearing too many hats” and finding work-life balance in this new reality, says Litterer. But perhaps one of the most successful parts of the program has been the in-person therapy dogs appearing at the Edison vaccine mega-site. The dogs offer a calming presence in a stressful time, and have been a huge hit with staff and patients, says Litterer. And that’s the heart of the program—offering hope and healing from friends, whether they be furry or human. 

You can reach the RWJBarnabas Health Institute for Prevention and Recovery’s Hope and Healing Program through Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn. or contact their helpline at 833-795-HOPE.

This post is sponsored by RWJBarnabas Health to help make every #NJMOM her healthiest.

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About Author

Melanie Bodner has always had a love for writing, but now she has a new love…being a mom. Before having her kids, Melanie was no stranger to writing or working with children. She wrote for a local newspaper as a reporter and taught English and Dance in a public school. Now Melanie enjoys spending time with her kids, doing yoga, writing and decorating her home. Check out her Instagram @burlapbythebeach.