How Mindfulness Training Transformed a Social Service Worker’s Practice

Lorena Murialdo is a community health promoter at Planned Parenthood of Toronto (PPT). She’s been at PPT for decades and works with youth between the ages of 13 and 29, where she primarily focuses on sexual health. 

We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Lorena and discuss her journey into mindfulness at the Centre. During our conversation, she shared how her training positively impacted various aspects of her life, including advancing her career and significantly increasing her work opportunities.

About Lorena

In the last 10 years, she’s been shifting into mental health and mindfulness-based well-being. Much of her work involves direct community contact and includes facilitating workshops.

Lorena started her journey with the Centre for Mindfulness Studies GROW train-the-trainer program which has allowed her to offer mindfulness training herself.

“It can be mindfulness-based workshops, it can be sexual health, it can be general health, parenting. I worked a lot with young parents. That’s mostly what I do.”

- Lorena Murialdo

How did you originally get into mindfulness?

Looking back, my introduction to mindfulness happened years ago when a social worker joined our team at PPT. Together, we facilitated mental health workshops for groups of teenagers. During these sessions, we seamlessly wove mindfulness practices into the activities. I got really into it, and wanted to find out more so I started to do some research.

Then I came across the Centre’s GROW three-year training program. That looked like exactly what I wanted to do. So I went through the training and it was great! Mindfulness is now the bulk of my work. Most of the workshops I do with young parents is all around mindfulness, resiliency and mindful parenting. I love it!

What was the experience in the GROW training program like for you?

I loved the GROW program. It introduced me to an intervention that allowed me to create new educational opportunities tailored for young people. Also, I loved that it was over a three-year period. It gave me the time to go out into the field and just see how it landed with people and make adjustments depending on who I was working with.

Do you have a memory from the training that stood out as particularly memorable to you?

I had a love/hate reaction to a teaching method from the program. In the morning, they would introduce a new concept. Then, in the afternoon, we were put on the spot to teach that very concept ourselves – applying it immediately. Typically, I prefer mastering a new skill before putting it into practice. However, this approach forced me to let go of outcome-driven perfectionism. Suprisingly, I found this method quite effective.

How did you find it effective?

It wasn’t nearly as scary as I thought it was going to be. You have a fear before you do things. Then you realize that nobody’s there to judge you, and everyone’s in the same boat. It was really good for me.

What was your experience with the trainers from the Centre?

I loved that so many people were involved. I was exposed to so many different ways of teaching.

Since you have completed the GROW program, how have you applied what you learned?

At PPT, we promote mental health workshops on our website. Whenever we receive requests to provide learning opportunities related to youth mental health, I suggest mindfulness as a potential workshop topic. The response is often enthusiastic: “That’s precisely what our young people need.”

This positive receiption led me to begin offering six-week mindfulness series through PPT, drawing from GROW’s mindfulness-based well-being and mindfulness-based intervention programs. These workshops have been well-received by many young parents, and I’ve also had the privilege of facilitating similar sessions for the Native Child Centre‘s youth.

My colleagues at PPT started sending me all these mental health requests to me. It just started to expand, and it still is the bulk of my work right now.

Do you have a memory from teaching mindfulness that you would like to share?

Shortly after completing the GROW program, I had the incredible opportunity to work alongside my mentor, Christine Bilinski. For six to eight weeks, we facilitated mindfulness sessions with a group of young people and I started to see change in the participants over time. That really stuck with me.

More recently, I led a mindful parenting workshop. At the end, one young woman came to me and said “My cup is so full right now after this workshop.” That was a really nice moment. Little things like that keep me going.

Lorena and Christine sitting while leading a mindfulness session

Can you tell me about any other relationships and partnerships with people you met through the GROW training?

Leslie-Ann Fullerton (from Elizabeth Fry Society) — we got together and we ran an eight-week mindfulness program for young Black women. It was really great. We keep in touch, hoping that we’ll be able to get something going again. Also, I’ve had a fruitful connection with Karen from Stella’s Place. We have met a lot over the years and talk about mindfulness, DBT, and how to apply those teachings to our work with youth.

What do you have on the horizon for teaching mindfulness?

I have a few different mindfulness-based series coming up. Including one at Scadding Court Community Centre and one with Christie Ossington Neighbourhood Centre with their youth programs.

We are deeply grateful to Lorena for sharing her time and wisdom with us. Her dedication to empowering youth through mindfulness is truly inspiring.

Her journey illustrates just how impactful adding mindfulness skills to your professional toolkit can be for your career and the opportunities open themselves up with mindfulness training.

We hope you too can follow in Lorena’s footsteps in advancing your career and supporting others with their mental health.

Train with us!

The Centre for Mindfulness Studies is Canada’s leader in mindfulness professional development.

Our trainings cater to all experience levels, offering practical skills to enhance your professional toolkit and career success.

We provide diverse courses aimed at promoting well-being alongside professional growth.

Learn more here