Unfolding the Person with Positive Psychology

This past September, the Abat Oliba CEU University in Barcelona, Spain, held the first European Congress of Christian Anthropology and Mental Health Sciences. The purpose of the congress assembly is to address the separation between mental health sciences and Christian anthropology, and to deepen the holistic vision of psychology and health sciences. Divine Mercy University’s senior scholar and professor, Dr. Paul Vitz, was in attendance to present the Catholic-Christian Meta-Model of the Person (CCMMP), and spoke with reporter Jordi Picazo from ZENIT. Below is the transcript of that interview:   Jordi Picazo: Dr. Vitz, you work intensely in the field of anthropology/psychology, and more specifically in the fields of philosophical and transcendental anthropology and the psychospiritual dimension of the human being, to recover knowledge about what makes us human. Is this an urgent task today?  Paul Vitz: We are immersed in a global cultural crisis when it comes to recognizing what is specific to the human person. And there are those who say that there is no nature and therefore we can manipulate the human person -- biologically, genetically, politically -- at our whim. And this is done using ideology or even science, as a "shotgun loaded" to change the concept of the person. So now we have animal and human hybrids, we have people who identify with animals, we have the same transsexual ambiguity and these are signs of the loss of understanding of what the person is. They are creating a huge identity crisis both on the right and on the political left.  Both sides of the political spectrum are responding to this. The left responds by saying that there is no identity, that there is no human nature, that we can manipulate the person and force them to our liking, sometimes with a cultural pressure that aims to define it superficially, other times even thinking about getting close to some scientific current and creating people -- biologically freaks, hybrids, essentially monsters.  [caption id="attachment_900" align="alignright" width="350"] Dr. Vitz, seated 2nd from the left, also took part in the round table discussion: "The spiritual dimensions as human dimensions in Psychology".[/caption] On the right side there is a return to identity based on race, ethnic identity, nationalisms. And this is the tradition in many cultures throughout history, that of the struggle of one tribe against another tribe. In this context you can refer to, for example, Anglos and Saxons against the Celts two thousand years ago in England. So we have always had group identities based on race or language, or geographical settlement. And if you reduce everything to that, you reduce everything to a crisis that has lasted since ancient times. And as a result you reduce the person to the culture you want and to any parameter you want, because by controlling biology and culture the person is reduced to an already archaic and certainly fascist crisis. You decide -- or a crisis of confusing and meaningless self-referentiality.  There has to be an intermediate position. Those two extremes are new forms of idolatry. People who identify with the extreme left or the extreme right are at the bottom worshiping a human solution of life that leads to no solution.  So in our meta-model, we define the person at a theological level, at a philosophical level and then at a psychological level. The three definitions are compatible with each other although they exist on three different conceptual levels, each with its own epistemology. We also explore that the understanding of a person is not only the understanding of their traumas and their past pathologies. Instead, we are very much in line with the positive psychology movement, which is not explicitly religious, and we are in line with the notion of "unfolding," in a sense of flourishing. Once we know what the human person is, we can know what it means to "unfold." To unfold is to move toward the objective of the person, that for which we are made. But we cannot unfold unless we know what we are and what we are made for. We present the idea that we have been made to display a vocation, a vocation for personal spiritual growth, to adopt a relationship of commitment to some state of life such as commitment in marriage, a celibate life or religious life. And we are thus committed to deploying ourselves through a form of work and creative leisure that helps society.  And this is what we offer in our meta-model: a profile of the nature of the person with whom I believe that the majority of reasonable people will be able to agree and which they may face formally and seriously, even if they are not Christian. With some modifications this model is also appropriate for Jews, and possibly for atheists. So we propose to define the nature of the person in dimensions that all thinkers must finally address: on the paths of theology, philosophy and psychology, since to "unfold" the person requires purpose, morality and levels of understanding above basic psychology. And this is what is new in our meta-model, the integration of these disciplines in a way that reinforces each other.  Jordi Picazo: "Deploy" and empower, don't you always use them as synonyms?  Paul Vitz: Empowering is about ourselves, it is still an art of self-worship, people who have a lot of power often compete and attack each other. So, what you get by giving people more power is creating more conflict. Because power is not what we are supposed to aspire to. We are supposed to work toward a love of donation toward the other, toward the "unfolding" of our abilities. In this way, empowerment is strictly a primarily secular term used to affirm that we will give women power so that it can be as powerful as men. And what this means is that men and women will fight harder.  Jordi Picazo: You have commented that your team at the DMU (Divine Mercy University) is trying to do with psychology the same thing that Saint Thomas Aquinas did with theology. What are the risks and dangers of leaving this urgent task of shaping the foundations of human nature to reductionist disciplines?  Paul Vitz: That's right. This model, as we have made it known, is the response of Saint Thomas Aquinas to modern psychology. The danger of reductionism is that there is no understanding of what purpose is, or what it means to unfold. And that is how we end up reducing our condition to a material substance that can be manipulated at will according to the form of power at your disposal, whether it is social power or biological power. That is only the self-referential man, because at the end of the day it will be a game of power: in these cases there is no purpose in life, there is no meaning for the person, and at this moment the absence of purpose and sense of life is already wreaking havoc on both the extreme right and the extreme left.  That is what reductionism brings you, at the end of the day, without a more transcendental meaning. Now, certainly there may be other concepts of transcendental meaning, you may have a transcendental sense of being Jewish, which may be mostly compatible with ours from the Catholic-Christian point of view, but in any case we have the two great commandments - plus what we are individually called to be able to "unfold": we unfold loving God and others. And that cancels the extreme right and the extreme left.  