This blog is about helping you find your resilient strengths. How can you view the struggles you go through in life as the things that make you a role model of resilience instead of a victim? These resilient strengths can be mined from the challenges you face in your personal life, your family, school and community. We’ll look at how the principles of constructive resilience play out in the world of business and government. Feel free to take what you like, add your own insights, suggest topics to explore and ask questions.
We’ll also use this site to link what might otherwise appear to be different issues. For instance, we’ll look at how these resilient principles are being acted upon through the Unity Project and other organizations in earthquake affected Haiti and Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina, Newtown, Connecticut where the Unity Project has its home and in Uganda where the Unity Project has launched an exciting series of resilience building efforts with survivors of the child soldiers of the Lord’s Resistance Army. We’ll look at instructive and inspiring examples from the lives of kids and adults around the globe. We’ll take apart the lessons to be learned so we can see how to use them in our own lives.
I’ve been fortunate as a psychiatrist to have been a witness to countless examples of the best in humanity that have been expressed in what look like the worst possible situations. So, rather than just speaking as a professional, I feel like I am more of a reporter on the many examples of resilience I have seen in others and the goodness we all share. As a result of this great honor given to me of the trust of others, I am reminded constantly of the nobility and courage people display in their every day struggles.
From children and adolescents struggling with tragic family situations, couples facing a crisis in their relationships, individuals struggling with tragic losses, refugees who have lost everything to the cruelty of others and those who have been devastated by natural disasters, I have come to an unshakeable hope in humanity. Despite the depths of the suffering in those with whom I have worked, I have seen the sincerity, the honesty, the desire for meaning, the hope to be of service to someone else that gives me an unshakable conviction in the nobility of the human soul and our common humanity.
For all of our destructive capacity, we as a species, have undreamt capacity for nobility. I want to share what I have learned of this nobility from countless examples around the world so that we might find personal and collective happiness and be helpers of each other.
Here is some of my background:
Dr. John Woodall is a Board Certified Psychiatrist formerly of the faculty of Harvard Medical School and the Founder and Director of the Unity Project, a resilience learning system that was developed to promote resilient strengths in youth.
The Unity Project was conceived after Dr. Woodall led an in-country USAID funded trauma response program for the former Yugoslavia through the Harvard School of Public Health. It was refined in partnership with the Department of Youth and Community Development of the City of New York after 9/11 upon their request he develop resilience building programming for children across the city. Further refinement occurred in New Orleans and Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina and through his role as the Convener of the “Resilient Responses to Social Crisis Interfaculty Working Group” at Harvard’s Mind, Brain, Behavior Interfaculty Initiative.
After a very successful trip to bring to fruition the Unity Project-Uganda initiative in war torn northern Uganda, Dr. Woodall returned to his home in Newtown, Connecticut shortly before the horrific shooting there that took the lives of 26 innocent souls and tore at the heart of the town. Since that time he has thrown himself into a variety of resilience building efforts in Newtown from his work as the Baha’i representative to the Newtown Interfaith Association, to the Newtown High School Unity Project, launching the PeaceBuilders for 11-14 year old youth in Newtown, 21st Century Conversations to help parents build a resilient community, to serving as one of three members of the Distribution Committee for the charitable funds generously donated from around the world to assist those most affected by the tragedy and consulted to a number of charities and government bodies during this time of crisis.
Using these experiences as a template, Dr. Woodall is currently engaged in developing methods to implement community resilience programs in an effort that began in communities in Massachusetts, New York, Texas and California, and ironically, now in his hometown of Newtown, Connecticut.
Dr. Woodall has lectured, consulted and developed programs on resilient responses to crisis, human rights, conflict resolution and inter-ethnic dialogue across the US, in Central America, Canada, the Balkans, Cyprus, Israel and the Palestinian Territories for universities, the US Department of State, the United Nations and non-governmental organizations.
