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.

Teaching Beyond One Specialization

It’s not an exaggeration for Dr. Craig Steven Titus to claim that it’s a small world or that God is really present with people in their everyday lives. While pursuing his Doctorate of Sacred Theology at the University of Fribourg (Switzerland), he encountered Dr. Gladys Sweeney, former dean of Divine Mercy University’s (DMU) Institute for the Psychological Sciences (IPS). She introduced him to the University and, as the saying goes, the rest is history. At DMU, Dr. Titus serves as professor and director for the Department of Integrative Studies. He has also written a book titled Resilience and the Virtue of Fortitude: Aquinas in Dialogue with the Psychosocial Sciences (CUA Press, 2006), edited 10 books, and published numerous articles. His commitment to research and teaching goes beyond one specialization; his expertise consists of an interdisciplinary understanding of theology, philosophy, and mental health practice. During a meeting with Dr. Titus, you will quickly learn that he’s prompt, action-oriented, and detailed, yet he’s still able to laugh. Interestingly enough, after nearly 16 years at DMU, he still considers his students as a prized asset and finds his multi-disciplinary work with colleagues to be “fascinating.” Here’s what he had to say about his work at Divine Mercy University. Q: How long have you been a faculty member at Divine Mercy University and how did you get involved? Dr. Titus: I’ve been involved in different ways since 2002, when I was first hired as assistant professor to teach the integration courses. It was the year prior to that that I came to know the university because of its first dean. Former IPS dean Gladys Sweeney came through Switzerland, in route to Rome for a conference, with some students. She had invited Fr. Servais Pinckaers to speak to the students on the theme of happiness. However, since he fell ill, he asked me to speak in his stead. At that time, I was finishing up my doctoral dissertation at the University of Fribourg (Switzerland). After giving the lecture, Dean Sweeney suggested that I present my candidacy for the position at IPS that was free because Fr. Benedict Ashley was retiring. Fr. Ashley was the theologian-philosopher who first designed and taught the philosophy and theology courses that prepared for the integration of Catholic thought and the psychological sciences. My experience in dialogue between theology, philosophy, and psychosocial research on resilience and the virtue of fortitude prepared me for work at Divine Mercy University. Q: Which courses do you teach and how do they add value to the university’s overall mission? Dr. Titus: I teach classes on: philosophical and theological anthropology; practical reason and moral character; and marriage and family. The courses are formative of the clinicians’ Christian identity and understanding of the person. They engage the student’s mind and heart in wisdom from theological, philosophical, and mental health sources. These courses train the students to see the whole person, family, and society, to enrich their vocation to heal. Of course they need further integration training in the University’s clinical classes to become competent in mental health practice as a whole. The integration thread throughout all the courses promotes an understanding of the person in terms of the origins, development, and flourishing of the person—in everyday and ultimate perspectives, which include issues of human nature, relationality, and God. The students come to the university because of its commitment to the Catholic-Christian understanding of the person, family, and society. Students appreciate being taught to see more of the person, including the person’s callings to commitments and truth, to interpersonal relationships, and to a future that gives meaning to the present.   Image Caption: Dr. Craig Steven Titus, director of the Newman Lecture Series, speaks with the late Dr. Michael Novak before the 2015 lecture begins. Dr. Novak was a Roman Catholic social philosopher and a professor at Catholic University of America . The Newman Lectures feature speakers who are widely recognized for their contributions to the fields of psychology, moral and political philosophy, theology, and law. This lecture series is held under the sponsorship of Divine Mercy University and seeks to promote an international conversation among various disciplines that treat the human person. Q: Are there any particular resources used in your courses that you feel are unique from other counseling or psychology programs? Dr. Titus: One of the major differences between courses at DMU and those at a secular counseling and psychology program are the sources that underlie one’s vision of the person. A Catholic-Christian vision of the person is rooted in the sources of reason and faith that protect the psychological sciences from reductionism, that is, seeing too little of the person, family, and society. This vision of faith and theological reflection is rooted in the experience of the Word of God found in Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture (the Bible)—teaching that is passed down through the succession of the apostles. This Catholic-Christian perspective is found in: the patristic reflections of the early Church writers (such as St. Augustine); the Magisterium (such as St. John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis), including the Councils (e.g the Second Vatican Council). It draws upon the writings of men and women, who throughout the Church and the ages have carried the message of Christ forward. Other sources of wisdom