Jordi Picazo: Regarding the double commandment of love that you mention in the New Testament in the Bible of "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the main and first commandment. The second is similar to this: “You will love your neighbor as yourself (Mt 22,37-39)." It occurs to me that the second part is too important to forget and is often forgotten by many. But if you don't love yourself, how will one love one's neighbor? I believe that all this has a lot to do with personal healing and "unfolding" as a result of the therapy you propose.  Paul Vitz: That is the function of a good psychotherapy. The clinical psychotherapist or therapist is talking to someone; and almost always with a "someone" who in a way is locked in a "prison." Prison are the mental structures that that human person has created and that hurt him. And your job is to get him out of that prison. And in our meta-model there is much of the development of the last hundred years in these areas. After all, if God created you, then despite sin and abuse you are basically good. And this implies that it is a sin to hate yourself whom God has created.  As a patient, what you want to do with your pathologies is to understand them consciously in the first place, and then what you are going to do is to establish, in some way, a positive agenda to be able to get away from them and leave them behind toward a new flourishing or unfolding of the person: leave behind your traumas and sources of suffering. As a therapist this means that you have given patients more freedom. But simultaneously you must be able to provide them with the understanding of what freedom is for. It serves to "unfold," and we provide you with the description of what it means to deploy.  Jordi Picazo: It seems that there is a need to clearly articulate the language for this type of speech, since the language can also be manipulated.  Paul Vitz: Absolutely true. And that is the reason why our meta-model is the coordinated work of many people over 20 years of effort. And although the three editors have led this development for a long time, we must recognize so many others who have contributed. It is not only a personal achievement of any of us, but a group effort carried out systematically through intellectual debate and formal meetings over years of arguments about how we would present it to the general public. And it is thus important to insist that what we offer is a framework, and that is precisely why we describe it as a meta-model. It is a framework that consists of 11 basic premises: three theoretical, two teleological and six structural.  Our meta-model is not a particular theory of therapy, nor is it even about how to apply therapy to your patients. We say that we will introduce some new ideas with which we will work, or that we will discuss: aspects such as the call to virtue and the call to a vocation, or how we will "unfold" once the therapy is over. It is a "goal"-model, "above." It is not a theory about personality, it is not like Fourierism or Unionism or the line of work of Carl Rogers, as I explained before.  Jordi Picazo: Has the "theology of the body" of John Paul II influenced this study?  Paul Vitz: Yes, it has had a great influence. And, in fact, John Paul II had finished publishing that material, his anthropology, a year or so before we started working on these problems. Then, yes, in many ways this work has been our response to his concepts and also a response to Benedict XVl's vision that psychology and theology can rely on each other. This is one of the ways to extend reason beyond mere experiment, beyond reductionist thinking.  Read the full article The Catholic-Christian Metamodel of the Person is integrated into the coursework at Divine Mercy University. It is the lens through which students determine the best ways to diagnose and treat common psychological problems. Sign up to learn more.

DMU’s New Campus Officially Opens

Twenty years ago, a handful of students, instructors, and psychology professionals met in a small space in Arlington, VA, and began the very first semester of the Institute for the Psychological Sciences (IPS). This resulted in the launch of a new vision and mission to integrate traditional psychology into harmonized mental health science and therapy practices with a Catholic-Christian understanding and a focus on the dignity of the human person.  [caption id="attachment_868" align="alignleft" width="250"] Bishop Michael Burbidge cuts the ceremonial ribbons with Divine Mercy University President Fr. Charles Sikorsky, marking the official opening of university's new home campus in Sterling, VA.[/caption] On September 8, the IPS, now known as Divine Mercy University, marked the opening of its new campus in Sterling, VA. Mass was celebrated in the university’s temporary chapel by Bishop Michael F. Burbidge, and was followed by the annual President’s Picnic for guests and the school’s faculty, staff, supporters, and a student body that has grown significantly in its 20-year existence.  “Our university’s ability to launch a new academic program, gain and maintain accreditation status, and transform from a dozen students to nearly 400 is a reflection of (God’s) unfailing guidance along the way,” said Fr. Charles Sikorsky, President of Divine Mercy University, in a press release. The dedication drew a crowd of over 200 attendees, including Loudoun County's Bo Machayo. Loudoun County has worked diligently with the university in the renovation and construction of the new campus building. [caption id="attachment_856" align="alignright" width="274"] Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma, Michigan, were in attendance for Divine Mercy University's ribbon-cutting ceremony in Sterling. Two are students in the university's doctoral program in clinical psychology.[/caption] “I would like to welcome you to Loudoun County — the greatest county in the entire country,” he said. “We have Divine Mercy University here now, and you can’t get much better than that.” Machayo is the Chief of Staff to Phyllis Randall, a mental health therapist and the Chair at Large for the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors. For Machayo, whose mother is also a mental health therapist, the addition of Divine Mercy University to Loudoun County not only represents a great service coming to the area, but also confirms a testament that he has learned throughout his life. [caption id="attachment_858" align="alignleft" width="156"] "Thank you for making Loudoun County your home." Bo Machayo spoke for Loudoun County at the dedication ceremony.[/caption] “One thing that they both have taught me,” he said, “is that mental health is health, especially in today’s day and age. Loudoun County is the fastest growing county in Virginia and sixth in the country. There are a lot of services that the county is going to need as it continues to grow. Having Divine Mercy University here is especially important because it allows people to be trained here, but also provides a service here that are going to be necessary for Loudoun County and the region in general. We consider it a great blessing to have Divine Mercy University here.”  You can find coverage of the ceremony from The Arlington Catholic Herald here

Live Blog: Trauma Training in Kenya

DAY 14 - LOCAL COMMUNITY / TWO LOCAL MEDICAL CLINICS / HOSPITAL
Our last day of the trip! We can hardly believe our time in Kenya is coming to an end. Today we went to three different locations and mostly to medical clinics. Between the teams, we were able to work with the local nurses, doctors and medical staff. As with most of the professionals that we have worked with, the demands on the medical profession is high as there are a lot of services needed with limited resources. One team spent half of the day working in a community near the Bamboo Medical Clinic. Going to the various houses, the team was able to learn more about how they live and have conversations with residents. There were so many stories of resilience about how they live and face daily challenges. One group was able to gather eight women to discuss how they handle stress and to teach them techniques of breathing and “tapping” to aide in their daily stress regulation. The second team visited the Lari Medical Clinic, a level four hospital. They presented to 23 health care workers from different counties who came to learn more about compassion fatigue and how to help their stress levels throughout their shifts. The third team went to the Giabe Hospital and Dr. Keyes presented to a group of nurses and administrators on compassion fatigue, grief and loss. The facilitation of groups was focused around those themes and some of the nurses were able to process the difficulties in handling situations in which babies die and they have to communicate the news to the family. We are grateful for another successful day and as we close our work, we are excited to relax and debrief for the next couple of days! DAY 13 - TRAINING LOCAL POLICE / LOCAL COMMUNITY WORK / TRAINING INTO ABBA’S ARMS STAFF Today we split into three teams to cover three distinct areas. One team traveled to the local Naivasha police station to train the local police on topics of hostage negotiation, communication skills and compassion fatigue. A team stayed at Into Abba’s Arms to continue the training of the staff that works to keep the facility and the care of the children going. The third team traveled back to the Kihoto community to work with the residents. At the police station, Dr. Keyes and George presented on Hostage Negotiation and facilitated a communication and strategy exercise to a group of about 20 various officers, detectives and administration. In the afternoon, they worked on communication skills and processing the various stressors of the job. One shared that they work 30 days in a row, with only a week off in between. Their job schedule and demands are significant and make it challenging to have any down time or leisure time. They shared that alcoholism, suicides and divorce rates are all problems that they experience. The team that worked with the Into Abba’s Arms staff continued their training with “Dealing with Disruptive Children” and additional information on compassion fatigue. The group noticed that the staff were able to utilize the various skills and the group discussions helped to process some of their experiences they have here at the children’s home.   Reflection by Jessica Torres-Pryor, PhD Our team was excited to go into the Kihoto community for the day. The focus of our group was to meet Kenyans in their neighborhood and learn about their culture. The bus dropped us off outside of the village. We were immediately greeted by curious children between the ages of two to thirteen. They all wanted to give us high fives and hold our hands. We brought out tennis balls, frisbees, and paper planes to share with the growing crowd. We went door to door with our interpreters, asking if we could speak to family members about Kenyan culture. Most of the people we spoke to were mothers. They spoke openly about the struggles to find work and food, education goals for their children, and daily life in Kihoto. The final stop of the day was a visit to a primary school. We taught the students popular American children’s songs and presented a motivational speech about self-esteem and confidence. The children were enthusiastic and eager to participate. We could see God’s love and joy in the children!
DAY 12 - WORKING WITH PRISON INMATES
Our entire team returned to the Naivasha prison to work with over 150 inmates in the men’s maximum security prison. The prison has about two thousand men that are serving sentences of 35 years to life, some with a death sentence. The prison system in Kenya is drastically different than that of the US, so we didn’t really know what to expect going in. Dr. Keyes presented to a group of about 150 inmates on Compassion Stress Management and we broke out in groups of about 20 to interact with them about the stressors of prison and how they coped (successfully or unsuccessfully) with stress in prison. Throughout the groups, you could see how challenging their daily life was and how they struggled to hold onto anything positive at times. Following the group work, we continued presenting on substance abuse and its role in inhibiting healthy coping skills and how it may interfere with re-entry back into society. It may even be a reason that they end up back in prison. We held a panel of a select group of our students and the inmates were given an opportunity to ask questions about the topic of substance abuse and the psychological and behavioral impacts of alcohol. We were also able to learn about some of the support system they have in prison, similar to that of Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous in the US. In our regular evening group meeting, we spent a significant amount of time processing the stories, thoughts and feelings that we encountered throughout the day. As professionals, we shared our insights on how the community life in prison operates in both constructive and destructive ways. Processing feelings of despair, hope, grief and even desperation were really important for us as a group to understand. One of the team members shared how they were able to see the prison inmate as a brother and child of God, which helped them to converse with them throughout the group exercises. Another successful day as a team and we are grateful for all that we learned through the challenges today! DAY 11 - LOCAL COMMUNITY WORK / PRISON STAFF TRAININGS Our second full week began with our group going in a couple of directions.  One group went to work with the staff at the Naivasha Prison, one of the local county prisons that has both a maximum and minimum security prison within its grounds. The other group went to a local  community called ‘Kihoto’ to work door to door with the families there.   The team that worked with the prison staff presented on compassion stress management and spent time teaching them coping skills for stress.  The prison staff live very stressful lives, with demanding work and responsibility for many tasks and duties that cause an increase in stress.  They had commented how challenging it was to work almost every day and in difficult conditions. Dr. Keyes and counseling student (and professional Drug and Alcohol Counselor) George Forsythe presented on Hostage Negotiation and Substance Abuse to the group and the team continued to facilitate conversations about how the staff cope with the everyday stress.  The community experience was door to door in a local community.  The purpose of the community work is to start conversations with the locals to learn more about how they live, their culture and share the purpose of our work, if relevant.  We found that this often leads to a lot of fruitful conversations and meaningful interactions. We went in small groups and spent the morning being guests in their small 10x10 homes.  We learned that many of them came from far away in search of work. There was a local flower shop that was a source of employment for many, but many of the families struggled with maintaining a regular income. One young man in particular was finishing his schooling and was working toward becoming a teacher so that he can invest in the future generation of kids.  He expressed so much joy and hope in what his education could bring to those around him. It was truly inspiring to see how they could be resilient in a place that doesn’t lend itself to prosperity.     
