Whole Health For Life
Taking Charge of My Life and Health
Whole Health is one component of the Executive Order (EO) to Improve Mental Health Resources for Transitioning Veterans. Transitioning Service members are those who are leaving active military duty and entering into civilian life. The transition period covers the 12 months following separation of military service.
The Introduction to Whole Health is the first of two learning opportunities specifically associated with the EO for transitioning Service members. VHA facilities offer this two-hour group-based, peer-led session twice a month. The session explains the Whole Health approach to care on both the national and local levels.
Participants in the Introduction to Whole Health session are encouraged to join the second of two learning opportunities — a 9-week Taking Charge of My Life and Health peer-led group course. This multi-week session provides an opportunity for more self-exploration, self-care, and goal creation around what really matters to the Veteran.
Through these peer-led Whole Health offerings, Veterans explore their new missions, and begin to create an overarching personal health plan.
Veteran who have agreed to facilitate an Introduction to Whole Health two-hour course, may use this page as a one-stop shop for materials and background information. Below is a description of the course, curriculum and participant materials, videos, tracking materials, helpful hints, and more.
Introduction to Whole Health Course Description
The Introduction to Whole Health session is an educational and experiential opportunity and does not comprise formal counseling. It introduces transitioning Service members to personalized, proactive, and patient-driven care that engages and inspires them to achieve their highest possible level of health and well-being. Veterans and family members can attend this introductory session to explore their mission, aspiration, and purpose. After attending this introductory course, Veterans are encouraged to participate in the 9-week Taking Charge of My Life and Health course.
Facilitators should be Veterans, preferably with experience in Whole Health concepts and facilitation of peer-led sessions, e.g., non-clinical Veteran employees, Veteran Volunteers, Peer Support Specialists, Whole Health Partners. Peer facilitators may also lead the Taking Charge of My Life and Health group sessions following additional training. The typical number of facilitators for a session would be 1-2 and additional support staff can be made available for larger groups. A co-facilitation model is preferred.
The primary target audience is transitioning Service members. Other Veterans, family members, and employees can be welcomed if the room allows. The number of participants is dependent on the size of the room and the number of facilitators/support staff available. These sessions may also be offered to introduce staff to the Whole Health approach.
One two-hour group session is offered twice a month on various days/times, including evenings and Saturdays to enhance access and accommodate schedules. Each facility determines the schedule for the sessions. As needed, the session is provided via video conference to remote settings.
You can use multiple methods of marketing, including reaching out to local bases, adding announcements to inter- and intranet- sites and newsletters, as well as consulting with your public affairs officers and transition care managers. Teams should work with their leadership to determine a communications or marketing strategy. At national level, there will be a communications campaign as well that involves key programs and agencies.
Curriculum, Handouts, and Videos
There is a set curriculum for you to follow. The Introduction to Whole Health Facilitator slides are available here (NOTE: requires MS PowerPoint). The Introduction to Whole Health sessions do not substitute for New Patient Orientation, or vice versa.
Order the first eight items from OPCC&CT at no cost by coordinting with your local VA health care facility. Note: Delivery of materials may take 2-3 weeks to arrive so plan on reproducing materials locally in the meantime as needed.
- OPCC&CT Folder
- Whole Health for Life Pens
- Components of Proactive Health and Well-being Brochures (male, female or co-ed versions available)
- Brief PHI
- PHP Wallet Card
- Circle of Health Magnet
- Whole Health: It Starts with Me handout
- Whole Health: Circle of Health handout
- Five Signs
- Listing of local referral services/programs related to Whole Health and crisis management and other helpful information. To be created locally. Ensure that these resources are appropriate to transitioning Service members given they are not required to go through the eligibility and enrollment processes.
Facilitator Responsibilities and Facilitator “To-Do” and “Not-to-Do” Lists
Responsibilities of the Facilitator
Facilitators are role models for others. Facilitators stay focused and alert, interested in the discussion and the learning that is taking place. They role model the behavior desirable by the entire group by listening closely and encouraging all participants to contribute to the discussion.
Facilitators assess the workshop physical environment. Everything from how the chairs are set up to how the food is arranged contributes to the experience of each participant. The facilitator evaluates the sights, sounds, temperature and smell of the room. This means a facilitator may bring flowers, play music, adjust the thermostat, or bake cookies to impact the experience.
Facilitators are mindful of the time. It is easy to over-schedule activities and not incorporate enough down time for the participants. Facilitators should avoid planning intense activities directly before or after a meal. Facilitators plan for activities taking longer than they think they will last. Facilitators need to constantly check-in with the group to gauge their energy level and make adjustments to the schedule as needed.
Facilitators are responsible for articulating the purpose of the discussion and its significance to the group. The facilitator helps the group connect the dots. By clearly stating the goal and purpose of each activity and section of the workshop, the facilitator helps the group stay focused and on track.
Facilitators are responsible for paying attention to group dynamics. A facilitator should be observant of verbal and non-verbal cues from the group. The facilitator will want to check-in with the group to see if they are cold, need a break, or can hear.
