Stress Management and Resiliency Training (SMART)

Developed by the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, the Stress Management and Resiliency Training (SMART) program helps participants achieve greater quality of life and an enhanced sense of well-being. The program teaches self-care practices that help buffer daily stress, making participants less emotionally and physically vulnerable to it.

It is thought that 60-90% of doctor visits are for problems related in some way to stress. Many of the physical symptoms we experience, such as headaches or sleep disturbances, are exacerbated by stress. In addition, chronic medical conditions, including autoimmune disorders and gastrointestinal problems, manifest with symptoms that wax and wane in direct correlation with stress levels. With tools in hand for coping with the stressors encountered in day-to-day living, participants in the course can experience a significant reduction in symptom burden.

The program begins with a one-on-one appointment with the instructor who will take a detailed history and formulate an individualized plan for each participant. This is followed by eight weekly two-hour group sessions during which participants develop greater awareness of their own stress “warning signs” and learn to cultivate more adaptive perspectives. The program uses strategies drawn from cognitive behavioral therapy, such as recognition of thought distortions, and the field of positive psychology. It also emphasizes the importance of restorative sleep, healthy eating, physical activity, and social connectedness. Each of these topics is explored in detail in the group setting, and individual support remains available throughout the course.

Finally, each week participants learn a new technique for eliciting the relaxation response, the cornerstone of the program. This response was first described by cardiologist Dr. Herbert Benson, who studied practitioners of Transcendental Meditation in the late 1960s. He documented the physiologic effects of meditation including reductions in muscle tension, breathing rate, heart rate, and blood pressure. Regular practice of the relaxation response becomes the foundation for a more resilient self and the impetus for continued self-care.


Steinberg Wellness Center for Mind & Body
310 Baker Ave


Photo of the instructor
Amanda Venti-McLain

Dr. Venti-McLain graduated from Dartmouth College in 2000 with a double major in biochemistry and religion. She received her MD from Loyola University in Chicago in 2005 and completed her internal medicine residency there in 2008. She went on to practice primary care in Newton for a number of years before making the decision to take some time at home with her young children. She currently practices at Emerson Primary Care of Bedford as she continues to develop her personal and professional interest in wellness and the mind-body connection. Dr. Venti-McLain completed training at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine to conduct mind-body groups and lead them through the SMART program. She is excited to share this unique program that incorporates many of the skills and habits she has discovered piece by piece in her own pursuit of a more balanced, resilient self.

Listen to her Health Works Here podcast Mindfulness: How It Affects Your Physical and Mental Health.

Photo of the instructor
Jennifer Rasmussen

A Cape Cod native, Jennifer has been living in the greater Boston area for the past 10 years. After having obtained her Bachelors of Arts from Bates College in 2007, Jennifer discovered the healing benefits of yoga while home on the Cape and soon after enrolled in the Finding Inner Peace Yoga Teacher Training Program. Jennifer received her Certified Yoga Teacher certification in 2008 and, since that time, has taught yoga a variety of settings, including yoga studios, beaches, hospitals, and universities.

In 2008, Jennifer moved to Boston to begin working as a Patient Services Coordinator at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. In this position, she educated patients on the Relaxation Response created by Dr. Herbert Benson and coordinated the 8-week stress reduction programs. Jennifer also taught yoga classes and led guided meditations to patients and staff at MGH. Many of the BHI programs were created and led by nurse practitioners, which is ultimately what motivated Jennifer to become a nurse.

Jennifer received her Bachelors of Science in Nursing from Simmons College in 2012 and currently works as a Registered Nurse in the Home Care department at Emerson Hospital. Jennifer received her Mind Body Spirit certification from the MGH Institute of Health Professions in 2015 and became a member of the American Holistic Nurses Association later that same year. Jennifer is also a Reiki Master and has been practicing reiki for the past 10 years. She is a certified healthcare practitioner of the Stress Management and Resiliency Training (SMART) through the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine.