With Her Retirement, GPS Co-Founder Annette Cycon Reflects On Her Career

“Speaking the truth is a revolutionary act.” is a phrase that Annette Cycon, co-founder of both MotherWoman and GPS Group Peer Support (GPS), has been saying and promoting for decades.

“When people speak the truth of what they are living, both they, and the people around them, are changed. All it takes is one person to be brave enough to speak their truth and a ripple effect of change starts to happen,” said Cycon.

Annette Cycon was that person.

Although she was a social worker, a child and family therapist and had all her ducks in a row, when she became a mom herself, she was stunned by the reality of motherhood.

“The dominant message was, and still is, that motherhood is wonderful, instinctual, fulfilling and the best time in your life. I loved my daughters with all my heart, but it was not all wonderful, instinctual, fulfilling or the best time in my life,” said Cycon. “It was hard, intense, at times frightening and overwhelming. Since all the media and hype about motherhood was coated in butterflies and bliss, I figured there had to be something wrong with ME.”

But Cycon was not one to shy away from hard things.

She is a daughter of Polish immigrants who barely survived WWII. Her mother was a partisan, who, as a young girl, carried bombs in her backpack past Nazi soldiers. Her grandmother and father escaped a train heading to Auschwitz. Annette was raised in the U.S. to work hard, love hard, and be brave. As a young woman herself, Annette sailed on Tall Ships and inter-island cargo boats for three years, through storms at sea, climbing aloft, changing sails and working her way up from cook to deckhand to first mate.

So, when the experience of motherhood brought her to her knees, she spoke up about it. And when she did, she discovered that she was not alone. In fact, every woman she spoke to reflected the same feelings of anxiety, overwhelm, loss of self, rage, grief, shame, and guilt that she did.

“It was obvious to me that the root of the problem is that, as a society, we are surrounded by messages about motherhood that are unrealistic and unjust. The myth of the “Good Mother” that she is an endless well of giving, patience, calm, love and perfection, is impossible to attain,” said Cycon. “Rather than challenging the system, we take the blame onto ourselves. That’s not right. Raising the next generation is hard enough without laying blame onto mothers who are doing the best they can under impossible circumstances.”

In 1999 she formed MotherWoman, a grassroots organization bringing mothers together to break through these barriers and speak the truth about the reality of motherhood. In 2004 MotherWoman became a non-profit and with her then co-leader, Gabrielli LaChiara, led groups, workshops and retreats for moms all over Western Massachusetts and around Boston.

“It was a movement that took off like wildfire because at that time no one was talking about the paradox that we can love our children while at the same time feel miserable, desperate and alone. Mothers felt heard, validated, empowered and healed from the debilitating messaging that silences us,” said Cycon.

Several years later, in Providence, Rhode Island, Liz Friedman was also speaking the truth of her personal experience of motherhood to build awareness and affect social policy. When she moved to Western MA and met Cycon that’s when the revolution really took off.

Together they led MotherWoman, starting with the Postpartum Support Initiative, which catapulted the mission of MotherWoman nationwide. Friedman and Cycon were, and still are, a force to be reckoned with. For 10 years they developed and led training for community leaders, mental health and medical professionals, and anyone who supported families, educating and bringing awareness to the crisis of postpartum emotional challenges like postpartum depression, anxiety, and psychosis. They were also the first to advocate about the critical social justice and policy issues that negatively impact maternal mental health, such as the lack of paid maternity leave, sick leave, and childcare, which affect low income mothers disproportionately, as well as the reality of systemic racism which contributes to increased mental health complications and maternal mortality for mothers of color.

Cycon and Friedman grew together and over time became leaders in understanding and discussing maternal mental health from a public health and social and racial justice lens. They donned their suits and spoke truth to power in places of influence such as Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and the Massachusetts State House. They partnered with the Massachusetts Child Psychiatry Access Program for Moms (MCPAP for Moms) building community partnerships across disciplines to provide support at every point of entry for every mom across the state of Massachusetts.