An abbreviated CV is below:
The American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology
University of California – Irvine College of Medicine
Department of Psychiatry, 1985-89
University of Illinois – Urbana, 1981-85
Bachelor of Arts
Southern Illinois University- 1975-79
Locum Tenens: Providence Behavioral health Hospital, Holyoke, MA, May 14,
2012 – August 10, 2012, Oct 15 – December 31, 2012, May 6-10,2013, July 1-5, 2013,
Aug. 19-23, 2013.
Inpatient General Psychiatry: Admission assessment, adult and geriatric patient care,
team management, treatment planning, disposition planning, discharge.
MedOptions, February 2009, to July 2009.
Geriatric service at 5 nursing home facilities in central Massachusetts.
Health Alliance: Leominster & Fitchburg, MA
Staff Psychiatrist, Oct. 2001 – Sept. 30, 2003.
Duties: Outpatient clinic providing assessment, medication management, psychotherapy.
Consultation/Liaison: to medical and surgical units at Leominster Hospital.
Geriatric Care to the 2 nursing homes in the Health Alliance system, provided
Assessment, medication management, consultation & liaison to medical &
surgical services, oversaw and supervised psychiatric nurse practitioner.
Inpatient: coverage of inpatient unit as on call staff.
Community Care Services: Taunton, Plymouth, Attleborough, MA
Director of Psychiatry, Oct. 2000 – July, 2001.
Duties: Direct patient care in 3 outpatient clinics, assessment, medication management,
psychotherapy. Administrative oversight of psychiatric staff, supervision of psychiatric
Codman Square Health Center/Dorchester House, Dorchester, MA.
Director of Psychiatry, June, 1999 – September, 2000.
Duties: Direct patient care in 2 inner city clinics, assessments, medication
management, psychotherapy. Administrative oversight of psychiatric staff and coordination of clinical services.
Carney Hospital, Dorchester, MA,
Staff Psychiatrist, October, 1996 – June, 1999.
Duties: Inpatient services: Admission and assessment of new patients, daily medication
management, psychotherapy, coordination of interdisciplinary treatment team, call,
coverage of emergency room, outpatient clinic.
Brockton Veterans Administration Hospital, Brockton, MA
Staff Psychiatrist, February, 1992 –February, 1993.
Duties: Ward chief of long term psychiatric ward.
Director of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Service, February, 1993 –
December – 1995.
Duties: Outpatient clinic: patient intake and assessment, medication management, psychotherapy, group psychotherapy, family psychotherapy. Administrative: development of outreach services, started first psychiatric service for traumatized patients at the New England Shelter for Homeless Veterans.
Metropolitan State Hospital, Waltham, MA
Staff Psychiatrist, August, 1990 – January, 1992.
Duties: Ward Chief of several chronic inpatient services, medication management, treatment team oversight. Administrative: Periodic Acting Medical Director of the hospital during turbulent state ordered closure of the hospital.
Couples and Family Therapy, 1987 to present.
Individual Psychotherapy, 1987 to present.
Consultation & Liaison, the Boston Home. Medication and psychotherapy to patients
with multiple sclerosis. 1996 – 2002.
Geriatric Consultation: A number of nursing homes in Southern California, 1987- 1990.
Mental Retardation Consultation: Board and Care facilities in Southern California, 1987
Adolescent Individual and Group Therapy: Foster Care Social Services in Southern
California, 1987 – 1990.
Hospital on-call coverage, Charter Hospital, Long Beach, California, 1987- 1990.
Hospital on-call coverage, College Hospital, Long Beach, California, 1987- 1990.
Convener: “Resilient Responses to Social Crisis Interfaculty Working Group”
Mind Brain Behavior Interfaculty Initiative, Harvard University, August 2002 – August 2004.
Department of Psychiatry,
Harvard Medical School
Judge Baker Children’s Center, June 1998 – August, 2004.
Research Topic: Identity and Ethical Development in the Aftermath of Trauma.