Facilitators should be relaxed and have a sense of humor. Facilitators work to create an atmosphere that is comfortable and open. Group discussions may take a serious turn and become intense. It is important to remember people do not have to be fired-up or uptight in order to have effective discussions. Laughter and a relaxed environment can be the best approach to facilitating a good discussion.
General Tips for Facilitators
“To Do” List
- Know the material before doing the session.
- Exude confidence - be clear, enthusiastic, breathe!
- Use humor, stories, and examples that directly relate to the participants’ work.
- Select an appropriate activity that will meet the needs of your group and have some fun energizers/icebreakers on hand.
- Make any handouts and flip charts visually appealing.
- Appeal to all learning styles – visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners.
- Determine needed supplies, room requirements, and chair setup and plan your time accordingly in advance of the workshop.
- Think through each exercise and visualize potential problems and pitfalls - one of the biggest is not allotting enough time for activities.
- Clearly explain activity directions and be prepared for questions.
- Observe and encourage individual participation and involvement during exercises.
- Be aware of individuals that may be experiencing discomfort or who are not participating. Personally check-in with them in private.
- Debrief exercises to enable participants to process their experience.
- Be available to talk/debrief with participants during break times and before/after the training.
- Evaluate what went well and where you need to make changes and make adjustments accordingly for the next day.
- Evaluate the experience at the end of the day and how activities worked. Write down notes for future sessions.
“NOT To Do” List
A facilitator should not:
- Impose a solution on the group. Facilitators clarify issues, focus discussions, bring out different viewpoints, synthesize ideas and look for underlying agreements. While a facilitator may strive to help a group come to consensus, he or she does not impose a solution on the group.
- Downplay people’s ideas.
- Push personal agendas and opinions as the “right” answer.
- Dominate the group.
- Say umm, aahh repeatedly.
- Read from a script.
- Tell inappropriate or offensive stories.
- Make up an answer - a facilitator never knows who is in the room. Record extraneous questions in a parking lot for further consideration after the workshop.
- Allow people to bully others in the group.
- Take a position with one section of the group against another segment of the group.
- Tell too much about your personal experience and life.
- Assume the demographics of your group (based on appearance).
Documentation, Tracking and Course Details
Documentation and Tracking:
CPRS (VA's electronic medical record) documentation for the Introduction to Whole Health and Taking Charge of My Life and Health options is highly encouraged. For organizations who do not have access to this program, as well as transitioning Veterans who do not have a CPRS record, documentation may be problematic and it is important that this fact does not prevent access to an Introduction to Whole Health session or other Pathway options.
If Veterans do have a CPRS record, it is highly encouraged to document the Introduction to WH and Taking Charge of My Life and Health option participation. Therefore, it would be ideal for sites to have clinic profiles set up for each option so that this documentation can occur. A sample tracking worksheet for the Introduction to Whole Health course attendance is provided below:
The peer facilitator is responsible for ensuring the total number of attendees, the category of attendee and the disposition is recorded for each session. Categories include: recently separated Service member, established Veteran, or family member and the disposition would indicate whether the attendee requested additional services such as referral to mental health and/or to the Taking Charge of My Life and Health group program.
Note: This is a sample tracking tool to capture number of Veterans, transitioning Service members, and family members participating in the Introduction to Whole Health Sessions. Additional local signup sheets capturing pertinent participant information for local documentation is at the discretion of the facilities. In addition, guidance for facilities interested in developing infrastructure for local documentation and tracking of workload through clinic stops can be found in the appendix to this tracking tool.
Non-clinical setting within the VA Medical Center/CBOC/Vet Center/Community Setting, e.g. VSO/YMCA.
To enhance engagement and interaction, we recommend setting up chairs in a circle versus a classroom style layout. Ensure attendees can see one another and you as the facilitator. Modify set-up as needed based on number of attendees. As you will be having them fill out the Personal Health Inventory, please consider making writing surfaces and pens available.
We recommend having support staff present or available to help as needed during the sessions. This includes staff that can offer self-care activities during the session (see-below).
Incorporate an optional self-care activity offered by experienced staff members, e.g. breathing exercise, relaxation technique, etc. This may be provided by the facilitator, if appropriate, or other staff can be present to lead the activity. During the two-hour session incorporate movement and/or relaxation breaks as needed.
Bridging to Mental Health:
Not all transitioning Service members will want MH services. For those that do, however, local planning should include the capability to provide warm hand-offs to MH services/scheduling, when requested by those attending the Intro to WH (or TCMLH) programming. Note: Transitioning Service members are not required to attend the Intro to WH session prior to connecting with MH services.
Each facility requires a clear plan for addressing acute medical/emotional issues should they arise during the session. Please work with your leadership and team to ensure you have a clear and comprehensive crisis management plan that is understood by all. Note: Facilitators are not expected to conduct any formal assessment during these sessions but should work with their leadership to understand what constitutes a crisis and when to mobilize crisis resources.