They were invited to present their work at national conferences and won awards for Best Practice and Innovation from the American Public Health Association, the American Maternal Child Health Programs, Partners in Perinatal Health and other national associations. They published articles on their work and formed research partnerships with universities and medical institutions.

Former Massachusetts State Rep. Ellen Story, upon learning about this crisis from Cycon and Friedman, formed the Massachusetts Governor’s Commission on Postpartum Depression, which became a model for other states.

Never losing sight of the need for direct support to moms, they began the first support group specifically for moms at risk for, or experiencing, perinatal emotional complications in all of Western Massachusetts, New York, and Vermont. This group ran non-stop for 10 years and was the catalyst for training support group facilitators in other communities, states, and countries. Thus their hallmark Group Facilitator Training was born.

Since 2008 Cycon and Friedman have trained thousands of community leaders, professionals and peers in the structured group model that they developed, across Massachusetts, New Jersey, California, Maine, Washington, California, Montana, Kansas, Arizona, and Nevada. All over the country women were bringing their unique, trauma-informed, empowering and healing group model to mothers in their communities. It was a spectacular time of collaboration, growth and joy.

A highlight of Cycon’s career was meeting with leaders of indigenous women’s health organizations in Guatemala, talking about maternal mental health, trauma, cultural stigma, and teaching them group facilitation.

“Witnessing indigenous community health workers speaking so freely about these realities which are considered taboo and being inspired to create spaces where they could share this liberation with other women was amazing,” Cycon recalled. “Also listening to them translate the group model not only into Spanish but into the local indigenous idioms blew my mind.”

These experiences made it clear to her that the MotherWoman (later GPS) group model’s emphasis on creating courageous spaces where women could share their truths openly was culturally universal, and could be adapted culturally and linguistically. She later presented this work at the Global Health and Innovation Conference at Yale University.

The phenomenal impact of their work prompted a pivotal realization for Cycon and Friedman: this incredible support group model that they had developed and trained over 10 years healed and empowered, not only group members, but the facilitators themselves and their communities. The revolutionary ripple effect of their early vision was too small.

“We had to expand.” said Cycon. “More people beyond those who identified as “mothers” and “women” had to have access to the empowering and healing group experiences we were offering. Men, women, BIPOC, LGBTQIA+ people, youth, people in recovery, first generation college students, people healing from childhood trauma, currently or formerly incarcerated and unhoused people, people newly arrived to the United States, foster and adoptive parents, and others dealing with myriad other challenges all deserve courageous, judgment-free spaces led by members of their own community where they can be heard, valued and grow. So we decided to open up our mission to everybody.”

Thus, GPS was born in 2017 and incorporated in 2018. Cycon and Friedman became business partners.

“It was an incredibly dynamic, creative and powerful time to see the expansion of our vision,” Cycon recalled. “To witness the GPS model create spaces of inclusivity, mutual respect, where each individual was given precious space to speak their truth, to be truly heard and witnessed, and see the transformation not only in the speaker but in the listeners as well. To teach community leaders that creating these kinds of spaces was within their reach and that they could bring GPS back to their communities was extraordinarily gratifying and rewarding.”

So once again, Cycon and Friedman were on the move across the country.

In 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic upended life as we know it, the organization faced an existential crisis when their groups and training could no longer meet in person. Determined to continue serving communities — now facing even greater mental health needs — GPS pivoted to online operations. Cycon admits she was concerned that the lack of in-person interaction would hamper the effectiveness of the GPS experience. But her fear proved to be unfounded.

They started running online GPS support groups within a week of the imposed quarantine and people came from all over the country and abroad seeking support for the fear and chaos of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I spoke to more people in those early months than ever before and it helped me personally get through that really hard time,” Cycon said. “I could see the fruits of our many years of creative labor make a difference in hundreds of people facing an unprecedented global crisis. It gave me hope and renewed sense of purpose.”

