This website is dedicated to talking about the intersection of Christianity and mental health. Our hope is in identifying how the Church can go to serve those with mental illness as well as their families and clinical counselors can integrate Christian theology and practice into the counseling session with their clients. The book Anatomy of the Soul by Curt Thompson may be a bit more niche as he looks at the intersection of neuroscience and faith.[Read more…] about Anatomy of the Soul [Book Review]
Social Media, Adolescents, and Mental Health
[This article is part of a youth ministry series we have been writing about for years. Click the link to check out all of the other articles we have here.]
For those that may not have heard, the American Psychiatric Association released a health advisory on social media this month. They have completed extensive data-gathering, recognizing that this can impact parents, youth, teachers, churches, health care officials, and more. The study has come up with ten concerns that I think the Church should seriously take note of. (Side note: want some social media images we made on the beatitudes? Go download them for free here and share them online)[Read more…] about Social Media, Adolescents, and Mental Health
I’m Speaking At Thrive & Cultivate Summit 2023
If you are on our Church and Mental Health newsletter or seen some of our latest social media posts, I’m sure you’ve heard me talk the Thrive & Cultivate Summit. It kicks off kicks off on Thursday, May 18, 2023. I’m excited to announce I’ll be one of the Day 2 speakers within the Self-Care and Resilience for Church Leaders section talking about 99 Self-Care Techniques for Christians.[Read more…] about I’m Speaking At Thrive & Cultivate Summit 2023
31 Days of Prayer for Mental Health
For those that do not know, May is mental health awareness and one of the best ways we can bring about awareness within ourselves is through our dedication in prayer. I want to give you a list of things to pray for over the next 31 days with regards to mental health. Give 2-3 minutes of time of prayer on the topic, meditating how it may be impacting your community and how you can be a advocate to this population. If you need more to pray about it, seek out a mental health professional, pay for their coffee, and ask them what further areas you could pray about.[Read more…] about 31 Days of Prayer for Mental Health
The Battle Within [Church Series]
I can officially say that we have an annual tradition of highlighting my church’s push for better mental health awareness in the month of May as this is the fourth year running. (If you want to see some of the things we have done in the past, check out these previous articles here, here, and here) This year’s events are going to be a little more involved, here is what we have listed.
Our lead pastor is doing a series titled “The Battle Within” that looks at our reliance on God, the world, and the pain that comes from this broken world. It’s a six week series about the battle within that we have and need to look towards God to win. Our pastoral staff have been amazing at integrating mental health conversation from the pulpit, whether this very intentional sermon series, our worship leader encouraging others to sing praise even when depressed, or the pastoral care pastor leading prayer for those who have been traumatized or struggling with mental illness. (The church will be uploading the sermon soon and you can check back later here to watch them)
They also have a fun bumper to go with it.
Devotional Study Guide
The leadership also wanted to have a 6 week devotional with the series and features four different clinical counselors being given a week of devotionals to write. If you want to check it out, you can download it free here. Honestly, it’s worth it to read through it, even if you do not plan to follow the series.
We have video recorded people who have lived experience who were willing to do a series of questions for social media (filmed vertically) on their own lived experience. We asked a bunch of questions about their mental health journey that ran a spectrum of experiences and how their faith integrated into it as well as challenges they experienced as Christians. The interviews were honest and we are excited to see how they will be used. The hope is these messages bring greater awareness and break down the stigma of mental health for Christians.
We have always had a resource table for those who want to know more about mental health and recovery. So we will have our usual resources from our local NAMI chapter, our local recovery board, and a one-sheet page that lists contacts and information on in-county counseling agencies. But this year we had counselors write a one-page sheet specifically for our congregation on topics about marriage, grief, general mental health awareness, and anxiety for them to read about. The hope is a personal touch may be even more impactful. We are also going to try a different approach by leaving it unmanned this year to see if people may be less shy about accessing the resources.
There is still more we are doing for the church community to come that is being planned.
- Our church has a podcast series called Deeper and we plan to do a one off where I sit down with the pastor and just have an honest conversation between pastor and counselor about faith and mental health.
- I will be doing a clinical Continuing Educational Units for counselors who are required to do ongoing educational on the topic of Faith and Mental Health, discussing with professionals the ethics to be aware of and then specifically Christian integration and resources out there.
- I am planning to be part of our church’s retreat where the pastors take a few days for themselves to reconnect, refuel, and simply be. My time there will be for a couple of hours in front of everyone to talk about mental health, specifically for their needs as pastors and church leadership.
- We’ve done a women’s conference last year called Soul Scan that is going to be even bigger this year and significantly incorporates women’s mental health.
Like I said, this year is a bit more and it’s required more planning, but I am excited to see the fruit of this work. I would love to hear in the comments what your church is doing for May’s mental health awareness month.
Christian Mental Health and AI
Can artificial intelligence (AI) understand the complexities of mental health? Does it understand the nuance of integrating faith into the conversation? Is it coming for my job? (Maybe that last one was a bit dramatic.)
If you have not heard, AI is starting to become a thing. For those that do not know, my undergraduate degree is actually in computer engineering which makes a conversation of mental health and AI a perfect intersection for me to explore.[Read more…] about Christian Mental Health and AI
Try Softer [Book Review]
The book Try Softer by Aundi Kolber is a book written by a Christian clinical counselor for those seeking to deal with mental health problems or those who are currently struggling. When our natural orientation for dealing with difficult things to do more, work harder, and push through, sometimes the opposite reaction is actually better.[Read more…] about Try Softer [Book Review]
Trust-Based Relational Intervention
TBRI, or Trust-Based Relational Intervention, is a way of interacting with children as a parenting model for children who have complicated problems. This may include having been physically, sexually, or emotionally abused or neglected, severe mental health, or any other kinds of concerns of the family system being broken. TBRI is an attachment-based, trauma-informed intervention for therapists and practitioners to be used by everyone, including caregivers, foster families, care ministry volunteers, aunts and uncles, and counselors. Developed by Dr. Karyn Purvis and Dr. David Cross at Texas Christian University, the model is making significant changes for hurting families.
Part of my job is working with the county Child Protective Services (CPS) for families who have been disrupted primarily due to substance use, though many of my supervisees have other CPS cases for reasons such as neglect, abuse, or other concerns. The juvenile court has incorporated this training as an expectation for treatment providers to be using for in-home services for high-demand or high-risk families.
Further more, my church has also begun to work with the local fostering ministry who facilitates the TBRI trainings for CPS but also trains up individuals and communities/congregations as support groups for the families. The hope is that families receive direct care, counseling, and training in treatment and then have ongoing support during treatment and into aftercare when discharge from counseling and CPS. It’s a full wrap-around, wholistic model.
If you are interested in completing an initial 8-hour course, you can do so at a self-paced, online license here. For churches that want to incorporate this into their care ministry, youth ministry, or foster care ministry, we encourage you to do a community/congregation training through here.
Prayer Is Where Change Is Found
For the past year, my wife has been leading our Sunday morning community group chapter by chapter through Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home by Richard Foster, a book copywritten 30 years ago and still fully applicable today. The book divides prayer into three sections: Inward, Upward, and Outward.
This month, we went through one of the more loved chapters of Intercessory prayer, our ability and expectation of praying, individually or corporately, for the needs of others. The book notes how Jesus’ death on the Cross was His action to be mankind’s intercessor to God and as Christians, we are expected to pray for those who ask for our prayers.[Read more…] about Prayer Is Where Change Is Found
The Soul of the Helper [Book Review]
Holly Oxhandler is not only a Christian who understands mental health, but has her own Christian mental health podcast that she co-hosts at CXMH Podcast and an associate professor and associate dean for research and faculty development at Baylor University in social work. If you follow her online or read any of her other material, you will find she is a caring person not only for the individual who is struggling from mental health, but those that have made a choice to serve people with mental health problems, whether professional or otherwise.
This book The Soul of the Helper follows this look at wanting to help individuals who are helping people with mental health or disability problems. For the person who wants the professional or clinical understanding, you will get that. For the person who needs to find some rest within a book, you will also find this. I feel there was a fair balance between the two that was inviting and encouraging.
This topic is sorely needed. We throw volunteers into groups and young pastors into ministry until they fizzle out and then look for the next one. We cheer on parents of families who may have a hidden or developmental disability, but only offer short term resources and personal support and leave them high-and-dry after only a few months or a year. May is a great time for discussing mental health within the Church, but we do not continue the conversation and miss out on supporting individuals who may be victims of domestic violence, special needs ministry and the Buddy Programs that go with it, and so much more.
Holly looks to bridge that gap to cheer on the helper in a way many in ministry tend to do, by tending to the soul. God created us for connection with Him and through this with each other. May we take care of those who take care of others.
The Break From Conservative Christianity
I respect Holly in her work, putting her own personal story out there, and her desire to further the Church in their pursuit to help those with mental illness. Yet, while I read the book, I found myself wondering, will pastors and conservative Christians be able to read this and glean from it? My guess is that Christian counselors, may be able to see the clinical work being shared through the text and appropriately apply it with professional application.
Lay Christians or pastors who are still very conservatives may find it difficult to make the transition of “counsel-ese” that non-Christians in the same way struggle when pastors speak Christian-ese. Namaste has negative connotations and while the description is an easy connection for counselors who may be versed in Dialectic Behavioral Therapy, Person-Center, or Attachment theory will appreciate, those who are not trained may see it as simply “inviting pluralism” as I saw one commenter online make.
Whether you are a pastor in charge of volunteers, a person on the compassion ministry, or a Christian counselor, this is a must read to support your local Christian leaders looking to give back to their congregation and community. I give this book a 4 out of 5 stars.