A Space to Heal: Why You Should Join Valera Health’s Young Adult Trauma Survivor Group



As research on post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and trauma-related conditions has advanced, it’s come to light that most people will have at least one traumatic experience within their lifetime. Therefore, issues about encountering trauma are no longer a question of “if?” but a question of “when?” 

For those who want to begin the healing process, group therapy is an excellent avenue on the road to recovery. Read on to learn more about what trauma group therapy is, its benefits, and how to join a trauma therapy group at Valera Health.


Why should I seek treatment for my trauma?

Trying to suppress unwanted thoughts and feelings about a traumatic experience is like holding a beach ball underwater. At first, keeping the beach ball under control seems simple enough, and the water around you is unperturbed. However, at some point your hand will get tired and that beach ball will come rocketing out of the water, disturbing everything around it. Leaving trauma untreated is similar, and soon enough your life may become chaotic once you can no longer suppress emotions. It is for this reason that addressing trauma in a therapeutic setting is important, and trauma group therapy can be an excellent way to move beyond coping, and embrace healing.


Does group therapy for trauma work?

When most people think of trauma, they think of veterans returning from war. After all, this is the population in which PTSD was first discovered. In a study of Vietnam war veterans, group therapy reduced veterans’ experiences of numbness and avoidance, two hallmark symptoms of trauma (Schnurr et al., 2003). The effectiveness of group therapy for trauma is not limited to just those who have served in the military. One study that examined the effectiveness of group therapy among sexual assault survivors found that participants’ experiences significantly improved after engaging with group therapy (Resick et al., 1988).


How can Valera Health’s Young Adult Trauma Survivor Group help me?

If you have experienced a traumatic event and need help on your path to recovery, consider joining Valera’s Young Adult Trauma Survivor Group. In this trauma group designed for young adults (ages 18-25), participants learn about trauma responses and how to build coping skills around their individual trauma responses.

Participants will learn:

  • Self-validation techniques
  • How to address triggers
  • Grounding techniques for dissociation and fight or flight responses
  • How to reframe cognitive distortions and negative thoughts
  • Basic self-care and mindfulness
  • The basics of journaling
  • How to discuss trauma with family and partners
  • Discussing relationship needs and difficulties around sex


This group is perfect for participants who are comfortable being in a space where people share their trauma. This group was specifically designed for people who have experienced sexual trauma and/or relationship trauma and is led by Jovi Lombardo, LMSW, a clinician who has experience working with patients who have encountered trauma.



If you are interested in joining Valera Health’s Young Adult Trauma Survivor Group, please fill out this quick form to schedule a free consultation with a designated Health Connector. Make sure to select “group therapy” under the “What brings you to therapy today?” section. Please note that at this current time, our virtual Young Adult Trauma Survivor Group is only available to those in New York. Stay tuned for more group therapy offerings from Valera Health in the future.





Works Referenced:

Foy, D. W., Eriksson, C. B., & Trice, G. A. (2001). Introduction to group interventions for trauma survivors. Group Dynamics: Theory, research, and practice, 5(4), 246.

Resick, P. A., Jordan, C. G., Girelli, S. A., Hutter, C. K., & Marhoefer-Dvorak, S. (1988). A comparative outcome study of behavioral group therapy for sexual assault victims. Behavior Therapy, 19(3), 385-401.

Schnurr, P. P., Friedman, M. J., Foy, D. W., Shea, M. T., Hsieh, F. Y., Lavori, P. W., … & Bernardy, N. C. (2003). Randomized trial of trauma-focused group therapy for posttraumatic stress disorder: Results from a Department of Veterans Affairs cooperative study. Archives of general psychiatry, 60(5), 481-489.

The butterfly woman. HHRI. (2022, February 15). Retrieved March 10, 2023, from https://www.hhri.org/are-you-a-survivor/the-butterfly-woman/


Understanding Self-Harm & Helping Those In Need

Written By: Emily Vanderhoff, LMSW

Edited By: Dana Reszutek, LMSW, and Taylor Transtrum

Have you ever been in an environment that made you feel uncomfortable or caused you feelings of immediate fear, anger or a sense of danger? What thoughts go through your mind when in that environment? To some, we can easily remove ourselves from that environment and know we are safe. This is not always the case when our survival responses to healthy coping skills are not utilized. In many cases, non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) can be our response. In fact, in a 2015 study published in the American Journal of Public Health, it was found that self-injury was common among American adolescents—with 1 in 10 high-school aged boys and 1-4 high-school aged girls in a given year. Read on to learn more about what self-harm is, how to help-others who self-harm, and how to get help for ourselves with self-harm.