Moving all programming online has worked to GPS’s advantage. For starters, online facilitator training has allowed for the training of more facilitators because more attendees can be accommodated online rather than in-person, and the ability to hire remote staff has allowed GPS to assemble a more diverse training team of people from across the country.

“We’re able to hire some of the most brilliant minds from around the country to be co-trainers,” said Cycon. “We do everything online because people can attend from China, Serbia, Ghana, Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia, Bolivia, Afghanistan, the Middle East, Poland — and they do. It’s brilliant.”

Just as important, the ability to attend GPS support groups remotely makes them infinitely more accessible to those who need them. “A postpartum parent doesn’t need to get out of bed to attend a group or bundle up a child in January and drive a half hour to attend. A person in early recovery living alone in rural Montana can receive the lifeline of a GPS support group where there are no other resources,” Cycon said.

It’s just increased our ability to expand access across the board,” said Cycon. “GPS is about breaking down barriers to mental health care, especially for those people who would never go to a traditional mental health clinic, or where there are no resources, so that everyone can get the support they deserve, in their own language, community, and with people they trust.”

Cycon, of course, loves that. She also loves knowing that the work GPS is doing now is supporting the health and wellbeing of future generations. In March 2022, Cycon and her husband went to the border of Poland to provide support for Ukrainian refugees displaced by the invasion of Russia. She held babies while mothers found food, bought clothes for elderly, toys and underwear for children and raised enough money to provide shelter and food and support for 100 Roma mothers and children.

“That’s at the heart of this life work for me — knowing that when we support a parent, we’re supporting their children and their grandchildren. When we’re helping someone recover from addiction we’re improving their lives and the lives of the people that they love and who love them,” Cycon said. “When we offer a place where war trauma survivors can connect with each other, we’re helping them to plant their feet in new ground for future generations. Just like my parents did for me. The work we do today will have an impact on people whose names we will never know. This is what has gotten me up every morning for the past 25 years.”

Facilitator Training Feedback: Julia Ojeda

We recently asked Julia Ojeda, founder and CEO of RIO Recovery Inspired Opportunities, to assess GPS’s training program for support group facilitators. Ojeda shared feedback from her assessment in an informal interview with GPS CEO and Co-founder Liz Friedman, which we’ve summarized in this post.

To assess our facilitator training, Ojeda watched six modules of the training program. As she progressed through the curriculum, Ojeda, a public health expert and peer recovery specialist, experienced “the curriculum as a participant” in ways she didn’t expect.

“It was probably the most inspirational curriculum I’ve ever participated in,” said Ojeda.

Ojeda said she was impressed with how the training accounted for the ways in which trauma affects people, by emphasizing physical and emotional safety and empowering participants to reassert control over their lives. Ojeda noted that trauma-informed practices were infused throughout GPS training materials, from detailed facilitator guidelines, the sequencing of information, and the care given by the training facilitators to the check-in questions that precede each training module.

“Creating check-in questions takes skill. You don’t just wake up and go, ‘Oh, here’s our question for the day,’” she said. “It was so thoughtfully done. I loved that the facilitators met each morning to discuss what the check-in question would be and that they incorporated the words used by participants into the discussions.”

Ojeda did say that GPS facilitator trainings could benefit from a few tweaks to improve how the material is presented. Referencing a professional colleague’s critique that GPS trainings are long and lecture-like, Ojeda suggested that the trainings be made more interactive and broken down into smaller groups of participants.

But she said that the length of the training, while long compared with other facilitator trainings, is a result of its being so comprehensive.

“If you truly pay attention, and you really hang in there, and you do the homework and the practice, there is no way someone would not be transformed by this training,” Ojeda said. “I could feel myself being transformed, and that was not what I expected, in any way, shape, or form. Your facilitators are spectacular, and they’ve been trained well. The stories they tell, the sharing they do—I’ve been moved by everything and everybody in this training.”