are Christian and non-Christian philosophy from Plato, Aristotle, Boethius, and so on. And of course, there are the sources wisdom from current psychological sciences, evidence-based techniques, and best practices in the mental health field. In drawing from the psychological, philosophical, and theological wisdom traditions, we are convinced that, since truth is one, there is something very important to be learned by the psychological sciences and the practice of counseling. These new sciences offer further understandings of how people can experience suffering, anxiety, and depression, and how they can find ways to come out of those difficulties using the means that are necessary and helpful – including psychotherapy, group therapy, psychopharmacology, and everyday contact with people, which also can be therapeutic. Q: What has been the most rewarding part of teaching at Divine Mercy University? Dr. Titus: Perhaps it’s the classic response, but the most rewarding part of teaching at DMU is the contact with the students. Together with the students, the instructors engage wisdom, understanding, and knowledge vital for mental health professionals. I support very strongly the unity of the human person and the importance of their experience. Even in our diversity of cultural experience, there is wisdom, there is truth. When one seeks to teach and share experience, while recognizing the dignity of each person and God’s presence in it all, it’s really an experience of learning as well as teaching. Our students are highly motivated and committed to the program. Their active participation allows me also to have feedback from them about their experiences, the reality of being a community, and their search for the truth of the person, family, and relationships. The classroom becomes a type of community of inquiry seeking together to understand more about experiences of difficulty and failure as well as of life, love, and flourishing. Q: Who has inspired you throughout your career? Dr. Titus: I have two primary mentors in my life: - Fr. Servais-Théodore Pinckaers: it’s because of him that I went to Europe to study. He was a leader in the renewal in the Catholic Church that sees morals as being rooted in the virtue of Charity-love—God’s love, a friendship love—and in the movement of the Holy Spirit. Fr. Pinckaers’ approach to moral action and spiritual life is both normative and virtue-based. He affirms the importance of acts, agents, purposes, vocations, and being open to transcendence (that is, God, including the gifts of the Holy Spirit). - And the other primary mentor is Fr. Benedict Ashley: it’s because of him that I was hired at DMU. He set up the integration program at DMU. His study of Catholic anthropology, morals, and bioethics prepared him for dialogue with the psychological sciences. In parallel, my study of resilience (psychological sciences) and the virtue of fortitude (based on the thought of Thomas Aquinas) prepared me for dialogue with the psychological sciences, drawing on the model used by Fr. Ashley. Image Caption: Book cover for Servais Pinckaers' piece on "Renewing Thomistic Moral Theology, published by Catholic University of America and edited by Dr. John Berkman and Dr. Craig Steven Titus. Q: Are you involved in any research teams or professional associations or organizations that have helped you stay current in the field? Dr. Titus: I belong to seven professional associations – including The Society of Christian Ethics and American Catholic Philosophical Association, and the Catholic Psychotherapy Association (as an academic member). I think that the best way to stay current in the fields that I am concerned with is through engagement in research and dialogue. The co-editing of and the contributions to the Catholic-Christian Meta-Model*Volume has involved extensive scholarship – the bibliography is 60 pages long. If I had taught philosophy or theology at a different university, I would have been centered within one discipline or one specialization. But, by the nature of Divine Mercy University we take a multidisciplinary approach – where philosophy and theology are required to dialogue with psychological sciences. This interdisciplinary commitment complements specialized research and prepares for integrated clinical work. To be engaged as a philosopher and theologian with psychologists, I have had to be attentive to the meanings of terms, the methods of research, and the way that truths about the person and relationships are communicated.  For example, understanding human experiences of attachment, caring, and charity-love, can be integrated by a Catholic-Christian Meta-Model of the person, which includes psychological findings (e.g., through attachment theory on secure attachments), philosophical reflections (e.g., on virtues such as benevolence and friendship), and theological insights (e.g., on vocations and God’s love for every person). Such an interdisciplinary approach enriches our understanding of the person (e.g., because of the inclusion of vocations and virtues), thus benefiting the mental health field, in general, but also the client, in particular. There is great benefit when the three sources of wisdom work together for each person. *The Catholic-Christian Meta-Model of the Person – presented by university faculty and other collaborators – is a forthcoming volume of research that elaborates a basic training approach for integrating a Catholic-Christian understanding of the human person, psychology and mental health practice. Download a copy of the foundational document “Psychological, Theological, and Philosophical Premises for a Catholic Christian Meta-Model of the Person.”

