PAU Professor Lynn C. Waelde Leads Community-Wide Stress Reduction Initiative

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Lynn Waelde, Ph.D., has given hundreds of “Inner Resources for Stress” trainings since developing the program in 2005. Now, through collaboration with the Palo Alto Family YMCA and many of the Y’s local community partners, Dr. Waelde’s program will bring proven stress management techniques to tens of thousands of Bay Area residents over the next year.
 
“This initiative to promote health and wellness resiliency is unique in the Bay Area in that it is being offered to the public on a community-wide basis, and unlike other stress reduction programs offered by major medical groups and hospitals, it’s free to participants, removing barriers to access,” said Dr. Waelde. The Palo Alto Family YMCA annual campaign and Stanford Health are funding the program, which allows a low cost for participants.
 
The first phase of this community-wide initiative began on March 6th with the first of eight weekly, group-based training classes in mindfulness and meditation, all of which are led by Dr. Waelde and her PAU psychology graduate students. This first class, delivered via PAU’s Zoom platform, proved successful as it was attended by over 100 community members, including representatives from the YMCA’s local partners. One of the long-term goals of the project is to certify the YMCA’s local partners to lead Inner Resources for Stress at their facilities, bringing this valuable knowledge to their communities and creating long-lasting impact.
 
Community Needs Assessment Points to Stress as a Primary Issue
A Community Needs Assessment was conducted by the Palo Alto Family YMCA Task Force in 2017, and it revealed mental health/stress as a major concern among Palo Alto residents. “The mission of the YMCA is to be community-centered and offer services that create a safe place for people of all ages to come together to learn, grow, and thrive. Palo Alto University's mission is to develop students and clinicians who will improve the human condition, focusing around mental health, so this partnership around shared values and a response to an identified community need is a perfect fit,” said June Klein, long-time YMCA board member and PAU CFO and vice president for business affairs.
 
Mindfulness has been around for 30 years as an approach to stress, and as of 2012, 11% of the US population has done mindfulness and 31% of the population has done meditation or a related practice, according to a National Health Interview Survey. Dr Waelde elaborates on the use of mindfulness, stating it “is a natural capacity that we all have, and the Inner Resources for Stress teaches people how to cultivate this important skill. Being in the present moment enables us to regulate our feelings.”  Furthermore, she believes a key to the success of Inner Resources for Stress is that it is not one-size-fits-all. The program is tailored for the specific implementations at each site and trainers match mindfulness techniques to the individualized needs of each client.
 
PAU Student Perspective
Sarah McKenzie, a 6th year Ph.D. candidate, was the sub-chair of the intervention committee for the YMCA Stress Reduction initiative, and worked with Dr. Waelde to create a partnership between the YMCA and PAU’s Inner Resources Center. “The Inner Resources for Stress program has been an integral part of my development as a psychologist both personally and professionally,” she explained. “Being trained in IR has provided me with the skills to teach mindfulness and meditation from an evidenced-based, secular perspective, in an accessible and adaptable format. I am very grateful for all of the training and opportunities I was able to engage in through the IRC and look forward to continuing to promote the mission of the center throughout my career.”
 
About Dr. Waelde
Dr. Waelde’s clinical and research interests focus on therapeutic applications of mindfulness and meditation and on predictors and manifestations of stress disorders. Her research has addressed the effectiveness of mindfulness and meditation for people facing diverse health and mental health issues. The Inner Resources (IR) protocol has been successfully tested for its effects on stress and PTSD symptoms, diagnosis of chronic depression, and quality of life in a series of collaborative clinical trials (Waelde, 2005).
 
In addition to serving as the director of the PAU’s Inner Resources Center, Dr. Waelde is director of the Meditation and Psychology Emphasis in the Department of Psychology at Palo Alto University and is an adjunct clinical professor at Stanford University School of Medicine.