DAY 10 - REST DAY
How happy we are to have a day of rest! After ten days of work, we enjoyed a well deserved day of full relaxation and fun activities. (Although with our team, we have always found fun around us.) We started the day off at the The Giraffe Centre, where we were able to get close and personal (and for some, a little too personal) while feeding the giraffes. We saw 12 giraffes wandering around the conservatory which are part of a breeding project. Our next stop was an elephant and rhino rescue foundation. We got an opportunity to watch 14 baby elephants, ranging from 14 months to a couple of years, play and feed while we learned how the program identified orphaned elephants and rescued them from certain death and starvation. Their work culminates in a 5-year reintroduction process that introduces the orphan elephant into a new herd. Some of us even got to touch and play with them! And as the saying goes, an elephant never forgets - so we left a bit of the DMU team here! After the elephants, we stopped at the local handmade bead shop, Kazuri. The shop provides and sustains employment opportunities for disadvantaged members of Kenyan society, and makes beautiful ceramics and beads. We were able to see how the beads are made and formed into earrings, necklaces and bracelets. While we were driving along, we happened to see a man in the middle of the road lying there. We stopped since it was potentially dangerous and discovered that he was actually having a seizure. Our two nurses who were with us ended up helping him through and getting him help and transportation to the local hospital. The man told us that he has epilepsy and had run out of medication and thus was grateful for the assistance! Even on our day off, we are still at work - but happy serving when needed. We ended the day with wonderful food in a local upscale mall in Nairobi and an afternoon full of relaxation. Some of the team went and saw "The Lion King" - how appropriate for us in traversing Kenya! Others went shopping or found a local massage and we all appreciated the time off.
DAY 9 - SUNDAY WITH PASTOR MOSES
[caption id="attachment_824" align="alignright" width="236"] Pastor Moses and Dr. Keyes[/caption] Our Sunday celebration took place in a community a few hours north of where we are staying, the home of Pastor Moses who has been one of the fearless leaders and interpreters this week. The last time Dr. Keyes was in Kenya, he made a promise to Pastor Moses that when the IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) camp was closed in the nearby forest he would visit the church of the community. We traveled over many bumpy roads, many without names, through a lot of extensive farm land (including coffee!). The church community was very warm and inviting and Pastor Moses led the three-hour service in praise of God’s goodness in bringing the visitors and those who regularly worship together. Pastor Moses asked Dr. Keyes to preach on a passage from Matthew, which was an honor! Following the service (which included a lot of singing and dancing!), we met survivors from the IDP camp. Dr. Keyes met a woman named Veronica, whom he had interacted with the many years prior when he was doing trauma work in the camps. What a joyful celebration and fulfilling promise. [caption id="attachment_826" align="alignleft" width="300"] Jessie Tappel, LPC (Trauma Team faculty leader) with children from the community church[/caption] [caption id="attachment_827" align="alignleft" width="300"] Community church members and trauma team[/caption] [caption id="attachment_825" align="alignleft" width="169"] A church community service held outside prior to there being a building.[/caption]  
DAY 8 - MEN’S CONFERENCE / PRIMARY SCHOOL / HIGH SCHOOL
Today our team split into two groups, one went to local community schools and the other stayed at Into Abba’s Arms to host the Men’s Conference. For the Men’s Conference we were looking forward to facilitating conversation with the men, since their role in the family system is significant. In the morning, Dr. Keyes presented on Domestic Violence and the various forms of abuse, including physical, psychological and emotional forms of abuse to a group of 30 men (and some women!). The afternoon the teams presented on Marital Conflict and Fatherhood and facilitated groups to discuss the themes of the afternoon. Reflection by Jessica Torres-Pryor, Ph.D., and Catherine Day, M.S. in Counseling student Our team enthusiastically made plans for our presentation on self-esteem and conflict resolution. We showed up at an all girls high school and were promptly rerouted to Good Shepherd primary school due to construction issues. This was our time to practice holy flexibility! We made the best of it as we waited along the highway, by the sheep on a rope, for our bus to arrive. It was an unexpected blessing. Upon our arrival at the Catholic primary school, the students were on their tea break. We were greeted with loud laughter and joyful dancing. The team then moved to the classroom to present. It was a tight fit with 50+ youth in a room only meant to hold 30 students.  The students’ eagerness was contagious as they learned the self-esteem concepts. They were quick to share examples that highlighted their strengths, personal goals in life, and values.  The adventure continued at a co-ed high school. We joined another team and presented to 300+ students. The power of God’s message of self-worth appeared to touch many hearts.  Our trauma team’s commitment to the mission was a joy to witness. The students were encouraged to embrace the concept of self-esteem with songs and chants. We believe the children left the seminar filled with God’s grace!      Reflection by Detti Bella, Community Professional  It was great to see our team's preparation and talents come together for our mission. We spent the morning presenting to teachers about “Education through the Lens of Trauma.” It was amazing to see their response to the information and how they will utilize it with the children. Next, we presented to 50 student on self esteem and “wowed” them with our great acting and singing skills. The kids learned to be proud of who they are. We introduced them to a new super hero “Captain Thought Changer” who reminded them "if you change the way you think you can change the way you feel." We experienced traditional Kenyan food, and enjoyed fellowship with the teachers after the presentations. After lunch we visited a local boarding high school, where we all joined together as a big team and presented to 300 students on self esteem. Once again Captain Thought Changer made an appearance in her new teenage form, during our skits and songs. The “juice” was sky high! We concluded with reminding the students of their identity in Christ by singing a song by a local artist together. We reminded them who they are and whose they are, and reminded them that “what is in their minds is what is in their hearts,” as one student said. Afterward we all enjoyed the company of the students, while Dr. Keyes presented to the teachers about how trauma affects education.     
