Military Chaplain Shares Benefits of Psychology

This article was written and submitted by Fr. Longin Buhake, a graduate of the Master’s in Psychology program at Divine Mercy University.

My name is Father Longin Buhake, one of the 2020 DMU graduates’ students. I am a Catholic Priest Civilian Military Chaplain at Tyndall Air Force, Florida. I was ordained a priest in the Diocese of Mweka in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central Africa. The following is my experience of what I have gained after graduating from Divine Mercy University and how I intend to put my degree to use in my current position.

People around the world face spiritual, mental, physical, and emotional problems that lead to psychological disorders. Substance abuse, life stress, biological and hereditary factors contribute a lot to these problems. The problems continue to rise with the changing environment of the world, thus calling for solutions. Psychology is an important skill for professionals who play a role in assisting people suffering from these issues. This profession requires school training and a certification after gaining the knowledge and skills required to handle the problems. Divine Mercy University taught me new skills and helped me improve the relationship between me and my clients and lead to problem-solving.

My Journey at DMU

Being a parish priest, I had always been attentive to people who face spiritual, physical, emotional, and mental challenges. I have helped many people, mostly in spiritual guidance. The need to become more helpful grew when my priestly ministry was extended to the military field. This inspired me to pursue a degree in psychology. It was not easy because I had to decide what school to go to and what would be the best orientation in psychology. As I was consulting, I ended up having a good conversation with a representative from Divine Mercy University who advised me to take the Master’s in Psychology (MSP) program since it aligned with my interests. At DMU, I was able to learn key skills that assist in providing excellent counseling services to people in distress. Some of these skills include communication, ethics, interpersonal skills, trustworthiness, problem solving, resilience, and confidentiality. Such skills were important in building strong relationships with clients.

As I was pursuing my degree, I also attended organized seminars and workshops where I interacted with professionals who offered more guidance and directions on the best ways to handle clients with psychological problems. Besides, I also identified several great professors in my school who provided me with frequent guidance on the best counseling practices and the best way to handle clients. Furthermore, I also took my time to practice my counseling of clients under my mentor's supervision in writing a project capstone. The paper helped me take the knowledge and the skills I learned and implement them in the real world.

The Skills I Developed

  • Communication skills

 One of the important tools I developed in my MSP is communication skills, which are essential in my day-to-day interactions with people suffering from mental, emotional, and physical illnesses. My MSP helped me develop excellent verbal communication skills that help me talk effectively with different clients. Counseling involves asking clients questions and conducting interviews. Such exercises require one to have excellent communication skills to help a counselor make clients feel relieved other than upsetting them. This has been fundamental to me in sharing and exchanging information with people who require psychological counseling.    

  • Interpersonal skills

Another important tool that I learned in the MSP program is interpersonal skills. Interpersonal skills helped me work effectively with different clients, people, and colleagues. It is an important tool that guides me in developing strong relationships with clients. Besides, it is also fundamental to understand a clients' reactions and gather more information regarding the reasons they are triggered.

  • Listening with empathy

The first step to successful treatment is admitting that there is a problem (Kring et al., 2016). After listening empathetically to the person and explaining that I am here for emotional support. I will try to find the cause of their disorder. Some of these disorders are inherited and others are acquired.

  • Ethical competence and confidentiality

Ethical competence is another important tool that I learned in my MSP that has played a role in guiding me to help others. I learned the importance of observing ethics in counseling and psychology. I learned that it is important to always be trustworthy by the clients. Trustworthiness arises when one keeps the information of clients confidential. According to Md. & Saba, (2018), the trustworthiness of a counselor is contained in the fidelity ethical principle that places trust in a counselor. Being a priest, I have always promoted trustworthiness among people by remaining confidential in whatever information I discuss with them. Additionally, I also promote fidelity through listening and respecting the information provided by the clients. Above all, I am always attentive to the client's needs, as highlighted by Shantz (1981).

My Capstone: An Example of Applying What I Have Learned

My capstone project was to plan and implement a program using the knowledge and skills learned during the program. The project was a preparation for a week-end workshop on how to help members of the military who struggle with substance abuse and domestic violence.