What is self-harm/self-injury?

In psychology, non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) is seen as a behavioral response to upsetting feelings when a person feels no other coping skills are useful. Self-injury/self-harm is used at times to dissociate or distract from the true emotional pain present.  NSSI involves a person hurting themselves on purpose. One reason people participate in self-harm is if they feel as if they are either emotionally numb, or are experiencing extreme emotions outside of their control, and want to be able to feel a sense of control over what they are going through.

Common forms of self-harm include:

  • Cutting self with a sharp object
  • Burning yourself
  • Pulling out hair (this can include eyebrows and eyelashes)
  • Picking at wounds to prevent healing
  • Breaking bones
  • Inserting objects into one’s body
  • Hitting self with objects
  • Carving words or symbols into the skin

Self-harm is a potential risk factor or warning signs for suicidal thoughts, or suicide attempts. However, research shows there’s a direct difference between self-injury and suicidal ideations. The main difference involves someone’s true intent to die. Those who participate in self-harm or self-injury do so as a behavioral response to distress, not with the intent of ending their lives are doing so as a behavioral response.  While self-harm is prevalent among all age groups, self-harm often starts in adolescence.

How can you help someone who is self-harming?

As a caretaker or friend it can be helpful to understand warning signs or triggers of self-harm. Those who self-harm may attempt to hide their injuries with bandages, covering potential scars or bruises. Wearing long-sleeve shirts, regardless of the weather, is another common indication of self-harm. Other warning signs can involve an increase in a student skipping classes, decrease in social interactions and participation in once enjoyable activities. 

A possible warning sign of self-harm could be a friend or loved one who might have once loved to swim but no longer is comfortable wearing a bathing suit around others. Not all of these changes or warning signs correlate with self-harm. It is important to be supportive to those we worry for and provide a safe place for emotional expression, rather than accusing them of self-harm.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness provides helpful information on how someone could respond to knowing of self-harm. It is important to comfort the individual and understand the subject can be difficult to express. If you do not fully understand, allow that person to know you are there to listen. 

If you are someone or know someone who is self-harming/self-injuring, speak to an adult or medical professional. A close friend can be helpful in listening as well. 

Once the behavior is known, it is important to let the individual know they can be cared for.

Common forms of treatment include:

  • Psychotherapy – focuses on past experiences and emotions
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – focuses on recognizing negative thought patterns and increasing coping skills
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy – can help a person learn positive coping method

In some cases medications can be provided for assistance and in severe cases, hospitalization may be encouraged. 

 Sadly, there can be long-term effects of self-injury if the behavior is left untreated. This can include permanent scars or severe injury; worsening feelings of guilt, shame, or hopelessness; and damage to social relationships

Being a listener first and a helper second is key to allowing someone in need know you care.  If you or someone you know is self-harming, please reach out to an adult or medical professional for help. 

How do I get help if I self-harm?

Let a loved one and trusted individual know if you are participating in self-harm, and ask for help. The following resources are also available to those who have experienced self-harm.

Self-Harm Crisis Hotlines:

  • Self-Harm Crisis Text Line
    • Text “HOME” to 741741 to connect with a volunteer crisis counselor
    • Available 24/7
  • S.A.F.E. Alternatives
  • Boys Town National Hotline
    • Call 1-800-448-3000 to speak with a trained crisis counselor
    • Available 24/7

Emergency Resources

  • If you are experiencing a self-harm or suicidal crisis, or another mental health crisis, call 988 for help (available 24/7). 

If you or someone you know is experiencing a severe and immediate case of danger, call 911 for immediate assistance or go to a nearby emergency room.

In addition to the resources above, therapy can help address the root causes of self-harm, such as anxiety and depression, and provide us with healthy coping skills to respond to factors that lead to self-harm. To learn more about Valera Health’s virtual therapy services, request a free consultation with a designated Health Connector here or visit www.valerahealth.com to learn more. Treatment services are available for those ages 6+.

Works Referenced:

(n.d). Self-harm. NAMI: National alliance on mental illness. Retrieved from: https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Common-with-Mental-Illness/Self-harm.

