The Witness to Witness (W2W) Program serves those who are in high stress jobs working with vulnerable clients who are themselves experiencing high levels of stress. Originally designed to assist those working with asylum seekers, detainees, migrants, climate refugees and immigrants at the border, we have expanded to serve a range of providers in many parts of the country who work with vulnerable populations. Those we serve may be suffering from stress, empathic stress, moral distress and/or moral injury.
The Witness to Witness (W2W) Program is sponsored by Migrant Clinicians Network (MCN) and affiliated with and endorsed by the American Family Therapy Academy (AFTA). Our services are free or on a sliding scale.
During this time of crisis, we are suspending our one to one sessions in favor of offering peer support groups and interactive webinars so that our services can be stretched to meet demand.
To request a peer support group to help with distress:
To request an interactive webinar for you or your organization, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
If you want to stay informed about the W2W Program,
Access Kaethe Weingarten's top five recommended resources to relieve stress here:
We have found that these articles are helpful to those who are dealing with the stress, empathic distress and moral injury resulting from their daily exposure to challenging work situations. Many people doing this important work feel inadequate to the tasks they face. They feel helpless to create the outcomes they want for the people they serve. Their distress is a symptom of their kind and compassionate nature. These articles provide a framework for understanding their situations and ways of relieving the distress.
- Microaggressions and Relational Harms in the Workplace: English | Spanish
- Steps For an Organization to Consider When Addressing Conflict: English | Spanish
- How to Be Empathic Without Experiencing Personal Distress: English | Spanish
- How to De-escalate a Tense Interaction: English | Spanish
- Anger Amidst the Care: Tips for Clinicians on Dealing With Anger
- What Matters Now: Contemplating death in a time of uncertainty
- Questions for staff to address current organizational tensions: English | Spanish
- Healthy Sleep Tips: English | Spanish
- How to have a restorative holiday: English | Spanish
- Ideas for team meetings to help with workplace stress: English | Spanish
- Position of the Facilitator: English | Spanish
- Coping with Moral Distress: English | Spanish
- How to Re-establish Safety When You Have been Jolted into a Stress Response: English | Spanish
- A Daily Practice to Restore Equanimity: English | Spanish
- How to Help Yourself in This Time of Crisis Now
- Lidiando con la Angustia Moral
- Ideas for Team De-Brief to Help with Workplace Stress and Moral Distress
- Three Minute Breathing Space
- Living with worry and anxiety amidst global uncertainty
- Salud Mental Durante COVID-19: Fortaleciendonos en tiempos de Incertidumbre
To build individual and organizational resilience for those working with vulnerable populations.
Through our service and consultation programs, the Witness to Witness Program will be a standard of care to promote individual and organizational resilience for people working with vulnerable populations allowing them to flourish despite the demands of the work.
When the situation returns to some degree of normalcy, we will be resuming our usual programs as described below.
What we do
The Witness to Witness (W2W) Program serves those who are in high stress jobs or volunteer roles where they come into daily contact with people who are themselves experiencing high levels
Clinician Listening Sessions
The W2W program uses Weingarten’s witnessing model (see below) to provide 3-4 sessions of listening and resource building to partners -- health care professionals, attorneys, support staff, journalists, asylum officers, counselors, faith leaders, advocates and others -- who are committed to supporting immigrants yet are experiencing harms themselves. While the conversations may be therapeutic, we do not offer therapy.
Isolation is a common response to feeling overwhelmed. By contrast, social support is the most effective and efficient way to cope with stress. W2W offers facilitated open enrollment peer support groups for providers and for families reunited following separation at the border.
W2W offers individualized webinars and accompanying resources, each of which is archived. Topics may include but are not limited to: the witnessing model, empathic stress disorders, moral injury, individual resilience, organizational resilience, community resilience, vicarious resilience, creating trauma sensitive environments, reasonable hope, practical self-care strategies, team meeting debrief structures, and more.
Following data analysis of work environment surveys, W2W provides targeted organization consultation based on survey results. Workers describe “in-box trauma,” when they receive notification of new policies that will impact the work they want to do. W2W offers a multi-week, practical learning collaborative for supervisors and administrators to help them develop both individual and organizational resilience in a trauma-informed manner.
What Volunteers and Partners Are Saying about W2W
Comments from W2W partners
"The Witness to Witness program has offered me incredible individual, group, and organizational support. From individual monthly hour long phone conversations with an experienced, licensed psychologist to biweekly Zoom calls with fellow immigration law practitioners across the country, and webinars specifically targeted to help improve organizational resiliency and understanding empathic stress, the W2W program has become an invaluable resource for me as I continue to practice non-profit immigration law. I am so grateful to W2W for sharing their expertise and knowledge with those of us providing direct legal services to low-income immigrants and refugees across the country. W2W truly cares for the caregivers, and I could not be more thankful."
"I feel so grateful for this model, this way of working, and to you for implementing it…. I believe things would be different if everyone working here was receiving this kind of partnership."
"Five stars, two thumbs-up."
Comments from W2W volunteers
"It has been a great experience to volunteer with W2W. … They voice deep gratitude for the program, naming both broad and smaller ways in which their work and personal lives feel more manageable as a result of the W2W support."
"My experience has been extraordinarily positive. Connecting with these dedicated, wonderful women has been a gift and their ability and motivation to integrate and use the support in their own creative ways has taught me things to offer others not to mention to remember for myself. Their resilience is awesome and I am grateful that I can be part of nurturing that."
"This has been a deeply moving experience for me - these partnerships have offered me access to a much needed sense of agency in the face of injustice I have been alert to, but more typically felt powerless in the face of. The program has given me an opportunity to be meaningfully helpful in a way that supports my preferred self."
Kaethe (pronounced Kay-tah) Weingarten, PhD, directs the Witness to Witness Program, a project of Migrant Clinicians Network, affiliated with and endorsed by the American Family Therapy Academy. Dr. Weingarten was an Associate Clinical Professor of Psychology in the Harvard Medical School Department of Psychiatry from 1981-2017 and a faculty member of the Family Institute of Cambridge where she founded and directed the Program in Families, Trauma and Resilience. She has published six books and over 100 articles and essays. Her book Common Shock: Witnessing Violence Every Day – How we are harmed, how we can heal won the 2004 Nautilus Award for Social Change. In 2002, she was awarded the highest honor of the American Family Therapy Academy, the award for Distinguished Contribution to Family Theory and Practice. She and her husband now live in Berkeley, where they moved in 2013 after 48 years in Boston, to be near their children and five grandchildren.
Celia Jaes Falicov, PhD, Coordinator of Spanish Language Programs for the Witness to Witness Program, is clinical professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health at the University of California-San Diego where she directs mental health services for immigrant populations in university sponsored free community clinics. She has presented widely on her work on immigration, cultural diversity and social justice. She is a Past President of the American Family Therapy Academy. She has received awards from the American Psychological Association, the National Latino Psychological Association, National Latino Social Work Association and the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy. She was the recipient of AFTA' s Distinguished Contribution to Family Therapy Theory and Practice Award in 1997. Her publications include three edited books: Family Transitions (Guilford); Cultural Perspectives in Family Therapy (Aspen) and Multiculturalism and Diversity in Clinical Supervision. She is the author of Latino Families in Therapy (Guilford Press).