Trauma Relief & Resilience Building for Puerto Rico

Commitment by The Center for Mind-Body Medicine

In 2020, the Center for Mind Body Medicine (CMBM) committed to scale their proven trauma recovery model to address the mental health impacts of the 2020 Puerto Rico earthquakes. CMBM utilizes a train-the-trainer model, equipping people with practical meditation and other self-care techniques that they can deploy in their communities to address population-wide trauma. CMBM will respond to the earthquakes by supporting 70 existing trainees on the island to deploy to the southwest of the island and provide direct services and trainings to 2,500 people impacted by the earthquakes. To create an ongoing support for these communities, CMBM will then train 150 community leaders from impacted municipalities in mind body techniques and provide intensive support and supervision as they provide community trainings and workshops to individuals, families, and groups. Ultimately, up to 30,000 people in the earthquake-impacted areas will be empowered with practical skills to reduce trauma.



Trauma Relief & Resilience Building for Puerto Rico



Est. Duration

1 Years

Estimated Total Value



Latin America & Caribbean



Commitment by

The Center for Mind-Body Medicine

Partner(s) of the Commitment Maker(s)

Greater New York Hospital Association (GNYHA); Taller Salud

In partnership with a local team in Puerto Rico, CMBM will implement both an immediate and a long-term response to address the population-wide trauma from the recent earthquakes. This program scales a successful pilot project implemented in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, in which CMBM and local partners trained 70 people from leading social service organizations in eastern Puerto Rico, who have since served thousands of people traumatized by Hurricane Maria. In January 2020, they self-deployed to the southwest to begin serving those affected by the earthquakes.

The short-term response will provide targeted supervision and support for these 70 local trainees to provide self-care workshops and small groups in the areas most severely impacted by the earthquakes, reaching a total of 2,500 people. To build a system of ongoing support and healing, the long-term response will then train an additional 150 community leaders to implement CMBM’s model for trauma healing in Guayanilla, Guánica, and Ponce, providing trainees with 20 weeks of supervision via phone and in person. Each new trainee will lead at least two intensive eight-week Mind Body Skills Groups, collectively serving 1,300 traumatized children and adults. They will also each lead at least one Self-Care Workshop each, collectively reaching an additional 3,000 people. Outside of these activities, the new trainees will teach basic trauma relief skills to approximately 24,000 additional children and adults through individual, family, and classroom sessions over the 40 weeks after their training. 45 trainers will also receive additional leadership training through CMBM.

CMBM uses a “train the trainer” approach, first teaching and supporting local educators, social service and healthcare providers, and community leaders to use practical self-care and group support techniques to deal with their own stress and trauma. Techniques include several kinds of meditation, guided imagery, biofeedback, and self-expression through words, drawings and movement. After learning and experiencing this model themselves, trainees then learn to facilitate intensive Mind-Body Skills Groups and Self-Care Workshops. The CMBM program has repeatedly and reliably reduced levels of post-traumatic stress disorder by 80% or more, with gains holding at seven and 10-month follow ups.

February - May 2020

48 three-hour Self-Care workshops that will reach a total of 2,500 local residents in Guayanilla, Guanica and Ponce, implemented by individuals trained by CMBM in Eastern Puerto Rico. Workshops will provide immediate stress- and trauma-relief services and instruction for children and adults struggling with stress, anxiety and depression. This emergency response visit will also serve to build local partnerships for later program activities.

30 intensive eight-week Mind-Body Skills Groups offered in Guayanilla, Guanica and Ponce by local CMBM facilitators, serving 300 of the most traumatized children and adults.

June 2020 - June 2021

Train and support an additional 150 local community leaders to sustain CMBM’s model in southwestern Puerto Rico. Training includes two four-day in-person training modules followed by 20 weeks of intensive clinical supervision, both via phone and several in-person sessions.

Each new trainee leads at least two, intensive eight-week Mind Body Skills Groups, collectively serving a total of 1,300 traumatized children and adults.

Each new trainee leads at least one Self-Care Workshop, collectively reaching an additional 3,000-3,500 people. Eventually, trainees will teach basic trauma-relief skills to approximately 24,000 additional children and adults through individual, family, and classroom sessions.

Leadership Training for 45 individuals (from combined pool of 220 total trained in Hurricane Maria training program and Earthquake Program) to provide ongoing supervision to all those who have been trained.


Population-wide stress and trauma are some of the gravest and longest lasting consequences of natural disaster, particularly when compounded by existing poverty as in Puerto Rico. In a Washington Post survey conducted one year after Hurricane Maria, more than one-fifth of the island’s residents reported needing or receiving mental health services. In the nine months following the storm, suicides increased 18%. Left unaddressed, this situation will lead to a chronically debilitated, despairing population.

Most recently, in January 2020, Puerto Rico has been rocked by a series of over 1,200 earthquakes, the largest measuring magnitude 6.4. More than 8,000 people have been displaced by the earthquakes, hundreds of thousands were left without water. Many are without power, and even those who have it experience periodic outages. In a region already struggling to recover, this newest challenge has pushed residents past their emotional limits. The continuous onslaught of disasters, coupled with a chaotic and uncertain recovery process, has left people in a constant state of survival, unable to relax or focus on anything beyond basic, immediate needs. Chronic stress and hopelessness plague the hardest hit regions. One resident summarized their experience, saying “God is tired of us.”

Partnership Opportunities

Financial resources are needed to support these efforts. The total cost for the full 18-month program – including an immediate emergency response, training and supervision of new facilitators, ongoing workshops and small groups, and the development of local program leadership – is $1,045,000. CMBM also seeks partnerships with nonprofits, medical facilities, mental health professionals, and religious organizations in Puerto Rico to assist with marketing and implementation of this project. CMBM would also welcome in-kind meeting space in the southwestern part of the island. CMBM is offering free training for local partners to implement an evidence-based approach to healing community trauma and building resilience. Included in the comprehensive training is six months of intensive supervision and support as partners implement the model in the local community.

Progress Reports