(n.d). Understanding self-injury/self-harm. Mental Health Literacy. Retrieved from: https://mentalhealthliteracy.org/understanding-self-injury-self-harm/

(n.d.). Understanding self-injury. The Jed Foundation. Retrieved from: https://jedfoundation.org/resource/understanding-self-injury/

Hendel, H. J. (2018). Why do some people harm themselves? National Alliance on Mental Health. Retrieved from: https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/March-2018/Why-Some-People-Harm-Themselves

Monto, M.A., McRee, N., & Deryck, F.S.  Nonsuicidal self-injury among a representative sample of US adolescents, 2015. Am J Public Health. 2018 August: 108(8) 1042-1048. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6050840/

The Benefits of Practicing Mindfulness in a Group Setting

If you’re looking for a way to improve your mental health and wellbeing, look no further than mindfulness—a practice that involves slowing down and taking time to be in the present. There are many ways to practice mindfulness, including through Valera Health’s virtual Mindfulness Therapy Group. Read on to learn more about the benefits of practicing mindfulness.


What is Mindfulness?

It is estimated that globally, somewhere from 200 to 500 million people incorporate meditation into their lives (Smith, 2022). The prevalence of mindfulness is for good reason too, as many assert that such practices have the potential to improve lives. Mindfulness is understood as a mental awareness of all sensations and perceptions relevant to the current moment. In therapeutic settings, the definition of mindfulness is expanded to include the acceptance of feelings and thoughts as they enter consciousness (Mindful, 2023).

Benefits of Mindfulness Include:

  • Learning to understand your emotions better
  • Reducing stress and anxiety
  • Improving emotional regulation and building greater emotional resilience
  • Improving relationships
  • Improving physical health, including reducing blood pressure, having a higher quality of sleep and reducing inflammation

Mindfulness is most often practiced in the form of meditation, however it can be incorporated into movement activities, like yoga, or daily chores, like showering. Almost everybody can practice mindfulness and experience great results, especially in a group therapy setting!



Benefits of Mindfulness Group Therapy

Mindfulness group therapy has been shown to be equally as effective as what many refer to as the “gold standard of therapy”, individual Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) (Sundquist et al., 2015). In a study that compared mindfulness group therapy to no therapy for patients experiencing anxiety, results showed that mindfulness group therapy significantly reduced anxiety symptoms (Kocovski et al., 2013). Mindfulness therapy can not only reduce symptoms associated with mental health struggles, but it also has been shown to decrease negative and anxious persistent thought patterns (Heeren & Philippot, 2011). 

It is clear that the benefits of mindfulness group therapy extend far beyond just awareness of the present moment. As such, Valera Health is pleased to announce its virtual Mindfulness Group. This group is led by Gigi Guarnieri, LMSW, and is geared towards teaching participants the benefits of mindfulness. This group explores several mindfulness techniques to help reduce stress, identify and verbalize emotions and thoughts, and improve overall awareness of self.



How to Join the Mindfulness Group at Valera Health

If you are interested in joining our Mindfulness Group, please fill out this quick form to schedule a consultation with a designated Health Connector. Make sure to select “group therapy” under the “What brings you to therapy today?” section. Please note that at this current time, our virtual Mindfulness Therapy Group is only available to those in New York. Stay tuned for more group therapy offerings from Valera Health in the future.


Works Referenced

Heeren, A., & Philippot, P. (2011). Changes in ruminative thinking mediate the clinical benefits of mindfulness: Preliminary findings. Mindfulness, 2, 8-13.

Kocovski, N. L., Fleming, J. E., & Rector, N. A. (2009). Mindfulness and acceptance-based group therapy for social anxiety disorder: An open trial. Cognitive and Behavioral Practice, 16(3), 276-289.

Miller, K. D. (2019, August 19). What is meditation therapy and what are the benefits? PositivePsychology.com. Retrieved February 22, 2023, from https://positivepsychology.com/meditation-therapy/ 

Smith, L. (2022, November 11). 28 meditation statistics: How many people meditate? The Good Body. Retrieved February 22, 2023, from https://www.thegoodbody.com/meditation-statistics/ 

Staff, M. (2023, January 6). What is mindfulness? Mindful. Retrieved February 22, 2023, from https://www.mindful.org/what-is-mindfulness/ 

Sundquist, J., Lilja, Å., Palmér, K., Memon, A. A., Wang, X., Johansson, L. M., & Sundquist, K. (2015). Mindfulness group therapy in primary care patients with depression, anxiety and stress and adjustment disorders: randomized controlled trial. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 206(2), 128-135.

