This post was written by Frank Buckley, S.J., Psy. D, Clinical Director at The Center at Blessed Sacrament.
On its home page, the Center at Blessed Sacrament argues it is eradicating homelessness in Hollywood through relationships. Allen Shore, Ph.D. at UCLA is using neuroscience to show the transformative quality in mental health is relationship and how one good healthy relationship can be pivotal in helping clients heal. One of the difficulties of forming meaningful relationships is trauma. The Center at Blessed Sacrament uses a holistic, trauma-informed milieu to help participants address the myriad of trauma present for people living on the streets.
What could possibly help an individual with an experience of years of trauma return to their very self? I agree with Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D. that for clients having experienced years of trauma that “mindfulness practice is the cornerstone for recovery from trauma.” Mindfulness fosters safe connections, which are fundamental to a satisfying and meaningful life. Living on the streets in Hollywood is stressful and all of the most current research identifies mindfulness as the best antidote to stress. Current research shows mindfulness as helpful for a reducing anxiety, stress, depression, grief, and insomnia. Mindfulness is a central component of almost every group that happens at The Center at Blessed Sacrament which include: gardening, music, poetry, flourishing, journaling, current events, and many more.
What is mindfulness? In his book, The Miracle of Mindfulness, Thich Nhat Hanh argues that mindfulness “is the miracle by which we master and restore ourselves; it is the miracle which can call back in a flash our dispersed mind and restore it to wholeness so that we can live each minute of life.” While mainstream Western medicine has focused on drugs and verbal therapy, other traditions have relied on mindfulness, movement, rhythms, and action. Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D. has noticed that at the core of recovery from trauma is self-awareness suggesting the most important phrases in trauma therapy are “notice that” and “what happens next?” When a person avoids the sensations and feelings in their body, then they become overwhelmed. Mindfulness is a way out. Jon Kabat-Zinn, one of the pioneers in mind-body medicine and founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in 1979 describes mindfulness as follows: “One way to think of this process of transformation is to think of mindfulness as a lens, taking the scattered and reactive energies of your mind and focusing them into a coherent source of energy for living, for problem solving, and for healing.” On a small corner of Selma and Colfax in Hollywood, the Center at Blessed Sacrament is restoring well-being to chronically homeless men and women through incorporating mindfulness into the fabric of its entire programming through engagement with self, others, and the world.
How is this working? After every group offered at the Center, the clients are given the last ten minutes for an opportunity to reflect on how they experienced the group. One of the client’s in the morning mindfulness group reflected, “this group should be called emergency mindfulness; it is like a glass of cold orange juice and a multi-vitamin.” At the Center at Blessed Sacrament, mindfulness is proving to be an important component in eradicating homelessness in Hollywood; one breath at a time.
About Frank Buckley, S.J., Psy. D, Clinical Director at The Center at Blessed Sacrament
Dr. Buckley is a licensed clinical psychologist and Jesuit priest in the the California Province currently working as clinical director at the Center at Blessed Sacrament. He graduated from University of California, Berkeley with a bachelor’s degree in psychology; he received a Masters degree in Clinical Social Work from Loyola University Chicago, and a doctorate in clinical psychology from the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco. Prior to coming to the Center, he worked as a therapist primarily focusing on trauma and short term therapy at Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles. Dr. Buckley did his pre and post doctoral studies at the University of San Francisco’s Counseling and Psychological Services. He has an interest in mindfulness, flourishing, and yoga and has travelled throughout Asia studying Eastern spirituality and yoga.
One of the founders of St. Vincent de Paul’s Wellness Center in San Francisco, Dr. Buckley has spent much of his time as a Jesuit addressing issues of homelessness and addiction. In addition, he lectures and gives workshops that focus on flourishing and well-being from an Ignatian perspective to a diversity of groups ranging from chronically homeless men and women living in the Tenderloin of San Francisco, faculty at Verbum Dei, alumni at Loyola Law School Los Angeles, Jesuit scholastics in Philosophy Studies, and Catholic elementary school principals in San Francisco. Dr. Buckley is passionate about the Center’s holistic, relational, evidence-based trauma informed approach for working with participants who find themselves living on the streets of Hollywood. His dissertation is about flourishing on a Jesuit campus and is something he remains very passionate to this day. If you have any interest in flourishing, addiction and recovery, or ending isolation and homelessness in Hollywood, Dr. Buckley would love to have a conversation.