Archive for September, 2008

Religion Tightrope Walk

I sent the following memo out to my staff at a psychiatric rehabilitation day program today.   What are your thoughts on the proper role of religion and/or spirituality in a state-funded psychiatric environment?  When does it help with recovery?  When does it hurt?  Does the presence of ANY religion pressure nonbelievers?  Does its absence leave believers with a hole in their heart?  What if they don’t have the means to get out to their religious or spiritual community?


Religion and spirituality has always been a touchy subject in mental health.  I’ve been sending strong signals lately that some religion and spirituality in the program is fine. Here’s why:

  • Our institutional population is often not able to get to church or other religious activities and so are missing out on the spiritual/religious aspects of their lives.
  • I believe in a holistic program approach encompassing mind, body, and spirit.  We bring in everything else the clients need.
  • There are now several studies in the psych literature that show a link between spirituality and recovery – especially for depression and for drug/alcohol issues. (See Keating & Fretz, 1990; Propst et al., 1992; Worthington, Kurusu, McCullough, & Sandage, 1996).

 However, at the same time this is a secular, state-funded program which provides equal services to all clients – religious or not. 

 So a balance is needed – a way to provide spiritual and religious programming but in a totally optional way that pressures and evangelizes no one.

Here are the rules I’m flying by for spiritual and religious classes and activities:

  • They are appropriate only if there is absolutely no pressure whatsoever on clients to attend.
  • They are appropriate only when there are other attractive activities in the same timeslot of a secular nature.
  • Spiritual/religious activities will usually be held in a side classroom rather than the community room in order to further emphasize that attendance is optional and so it does not by default grab up folks who just sit in the community room.
  • There must be enough client interest to justify the programming strictly on client need (not evangelism).   This is pretty clear for Christianity right now.  For other religions like Buddhism, etc. I’d theoretically be just as happy to have classes if there was a need.  I suspect given smaller numbers of interested clients, such could be accommodated by client-run clubs.

 This is verbose, but I hope clear – please feel free to hit me with questions individually or at staff meeting.


Why So Close?

The New York Times has an article entitled “Psychologists Vote to End Interrogation Consultations”.  That’s the good news.

The amazing news here to me is that the APA vote was 8,792 to 6,157.

Wouldn’t torture be a bit less popular?

I’m curious for insights into why the vote went this way.



Cherry Hill Seminary Fundraising Matched Dollar for Dollar

Cherry Hill Seminary has some great “pastoral” counseling classes for those interested in Pagan counseling education.  I especially enjoyed their spiritual mentoring, death & dying (“Call of the Dark Mother”), and rites of passage classes.

 They currently have a donor who will match dollar-for-dollar any money you send them.  See below for details.


Pledges To Match Every Dollar Contributed to CHS Between Now and Samhain!

An Unprecedented OpportunityA generous donor has approached Cherry Hill Seminary and issued a challenge:  for every dollar contributed by friends between now and Samhain, our donor will match those gifts, up to $5,000.

That means if you give $50, you will receive credit for having given $100.

Your coven, circle, grove or hearth can also use this wonderful opportunity to learn some basics of effective fundraising, while raising funds for both Cherry Hill and your group or favorite local cause.

Use this site to find resources and information to run your group’s best-ever fundraising project.

Or click here to make your gift now. 

Every gift is precious, and none too small to make a difference.

Questions?  Email us or call 888.503.4131 for more information.


OT: Palin, Religious Theocracy, and Voting

I should really leave politics alone.  Believe it or not I do have several excellent Christian and Republican clients and this is a blog on therapy and Paganism, not politics.  However, the following topic continues to bug me and I have writer’s itch over it.

Somehow, I’d become resigned to a non-choice between the two corporate parties.  Lately in the Bush govt. it has seemed to be primarily a matter of corporate domination and less so one of religion.

In this context I was heavily contemplating a vote for Cynthia McKinney with the Green Party — a candidate closer to my own positions with little chance of winning — rather than holding my nose and voting for the Democratic candidate as the least objectionable realistic choice.

Back in 2004 when I voted for Kerry, and then watched as he didn’t even try to contest Ohio, I finally realized nothing good will come of either major party.  I realized we have to build an alternative by voting for what we truly desire even if there is no near-term chance of winning.

Now however comes this article entitled A Palin Theocracy, and ones like it, uncovering Sarah Palin’s extreme views and likely Dominionist tendencies.