• “Personal and Community Transformation in the Aftermath of Violence:
from Boston to the Balkans.” April 7, 1999.
• “Challenges to Ethical Social Development After War Trauma.” March 10, 1998.
Clinical Instructor, Department of Psychiatry,
Harvard Medical School, Brockton VA Medical Center, February 1992 – 95.
• Medical Director, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Clinical Team, Oct. 1993 – Dec. 1995.
• Created and operated first outreach clinic of the PTSD Service at the New England Shelter for Homeless Veterans, Boston, MA. 1993-95.
Clinical Instructor, Department of Psychiatry,
Harvard School of Medicine, Cambridge Hospital, August 1990- February 1992.
• Fellow, Center for Psychological Studies in the Nuclear Age.
• “The Role of Collective Identity in Ethics and Collective Security,”
Academic Lecture Series, Cambridge Hospital, Nov. 1991.
• “Beyond Conflict Resolution: Spiritual Dimensions of Collective Identity,” 3 Day Course and Workshop, Red Deer Baha’i School, Red Deer, Alberta, August 1991.
• Consultant, US State Department, Office for Eastern Europe,
on negotiation opportunities in the inter-ethnic conflict in Cyprus, November 1991.
Director of Medical Student Training for Psychiatry and the Behavioral Sciences,
University of California – Irvine, School of Medicine, May 1989 – May 1990.
Founder and Director, The Program on International Affairs and Conflict Resolution,
The Department of Psychiatry & the Institute for Global Affairs, U. of California – Irvine.
• Field Study of Collective Identity Model of Conflict Resolution,” Cyprus, March 1990. Met with President of Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and began discussion
with family of the President of the Republic of Cyprus.
• “The Role of Psychiatry in International Conflict Resolution” World Psychiatric Congress, Convenor, Athens, October 1989.
• “Collective Identity and its Role in the Development of a Theory of Justice,” International Society of Political Psychology Annual Meeting, Tel Aviv, June, 1989.
• “Race: the Most Challenging Issue Facing America” Keynote Address, Race Amity Conference, Nov. 7, 2009, Colby College, Waterville, ME.
• “Resilience Skills that Overcome Racism: The Unity Project,” National Race Amity Conference,May 18-19, 2011, Wheelock College
• “Neuro-Biological Implications of Racism: Racism as Disease,” First International Conference of the Institutes for the Healing of Racism, Connecticut College, October 15-17, 1999.
• “Overcoming Racism in Europe,” Lecture and 3 day Workshop with leaders of youth organizations from Europe and Asia, Landegg Academy, St. Galen, Switzerland, May 1994.
• “Healing Racism,” Campus-wide seven week workshop sponsored by the
Harvard Baha’i Club in response to the Rodney King verdict, Harvard University, summer 1993.
• Facilitated staff debriefing on resilient responses to crises. US Embassy, Tel
Aviv, Israel, January 8, 2004.
• “How to Create /Implement a Program for Community Response to Trauma, Particularly in the Midst of Ongoing Crisis.” Workshop for Save the Children Network convened by the US Consulate General, Jerusalem, January 6, 2004.
• Consulted and provided counselling to United Airlines staff at Logan International Airport in the 3 weeks immediately following the September 11, 2001 terrorist hijacking of United Airlines planes.
• Consultant: Mercy Corps International, on establishing psycho-social rehabilitation efforts for newly repatriated Kosovar Albanians, Kosovo, Yugoslavia, July 1999.
Lecture: “The Human Response to Trauma,” The Mother Teresa University Hospital, Tirana, Albania, May 26, 1999.
• In Country Project Director, Croatia & Bosnia-Herzegovina
USAID funded program to provide psycho-social programming and training for victims of war trauma, January 1996 – July 1996.
• Coordinator for USAID funded training programs of clinicians from Croatia
and Bosnia-Herzegovina at Harvard trauma clinics, 1993 – 1994.