12 Grads On a Mission to Counsel the World

During this time of year--where young men and women across the nation donne 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 lense 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 missle 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.

Remembering the Virginia Tech Shooting

The small town of Blacksburg in Southern Virginia was, at one point, only that: a small town, nestled along the New River Valley. The trip from the cities of the north will lead you witnessing the significant change of scenery as you cruise down I-81, from cityscapes to treelines, from city streets to nature trails, from Smithsonian Museums to the Blue Ridge Mountains, from the boisterous white noise of a congested population to the melodies of the rural countryside. And, of course, it will lead you to the spirited Hokie Nation. But this little Virginia gem was not brought under the eyes of the new millennium by its quaint charm. It wasn’t Blacksburg’s or Virginia Tech’s spirited community or the university’s technological innovations or successes in science and agriculture, nor was it Beamer Ball that brought it under the spotlight of the world. It was a 23-year-old English major from northern Virginia, and the 32 people he murdered on campus that brought the spotlight to Virginia Tech and an issue that continues to be debated to this day. The beautiful campus and its community was eternally scarred by the violence of that April day of darkness fourteen years ago. Today, there is still a certain, strange air carried on the winds throughout campus that leaves one keeping an eye open and scanning their surroundings, and there’s rarely a day where students do not pass or visit the memorial at the top of the drillfield in front of Burruss Hall: 32 stones for the 32 taken from us too soon. April 16th always brings back the pictures of that tragic day: students evacuated from campus, huddled together in a circle at a local church; sheriff officers carrying survivors from the scene by their arms and legs; tearful mothers holding tight the child who just left their nest for the first time; other mothers searching frantically among the large crowds of bloodied faces for their children, praying that they are not one of the many carried away in body bags; President Bush, a father himself, addressing the university, seeking to comfort a confused, sorrowful student body of 25,000; Resident Poet Nikki Giovanni absorbing all that sorrow into her pen and converting it into prose of flourishing inspiration as she cries out, “We Are Virginia Tech!” The date also brings back to remember the student and shooter Seung Hui Cho, who was described as an isolated individual preferring to be by himself. He hardly spoke in class and, when he was called to do so, he spoke barely above a whisper. The content of his written assignments and projects at Virginia Tech caught the concerning attention of his professors, and the videos and manifesto he sent to NBC left people anxiously asking questions about his mental stability. What could have led him to commit such a seemingly random act of carnage? What could have been done to stop it? School shootings have been well covered and documented over the last several years. As a result, studies have shown that there are a number of common risk factors that can indicate if someone is at risk of harming themselves and/or others. Risk factors commonly associated with school shooters include creating or engaging in content--writings, drawings, etc.--depicting violence or violent fantasies, difficulty controlling anger, suicidal and homicidal ideations, social isolation and social deficits, victim/martyr self-concept, paranoia and interest in other shooting situations. “I think those are very good starting points,” said Dr. Suzanne Hollman, Academic Dean and Director of Divine Mercy University’s Psy.D. Program, in an interview on EWTN after the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. “The research right now is all over the place. But what we do know is that all of these things are risk factors. All of these things can predispose someone to making a decision or planning something that dramatic. A lot of it stems from social isolation--not being seen in the world--and then trying to find these mechanisms to ensure that they are noticed.” After the attack, Virginia Governor Tim Kaine assigned an independent panel to review the events leading up to the tragedy and how they were handled. The panel was also charged with developing a profile and investigating the life of Cho leading up to April 16th, including his mental health records, which showed that Cho displayed all these red flags during his last two years at the university. But the panel didn’t just shed light on the indicators that developed during his final two years. The panel discovered other details in Cho’s life that could also have been contributing factors.    