Staff Spotlight: GPS Program Director and Director of GPS en Español Nelly Willis

Nallely (Nelly) Willis walked into her first GPS Group Peer Support (GPS) group seven years ago and took a seat by the door. She didn’t plan on staying. As the leader of a nonprofit providing perinatal support to low-income parents, Willis routinely led support groups. In fact, she was running about 10 groups a week.

“I thought, ‘I don’t need this. I already know how to run groups,’” Willis recalled.

But the founder of the nonprofit that Willis led urged her to take GPS’s facilitator training which provides professionals and people with lived experience and the tools necessary to run trauma-informed support groups where healing can—and often does, as Willis soon discovered—take place.

The facilitator training requires that trainers attend a GPS support group together to gain firsthand experience with the model. So Willis showed up. But she expected to leave shortly after the group started.

To her surprise, however, she felt compelled to stay. To her even greater surprise, she was deeply moved by the experience.

“I felt a validation. It was a validation that I didn’t even know I needed. I felt seen,” she said.

The reality for Willis at that time was that although she was excelling professionally, she was struggling in her personal life. Her two-month-old son had been hospitalized multiple times and undergone numerous surgeries to treat complications from a congenital chronic illness. Willis felt overwhelmed with guilt for having passed it on to him. She was also experiencing post-partum depression, suicidal thoughts, and symptoms of Post-partum obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). When she showed up for the GPS group, she had come straight from the hospital where she had been told by her son’s caregivers that he wasn’t expected to survive. As she watched her fellow trainees socialize with one another before the meeting, she couldn’t imagine engaging in conversation with any of them. They all looked “normal” to her while she felt “like a monster” who was responsible for her son’s pain.

As the group got underway, though, Willis noticed that it was run differently from other support groups. People didn’t interrupt each other. They listened. When someone cried, no one jumped up with a tissue box to get them to stop.

Willis found herself opening up and sharing information she hadn’t shared with anyone else. Such as her belief that her son’s caregivers were scrutinizing her parenting skills and judging them to be inadequate.

“But in that moment, in that group, I felt like my true self. I spoke and nobody interrupted me. I cried, and nobody ran with the tissue box to stop my suffering,” she said. “People just witnessed and watched. I think that’s exactly what I needed.”

Today, Willis serves as GPS’s Program Director and Director of GPS en Español. She develops and directs all GPS programs, including trainings and webinars, and translates and adapts materials for GPS en Español. She also hires, trains, and supervises more than 50 GPS facilitators and coaches. Willis has also led GPS Postpartum Mothers groups in Spanish for years, serving primarily immigrant, refugee, and undocumented women living precariously on the border between Arizona, where she lives, and Mexico.

The experience of telling her story uninterrupted was the most impactful and healing part of the group for Willis.

“People just listened. They didn’t try to fix me,” she said. “Every time you tell your story, and someone listens without interrupting you, your defenses start to drop, your body’s stress response calms down, and you can genuinely start to heal. That’s what happened to me. I started healing in my very first GPS support group.”

Willis subsequently sought treatment through therapy, medication and other sources. However her transformational experience with GPS inspired her to bring GPS to the Latino community in Arizona and beyond. She began by adapting GPS materials culturally and linguistically for Latino audiences. She also created Spanish-language groups and facilitator trainings, and developed strategies to build relationships in the Latino community so that people would be receptive to GPS programming.

“GPS is a bridge that’s filling gaps in the healthcare system,” she said. “When I found GPS, I didn’t really know that I needed support. But even if I had, I would not have gone to a clinic for help. I was afraid. Even though I’m a U.S. citizen, I get asked for my passport all the time. I was afraid that if I told people I was having Intrusive thoughts, suicidal thoughts, and that I had Postpartum OCD, they might try to take my son away from me.”