Conflict Resolution/Human Rights/War Crimes:
• “Psycho-Social Impacts of Severe Trauma,” Global Humanitarianism: How Conflict Impacts Health, Panel Presenter, Massachusetts Medical Society special program, MMS, Waltham, MA, May, 22, 2007.
• “The Use of Common Ethical Language to Build Inclusive Identities in the Aftermath of Crisis.” Presentation to the faculty and students of the Center for Conflict Resolution and the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, Hebrew University. Sponsor: The American Center and the US Consulate General, Jerusalem. Jan. 8, 2004.
• Facilitated roundtable discussion between leading ngo, corporate, foundation leaders on “Israeli/Palestinian Conflict,” Women Waging Peace Policy Day, the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, November 7, 2003.
• “Exploring Reconciliation Through Common Ethics,” Guest Speaker, the Values Caucus at the United Nations, November 6, 2003.
• Facilitated creation of first NGO of women from different religious backgrounds dedicated to inter-ethnic/inter-religious understanding. “Strength in Diversity,” Women in Public Policy Program, John F. Kennedy School of Government, February, 2001 and Sarajevo, Bosnia. March 19 – 22, 2001.
• Preventing the spread of war in the Balkans: Attendee of specially convened peace conference attended by Presidents and Prime Ministers of the Republics of the former Yugoslavia. Burg Schleining, Austria, February, 1991.
Founder and Director, Task Force on Accountability for War Crimes in the Balkans, 1993 – 1994.
• Conducted 3 meetings at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, with UN, US State Dept., and a variety of trauma and human rights experts on the provision of psychologically sensitive legal care for rape victims. Drafted reports from these meetings that were used by the US Ambassador to the UN Human Rights Commission to advocate for the creation of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.
• Consultant to the International Criminal Tribunal Commission for the Former Yugoslavia, Geneva, November, 1993. This consultation was to design psychologically sensitive methods of evidence collection from war crimesvictims, especially rape victims.
• Consultant to US State Department, Office of Human Rights on the use of ethical strengths as a theme to organize civil society measures in war-torn countries, March 1994.
• “Spiritual Dimensions of Recovery in War Trauma,” Association for Baha’i Studies Annual Meeting, November 17, 1997.
• Numerous media presentations to National Public Radio, the CBS Evening News
with Dan Rather, the Boston Globe, local radio, television and print media about
issues related human rights and the care of refugees and war victims, Oct. 1992 to present.
Higher Education Post September 11:
• Consortium on Financing Higher Education Assembly, Presentation: “Higher
Education’s Response to September 11, Developing Competencies for Life in
the Global Community,” New York, April 2002.
• College Board Colloquium Presentation, “Higher Education and the Response
to Civil Crisis,” Laguna Beach, CA, January 2002.
• Founder and Director:
– The Healing Arts Project: Partnership between the Unity Project, the Boston
Institute for Arts Therapy and the Department of Youth and Community
Development of the City of New York to develop resilient skills through
the arts to build competent global citizens through DYCD’s extensive network
of after-school programs throughout New York City. January 2003 –present.
– Launched at Gracie Mansion, May, 2003.
• Newtown, CT: Developed and launched a series of resilience-building programs for the community after the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
– One of 3 advisors to the Newtown First Selectman on the strategy for the town for the first anniversary of tragedy and subsequent long range plans.
– Devised idea of a “Year of Service” for the town and wrote the piece for the town newspaper, the Newtown Bee, announcing this plan to the town.
– 21st Century Conversation resilience-building workshops for parents and adults. Designed and facilitated the workshops creating a network of townspeople with expertise in developing resilience in the community. Dec. 2012 to present.
– The Newtown High School Unity Project, Advised school principal on resilience building theory and methods from the time of the tragic shooting until the present. Created and facilitated student run Unity Council to develop student body resilience. Dec. 2012 to present.
– PeaceBuilders for 11-14 year olds created and facilitated programming to create inter-ethnic and inter-religious understanding through community service and an adapted version of the Unity Project Transformation Process. Dec. 2012 to present.
