ILJ-MI Staff Host Wellness Retreats to Combat Secondary Trauma

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ILJ-MI staff members work closely with many clients who have experienced traumatic and heartbreaking circumstances. In order to prepare the required immigration applications, they must elicit all the details of their clients’ ordeals. Documenting the horrors clients have endured often causes workplace-related secondary trauma for staff.  

To address the potential traumatic effects of these cases, a committee of ILJ-MI staff members researched effective ways to enhance everyone’s mental, emotional and physical well-being. A $150,000 wellness grant awarded by the Stryker Johnston Foundation in October 2022 has generously supported a remarkable wellness journey for the ILJ-MI team.    

The wellness committee organized three in-person staff retreats to promote well-being in a low-pressure, relaxed environment. ILJ-MI contracted with professionals specializing in various health and wellness disciplines to provide tailored programs. The retreats included presentations covering multi-disciplinary health topics such as meditation workshops, yoga sessions and art therapy.  The most recent retreat in Grand Rapids involved a unique program conducted by The Failure Lab.    

As the name suggests, The Failure Lab helped staff remove failure-based roadblocks to innovation, collaboration and creative thinking. Programs like this tap into the empathy and existing psychological wellness of staff to counteract the adverse effects of traumatic client cases.   

“Every staff member, whether in direct client interactions or working behind the scenes, confronts secondary trauma as they become immersed in our clients’ lived experiences and narratives. The repercussions of recurrent indirect exposure to distressing, unsettling and traumatic stories can detrimentally affect our operational efficiency and overall mental well-being,” said Assistant Executive Director Heather Haigh.  

These retreats and subsequent programs not only offer invaluable insights to staff but also supply ample time for the ILJ-MI’s full team to bond and foster a sense of well-being in a comfortable and inviting setting. 

ILJ-MI’s leadership and staff are incredibly grateful for the wellness grant from the Stryker Johnston Foundation and hope to have another opportunity to apply for more funding in the future.  

View images of our most recent staff retreat in Grand Rapids below. 

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