Trvst. (2023, January 19). 25 Mindfulness Facts & Statistics. TRVST World. Retrieved February 22, 2023, from https://www.trvst.world/mind-body/mindfulness-facts-statistics/

Discrimination and Mental Illness: How Racism, Sexism, Homophobia, and Transphobia Affect Your Mental Health

Discrimination doesn’t always look the same, and there’s no textbook definition for how someone reacts to experiencing it. Racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia increase the risk of developing mental health disorders or making them worse while making it harder for people to get help.

When offering resources to members of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities and LGBTQ people, we need to understand that we can’t fix trauma associated with discrimination overnight. The problem is systemic, and providing safe resources also means doing the work to advocate for people experiencing discrimination.

What’s the Connection Between Racism and Mental Health?

Racism is designed to create inequalities based on beliefs and stereotypes about a whole group of people. But targeting a whole group impacts people on large and small scales. Racism causes trauma, and trauma increases a person’s likelihood of developing mental illness and struggling with mental health.

Trauma causes a stress response, which creates both physical and mental symptoms that can develop into long-term mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and others. It also affects the way you look at yourself and experience the world around you.

Racism is twice as likely to harm someone’s mental health as their physical health. And yet, because of racism, BIPOC people often don’t get the care they need for their mental health.

We see it in Asian American populations where the “model minority” myth makes it harder to recognize the signs of mental illness. By creating an unrealistic and harmful standard for Asian American people—particularly Asian American youth—it becomes harder for them to get a diagnosis if they are under pressure to be smarter and more accomplished than other groups. The model minority myth creates an incorrect perception of Asian Americans’ mental health needs, even among mental health professionals, by placing higher expectations on people of these communities.

Black men are four times more likely to get a schizophrenia diagnosis than white men when they show symptoms of a mood disorder. Stereotypes that portray Black men as violent, for example, make it harder for them to get an accurate mental health diagnosis when a therapist or psychiatrist has a preconceived idea of who they are. Similarly, stereotypes about the “loud Black woman” portray Black women as hysterical, which can lead them to downplay their feelings, especially outside of a trusted group.

Racism creates chronic stress that leads to anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses that severely impact a person’s overall wellness. BIPOC people who have mental health conditions like bipolar disorder, ADHD, and others are often passed over or judged more harshly than white people with the same diagnoses. Institutionalized and internalized racism makes it more difficult for BIPOC people to get help and feel comfortable and worthy of seeking mental healthcare in the first place.

How Do Homophobia, Transphobia, and Gender Discrimination Impact Mental Health?

For a lot of people in the LGBTQ+ community, discovering their identities is a journey. Without support, they can develop internalized homophobia and transphobia that leads to anxiety, depression, and other mental health struggles.

While 4.5% of the United States population identifies as LGBTQ+, 39% of people within the community have experienced bullying because of their sexuality or gender identity, according to Mental Health America. As a result, LGBTQ+ people are also 2.5 times more likely to seek mental health services.

Bullying because of their sexuality and gender identity can contribute to abnormally high cortisol—or stress hormone—levels. Plus, when LGBTQ+ people don’t have support from family members, teachers, friends, and others close to them, it’s not easy to feel safe sharing who they are and asking questions about their identities.

Pressure to hide those identities contributes to poor mental health when they can’t express the person they truly are. That leads to fear, distrust, and consistent stress that, even if the person isn’t already at risk of mental illness, can quickly lead to problems with mental health.

Beyond bullying, rules and regulations prevent LGBTQ+ people from getting their basic needs met on a larger scale. For example, there are few doctors and clinicians trained to understand the unique needs of people in the LGBTQ+ community, which leads to people not getting proper care, facing medical discrimination, or avoiding seeking care altogether out of fear.

Official policies and laws prevent many LGBTQ+ people from expressing their identities or having those identities acknowledged by others. While laws discriminating against LGBTQ+ people aren’t new, the first few months of 2021 have seen 14 states propose anti-LGBTQ+ bills. These types of laws make it possible for workplaces, schools, and other facilities to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people based on their identities. Many places within and outside the United States already have laws that do not allow nonbinary and transgender people to be addressed by their correct pronouns or names. The laws also prevent people of certain genders from participating in activities like school sports based on whether their gender matches their assigned sex at birth.

