Journaling and Visualization Effective Tools to Help Katrina Surviors Return to Work

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Dr. Lynn Joseph shares findings and offers advice on ‘‘getting back to work’’ mentally and emotionally after a disaster

Dr. Lynn Joseph, author of "The Job-Loss Recovery Guide: A Proven Program for Getting Back to Work – Fast!" and VP of Career and Life Transition Programs at Parachute, Inc., recently gave half-day workshops to 90 employees of a historic downtown hotel in New Orleans, who are returning to work after Katrina.

During the workshops, which focused on returning to work issues, she found:

  • Survivors feel guilty if their losses were not as devastating compared to others.
  • Their trauma makes it difficult for them to take action and move on because they do not expect to succeed.
  • High incidence of colds, flu and other health complications due to a weakened immune system, often associated with trauma and its accompanying shock, anxiety, fear, and depression.

“As Katrina survivors and other victims of disaster return to work, they often function at 50 percent because serious issues such as anger, hopelessness, and depression are seldom addressed, if at all,” says Dr. Joseph. “They need to begin healing from the trauma and regain a sense of control over their lives before they can start the process of rebuilding their lives.”

Dr. Joseph recommends the following techniques to heal from the pain and replace hopelessness with clarity, confidence, and direction:

  • Journaling – write or draw about your most painful feelings for 15 or 20 minutes without monitoring your thoughts, grammar, or spelling. The drawing can be recognizable or not, it doesn’t matter. Considerable research has proven the cathartic healing benefits of releasing your thoughts and emotions on paper.
  • Identify sources of support (family and friends) and talk about your feelings one-on-one with someone you trust. You can also call the American Red Cross for support groups that might be in your area.
  • Take a mental reading of your stress level several times a day. Where are you on a scale of 1 to 10? Reduce it with the following exercises:
  •      Take several slow, deep breaths, taking three or four counts to inhale and another three or four to exhale.
  •      Close your eyes and mentally focus on each body part beginning with your feet all the way to your head. Imagine the tension, anxiety, and fear flowing out of your body as you slowly move through each part.
  •      Close your eyes and visualize relaxing alone in a peaceful place, perhaps a tropical paradise or forest clearing. Concentrate on how it feels, sounds, looks, and smells.
  • Visualize a positive future –draw a picture that reflects a positive vision of your life and your work one year from now. Post it where you can see it daily.
  • Create an Action Plan – come up with concrete steps and target dates, focusing on all areas of self-care: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.

Dr. Joseph used all these techniques in her workshop. “First I thought this workshop was not for me. How wrong I was,” said one participant. “The exercises helped me get the anger out, overcome grief, and look towards a positive future.”

Before working with employees in New Orleans, Dr. Joseph trained career coaches, job developers, and Rapid Response counselors in Los Angeles on working with Katrina survivors. The program was called “How to Motivate Dislocated Workers.”

For more information on these workshops or other programs, please contact Dr. Lynn Joseph at

About Parachute, Inc.

Inspired by the global best-selling job-hunting and career planning book What Color Is Your Parachute?, Parachute, Inc. is focused on helping people in transition. Parachute’s Career and Life Transition Programs are designed by Dr. Lynn Joseph, a nationally-recognized speaker, author and psychologist, and Doug Frazier, chairman and CEO of Parachute, to help employees find jobs in half the usual time. The programs have been tested and proven effective: a study published in Consulting Psychology Journal revealed that two out of three participants in the Parachute program landed a new job within two months compared to just 12 percent in the control group. The study received a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Award from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. For more information, visit


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