According to their review, Cho was a shy boy who rarely spoke and, when he moved with his family from South Korea to the United States, he became more withdrawn. He allegedly resented the pressure of speaking in public, and would avoid speaking both at home and at school. When called to speak--particularly if his family had a visitor--Cho would freeze on the spot and grow incredibly anxious. He would become pale, develop sweaty palms, and in some cases, begin to cry and resort to nodding yes or shaking his head no.     Cho’s parents tried to urge him to become more involved in different activities and local sports because they worried he was becoming more isolated and lonely. On the other hand, transportation to any event in general was a challenge in itself, as Cho’s parents worked long hours during the week and were not able to take him or his sister to any extracurricular activities. His father was stern on matters of respect, which is something the two would argue about. According to one of the records reviewed by the independent panel, Cho’s father would not praise his son, and one of his writings later included a father-son relationship where the father was always negative. Eventually, Cho’s parents decided to “let him be the way he is” and not force him to interact and talk with others. Doing so may not have been in their son’s best interest. Extreme social deficits is not just a key indicator of a serious mental health issue. According to 2018 Divine Mercy University Psy.D. graduate Amanda Aulbaugh Faria’s dissertation entitled “Mass School Shooters: Psychosocial Characteristics in the Lives of the Perpetrators,” it’s also a common characteristic among school shooters. Nine out of the nineteen school shooters that Faria studied had significant social deficits. One shooter was quiet, was disliked by her peers, walked around by herself and did not participate in class at school. Another shooter suffered significant social anxiety and was seen as “odd, goofy or weird.” Twelve of the nineteen studied also displayed antisocial characteristics. “The negatives have already been identified,” said Dr. Paul Vitz, Divine Mercy University Senior Scholar and Professor, who has recently begun researching school shootings and their perpetrators, from elementary school to high school. “They were depressed, or they came from dysfunctional families, or they were all obsessed with violence. They had a variety of negative characteristics.” In his own research of school shooters, Dr. Vitz found that one thing common among the shooters is not merely a variety of negative risk factors, but also a lack of positive things in their lives. “None of them seemed to have a goal in life,” he said. “None of them wanted to be a star musician, no one wanted to be an athlete, none of them talked about being businessmen or have success at college. Second, none were involved in any pro-social organizations. None were in scouts or 4-H. None were in a civic society or were helping the poor, none were involved with any of the virtues or active in any faith.” In Faria’s study, many of the shooters were involved with different activities as younger children, but as they grew older into middle school and high school, they began to withdraw from social activities. Others, including Sandy Hook shooter Bill Lanza, had no social interests or did not engage in any social activities from the beginning. “It isn’t just the overwhelming presence of many negatives,” continued Vitz. “It’s the absence of the positives too.” A second factor discovered was that Cho, who had been receiving psychiatric treatment prior to attending Virginia Tech, stopped his treatment before moving to Blacksburg, and the university had no knowledge of his mental health history. According to the panel report, Cho’s middle school teachers noticed suicidal and homicidal ideations in his writings after the 1999 Columbine shootings. On their recommendation, Cho received psychiatric counseling and medication for a short time, and special accommodations were made to help Cho achieve top scores and honors in his coursework all through high school. “Cho exhibited signs of mental health problems during his childhood,” the report reads. “His middle and high schools responded well to these signs and, with his parents' involvement, provided services to address his issues. He also received private psychiatric treatment and counseling for selective mutism and depression.” By the time Cho was preparing to leave home for college for the first time--entering as a business major before making the switch to English--neither he nor his high school revealed that he had been receiving special education services as an emotionally disabled student. As a result, no one at Virginia Tech ever became aware of his pre-existing conditions until it was too late, leaving him to carry on without the critical helped that assisted him to cope and flourish. Since that tragic day in 2007, colleges and universities across the country have taken steps to both help those individuals with anxiety and mental issues. Many have added mental health professionals and university police officers to their campuses; faculty and staff members are being trained on how to spot worrisome behavior and reach out to those students in a preventative manner. Virginia Tech even became the first campus in the nation to be certified by an independent non-profit organization that established rigorous national standards for emergency planning.   