Presenter Topics – Dr. Stephen Saunders

  • DOXOLOGY Psychology Resource Team member
  • Professor and Chair of Psychology at Marquette University

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Caring for Those Affected by Mental Illness (3-5 hours)

(This can be presented as two, 90-minute presentations or one five-hour workshop)

One-in-five persons in any given year will experience a mental illness, causing distress to the person and to the person’s family members, caregivers, loved ones and friends. The distress can be compounded and confounded by confusion, anxiety and guilt about what it means to have a mental illness. Simply put, many worry that mental illness is an indication that God no longer loves them. Pastors and other church workers therefore must arm themselves with rudimentary knowledge, an appropriate attitude, and interpersonal skills to help persons with mental illness and those that love them. Two related sessions will teach such knowledge, attitudes and skills.

  • Session 1  “Understanding Mental Illness and Its Challenge to Faith”  (1 hour or Part 1 of a 5-hour workshop)

In this session, attendees will learn basic issues related to the prevalence of mental illness and its burden of distress and impairment to the person and loving others. Of particular focus will be the stigma against mental illness that persons and their loved ones will face, including the special distress that might be experienced by Christians who are assailed by the theology of glory. Attendees will be exposed to and encouraged to adopt an appropriate Christian attitude based on the theology of the cross.

  • Session 2  “Individualized and Corporate Strategies for Comforting Those with Mental Illness”  (2 hours or Part 2 of a five hour workshop)

In this session, attendees will learn basic skills and strategies to help individuals affected by mental illness and their loved ones. Both private, individual skills and public, corporate strategies are reviewed. Individual skills include:  starting a difficult conversation; listening skills; mental health first aid (helping how you can); providing an appropriate referral, including finding a competent mental health professional to whom you feel comfortable referring. Corporate strategies include various “outreach” methods, such as encouraging a proper attitude among others, prayers, bulletin inserts, and other ways to acknowledge that many persons in the parish have mental health problems. These sessions will include an overview of the (very confusing) mental health treatment system, so that attendees will be better able to refer effectively and to consult with mental health professionals regarding the quality of care a parishioner is receiving. The overview will cover: different types of treatments; different types of treatment settings; and different types of treatment providers.

How to Implement Healthy Changes for Good (and Make Them Stick)  (60-90 minutes)

In this session, attendees will be “reminded” of basic healthy and unhealthy behaviors associated with diet, exercise, smoking, family time, date nights, and time commitments. Basic principles of behaviors and habits that have been discovered and developed over a century of psychological science are reviewed. Following that, suggestions for creating, personalizing and implementing change strategies are discussed. General issues related to self-care in general, which can be a challenge for many ministers, are discussed. Finally, strategies for maintaining changes that have occurred are reviewed.

Developing Your Emotional Intelligence for Fun and Profit (60-90 minutes)

Emotional intelligence (EI) is the basic interpersonal skill of understanding and responding effectively to the emotional experiences of another person, as well as understanding and handling appropriately one’s own emotional state. EI is sometimes believed to be a natural ability, which for many people it is. But EI is better understood as a skill that some have developed and others, regardless of who they are, can develop. This session will review the basics of EI and discuss how it is relevant to the work of a pastor as he strives to help parishioners with their daily practical and spiritual struggles. The session will discuss basic strategies and activities that attendees can use to develop their EI, including suggestions for how they might use EI to minister more effectively.