So now I’m weakening — I’m once again contemplating the sick choice of the Obama ticket.  At least with Obama we are only owned by business.  We may maintain a separation of church and state.  We may not have to worry about our religous freedoms.



Baltimore Pagan Pride Events

The “Super PNO” for the Washington/Baltimore region is this Friday night at Mystickal Voyage.  Come have fun with other area Pagans.  Also it’s a chance to check out the digs of the holistic and yoga center that a number of area alternative practitioners (and myself) work out of.  Click here for information.
Also don’t forget Baltimore Pagan Pride Day this Saturday.  Click here for more information.  I’m not exhibiting or presenting — will likely stop by just to see what’s going on.


Therapy Decks and High-Speed Coaching

A few weeks ago I participated at a holistic health fair at Mystickal Voyage Holistic Center. I figured I’d run my usual information booth, hand out flyers, etc.

So I got there and — during my 4-hour shift anyway — every single other booth was staffed by a Tarot reader or a psychic. Meanwhile the organizers were assuming that everyone was doing 15 minute readings and had already started a sign-up sheet for me!

Those used to Tarot reading are likely reading this and saying “so what?”, and therapists reading this are cringing…

Anyway, I got a speed lesson in intense 15 minute coaching sessions. No divination. Just tell me your problem, tap into your creativity, and brainstorm next steps. It was fun and seemed to work quite well. Clients seemed happy. Of course, I made far less in tips than the Tarot readers and psychics — so that should be a clue to any students out there as to what profession to get into. (I donated tips to the Stepping Stones Nigeria orphanage for “witch” children.)

15 minute coaching sessions require a focus — something to pull the client right to the problem, tap their creativity, and immediately get them looking at the problem from a new angle instead of the stuck spot they came in occuping. This is where card decks become critical. There is ALOT we can learn from Tarot readers.

I have a whole workshop on using cards in counseling, but basically the story is that they can facilitate answers whether or not you believe divination is going on. The story used in psychotherapy anyway is that the mind is a meaning making engine and that a part of your mind will always try to make a meaning out of any information put in front of it. So if you think of a problem and pick a card, 9 out of 10 times your mind will supply a useful link between the card and the problem. In so doing your unconscious creativity surfaces.

I thought maybe I’d take this opportunity to list out some card decks that I use in therapy that I find very useful. Depending upon the need, I was pulling these decks out during the holistic fair:

Soul Coaching Oracle Cards — Have a simple picture and words such as Strength, Gratitude, Faith, Commitment, etc. Obviously usually used in divination but also great for the therapy situation described above where you ask the client to make a connection between the card message and their issue. I’ve also used these in “Resiliency” class at my psych rehabilitation program with a room full of folks with schizophrenia. The central lesson was that we all have resources to be strong with even if we have limitations or little money. By the time everyone drew a card and discussed their “love”, “freedom”, “grace”, etc. the room was much more upbeat and positive.

Dreaming in Color Deck — Emotional and spiritual states linked to artwork. Good for pulling emotions out of people stuck in their head. I’ve written about these before — click here.

Planning on Purpose Deck — A boring-looking, badly-printed deck by a career counseling center that is absolutely the best informal tool around for figuring out what your life priorities are. It’s supposedly geared towards career but the conversation can quickly become existential as the client figures out what matters in life. Using them is deceptively simple — clients sort the cards (with phrases such as “Nesting, creating a home”, “Sports, sports”, and “Leaving the World a Better Place”) into piles of low and high interest. Then they rank order the most important pile. Then you discuss how to bring their life into accordance with their top rank-ordered values. Good for helping break depression.
Healing the Mind and Spirit Cards — Advice for living with positive affirmations to change your thoughts. Good for when someone needs an “answer” and hope.

Hudes Tarot Deck — I almost never use Tarot cards. If I do, its in the context of architypal work. Along the lines of “find the cards that remind you of parts of yourself”. Useful in this way for helping people come to appreciate and be aware of all of the parts inside them. Usually the client is already familiar with Tarot or I find another way to work. This is one of my favorite decks.




Northern VA Pagan Pride Day

Yesterday was fun.  I set up a booth at the Northern VA Pagan Pride Day event and got to speak with a handful of folks therapist shopping and otherwise wishing to relate their story.  Several came up to me after my workshop on trauma disorders and how they can effect or groups.  I had around 30 people sitting in on my workshop — always nice when there is interest!  A perfect day after the remains of Hurricane Hanna blew through the day before.  Thanks to the Becoming folks and event organizers for all the help setting up.