A question still lingers: is it enough? That question may never have an answer. But it’s the reverberation of gunshots that still faintly linger in the winds of Blacksburg, and in the tears that stain the 32 stones in front of Burruss Hall that pushes us to keep trying and keep innovating ways to help our mentally ill and, in doing so, trying our hardest to prevent another April 16th. If you’re passionate about helping those who have witnessed or suffered serious trauma, or if you want to help those with serious mental illness, consider the M.S. in Psychology, M.S. in Counseling or Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology at Divine Mercy University.   Work Cited: “Mass Shootings at Virginia Tech, April 16, 2007, Report of the Review Panel”. Presented to Governor Tim Kaine, Commonwealth of Virginia, August 2007. https://scholar.lib.vt.edu/prevail/docs/VTReviewPanelReport.pdf Faria, A. A. Mass school shootings: Psychosocial characteristics in the lives of perpetrators (Doctoral Dissertation). Divine Mercy University, 2018. Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (2100701144). Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/2100701144?accountid=27532 Friedman, Emily.  “Va. Tech Shooter Seung-Hui Cho's Mental Health Records Released.” ABC News, 19 Aug. 2009, https://abcnews.go.com/US/seung-hui-chos-mental-health-records-released/story?id=8278195 Hausman, Sandy.  “Lessons Learned at Virginia Tech: What Went Wrong?.” WVTF, 13 Apr. 2015, https://www.wvtf.org/post/lessons-learned-virginia-tech-what-went-wrong#stream/0 Langman, Peter. School Shooters: Understanding High School, College and Adult Perpetrators. Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 2015. O'Meara, Eamon. “Virginia Tech shooting may have changed how mental health was treated.” ABC WDBJ7, 14 Apr. 2017, https://www.wdbj7.com/content/news/Virginia-Tech-shooting-may-have-changed-how-mental-health-was-treated-419513643.html Potter, Ned and David Schoetz, Richard Esposito, Pierre Thomas. “Killer's Note: 'You Caused Me to Do This'.” ABC News, 7 Apr. 2007, https://abcnews.go.com/US/story?id=3048108&page=1

Honoring St. Patrick With Moderation

When we look at the calendar and see that St. Patrick’s Day is right around the corner, many of us may salivate knowing that our local pubs and bars will be decorated and playing Celtic music, with Guiness and green beer flowing endlessly like the great falls of some romantic Irish waterfall, and when the day comes, we celebrate even more the week before and the week after the holiday. And then the following morning you find yourself staying in bed sick. Most of the adrenaline in your body has vacated the premises, leaving only a small amount to get you to roll around under the covers in desperate search of a position that will calm the heavy throbbing in your head, or to get up and rush to the bathroom or the nearest trash can to vomit. It’s highly doubtful that St. Patrick--one of the most popular and highly recognized Catholic saints in the world--would’ve expected that kind of celebration of his feast day. Born in Roman England, he first entered Ireland as a captive of pirates as a fourteen-year-old, and wasn’t able to escape and return to England until he was twenty. [caption id="attachment_645" align="alignleft" width="240"] St. Patrick often used a clover when teaching about the Holy Trinity.[/caption] In his memoir, The Confession of St. Patrick, he describes experiencing a vision that prompted him to study for the priesthood. He was eventually ordained a bishop and, in the year 433, was sent to preach the Gospel in Ireland. Throughout his 40-year stay in Ireland, he converted thousands of people, built churches throughout the country, and performed many miracles up to his death on March 17th, 461. Approximately 33 million people celebrate St. Patrick’s Day each year, and with his feast day falling within the season of Lent, Catholics and Christians are able to set aside their Lenten restrictions and are able to indulge in whatever they gave up, e.g. if they gave up snacks and stout. The day also became a celebration of not only the holy man, but also Irish heritage, culture, history and traditions around the world. According to Wallethub, over 55% of Americans plan