Every Monday morning, Army Veteran Diane Parker logs into her computer to join a few of her fellow Veterans to start her week with a relaxation group called Jumpstart. It’s led by Nilka Rivera-Ortiz, a clinical psychologist at the Mesquite Vet Center.
Jumpstart is a drop-in style group that allows Veterans to attend as their schedule permits. Open to all Mesquite Vet Center active clients, the group is virtual so Veterans can attend from wherever they happen to be as long as they can join in a safe environment.
“The group started as an idea to make and build something different that hasn’t been offered in the past and I wanted to make it something that was approachable,” Rivera-Ortiz said. “The reason it is called Jumpstart is because I wanted something where Veterans could join and jumpstart their week.
“The group is a very simple structure where I guide them through a relaxation exercise,” she added. “It can be mindfulness meditation. It can be a visualization exercise or combination of both. The exercise may last for 15 to 20 minutes. Then we spend a few minutes discussing what their responses have been.”
Dr. Rivera-Ortiz talks with Army Veteran Diane Parker during Jumpstart, a virtual relaxation group.
When Rivera-Ortiz first told Parker about the new group, the latter knew she wanted to be a part of it. First attending a group in June, she has continued to participate and looks forward to it each week.
“I’ve tried other things to try and relax and calm me down because I have a lot of anxiety, and it hits me every now and then,” Parker said. “I was so glad when she told me about this group. I said, oh yeah, absolutely. Sign me up because I know it will help me.”
Rivera-Ortiz provides a safe space for the Veterans in the group and no one is pressured to share anything. The group is about having a place to practice a skill, get some education, and start the week off on a safe and peaceful note.
“I want everyone to feel comfortable enough to join together,” Rivera-Ortiz said. “They don’t have the pressure to share anything that’s personal. They don’t have to share anything about their trauma, whether it’s MST or combat trauma. They’re just here to learn something or learn a new skill to help them regulate their emotions or just start their week in a better place.”
Parker says she has taken skills from the group and used them to help her through her week when times can sometimes get challenging.
“There are times when I need help to relax and I can hear Dr. Rivera-Ortiz in the back of my head saying all those things she teaches us in the group,” Parker said. “Honestly, it has helped me a lot and she lets me know that I can do this.”
Vet Centers are community-based counseling centers providing a broad range of counseling, outreach and referral services, free-of-charge in a safe and confidential environment.
Services are available to eligible Veterans, active duty service members (including National Guard and Reserve), and their families.