Abusing a substance can lead to domestic violence; it is why addressing addiction is a normal part of treatment for domestic violence. The psychological literature review considers some peer-reviewed sources to find out decisions and ideas on why substance abuse and domestic violence occur in the military, how to prevent and avoid them. The source describes that mental and psychological problems, finances and the economy can increase the risk of violent behavior. On the other hand, religion and family environment, friendly relationships, and taking care of children prevent substance abuse and domestic violence in the military. The goal of this literature review is an attempt to provide suggestions and decisions to the existing problems and see how Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) and Virtue theory are capable of analyzing the roots of the problems and providing treatment and required approaches to them.

The main idea is to use all the mentioned sources (see references below) to indicate the reasons why substance abuse and domestic violence occur in the military, identify associated risk and protective factors, and research theories that explain how to prevent and avoid violent actions. I hypothesize that mental and psychological problems aggravated by alcohol consumption and lack of money lead to substance abuse and domestic violence in the military, whereas a positive environment, religion, and friendly support assist people in normalizing their lives. The Catholic Christian Meta-Model of the Person has been essential in developing an integrated understanding of the person created in God’s image. As a result, this has given me insight into the best solutions to provide clients to improve their mental health, as highlighted by Vitz et al. (2020).

References

Kring, A. M., Johnson, S. L., Davison, G. C., & Neale, J. M. (2016). Abnormal psychology (13th ed.) Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Md., A., & Saba, F. (2018). Counselling Psychology: Concept, trend and medical setting. International Journal 0f Psychology And Counselling, 10(3), 22-28. https://doi.org/10.5897/ijpc2017.0501

Shantz, H. (1981). Counselling and questions of morality: Confidentiality. International Journal for the Advancement of Counselling, 4(3), 179-186. https://doi.org/10.1007/bf00115351

Vitz, P., Nordling, W., & Titus, C. (2020). A Catholic Christian Meta-Model of the Person: Integration with Psychology and Mental Health Practice. Divine Mercy University.

Alumna Learns Trauma to Open New Center

Marion Bean Moreland, a 2019 Master's in Counseling graduate, is still taking the necessary steps to become a high value professional. Recently, she participated in a training offered by Divine Mercy University's (DMU) Center for Trauma and Resiliency Studies. We caught up with her to learn about her work experience and skills gained during training.

Tell us a little about yourself and where you have been working since graduating DMU?

After graduation, I began working at a community mental health clinic where there was a variety of needs but the greatest was in the area of addiction. I was leading groups in a crisis unit where people were detoxing from various substances and providing individual counseling at two different locations. In April, I transitioned to private practice at Appalachian Life Enrichment Counseling Center (APLECC) where I am fortunate to be working with an incredible team and unique clients.

Despite this transition happening in the early stages of COVID-19, I have built a full-client load. This has been a life-giving transition and I feel like I am beginning to solidify my professional identity. I have continued my work with Green Cross Academy of Traumatology (GCAT) including availability for deployments and chairing our first conference to be held on DMU's campus from September 9-11, 2021.

Do you use EMDR often? What kinds of things is this technique helpful for?

While working at the community mental health center, I utilized Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) for resource development either through calm places, containers for the feelings that are too much in the moment, and discovering characteristics of strength that lie within themselves. Many of my clients were in the early stages of sobriety and were not ready to begin processing trauma. Instead, I utilized some of the work Laura Parnell teaches in Rewiring the Addicted Brain which uses the bi-lateral stimulation of EMDR to connect the consequences of usage to the amygdala addiction response. Now that I am in private practice and my clientele is more varied, I am using EMDR more frequently, though doing so remotely has added a new level of complexity to the protocols.

How do you envision the impact of trauma training on service to the community?

