iRest at COTS

John Records

Since 1992 I have managed a nonprofit agency in the San Francisco area that shelters and supports homeless people (COTS). We rarely have enough resources to provide people with the deep healing they need. For years our staff has searched for a cost-effective approach to support those who have suffered repeated trauma and who struggle with the challenges of homelessness, mental illness, and recovery from chemical dependency. Integrative Restoration (iRest) has been wonderfully successful in providing the support we've been seeking for our program participants. We have been offering it for several years as four-week programs that meet once a week for a couple of hours. Participants have found the iRest program immediately helpful.

I am deeply touched to hear class members speak from their heart about the healing that the iRest program has provided them with respect to their physical pain, emotional upset, sleeplessness and self-esteem. We have experimented with numerous approaches that offer such support, including creative visualization, hatha yoga, chi gung and meditation. I’m delighted to say that the iRest program has been one of the most popular and effective programs.

I have been meditating and engaging in transformative practices for over 25 years, and practice and teach iRest myself. So I can say from my own experience that iRest is a very accessible practice with a sound theoretical base that provides immediate benefits, and does not require the kind of drive and self-discipline that many other practices demand. Richard Miller, the developer of the Integrative Restoration – iRest program, is a clinical psychologist and spiritual teacher who has taken ancient meditative and developmental practices, added to them the wisdom of modern psychology, and offers them in a form suitable to our culture. Richard is a skilled and warm teacher. I have observed with appreciation his tender concern for the homeless students in the classes, and his ability to provide them with wise, compassionate and useful guidance. It's not surprising that Richard would be able to do this, given his background.

Of great significance is the fact that the iRest teachers that Richard has trained are also able to elicit strong positive results and response from the program participants here at COTS. I credit this to the quality of the materials Richard has prepared and the training he provides, as well as to the strength, depth and caring of the people Richard has trained.

I believe that iRest has made our program easier to manage. Because the iRest students are calmer, in less pain and generally less reactive, throughout the entire facility there seem to be fewer interpersonal flare-ups and perhaps less relapse. It is hard to pin down the cause of this, but I'm sure that iRest contributes to these effects. I think that in addition to the direct impact on those participating in the iRest classes, we are getting a ripple effect from people who have not taken the classes but who have heard about it from others, seen its benefits for them, and who have developed a sense of optimism about their own prospects that contributes to the positive mood of the entire facility.

I have taken the iRest Level 1 teacher training, and now offer iRest to homeless people as well as people in the helping professions in the community where I live in Petaluma. I also offer iRest as part of self-care workshops for social workers and social work grad students. In my view iRest has much to offer to homeless people and others in crisis, as well as to the staff and agencies that help them. I strongly encourage agency administrators to explore how the Integrative Restoration iRest program can help the people they support and serve.

- John Records, Executive Director, COTS (Committee of the Shelterless), Petaluma, CA