It’s important to understand what it means to have multiple marginalizations and intersectional identities, too. Black and Brown trans people are at a much higher risk of violence than white trans people, adding another layer both to their identity and to mental health risk factors. When people target you based on multiple facets of who you are, it only increases the mental health impact.

What Can We Do About It?

Racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia all make healthcare less accessible to those who need it. It also raises questions of who understands every part of who you are.

We must actively fight racism, gender discrimination, homophobia, and transphobia. We can’t only be non-racist or passively view these things as wrong without being complicit in letting them continue. We must do more than acknowledge our privilege and biases and instead use that privilege to make more resources available to others while breaking down our biases and those of others.

Therapy goes hand in hand with social justice. Valera Health knows that, and we incorporate that into our practice to allow for a personal journey with each person. We hold space for people in all communities as we continue to educate ourselves and others to make it easier for BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and other marginalized communities to get the mental health services they need.

It’s Time to Normalize Mental Health Care. Here’s Why It’s a Good Idea for Everyone.

The mind and the body are connected. If the mind is unhealthy, it reflects on the body, and vice versa. Dr. Brock Chisholm, the first Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), said that “without mental health, there can be no true physical health.” As a society, we have seen mental health make its way into our media. Some of our favorite athletes, singers, and actors have bravely discussed their struggles with mental health, oftentimes advocating for therapy, normalizing medication, and encouraging people to seek help for their mental illness.

Impact of Mental Health on Physical Health & Quality of Life

Mental health refers to the state of our mental wellness; mental health is something we all have. Mental illness refers to a mental health disorder such as anxiety and depression. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one in five adults in the United States live with mental illness. Our mental health plays a role in our lives from our longevity, to our vulnerability to contract various diseases, our use of drugs and alcohol, and our ability to thrive in our jobs, at school, and with our families. Below are some statistics that shed light on the strong connection between mental health and our behaviors, physical health, and quality of life.

  1. Half of the people who experience mental illness will also develop a substance use disorder.
  2. People who suffer from depression and schizophrenia, if left untreated, tend to live shorter lives than those who do not suffer from a mental illness.
  3. Depression has been connected to a 50% increase in a person’s risk of dying from cancer and a 67% increase in developing heart disease.
  4. Almost all suicides are a result of mental illness and suicide happens to be the third-leading cause of death for young adults and adolescents.

The Cost of Mental Illness

Mental illness, if left untreated, can contribute to problems with relationships, lost income, suicide, and substance use. Researchers suggests that people experiencing severe mental illness are more likely to receive lower quality medical care, are more likely have chronic medical conditions, and are likely to die prematurely compared to people without mental illness.

Why It’s A Good Idea for Everyone

Consider the physical disease of obesity and how normalized it is in our society. Anywhere you look, you will see advertisements and apps with our favorite celebrities touting their workout routines, meal plans, and supplements all with the goal of helping you lose weight and beat obesity. Imagine what would happen if, as a society, we could normalize mental health in the way that we normalize obesity.

By not talking about mental illness we reinforce:

  • Discrimination.
  • Physical violence, bullying, and harassment.
  • Lack of understanding from friends and family.
  • Health insurance providers not adequately covering mental illness in their insurance plans.
  • Beliefs that people who suffer from mental illness can’t get better and there’s no hope.
  • Fewer opportunities at work and school for people with mental illness.

Many of us already have or will experience a mental illness in our lifetime. Nearly 20% of Americans will experience a mental illness at some point in their lives, but less than half will receive the treatment they need.

How To Talk About Mental Illness

It may feel intimidating or scary to talk about your mental health. Those feelings are normal. Consider starting small when opening up a conversation about mental health and communicate in ways that are comfortable to you. This can look like writing poetry, painting, dancing, sending a short email or text to a trusted friend. Set a certain amount of time aside (a half-hour, for example) to talk to someone about your mental health without distractions when you feel comfortable in doing so. It may help to look up some statistics on mental health to help you feel like you are not alone. Finally, get help by talking to a doctor or medical professional about what you are experiencing.

Get Help Today

Mental illness is treatable. If you experience mental illness, getting help and the treatment you need is key in improving your physical health, wellness, and overall quality of life. By normalizing mental health, we can send a message to anyone struggling with mental illness that they are not alone, they are supported, treatment is possible, and there is hope.

We at Valera Health understand that it can feel intimidating to ask for help. That’s why we offer telehealth services for both therapy and psychiatric services. Help is available on your personal journey with mental health conditions including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or ADHD.