DAY 6 AND 7 - LOCAL PASTOR'S CONFERENCE
Thursday and Friday brought a two-day conference geared for the local pastors. Over the past couple of days, we have learned how important the role of the pastor is in the community and how much they serve the families in need. In their example as Christians and leaders, they provide counseling and guidance for the many difficult situations that affect their community. For example, Pastor Moses spent many years in the IDP (Internally Displaced People) camps bringing the hope of Christ to those who truly lived in difficult circumstances. In the morning, Dr. Keyes presented on Treating Traumatized Families by helping them identify family needs and what is working in their community and what is not working in the community. He emphasized helping to repair the damage in relationships, especially in the family system, since that healing can significantly help to bring change all around them. The DMU team helped to facilitate conversations, which were very powerful, in processing the effects of trauma on the family system and what the pastor’s were seeing in their communities.  The afternoon was focused on teaching basic counseling skills, something that our students are well versed in and were excited to demonstrate. The groups practiced active listening skills, attending behaviors and skills like summarizing and paraphrasing. One of the pastor's expressed gratitude for learning counseling skills, since the emphasis is mostly on education of theology.    Reflection by Colleen, M.S. in Counseling student We began the day tackling the pressing topic of Grief and Loss. Our team first met to process some of our own personal experiences, and discovered in the process that team building and cohesion are the natural fruits of openness, vulnerability, and sharing in a safe environment. This experience stayed with us as we joined about 30 pastors and youth leaders for Dr. Keyes' presentation.  We had pastors and youth leaders in our small group, eager to share their gratitude for what they had learned. Things quickly went deeper as our group processed their observations and experiences, including that "loss" can encompass so much, and that psychological and emotional losses are sometimes minimized. Rejection by family members can be a pain so great, and yet isolating, as one youth leader shared.    We found commonality between our cultures in that we acknowledge that we are born relational, and when our pain is dismissed it makes us feel unloved, regardless of the source of the pain. On the other hand, when there is openness, trust, and sharing, each person feels heard and understood. To feel heard and understood is to feel loved, which we accept as a universal human longing. Viewing a household or a marriage as a team, tied in well with this morning's lesson in team building through trust and vulnerability, and also segued well into the afternoon's topic on Marital Conflict. A group of students presented marital researcher John Gottman's four stages of marital conflict and adapted the stories and case studies to relevant cultural themes. The presentation included some role playing, which provided much-needed comic relief, and set the stage for the afternoon's small groups. Hearts and minds opened by God's grace were deeply convicted and ready to take the day's lessons home and into their communities.   Lord, You spoke of rich soil in today's Gospel. Bless the seeds we have sown, and the sincere desire for goodness that these people have for their homes and their country. By Your love and grace, bring a full harvest to these beautiful people.
DAY 5 - LOCAL CHILDREN’S HOME STAFF AND INTO ABBA’S ARMS STAFF
We welcomed over 50 staff members from Local Children’s Homes and Into Abba’s Arms to continue our presentations and training. In the introduction, one of the members shared their gratitude for the day saying that ‘knowledge is power’ and that what they were learning would help to assist in their needs in the work that they do. Compassion fatigue training and education was a large part of our day, starting with a group reflection on how we are recognizing our own fatigue and working on caring for our own selves before we are able to serve others throughout the day. This is often very challenging! Throughout the day, we worked with various techniques for compassion fatigue, including a visualization exercise, deep breathing and a stress-reducing tapping technique. It was encouraging to see what a difference learning these techniques had on the group as a whole, and for us personally as a team! A topic that was very helpful for those that are working directly with children was ‘Dealing with Disruptive Behavior.’ We explored the reasons why children behave in disruptive ways and the environmental factors that influence behavior, in order to help conceptualize the appropriate way to discipline. It was interesting to explore the differences between natural consequences of behavior with corporal punishment, along with the cultural differences and similarities between the United States and Kenya. Many of our team members were commenting on how universal many of the problems and conflicts that we’ve shared in both of our experiences. A hot topic seems to be the growing access to technology and the social influences on behavior! The day ended with a lot of group discussion and sharing on what was learned from the day’s presentations.  
DAY 4 - SOCIAL WORKERS CONFERENCE
[caption id="attachment_787" align="alignright" width="225"] The four faculty leaders of the DMU Trauma Team: Dr. Benjamin Keyes, Dr. Kathy Arveson, Jessie Tappel, LPC, and Dr. Kim Harris-Keyes.[/caption] Today we had the privilege of hosting a group of local social workers for a day of training. We spent a lot of time going through the impact of trauma on children and adolescents -- as many of these workers spend a lot of their time working with traumatized children on all levels. Many children have been afflicted by violence, and the unaddressed trauma can create very difficult situations for their safety and for those that work with them. Training is critical to be able to educate on the various factors of trauma and what can be done to work more effectively with the children. We taught the group a stone technique that helps to gather a lot of information in a short amount of time. After modeling the technique, our groups helped to facilitate with the participants, with many of them sharing their own family’s stories. One of the participants at the end of the conference shared that he felt more equipped to take the information back and place it into practice. As a team, we reflected on the power of telling your story and how the process of sharing can lead to something powerful.
DAY 3 - LOCAL WOMEN’S CONFERENCE
Our feet hit the ground on Monday as we hosted local community women for a day of training and group work, focusing on the effects of domestic violence, sexual trauma, natural consequences of parenting and marital conflict.  A lot to cover in a very short amount of time! Dr. Benjamin Keyes presented to the group on the topic of domestic violence, sharing the various forms that abuse takes and how to recognize and prevent instances of abuse from happening. Domestic violence is pervasive in the Kenyan culture and many of the attendees shared personal experiences as well as observations that they had regarding family dynamics and the tension at times between the cultural roles and differences between women and men. Following the presentation, the team led process group sessions to hear more of the stories and reactions to the topic presented. 