I am amazed at the resilience of the people of West Virginia. This community suffers in so many ways, leading the nation in opioid addiction, grandparents raising their grandchildren, unemployment and other economic distresses but there are so many people wanting to change the patterns of the past. My trauma training enables me to help open the Appalachian Trauma and Resiliency Center. This center will work as a non-profit organization and an adjunct to APLECC in providing training, counseling, advocacy, and support in the areas of trauma, crisis intervention, and disaster mental health for frontline workers, first responders, military, survivors, and other mental health colleagues.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

I remember at my first residency when Dr. Benjamin Keyes, Director for Center for Trauma and Resiliency Studies, asked me to look forward to five years and imagine where I wanted to be professionally and then to look back at the steps I would need to take to get there. At that time, I had no idea what GCAT was, but I knew I wanted to work with first responders, focus on trauma, and that I needed to graduate. Starting grad school at 50 seemed a bit crazy, but here I am at 54; I'm seeing my imagination become a reality and experiencing so much more than I could have imagined. It's hard work and at times exhausting, but it is worth it!

Learn more about the Center for Trauma and Resiliency Studies.

Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Reflection written by Fr. Robert Presutti In Biblical tradition, the heart is presented as the seat of what is the deepest, most meaningful, and most intimate in the person. Scripture gives us glimpses and insights into the unfathomable depth of love that resides in the heart of our God. In Christ, God-become-man, these glimpses and insights of divine love are given wondrous human expression. For this reason, Christians throughout the generations have honored the heart of Jesus, His Sacred Heart, as a fountainhead of inexhaustible Divine Love, the source of our salvation and well-being. As disciples of Christ, we seek to have a heart like the heart of Christ. The Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is an apt reminder of all this, and that in the end, we are saved because of love. It is a feast day when we can remember and reflect on the role of spiritual direction. As disciples on a pilgrimage of faith, we need companions and guides. Spiritual directors seek to model the Heart of Christ, the Good Shepherd who leads and accompanies each of us along life's pilgrimage. Let us today recall and be thankful for all those who have modeled the Lord's restless love for us. Let us remember the Lord's care for each of us at all points of our journey, and the great benefit we can reap from having a trusted spiritual director to accompany and guide us along the way. Do you feel called to discern a vocation as a spiritual director? The Spiritual Direction Certificate Program at Divine Mercy University prepares students with a transformational experience that will enable them to be spiritual directors with the heart and mind of Jesus Christ and in the tradition of the Church’s proven experience. Apply now: https://www.sdc-divinemercy.org/application

How COVID-19 is impacting mental health

Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic began, it is likely that someone you know has been silently dealing with anxiety or has experienced a panic attack. However, do they feel comfortable enough to share this information with you? Do they feel that you are educated enough about mental health? If you didn’t answer “yes” to these questions, get the tools you need. Just like a life-or-death emergency that can be immediately saved through the touch of a life alert button, a mental ailment can be rescued through the listening ear and intellectual guidance of a psychology expert. Why wait until COVID-19 clears the air and you’re back into your regular, busy routine? Start your Master’s in Psychology this summer cohort (beginning on May 20th) to serve as a resource to your local community and the world at-large. You may be wondering if an entire master’s degree is essential for just a few people you may know that needs healing, but the data shows otherwise. According to Mental Health America, a U.S. community-based non-profit dedicated to addressing the needs of those living with mental illness, there was “a 19 percent increase in screening for clinical anxiety in the first weeks of February, and a 12 percent increase in the first two weeks of March.” Similarly, an article published on Bloomberg.com reports that Talkspace, a chat and video therapy service, has seen a 65% increase in customers since mid-February. Wondering how you can help the world right now during such uncertain times? Change can be accomplished through the power of your mind. Start your application today to gain a new set of tools for yourself and help others heal from their suffering. Visit the Master's in Psychology program page to learn more about the curriculum, application requirements and more.