to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and are expected to spend a collective estimate of $5.6 billion. “For some, any reason to drink more is a good enough reason,” said Divine Mercy University Associate Professor Dr. Stephen Sharp, a specialized instructor for the Addictions Counseling course (COUN 650). “But for others, it may simply be part of the ‘spirit’ of the holiday, in this case St. Patrick's Day. It could as well be Christmas, New Year (even Chinese New Year), or the 4th of July.” Today, St. Patrick’s Day is ranked the third most popular drinking day of the year. According to WalletHub, 152.5% more beer is sold and 13 million pints of Guinness consumed (an 819% increase from the rest of the year), and 32% of men admit to binge drinking on St. Patrick’s Day.    “I'm not sure we can say that binge drinkers ‘go out of their way’ to drink more when there is a social opportunity to do so,” Dr. Sharp said. “They may just simply take advantage of the socialized opportunity to celebrate using alcohol. In ways, a culture of drinking on holidays has contributed to problems created by over-imbibing.” But with greater consumption comes a greater need for greater responsibility. Seventy-five percent of fatal car crashes over St. Patrick’s Day involved a drunk driver, and 59 people were killed in St. Patrick’s Day drunk driving crashes in 2017. Between 2013-2017, 44% of people killed in drunk driving crashes during the St. Patrick’s Day holiday were between 21 and 34 years old.   “Law enforcement recognizes the patterns,“ Dr. Sharp continued, “and often has a bigger presence, and has also helped to sponsor the idea of ‘designated drinkers’ and the use of services for transportation to keep drinkers from behind the wheel of an automobile. With or without the cultural influences of alcohol consumption, those choosing to use alcohol have the ultimate challenge of drinking responsibility on these celebrated occasions.” Unfortunately, it seems to be a difficult challenge for many. Alcohol abuse is currently one of the largest public health crises in the United States, and it kills more people each year than overdoses. According to the Center for Disease Control, six people die from alcohol poisoning every day, and further research shows that alcohol consumption will only grow in 2019, even as population growth is expected to slow.     “Too much of almost anything can be harmful,” said Sharp. “Extended over-use is probably the most hazardous to your health. Our bodies are remarkably able to recover from the occasional over-drinking simply by remaining abstinent from it for a period of time.” When we don’t allow our bodies the chance to recover, our drinking may contribute to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other organ damage, especially the liver, which is the organ charged with keeping our bodily system clean by removing toxins. When we regularly overload our liver, we may pay the price over time. But as mentioned before, our body is a remarkable system capable of near miraculous recovery, but only when given the opportunity to do so. But the risks are not just bodily. Poor drinking habits can be destructive enough to damage our relationships that often do not recover, including those within our family. “Behavior problems resulting from alcohol use and abuse can stretch the limits of those who love us, and that we love,” said Dr. Sharp. “Moments and phases of intoxication may result in engaging in other risky and damaging behaviors and in having a lifelong impact on the quality of our life and those precious relationships. This also often takes a toll on children of alcoholic parents as binge drinking may be part of a bigger cycle, and is often an unpleasant experience for the child.”    According to Dr. Sharp, it is also widely observed that concurrent mental disorders will accompany a substance use disorder. It is not uncommon to see depression, anxiety and substance use co-occurring in an individual. “Did the anxiety appear before the depression,” he said, “and were they present prior to the onset of substance use? Or, did the substance use begin and the other mental disorders begin subsequently? The answer is that this is highly individualized in differences, distinctions, and similarities to others. It depends on the person, their history, and the narrative of their life story. “A short and simple answer is often right beneath the nose, though,” he continued, “and that is if using alcohol is creating problems in your life at any level such as work, relationships or legally, then you may have a drinking problem and should seek the help of a professional.” As we celebrate the life of St. Patrick and everything Irish in communion with each other--whether it be in person or in spirit--let us do so in safe, moderate and healthy fashion for ourselves and each other.    
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.