DAY 2 - THE ARRIVAL: INTO ABBA’S ARMS
Reflection by Angie, M.S. in Counseling student After many long hours of travel, we finally arrived at Into Abba’s Arms (IAA). At this point, I expected myself to be overwhelmed with exhaustion, but the notion quickly went away at the sight of bright and welcoming children. As the bus began to pull into the orphanage compound, we were immediately greeted with smiling faces and excited waves. A few minutes were spent greeting the children before we switched gears into settling into our new temporary home.  As team members, we divided ourselves into different shared bedrooms (with the exception of our one male colleague who gets his own room- yes, we are all slightly jealous). Personally I get the opportunity to experience eight of my female colleagues as roommates in adult bunk beds. Though initially apprehensive about this set up, I have come to learn that our bedroom serves as a microcosm for the divinely inspired honesty, cohesiveness, and fluidity of our entire team.  Perhaps the most impactful experience of our second day was getting to meet the children, here at the orphanage. I can’t articulate just what I was expecting after all of our training in preparation for this trip, but the authentic warmth and eager sociability that I did encounter was not it. Knowing the statistics of violence and child abuse here in Africa, I was in awe and admiration of the children’s resiliency, deep understanding of the importance of taking care of one another, and radiant joy. The children took to us immediately and began playing with frisbees and toys that some team members gifted to them. It did not take very long for them to address us as “auntie” and “uncle.” They took myself and a few others on a brief tour around the compound, which included the chapel, dining hall, and guard dog pen -- they warned that the dogs would eat us if we weren’t careful! After dinner, we joined the children in Saturday night worship where they led us in singing and praises.  Throughout our second day, I found myself contemplating the old adage “Don’t waste food because there are starving children in Africa.” Yes, there is poverty here; I am not minimizing their experiences. The love at IAA, however, both for and from the children, is truly unmatched. After just one day with the children, I want to change the challenge. Instead, may we be motivated to remind ourselves “Don’t waste love because there are starving children. Everywhere.”   
DAY 1 - TRAINING AND TRAVEL
The Center for Trauma & Resiliency Studies’ second immersion experience, this year in Kenya, began at the Divine Mercy University (DMU) campus with 23 members of the team gathering for two days of training, education and team bonding. The team is made up of a diverse group of faculty, professionals, and current DMU M.S. in Counseling students from across the country -- all with an interest to work in trauma and gain field experience by working with various populations. During the time in Kenya, we will be hosted by the organization
Into Abba’s Arms, a charity foundation dedicated to helping orphans in Kenya. As their mission shares, they strive to provide their children with critical necessities including housing, food, and clothing – all in a loving home environment with a nurturing caretaker. They have been able, over the years, to establish an outreach center from which they coordinate spiritual and education seminars, medical clinics, and food and water distribution to the neighboring community. We are grateful for the opportunity to spend time with them and the children throughout the couple of weeks as we stay with them in our temporary ‘home.’      We will be conducting seminars and trainings for a variety of populations and groups throughout the two-week period while in Kenya. Local community men and women, church community leaders, social service workers, those in caregiving positions with various organizations and more will be receiving training on compassion fatigue, child and adolescent trauma, treating sexual trauma, grief and loss, human trafficking and more.

Regressive Disease Attacks the Mind, Body & Soul

In the spring and summer of 2014, another viral social media trend was born. People around the world began recording or streaming themselves dumping buckets of ice and cold water over their head, and then challenging others to do the same. The trend has been performed each summer ever since, with participants ranging from community gatherings and individuals in their backyards to celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates, Lebron James and Cristiano Ronaldo. The trend also had a purpose: to raise awareness and encourage donations toward fighting and finding a cure for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS. But for Therese Kambach, a 57 year-old woman of Warrenton, Virginia, that awareness came too late. It was a dark and stormy evening in 2010--your typical setting to proceed something bad--when a large storm with the risk of tornadoes came through the area. When it had passed, Therese heard the voice of her best friend, Cheryl, who was the same age and lived in Greenbelt, Maryland. The two had been best friends since they were kids and, after the storm had past, Cheryl was calling to make sure everything was okay. Therese immediately knew that something was terribly wrong. “Cheryl developed a very noticeable slur in her speech,” she said. “At first, the doctors thought she had a stroke, but she had no other stroke symptoms. I often had to ask her to repeat herself. But when she learned the doctors wanted to test her for ALS, she learned all she could about it, and prayed with all her heart that the test would show she did not have ALS.” [caption id="attachment_732" align="alignleft" width="316"] Therese Kambach, right, with Cheryl on her wedding day. The two had been best friends since childhood.  [/caption] Also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder where the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control muscles gradually die, resulting in the muscles weakening throughout the body. This leads to paralysis and seriously inhibits the patient’s ability to communicate.    