– Working with the Newtown interfaith community to coordinate a wide variety of resilience building efforts town-wide. Dec. 2012 to present.
– Providing consulting services to a number of local not-for-profit agencies on strategies to develop a resilient response to the tragedy of 12-14-12.
– Numerous articles in the local newspaper on critical issues facing families and the community in the aftermath of the tragedy. Dec. 2012 to present.
– A video series on building resilience produced in collaboration with the Sandy Hook Promise. April, 2013.
– Public talk on Building Resilience offered to the community in partnership with the Sandy Hook Promise. April 2013.
– Advised and consulted to Newtown Youth Academy on ways to create a town-wide resilience building program for youth using sports. January 2013 to present.
– One of 3 members of the Distribution Committee for the Newtown-Sandy Hook Community Foundation Fund disbursing $7.7 million in charitable contributions to the 40 families most directly affected by the tragic shooting in Sandy Hook. April 2013 to December 2013.
– Creating a “Global Mental Health and Resilience Center” at Danbury Hospital through the University of Vermont School of Medicine. April, 2013 to present.
– Joined the Board of Ben’s Lighthouse, a not for profit dedicated to community service in honor of Ben Wheeler, one of the children taken from us in the Sandy Hook tragedy.
– A variety of media interviews on resilience and strategies to build community resilience. BBC, NPR, New York Times, CNN, etc.
• Southlake, Texas: developing a community based response to build a resilient culture in the aftermath of a series of suicides in the local high schools.
– Numerous presentations to the “Friends of the Unity Project, teachers, counselors and administrators of the Carroll Independent School District and students and their parents from the intermediate, middle, high school and senior high of the CISD. November 18-21,2013, in anticipation of launching the Unity Project in the school district in Jan. 2014.
– “We’re Not Waiting” Resilience-building workshop with 10-20 year olds, June 28, 2013.
– Consultation with the Southlake City Council on the principles and strategies for building a resilient community, July 28, 2013.
– Consultation with the Carroll Independent School District School Board and Superintendent on principles and strategies of building a resilient culture for the school district.
– “Building a Resilient Community,” public talk to “the Friends of the Unity Project,” June 27, 2013.
– Paths to Spiritual Health, Day long workshop, Whites Chapel, Jan. 16, 2010.
– Consultation with Superintendent and School Board of Carroll School District on building resilience in Southlake High Schools after 7 student suicides in 7 months. April 11, 2013.
– Consultation with City Council and State Representative on theory and strategies for building community resilience in the aftermath of multiple suicides in teens. April 12, 2013.
• Santa Monica, California: Webinars on principles of building resilience in children and communities. Co-sponsored by the Santa Monica Human Relations Council and the Baha’i Community of Santa Monica.
– “Creating a Culture of Peace” Webinar Part I, April 30,2013
– “From Newtown to Santa Monica: Building America Anew” Webinar Part II, June, 30, 2013.
– “From Newtown to Santa Monica: Building America Anew” Webinar Part III, August 11, 2013.
– Meeting with the Chief of Police, the Fire Chief, the Rand Corporation and the Santa Monica Human Relations Council on strategies to build a city-wide resilience plan. Oct 21-25, 2013.
– “A Theory of Resilience in Community Capacity Building,” Presentation at The RAND Corporation, Santa Moncia, CA, Oct. 24, 2013.
• The Unity Project:
“Building resilient strengths in children in the face of the challenges of our time.” A resiliency ethics- based model for personal and community development. A 501(c)3 organization.
• Unity Project-Uganda: developing a community based response to building resilience in post civil war region of northern Uganda.
– Nine local partner including schools, media outlets, micro-enterprise, women’s
support, conflict resolution, health care and rehabilitation services. Nov. 2010 to present.