The community-based GPS model of care provides an easy point of entry into care, Willis said.

“GPS isn’t a replacement for intensive therapy or medication, but GPS is therapeutic. It can be that door to other resources,” Willis said. “It’s not magic, but it can empower and transform people in many ways. That’s what it did for me and I’m so grateful to be able to bring it now to my community. There is so much need out there and with our group model, we can reach a lot of people.”

Staff Spotlight: GPS Project Manager Marcy Langrock

In her position as GPS Project Manager, Marcy Langrock applies a broad range of skills that keep us going. Her work touches on everything from finance and tech to administration and marketing.

“It’s a small company, so we just step in where we’re needed,” said Langrock of GPS staffers. “I have an MBA and I’ve worked as a project manager in the tech sector, at healthcare-focused organizations and nonprofits, so I’m pretty comfortable working across the entire company.”

Langrock is also a certified GPS Support Group Facilitator with plenty of experience creating and running groups in her Seattle community.

Langrock was introduced to the GPS model several years ago when she enrolled in a course on dismantling white supremacy led by noted academic, civil rights activist and reproductive justice advocate Loretta J. Ross. The course included a session of GPS for Solidarity, a support group GPS developed in partnership with Ross to help people address the emotional aspects of conflicts and expand their ability to navigate challenging interpersonal situations respectfully, with integrity, honestly, and compassionately, with an eye toward a productive outcome.

Langrock had studied the work of prominent anti-racist scholars and activists, but said she found GPS for Solidarity “so much more transformative.”

“It made me realize that I was sitting in that shame space. I remember one of the leaders saying, ‘Hey, you’re not to blame for white supremacy, but you’re responsible for dismantling it,’ which to me felt like such a different mindset,” said Langrock. “Like, I don’t need to be sitting there and working through the shame and blame for our country’s entire history of racism, but rather, I am empowered. I actually have the power to help break down white supremacy.”

That realization inspired Langrock’s anti-racism work anew. She began working with Ross as a Solidarity Group facilitator. When Ross teamed up with Loan Tran, an organizer, human rights activist and national director of Rising Majority, to present the solidarity-building course series “Calling In the Calling Out Culture,” Langrock facilitated groups for both of them, and also provided tech support.

Langrock also joined the Coalition of Anti-Racist Whites (CARW), her local chapter of the national network Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ). As part of her work with CARW, she helped write curriculum for neighborhood cohorts, which were similar to GPS solidarity groups, drawing on the GPS model. She also helped train group facilitators, again drawing on her GPS background.

Tackling Another Unmet Need in Her Community: Autism Support

At the same time, as the parent of two autistic children—now adults— Langrock was active in online communities related to the condition. While she found some of the discussions helpful, she also observed that groups often included gatekeepers who aggressively chastised other well-meaning community members for perceived slights such as poor word choices, or for speaking up despite not being autistic themselves.

“I was noticing that there were spaces where people were just being shut down,” Langrock said. “I was also being told that I don’t have anything to say in those spaces, when I actually have helpful experience dealing with schools, for example.”

Langrock knew that securing the proper education services for autistic students is often an uphill battle that requires parental advocacy to ensure students are placed in the least restrictive educational environment possible.

“But schools don’t have enough resources and if you’re not an advocate, or you don’t know what’s going on, they’re just going to go the path of least resistance for you, and make it the easiest on them,” said Langrock. “I had that experience, and I was in spaces where parents were asking about this, but then I would be shut down.”

It brought back the feelings of isolation she experienced in the absence of support when her children were younger.

“You have the ‘experts’ giving you advice, but you’re the parent, you’re the one who knows your kids the best and they don’t always need what the experts say,” Langrock said. “I wanted to create a space where parents can get together and share those very hard things that aren’t easy to say out loud.”

At the time GPS did not have a group tailored to parents and caregivers of autistic individuals. GPS CEO and Co-founder Liz Friedman suggested that Langrock write curriculum for one.

