Meet Matt Mason
Matt Mason is a Licensed Psychologist and Board Certified Behavior Analyst. He currently is the Clinical Director for the Trauma Informed Care project, part of the DC Health Initiative at the Center for Child and Human Development.
Has spent the last 25 years working with people with severe developmental disabilities — people who have complex trauma histories, possibly with the courts involved, and who often have dual mental and physical diagnoses.
Matt came back to Georgetown this past May to work once again for the Center for Child and Human Development. The Center “was established over four decades ago to improve the quality of life for all children and youth, especially those with, or at risk for, special needs and their families.”
The Center has worked closely with the DC Department of Disabilities Services, and in recent years, the Center has had a special focus on trauma informed care. Working with a pilot group of provider agencies in DC, Matt and the Center are working to ensure that the service model these providers utilize takes into account the needs of clients with trauma histories.
In order to more holistically and effectively serve its clients and design services for clients who have experienced trauma, Matt says, an agency’s service model should be informed by and address the trauma-related needs of clients. “To understand a person through their history of trauma”, Matt says, “we can better customize services that are more effective, prevent retraumatization, and actually save resources.”
I include this background because to know Matt is to know this trauma-informed and trauma-prevention lens through which he looks at wellness. I recently had the chance to talk to Matt and ask him our four Wellness Boost questions.
What does “wellness” mean to you?
I look at where a person is and what they need to be happy and well from a holistic perspective – their mental, developmental, family, education, and vocation – all rolled up into a person. Every person has experienced challenges. Stress happens. And everyone will experience mental health concerns in their lives. Even if you know a lot about stress and wellness, we must have the right support when we need it. And at some point, we all will be consumers of wellness resources. We all need the same kind of support.
A huge focus for the Center is health disparities and access to resources that support wellbeing. Georgetown has a lot of resources. If you work at Georgetown you have a great opportunity to access resources. This is a blessing. A person’s wellness is directly related to the access they have to resources. Not everyone has access to such resources.
What wellness opportunities do you participate in at GU and are proud that GU offers?
When I started working here again in May, I attended the CNDLS 2016 Summer Institute for Teaching, Learning and Innovation. The focus of the conference was diversity. It just so happened that within that conference, there was an office yoga class. I appreciated how embedded in the conference was a nice wellness opportunity! So I took that class and then brought it back to the Center and began to implement office yoga in our department!
With my background in martial arts, I found that yoga was similar to the stretching and centeredness I have learned and experienced in the martial arts. I wanted to make the office yoga about “coming as you are” – no yoga mat. No special clothing. And I wanted our office to experience how bringing yoga into our day is a wellness practice – however small – is a good idea.
Every office yoga class I’ve led, I always start and end with a focus on posture. I say that if you forget everything else, remind yourself what “posture” is doing to your body and how it is impacting you in that particular moment.
Everyone enjoyed themselves and saw how something simple like office yoga can be incorporated into the work day.
What suggestion would you give to someone who wants to “be well?”
Set goals for yourself. There’s always a strong correlation between having a goal and having an outcome. Be specific. Example: “What I really need to do is lose 10 pounds by the end of year.” You may not reach the goal, but it helps support you in achieving some amount of success.
Do something every day. I like to run. Today my knee is sore, but I am going to move my body somehow. Research suggests that prolonged activity is what matters, not whether you are running or walking. Just do something and do it every day.
What do you envision the future of wellness to be on campus and in our world?
Back to the CNDLS 2016 Summer Institute for Teaching, Learning and Motivation, I listened to Dr. Shaun Harper, Executive Director for the Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education. Dr. Harper is professor in the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. In talking about diversity, Dr. Harper talked about how, at most universities, students have to take a class on diversity. At Georgetown, students have to take two. Yet that is still insufficient. We talked about how every syllabus needs to incorporate diversity into the teaching strategy. For example, Chemistry – let’s talk about famous people of color who contributed to chemistry and talk about their challenges within the chemistry class. We want diversity incorporated everywhere.
I have this same vision for wellness – incorporating wellness into the workday at Georgetown. AND that this way of life is supported by every department.
As an example: let’s give each other permission to have a lunch break! It’s not part of the Georgetown culture and we tend to work through lunch. Just a ten-minute walk can and should be a part of the day, and it should be encouraged.
Let’s also talk about healthcare/wellness incentives for lower premiums. Example, as an incentive to lose weight, I’d love to see a discount for joining a gym.
I’d also like to see an emphasis on community service. Wellness is not just our own personal wellbeing, it’s also our communal wellbeing. I imagine giving employees permission to take off work once a month to volunteer.
Like with how our Center has incorporated office yoga, we can make wellness into our everyday lives at work. It can improve our lives and even our productivity.
Thank you, Matt. We are grateful for your take on wellness!