Alumna Helps Athletes Overcome Brokenness

When we watch our college athletes perform, there are several recognizable traits on display that they all have in common: drive, competitiveness, self-confidence, focus, preparedness, discipline, a positive commitment to the team and a maturing commitment to maintaining their top form. But for Divine Mercy University (DMU) alumna Samantha Kelley, it isn’t just the traits shown on the outside that affects athletes.  As a finance and political science double major at the University of Connecticut, Kelley thought that she would find herself either working within finance or pursuing law school after undergrad. But her own experience as a Division 1 soccer player, as well as those athletes she played with in college and with the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS), she noticed a pattern of hidden struggles that female athletes endure as they progress in sports. “I was a college athlete myself,” she said, “and then I worked with college athletes through FOCUS for a number of years. I was managing 35 missionaries at that time who all had a bunch of students under them. I kept coming across a lot of brokenness. I kept finding that our female athletes were really struggling with a lot of confusion and misinterpretation about identity, femininity and sexuality.” Kelley was a member of FOCUS when the organization entered a tuition reduction partnership with DMU. Having always had an interest in psychology, she saw the university as a great opportunity for her to build a greater understanding of the human person so she could better serve missionaries and their students. She enrolled in the university’s M.S. in Psychology program and, even as she transitioned from FOCUS to the Theology of the Body Institute during her studies, she kept finding the lessons she was learning online integrating with the work she was doing. “The M.S. in Psychology is very enriching,” she said. “It really put words to a lot of what I was experiencing in terms of the very holistic approach to the human person and the dignity of the human person. That’s the very foundation of what DMU teaches. It felt like I was encountering those teachings in my work with FOCUS and the Theology of the Body Institute. It really provided a greater sense of integration within both my personal worldview and my career. It also helps you recognize when individuals are struggling and how to properly refer them to the right professional. The awareness of what’s out there and what goes on in psychology is huge, and knowing the limitations of my own capacity to help and what to do when I’ve reached that limit is super helpful.” The program also allowed Kelley to conceive her future vocation. As she transitioned from FOCUS to Theology of the Body while continuing her education, she felt called to start a nonprofit that promoted true identity and femininity in female athletics through this holistic view of the person, the human body, human sexuality, and understanding the values of the body. This nonprofit’s mission would also address the issues in body image, identity and mental health that she saw women struggle with in athletics. It was also a unique mission in that no other nonprofit was speaking directly to female athletes. Through her studies, Kelley founded Fierce Athlete “It’s actually really interesting,” she said. “I did my capstone project surrounding female athletics and the issues that can appear. With the program’s capstone project, I was able to tailor it to my own interests and the career path I was finding myself journeying towards. So I developed a small group program study for female athletes. As I was actively pursuing this new nonprofit, I chose to actively pursue that through my education as well. Within my capstone, I was able to use positive psychology and cognitive behavioral therapy to help women transition their mindsets around whatever it was surrounding femininity or athletics in their own views. The program really helped form what I’m doing now, but it also taught me a lot about how to approach people, especially with some of the women I work with at Fierce Athlete. There’s a high percentage of these issues in female athletics, but they are also very well hidden, especially in high school and college level athletics, and our goal is to address and help heal from those issues.”  In 2019, Kelley called other top athletes to join the mission by starting a podcast featuring female athletes from across the nation, including runner Kerri Gallagher, former pro basketball player Jennifer Finnegan and Sr. M. Xavier, who was a star basketball player at Ohio State University before joining the the Franciscan Sisters of the Martyr St. George in Steubenville, Ohio. Today, Fierce Athlete continues to help rising female athletes across the country. Kelley also brings the message and the mission passed down to her through her education from DMU by speaking nationally on topics of sports, femininity, Theology of the Body, prayer, and any other topics that fit within the mission of Fierce Athlete.  “The integration that DMU has between science, psychology and religion is unique, but just fits perfectly with what I’m doing today,” she said. “I think it’s a good idea for anyone who works with people. Human behavior wounds are complex, and the more that we can prepare ourselves to be able to care for people who are wounded and help them heal, the better. With the integration of faith and virtue, it becomes this very holistic approach that shows that everything is connected. I don’t have to make the connections myself.”  To learn more about Samantha Kelley and the mission of Fierce Athlete, click here. If you’re looking for the best way to create change and help people, consider the M.S. in Psychology at Divine Mercy University.  
About DMU
Divine Mercy University (DMU) is a Catholic graduate university of psychology and counseling programs. It was founded in 1999 as the Institute for the Psychological Sciences. The university offers a Master of Science (M.S.) in Psychology, Master of Science (M.S.) in Counseling, Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) in Clinical Psychology, and Certificate Programs.