Her group provided a place where parents and caregivers felt safe to share difficult truths—including doubts about whether they should have had children—and hard-won successes. Langrock said her group attracted participants from a range of different backgrounds, family constellations, and experiences with autism.

Regardless of their circumstances, what people raising autistic children have in common, said Langrock, is the challenges it poses within families. That’s why creating space for them to share their experiences is so important.

“The divorce rate is really high for parents of autistic children because there’s a lot of stress that goes on and having the space where you can talk about it almost feels disarming,” said Langrock. “There are really heavy things that we care about and carry around, and when we can share it out, then we’re all helping to carry it now. It just feels so much lighter.”

Participants also processed the rapidly evolving and changing autism therapies they tried or were considering. Such discussions, she said, were particularly beneficial for single parents or those with limited resources who don’t have the time or money to do research or experiment with different therapies.

“Raising an autistic child looks so different for people who don’t have economic resources,” said Langrock. “So that was another thing I wanted to help share out — information about what’s out there for our kids—for parents who might not otherwise hear about the range of therapies.

Due to her Project Manager responsibilities, Langrock’s autism support groups are currently on hiatus, but, working from a lengthy waitlist, she’s planning to start one again this spring.

“I could never run enough of these groups to meet the need,” she said.

To that end, Langrock is eager to support others in her community who would like to launch a GPS group.

“There is a woman with autism in our neighborhood who wants to run groups for autistic adults. And I was like, ‘Hey, if you want I will support you however you need.’ I think that would be a really great perspective,” said Langrock.

Langrock has a deep appreciation for how effective the GPS model is for the populations she works with. Its emphasis on creating a judgment-free zone, a no-advice zone, and bearing witness to emotion without trying to rescue each other empowers participants to reach their own conclusions and make their own decisions about their next steps.

“And I think that is beautiful, because it means that they have control,” she said. “They know, ‘Hey I’m still processing this. I’m not sure what my next steps are. But now we’ve all talked about this, we’ve all held this, so now it’s becoming clearer for me.’ There’s just so much power in that model.”

Partner Spotlight: Perinatal Support Washington

One of GPS’s longest-running partnerships is with Perinatal Support Washington, a nonprofit organization that has run support groups using the GPS model for the past six years. In the organization’s most recent annual report for GPS groups offered during 2022 – 2023, participants reported experiencing high levels of engagement and satisfaction with the groups and felt strongly that they made an important difference in their life.

“Thank you, because in this place I felt supported, listened to and above all I was able to express my feelings,” wrote one parent in a post-group survey.

“We rarely talk about mental health in our community so it’s interesting to see and learn from you guys,” said another participant.

One parent said simply, “It gives me something to look forward to each week.”

In developing our Perinatal Support Groups, GPS drew upon a body of research including a study showing group-based parenting programs that used behavioral, cognitive-behavioral, or multimodal approaches were associated with short-term improvements in depression, anxiety, stress, anger, guilt, confidence, and partner relationship satisfaction.

Another study on which we have relied showed that a series of four interpersonal group therapy sessions was successful in preventing post-partum depression in low-income women at risk for the condition.

Some of these results were reflected by Perinatal Support Groups participants in Perinatal Support Washington’s annual report. Fifty-five percent of participants reported that their feelings of anxiety and depression had improved, while fifty-eight percent reported they felt less stressed about responding to their baby’s needs. Fifty-three percent of group members said their satisfaction as a parent/caregiver had improved.

“I love the connection to my baby, we are one. This group has shown me that parenting isn’t easy, but there’s ways to help you get through it when it seems rough and there’s people to talk to,” said one parent.

Another described the group as “a godsend,” adding, “I’m a first time mom of color and not only does the group get me and baby out of the house, it gives me a chance to connect with other parents of color, and my baby a chance to socialize as well!”

Learn more about Perinatal Support Washington here. Learn more about our customized curriculums for perinatal parents and other groups here.