ALS, which is rare and affects approximately 30,000 people in the United States with no known cause, is the traumatic change in life that no one either expects or wishes to face. When her diagnosis was confirmed, Cheryl--who had also battled and defeated breast cancer not long before--was terrified for herself, worried about her ailing husband Frank and who would take care of him and, like her best friend, was angry that the future she had hoped for would never happen. Patients who receive the ALS diagnosis are initially given an estimated 2-5 years before the disease kills them, and are advised to get their affairs in order. “Everything about ALS is bad,” said Therese. “It's hard to determine what is the worst experience. Early on, it’s probably the loss of independence. One needs help walking, using the bathroom, bathing. Later on, the inability to communicate is probably the hardest part. The patient becomes trapped in a body that refuses to do what the brain tells it to do, but doesn’t lose touch with reality. The disease robs a person of independence, comfort, means of communication, ability to eat and ultimately the ability to breathe. During the journey, the victim of ALS tires easily (due to less oxygen taken in with each breath) and experiences stabbing pains throughout the body. They come and go at random times with no warning, and there’s little anyone can do to relieve them.”   The disease can also have different, heavy affects on the mind. Patients can experience frontotemporal dementia, which can change how the victim thinks, communicates, behaves or makes decisions, and can even lead to aggression. Another condition they may experience is called pseudobulbar affect, which causes them to display outward expressions of emotions that they are not really feeling. Patients can burst into sudden episodes of laughing or crying without warning. The diagnosis of ALS is also emotionally devastating for both the patient and their loved ones. All must adjust to a new way of life with the disease. Without a job to go to every day, shopping, outings, and housework, one's days and nights become one. There were the doctors appointments and places one can go in a wheelchair if one has a vehicle to transport the patient in the wheelchair. Eventually, and all too soon, moving from the wheelchair to car and back becomes an exhausting adventure for both the ALS patient and the person helping. These traumatic changes and the symptoms of the disease can cause patients to fall into isolation, withdrawing from social interactions and situations, which can lead to anxiety and depression. Symptoms of depression in ALS patients is even more difficult to identify due to the disease's effect on the mind and the patient's ability to express emotions. According to Therese, the worst thing a friend or family member can do is avoid the ALS patient because he or she is afraid or feels inadequate to handle what is happening. This causes an ALS patient incredible grief even if the patient says he or she understands. Usually, ALS patients do understand, but time is short for them so words that need to be said and feelings that need to be expressed may go unsaid or unexpressed. Cheryl's own brother went with her to the first couple of doctors appointments, but then avoided her as the disease progressed until Therese called him to say that if he wanted to see her alive, he'd better get over to the apartment. Her sister didn't show up until a couple of hours before she passed. This caused Cheryl great and unnecessary pain during a time when every day was filled with suffering. “I was heart-broken,” Therese said. “We had always hoped to grow old together. Then I researched ways to help.” According to Therese, the best thing to do to help alleviate some of the trauma all around is to be present for your friend or family member, and listen to them. Do research and offer to help in any way. This may involve help with bathing, personal hygiene, household chores, yard work, transportation, shopping, etc. In addition, encourage the patient to take advantage of any support, programs, or ALS-specific devices as soon as the patient becomes eligible. In the beginning, Cheryl was loaned a text-to-speech machine so that she could type what she wanted to say. When she lost the use of her hands and couldn’t type, Therese made a speech board so that all Cheryl had to do was point to words, but she would tire easily and become frustrated. As the disease progressed and she couldn’t move her arms, they resorted to yes and no questions where she could give a thumbs up or down to answer, or blink yes or no.      With advancements in technology and the help of their caregivers and loved ones, many ALS patients are able to manage the symptoms and to live fulfilling lives. Some have even gone on to do great things in arts and sciences. Jason Becker was a rising guitarist when he was diagnosed in 1990. Tony “Temp One” Quan, an iconic graffiti artist out of Los Angeles, was diagnosed in 2003. Both are completely paralyzed and require 24-hour care, but that hasn’t stopped them from their work. They use eye-tracking technology that allows them to draw, type and speak simply by moving their eyes. Becker released a seventh solo album this past December. And, of course, there’s the acclaimed physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking.      Though she had no aspirations of releasing a metal album or study the stars, ALS didn’t not stop Cheryl from living the rest of her days as best as she could. Experiencing and sharing love became her primary work, and she did everything she could to make her ALS journey as easy as possible for both her and her husband. She set all her affairs in order while she was still able to sign her own name. She learned about all the resources available to those with ALS and, with Therese’s help, moved to an apartment in Stafford, Virginia, where it was easy for both her and Frank to move around. When the funds from her retirement plan became available, she even planned and paid for her funeral, her husband Frank's funeral and Jerry's (Frank's brother) funeral so all Frank had to do when she died, was call the funeral home. On Christmas Eve, 2012--after she had passed--her husband Frank returned home to find a Christmas ham that had been ordered and delivered to his front door...from his late wife. “Cheryl was a very faith-filled person,” said Therese, “and she lived for visits from family and friends. She, more than almost anyone I know, radiated love. She prayed a lot, but she was a doer. Not actively being involved in people's lives was very hard for her. She accepted that there was no cure, but she fought hard to live every moment she could. I would say visits and prayer helped her, but she really had no choice but to go through it.” “Prayer and the courage Cheryl demonstrated also helped me,” Therese continued. “Watching her suffer certainly made it easier to accept her passing, and knowing she was free also helped.” [caption id="attachment_733" align="aligncenter" width="350"] Cheryl Parkes-Ray
April 25th, 1961-December 10th, 2012[/caption] If you have a friend or loved one who is struggling through this horrible disease, you can find information and resources through the ALS Association and Team Gleason. Consider the Online M.S. in Psychology, M.S. in Counseling or the Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology if you want to build the skill set to help ALS patients and their families through their difficult journeys.  

