A healing co-operative focused on researching the healing potential of weight lifting for trauma-impacted adolescents and adults, and training coaches and personal trainers  to take a trauma informed and healing centered approach to their work with athletes and clients. 



An embodied practice and intervention that is informed by the latest in neuroscience and trauma research. It seeks to transform weight lifting in an effort to both promote and facilitate healing for trauma-impacted individuals and groups. 

Weight lifting, when approached in a trauma-informed manner, aims to foster resilience, increase a felt sense of agency and empowerment, cultivate healthy nervous system functioning, and facilitate positive relational connections to self and others. TIWL posits that using external forms of resistance can facilitate healing and recovery through engagement of the proprioceptive and vestibular systems, while supporting individuals in developing greater interoceptive awareness, vagal tone and parasympathetic nervous system recruitment. 

Additionally, it is believed that the physical strength developed in weight lifting is a manifestation of self-trust as one learns to bring a sense of curiosity to the process of attempting both new and familiar movements under increased resistance. TIWL is a solitary activity conducted in a relational environment with a coach or trainer and in some cases, with other weightlifters - it aims to directly combat the isolating and dividing nature of trauma.


In recognizing that marginalized individuals and communities are disproportionately impacted by trauma, TIWL explicitly draws upon healing justice principles and integrates anti-racism and anti-oppressive practices in order to cultivate conditions of safety that are inclusive and responsive to all bodies, all lived experiences, and all identities and expressions. In the spirit of inclusivity, collaborators have been identified to inform the development of TIWL by involving representative voices from a variety of populations and communities. The TIWL protocol is being developed in a variety of formats that can be adapted to serve the needs of any individual or group in a variety of settings.





Healing Justice





Our Team

Mariah Rooney, MSW, LICSW | Co-Founder/Co-Director | she/they

Mariah Rooney is weight lifter and a licensed clinical social worker who specializes in treating the complex challenges that arise as a result of traumatic stress, attachment trauma, intergenerational trauma, and dissociation in children and adults. She is also an adjunct professor in the graduate School of Social Work at Winona State University, and a trauma-informed care consultant who supports systems change and capacity building efforts in systems of all sizes and types. As a previous Fellow at the Trauma Center at JRI she received extensive training in trauma and supported various project and research efforts.

Additionally, Mariah is a movement practitioner and coach with extensive training in trauma-sensitive and culturally-informed yoga and meditation practices through Warriors at Ease, Prison Yoga Project, Insight Prison Project, Mind Body Solutions, and Trauma Sensitive Yoga. Her writing and research has explored posttraumatic outcomes among combat veterans with histories of interpersonal violence, trauma sensitive education, as well as outcomes among traumatized youth in an outpatient setting using a sensory-based intervention. You can see her writing in Becoming a Student of Your Students: Trauma-Informed, Culturally Relevant Practices for Physical Education Teachers; Bulletproofing the Psyche and in American Military Life in the 21st Century: Social, Cultural, Economic Issues and Trends.

Candace Liger, NASM-SPS, CE | Co-Director | she/they

Originally from Greenville, Mississippi, Candace is a NASM - certified fitness coach, consent & harm reduction educator, and founder of the Center for Body Autonomy. Blending her background in social justice and wellness, her work specializes in creating safe, healthy, and inclusive spaces for all bodies to thrive. Her signature programs, JahRation Nation Dance Fitness and Fortify & Flex help teach individuals how to tap into the knowledge within their bodies by engaging in proactive self-care, joyful movement, and strength-based training.
They were the co-host of the Decolonizing Fitness podcast, a social justice-conscious platform redefining fitness by unpacking mainstream toxic fitness culture.

Candace is also a TedX speaker & award-winning activist and performance artist. She is a graduate of the National Organization of Victim Advocates’ Academy and has organized national campaigns to examine the impact of racial and gender-based oppression, sexual violence, and mass incarceration. Her latest campaign, #ConsentConscious, advocates for more comprehensive, trauma-informed consent education to support our overall wellness and pleasure. Throughout the entirety of their work, Candace has used movement-based healing practices to support individuals and organizations with a particular focus on Black communities, Queer & Trans individuals, and people with disabilities. They are a self-proclaimed "Body-Enthusiast" and deeply committed to imagining what liberation can feel like in our bodies.


Noelle K. Brigden, PhD, USAPL Club Coach Certified | TIWL Trainer

Noelle is the founder of a 501c3, called Pesas y Poder, that promotes gender equity, community empowerment, and collective healing from trauma through the practice of strength sports in El Salvador. In the United States, she has partnered with the Milwaukee Turners to pioneer embodied empowerment programs for Milwaukee women with imprisoned, detained, or deported friends and family. This trauma-informed project, called Restorative Justice in Movement, addresses the intersections of gendered and racial oppression in the body, as well as the family and community impact of mass incarceration and deportation. She is also a certified powerlifting coach.She is also Associate Professor of Political Science at Marquette University. Her research and teaching interests include human security, political and criminal violence, borders, transnational migration, gender, trauma and the body, fieldwork ethics, ethnographic methods, and Central America. She is the author of The Migrant Passage: Clandestine Journeys from Central America (Cornell University Press, 2018), and numerous other peer-reviewed articles in diverse venues, such as International Studies Quarterly, International Studies Perspectives, International Studies Review, Mobilities, Antipode, Migration Studies, International Journal for Migration and Border Studies, and Geopolitics. Finally, Dr. Brigden is currently working on a book manuscript, tentatively titled Survival of the Fit: Gym Life and Body Politics in Post-Conflict El Salvador, as well as an interdisciplinary edited volume titled Strong A(s) F(eminist): Power in Strength Sports.

Vilmarie Baez, PsyD, Crossfit Level I | TIWL Training Team

Vilmarie is a licensed Clinical Health Psychologist. She is an assistant professor at the Hawaii School of Professional Psychology at Chaminade University of Honolulu. Vilmarie also owns a small private practice where she specializes in working with adults dealing with medical/health related concerns. She is also a CrossFit Level 1 instructor and CrossFit Coach at Crossfit Kaneohe. In addition, she has received her Burgener Strength Weightlifting Level 1 certificate. Vilmarie is passionate about helping individuals better understand their physical bodies and mental health. Through providing education and helping individuals engage in health behavior change, she hopes to contribute to a happier and healthy life for students, athletes, and clients.

Elis Bradshaw, NASM-CPT | TIWL Training Team | she/her/they/them

Elis is a NASM-certified Personal Trainer who specializes in helping clients create their own HAES-aligned and trauma-informed movement practices. She strives to create and strengthen accessible, inclusive, and welcoming spaces in the fitness industry. In addition to her NASM-CPT credentials, she is also certified as a NASM Women’s Fitness Specialist and Pn1 nutrition coach through Precision Nutrition, and a trauma-informed Muay Thai/self-defense instructor.


Our Partners

Trauma Informed Weight Lifting is a program of the Center for Trauma and Embodiment at JRI.

The Center for Trauma and Embodiment at JRI is dedicated to researching, developing and training providers in effective, trauma-informed practices that help survivors safely re-connect to their body so that they may engage more fully with their life.


JRI is one of the largest human services providers in Massachusetts, with over 100 programs that  serve hundreds of clients in residential settings and thousands more in outpatient and community-based services. They have been a national leader in trauma informed systems of care.


For More Information

For more information about our programming or mission, check out our FAQ page. If you don’t find what you’re looking for there, please get in touch and our team will be happy to answer your questions.

Contact Us


Trauma Informed Weight Lifting
Denver | Boston



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