– Launched PeaceTrees, a reforestation project involving thousands of young people in a community wide effort to address a critical environmental
problem affecting the survival of the Lira District, in partnership with local
and national governmental organizations.
– Building infrastructure to establish Unity Project chapters in high schools across America and internationally. December, 2012 to present.
– Partnership with the Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD) of New York City to implement the Unity Project program in 184 community based after school programs in the city.
– ReachUP! NYC: a resilience training program to train staff of 184 community based organizations contracted with the City of New York in resilience building programming. Launched 10-14-08.
– “Building Resilience through the Arts” 3 day course for teachers and school administrators on the Unity Project resilience building methods, The Whole Schools Initiative Annual Conference, The Mississippi Arts Council, Oxford, MS, July, 21-23, 2008.
– “Resilient Art Experiences” Half-day course, as above, July 22, 2008.
– “Basic Principles of Resilience,” Half-day course, as above, July 21, 2008.
– “Building Resilience through the Arts” 3 day course for teachers and shcool administrators on the Unity Project resilience building methods, The Whole Schools Initiative Annual Conference, The Mississippi Arts Council, Oxford, MS, July, 17-19, 2007.
– “Resilient Art Experiences” Half-day course, as above, July, 16, 2007.
– “Basic Principles of Resilience,” Half-day course, as above, July, 16, 2007.
– “Resilience in the Aftermath of Humanitarian Crises,” Panel presentation, Global Humanitarian Crisis Roundatable, Massachusetts Medical Society, May, 22, 2007.
– “Suffering, Art and Healing,” Key-Note address, Expressions in the Service of Humanity Conference, Lesley University, April, 27, 2007.
– Resilience Training, for community teaching artists and school artists, Young Audiences of New Orleans and Greater New Orleans Afterschool Partnership, December, 2006.
– “Building Resilience through the Arts,” 3 day course for teachers and schools administrators on the Unity Project resilience building methods, The Whole Schools Initiative Annual Conference, The Mississippi Arts Council, Hattiesburg, MS, 18-20, 2006.
– “Resilient Art Experiences,” Half-day course, as above, July, 17, 2006.
– “Basic Principles of Resilience,” Half-day course, as above, July, 17, 2007.
– Resilience Training, for community teaching artists and school artists working with Katrina survivors, Young Audiences of New Orleans, May, 2006.
– Plenary Speaker: “Hope and the Aesthetic: Remaking the World After Crisis,” Imagine: Expressions in the Service of Humanity: Creative Approaches to Dealing with Conflict in Groups, An International Conference, Tel-Aviv, Israel, April, 2006.
– Resilience Training, Young Audiences of Houston and the Cultural Council of Houston/Harris County. Teaching artists working with Hurricane Katrina evacuees. September 16, 2005, Houston Arts Council.
– Resilience Training for teaching artists and schools artists, Sponsored by the New York State Association for Art Education, Oct. 2005 – Aug., 2006.
– Resilience Training, for teaching artists of the School Arts Rescue Initiative, Three sessions, April, 2005-August ,2005.
– Presenter, “The Unity Project,” Students Against Destructive Decisions National Conference, Washington, DC, July 25, 2005.
– Presenter and Discussant, “Resilience Strengths as They Emerge from Trauma: Implications for Interventions,” UNESCO Roundtable on Trauma and Interventions, United Nations Headquarters, New York, February 10, 2004.
– Faculty Presentation, School of Education, Hebrew University, “Toward a New Paradigm in Peace Education.” US Consulate General Jeruslam sponsored, January 8, 2004.
– “Post Traumatic Stress and the Reconstruction of Hope,” Jerusalem US Consultate General Program for the Palestinian Counselling Center in Beit Hanina, January 5, 2004.
– “Post Conflict Community Reconciliation in the Balkans: A Case Study and Its Implications for the Arab-Israeli Conflict,” A round-table with Palestinian and Israeli NGO Directors hosted by the Public Affairs Office of the US Consulate General in Jerusalem, Januray 5, 2004.