12 Grads On a Mission to Counsel the World

During this time of year--where young men and women across the nation donned their gowns and tassels with big smiles and walk before their friends and families to receive the degrees they worked so hard for over the last four years--many of those undergraduates will find themselves at a loss, unsure of what their next move is, doing things they never expected themselves to do, until they find the light that shines on the journey they’re meant to take. Abby Kowitz, from St. Paul, Minnesota, was one such undergrad. After graduation, Abby headed to Denver, Colorado, to serve as a missionary with Christ in the City, which seeks to encounter Christ in the poor and show Christ to them in return. “While the purpose was beautiful,” she said, “I couldn't help but think that something was missing. What I grew to realize was that, while the poor needed to encounter Christ as well as learn how to sustain their physical needs, mental health issues such as addictions, trauma, depression and anxiety often got in the way. I didn't know how to address those elements. My desire to serve the holistic person in mind, body and spirit is what led me to pursue a degree in counseling.” She searched for two years for graduate-level counseling programs that addressed the human person from a Catholic perspective, until her mother saw a promotion on EWTN announcing the new Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program at Divine Mercy University (DMU). The rest, as Kowitz put it, is history. This past weekend--Mother’s Day weekend--she made her mother proud again, donning her own gown and tassel as one of twelve students in the very first graduating cohort from DMU’s School of Counseling. “We are grateful for being at this point of the journey with our first students graduating,” said Dr. Harvey Payne, Academic Dean for the School of Counseling, “that we completed every course, and how well the students have done in their practicum and internships, which is really the proof in the pudding. Without our founding faculty--Dr. Steve Sharp, Dr. Benjamin Keyes , Dr. Matthew McWhorter, and the program development team lead by Dr. Stephen Grundman--there would be no program. They all have gone above and beyond for our program to create and deliver a high quality program for our students.” For many of the students who enroll, including Marion Moreland of West Virginia, the M.S. in Counseling program is a means of adding and improving upon the gifts and services they provide in helping others. Moreland feels that providence helped in leading her to the counseling program at DMU. “Four years prior,” she said, “I was at a parish doing pastoral counseling and grief counseling. I think I had a misguided view of what counseling was versus pastoral counseling-type work, and how that involved integration of faith. When I learned about the Master’s in Counseling, I saw that it was more of what I was looking for.” Another student, Anthony Flores, was formally employed at an inpatient psych unit for about three years, working one on one with different patients. Though he found the experience rewarding, he always felt a sense that he could do more. The potential to be able to walk alongside other people in the darkness and brokenness that they’re experiencing drew him to his degree in counseling and, ultimately, Divine Mercy University. [caption id="attachment_716" align="aligncenter" width="633"] Anthony Flores of Michigan receives his M.S. Degree in Counseling while shaking the hand of DMU's School of Counseling Academic Dean, Dr. Harvey Payne.[/caption] “I’ve always been a devout Catholic,” he said. “It’s such a central core of who I am. So, in terms of moving forward in my life and my career, I wanted to be really intentional about incorporating my faith into my work. DMU made that easy by introducing the Catholic Christian Meta-Model of the Person (CCMMP), a faculty publication explaining the relationship of the Catholic-Christian Meta-Model of the Person with the integrations of Psychology and Counseling. That really became our lens by which we view our clients through. I think that gives us a huge advantage over other institutions or universities that strictly take a secular view and don’t look at the spiritual aspect of people.” One of the requirements of the program that every student must do is be supervised at an approved practicum-internship site for a minimum of 750 hours. After completing their practicum-internships, each student from this year’s graduating cohort received something that many graduates may find hard to come by so close to graduation: job offers. “All of the offers have come through their internships,” said Dr. Payne. “What that means is that the individuals supervising them and the individuals directing the sites have recognized the high quality of their character and their work that they have done as practicum-internship students.” “In the human service world,” he continued, “and true across different occupations, how one fits into the culture of the workplace is a critical determining factor as to whether people want you to stay, and I can’t help but think that that is part of what has gone on. Our students have been able to fit in to a wide variety of settings from hospitals, to private practices, to Catholic Charities, to a wide range of different environments and most not having a specific Catholic-Christian worldview.” Moreland’s internship was with Highland-Clarksburg Hospital--a psychiatric hospital--in her home state. While gaining critical experience through her internship, Marion saw how DMU’s training differed from other graduate programs for mental health professions. “I think what stands out the most is the way we look at people,” she said. “In some ways, it’s employing [a] Catholic [Christian vision of respecting how people flourish], but in a practical sense. Even if you take the faith aspect out of it, our training is more person centered as opposed to technique and diagnosis centered. It’s about ‘who is this individual in front of me’ as opposed to ‘there’s a border line; there’s a schizophrenic.’ It’s more focused on the human side of who we are.” In addition to their internships, both Moreland and Flores attended and assisted with workshops offered through DMU’s Center for Trauma and Resiliency Studies (CTRS), becoming certified facilitators. For Flores, that meant a long drive each month from his home in Saginaw, Michigan, to the Virginia campus. But it wasn’t until Flores joined Dr. Keyes and a group from CTRS to Beirut that he understood the true weight and significance of the work of CTRS. He understood why he was pursuing such a career while having breakfast with a Syrian woman he met during that deployment. Flores listened as a woman told him the story of her birthday. She was studying at the university in Aleppo when, all of a sudden, she heard a whistle outside, and then a huge explosion. The large window in front of her shattered and sent her flying back a few meters. As she laid there on the floor, stunned, another classmate came up to her and asked about a question on the upcoming exam, as if nothing had happened, almost completely oblivious and disassociated from the event. Afterwards, they went to a local cafe to call their families and made it home a few hours later, and learned on the television that night that over 100 students had been killed in a missile attack. “As she’s telling me all this,” Flores said, “she’s smiling and laughing about it, as a way for her to deal with what happened and to tell that story. That struck me in such a way that I felt compelled to learn more about that--about trauma--about how, maybe, I can do something for these people that are suffering.” For these students, the M.S. in Counseling at Divine Mercy University has been one of their greatest and most difficult challenges they have ever endured--a real journey full of great challenges, obstacles and setbacks. But, in the end--having overcome those challenges both individually and as a group--this journey towards the first School of Counseling graduation in DMU history has proven to be a rewarding experience that will remain with them for the rest of their days. “Receiving my Master's in Counseling from DMU has been one of the most influential experiences of my life,” Kowitz exclaimed. “DMU has challenged, strengthened, and fine-tuned beliefs I already held as a practicing Catholic while teaching me how to implement them in a very practical and necessary way. DMU has provided me with a tangible set of tools and path to walk in the pursuit of my call to holiness. Through deepening my understanding and knowledge of the human person I am equipped to respond in a truly helpful way to whoever it may be that I encounter through both my clients but also in my personal life and relationships.” “We are all created good and that goodness is indelible,” Dr. Payne said. “Our students are really people that are seeking to grow and be good for the service of others, a number [of people] having some real struggles and difficulties in life that we all have, and keeping their goal in mind and persevering, having grit to persevere to reach their goals. It has been great seeing how each one of the students in their own uniqueness have found their niches, if you will, for how God will be using them in the field of professional counseling.” If you’re passionate about helping those who have witnessed or suffered serious trauma, or help those with serious mental illness, consider the M.S. in Counseling 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.