MASStrong for Healthcare Workers

The on-going impact of the pandemic and post-pandemic years to the mental health and well-being of clinicians and caregivers cannot be overstated. Healthcare workers are grappling with pandemic-related trauma including PTSD, exhaustion, personal loss, moral injury, burnout, isolation from colleagues, job-related illness or injury, wages that are not keeping up with the cost of living, and difficulty accessing and/or prioritizing mental health. As a result, healthcare institutions across systems of care are struggling to fill positions. All of which weakens the Commonwealth’s ability to meet the healthcare needs of its residents.

Recognizing this danger, the state used $1 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds in 2021 to launch MASStrong for Healthcare Workers, a pilot program offering group-based mental health support to frontline healthcare workers including nursing home aides, long-term care aides, personal care attendants, home health workers, and residential counselors. All of the pilot program participants said they would like to attend more groups and 93% of participants said that they found the groups helpful.

When asked what was most helpful about the groups, feedback ranged from simply “being able to talk about being in healthcare” and “being listened to” to “learning about and gaining knowledge about self care” and “receiving a reflection from someone who was genuine.” What we learned in the pilot was that the power of MASStrong for Healthcare Workers is that it contradicts isolation by showing other healthcare workers that they’re not alone. By promoting personal resiliency, self-efficacy, and empowerment, participants learn to prioritize self care — which is, ironically, a very difficult skill for many caregivers to learn and adopt. Ultimately, sessions reinvigorated compassion and reduced burnout.

Based on this success, MASStrong for Healthcare Workers was expanded last year with $5 million from the Commonwealth’s Behavioral Health Trust Fund to reach additional health care workers including pharmacists, nurses, physicians, and social workers. The pilot and its expansion would not have happened with the support of legislators who champion mental health and mental health parity, including Senator Majority Leader Cynthia Creem and State Representative Ruth Balser.

Today, MASStrong for Healthcare Workers is administered by GPS Group Peer Support (GPS) in partnership with the Betsy Lehman Center for Patient Safety. The program acts as a first line of defense in the mitigation of trauma, grief, moral injury and burnout, fostering resilience, and increasing retention of the healthcare workforce. Massachusetts-based organizations that support MASStrong for Healthcare Workers include the Home Care Alliance of MA, MA Association of Behavioral Health Systems, MA Association of Emergency Nurses, MA Association of Physician Assistants, MA Assisted Living Association, MA Hospital Association, MA Nurses Association, MA Physicians Assistants, MA Senior Care Association, and 1199 SEIU.

MASStrong for Healthcare Workers utilizes the GPS model of group-based social support and mental health care, which incorporates mindfulness-based stress reduction, cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing, peer-to-peer support, psychosocial education, and other evidence-based modalities. A growing body of evidence shows that this form of care consistently reduces feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and depression and increases feelings of hope. Studies show that it has been effective with populations as diverse as parents dealing with postpartum depression, residents of rural areas living with chronic conditions, health care professionals who’ve made mistakes resulting in harm to patients, people living with schizophrenia, and people dealing with substance use disorder. It can be delivered by mental health clinicians or trained, non-clinical workers with relevant lived experience.

Another vital benefit of this form of care is that it addresses systemic inequities in healthcare treatment and services. It is just as effective when delivered online as in person. It can be easily tailored for culturally and linguistically diverse communities when groups are led by trained peer specialists who are also members of that community. This is vital for racial and ethnic minorities, people who are LGBTQIA+, people who are living with disabilities, refugees and new immigrants, and others who do not often find themselves openly represented in the ranks of mental health care professionals.

Healthcare professionals are invited to learn the model and bring it to their practice, community, and/or other providers. If you are interested in running a MASStrong for Healthcare Workers group, you will be paid while you are trained in the model and paid for group facilitation. Email MASStrong@grouppeersupport for more information.