This article was written and submitted by Fr. Longin Buhake, a graduate of the Master’s in Psychology program at Divine Mercy University.
My name is Father Longin Buhake, one of the 2020 DMU graduates’ students. I am a Catholic Priest Civilian Military Chaplain at Tyndall Air Force, Florida. I was ordained a priest in the Diocese of Mweka in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central Africa. The following is my experience of what I have gained after graduating from Divine Mercy University and how I intend to put my degree to use in my current position.
People around the world face spiritual, mental, physical, and emotional problems that lead to psychological disorders. Substance abuse, life stress, biological and hereditary factors contribute a lot to these problems. The problems continue to rise with the changing environment of the world, thus calling for solutions. Psychology is an important skill for professionals who play a role in assisting people suffering from these issues. This profession requires school training and a certification after gaining the knowledge and skills required to handle the problems. Divine Mercy University taught me new skills and helped me improve the relationship between me and my clients and lead to problem-solving.
My Journey at DMU
Being a parish priest, I had always been attentive to people who face spiritual, physical, emotional, and mental challenges. I have helped many people, mostly in spiritual guidance. The need to become more helpful grew when my priestly ministry was extended to the military field. This inspired me to pursue a degree in psychology. It was not easy because I had to decide what school to go to and what would be the best orientation in psychology. As I was consulting, I ended up having a good conversation with a representative from Divine Mercy University who advised me to take the Master’s in Psychology (MSP) program since it aligned with my interests. At DMU, I was able to learn key skills that assist in providing excellent counseling services to people in distress. Some of these skills include communication, ethics, interpersonal skills, trustworthiness, problem solving, resilience, and confidentiality. Such skills were important in building strong relationships with clients.
As I was pursuing my degree, I also attended organized seminars and workshops where I interacted with professionals who offered more guidance and directions on the best ways to handle clients with psychological problems. Besides, I also identified several great professors in my school who provided me with frequent guidance on the best counseling practices and the best way to handle clients. Furthermore, I also took my time to practice my counseling of clients under my mentor's supervision in writing a project capstone. The paper helped me take the knowledge and the skills I learned and implement them in the real world.
The Skills I Developed
- Communication skills
One of the important tools I developed in my MSP is communication skills, which are essential in my day-to-day interactions with people suffering from mental, emotional, and physical illnesses. My MSP helped me develop excellent verbal communication skills that help me talk effectively with different clients. Counseling involves asking clients questions and conducting interviews. Such exercises require one to have excellent communication skills to help a counselor make clients feel relieved other than upsetting them. This has been fundamental to me in sharing and exchanging information with people who require psychological counseling.
- Interpersonal skills
Another important tool that I learned in the MSP program is interpersonal skills. Interpersonal skills helped me work effectively with different clients, people, and colleagues. It is an important tool that guides me in developing strong relationships with clients. Besides, it is also fundamental to understand a clients' reactions and gather more information regarding the reasons they are triggered.
- Listening with empathy
The first step to successful treatment is admitting that there is a problem (Kring et al., 2016). After listening empathetically to the person and explaining that I am here for emotional support. I will try to find the cause of their disorder. Some of these disorders are inherited and others are acquired.
- Ethical competence and confidentiality
Ethical competence is another important tool that I learned in my MSP that has played a role in guiding me to help others. I learned the importance of observing ethics in counseling and psychology. I learned that it is important to always be trustworthy by the clients. Trustworthiness arises when one keeps the information of clients confidential. According to Md. & Saba, (2018), the trustworthiness of a counselor is contained in the fidelity ethical principle that places trust in a counselor. Being a priest, I have always promoted trustworthiness among people by remaining confidential in whatever information I discuss with them. Additionally, I also promote fidelity through listening and respecting the information provided by the clients. Above all, I am always attentive to the client's needs, as highlighted by Shantz (1981).
My Capstone: An Example of Applying What I Have Learned
My capstone project was to plan and implement a program using the knowledge and skills learned during the program. The project was a preparation for a week-end workshop on how to help members of the military who struggle with substance abuse and domestic violence.
Abusing a substance can lead to domestic violence; it is why addressing addiction is a normal part of treatment for domestic violence. The psychological literature review considers some peer-reviewed sources to find out decisions and ideas on why substance abuse and domestic violence occur in the military, how to prevent and avoid them. The source describes that mental and psychological problems, finances and the economy can increase the risk of violent behavior. On the other hand, religion and family environment, friendly relationships, and taking care of children prevent substance abuse and domestic violence in the military. The goal of this literature review is an attempt to provide suggestions and decisions to the existing problems and see how Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) and Virtue theory are capable of analyzing the roots of the problems and providing treatment and required approaches to them.
The main idea is to use all the mentioned sources (see references below) to indicate the reasons why substance abuse and domestic violence occur in the military, identify associated risk and protective factors, and research theories that explain how to prevent and avoid violent actions. I hypothesize that mental and psychological problems aggravated by alcohol consumption and lack of money lead to substance abuse and domestic violence in the military, whereas a positive environment, religion, and friendly support assist people in normalizing their lives. The Catholic Christian Meta-Model of the Person has been essential in developing an integrated understanding of the person created in God’s image. As a result, this has given me insight into the best solutions to provide clients to improve their mental health, as highlighted by Vitz et al. (2020).
Md., A., & Saba, F. (2018). Counselling Psychology: Concept, trend and medical setting. International Journal 0f Psychology And Counselling, 10(3), 22-28. https://doi.org/10.5897/ijpc2017.0501
Shantz, H. (1981). Counselling and questions of morality: Confidentiality. International Journal for the Advancement of Counselling, 4(3), 179-186. https://doi.org/10.1007/bf00115351
Vitz, P., Nordling, W., & Titus, C. (2020). A Catholic Christian Meta-Model of the Person: Integration with Psychology and Mental Health Practice. Divine Mercy University.