Archive for Information & Referrals

New Study Shows Belief in God(s) Helps Mental Health

From the “we already knew this” department:  A new study in the Journal of Affective Disorders shows that people with high or moderate levels of belief in God do better in short-term psychiatric treatment on measures of well-being, intent to hurt themselves, and depression.

I can’t find a link to the original study — here is a short article from psychcentral.com.

It would be nice to see some studies on Pagan beliefs and psychiatric outcomes.  Still — I will take what I can get.

I post this here because I have been thinking about ways in which Pagan clients can better help their counselors be comfortable with spiritual and religious beliefs.

Studies that show that people believing in “God” — and I am going to assume for the moment that this would generalize to gods and goddesses — are mentally healthier would seem to me a positive step towards convincing the mental health profession that spiritual people are onto a good thing.

Mentioning such studies might be a good strategy if you encounter a therapist hesitant on the whole spiritual thing.

 

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Association of Pagan Therapists

There is a new Association of Pagan Therapists forming — so far through the use of a Meetup group.  You can click here to see their webpage:

http://www.meetup.com/Association-of-Pagan-Therapists/

This group is growing out of the recent Pantheacon conference.

The initial focus would seem to be on growing an association of Pagan professionals, advocacy, and perhaps developing tools for other therapists and the community.  This discussion of what the association should be is ongoing.  I’ve joined to participate and check it out.

The focus of the separate and pre-existing Pagan Professional Counseling Yahoo Group has so far been more on case consultations, and peer support for fellow Pagan therapists.

Hard to say if these will remain separate in focus or come together in some way.

— Michael

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Paganism, Sobriety, and AA

I found an interesting take on AA today on CNN’s religion blog.  Click here to see it — it’s entitled My Faithlessness: The atheist way through AA.

The author talks about the difficulty of being an atheist in a room full of Jesus.  She acknowledges the reputation AA has for being kind of a cult in and of itself.  Towards the end she states:

“I believe that the most important spiritual principle of AA is humility. The recognition that we are flawed, that we can and must change and that our purpose not only in sobriety but in life is to be of service to others.”

So she has found a way to spiritually connect in the end — through humility and service and a recognition of flawed nature.  I’m glad for her.

I’m not sure this will work for many Pagan alcoholics.  My Pagan clients are especially annoyed with the emphasis on surrender of power. They tend to think that they need to take back personal power and personal responsibility in order to rebuild themselves. They feel oppressed by the assumptions of one male deity.  They DON’T want a nonspiritual alternative.

See:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pagans_In_Recovery

There are a number of alternative 12- and 13-step Pagan programs.  Here is one such system I like which was created by Circle Sanctuary priestess Selena Fox as part of her counseling master’s degree thesis at University of Wisconsin-Madison entitled “When Goddess is God: Pagans, Recovery, and Alcoholics Anonymous”(1995):

PAGAN TWELVE STEPS

1. We recognize that we have given away personal power by addiction to substances, that this has resulted in dysfunctional living, that it’s time to reclaim our power and restore balance to ourselves and our lives.

2. Came to acknowledge that the Divine Power within can bring about healing change and harmony.

3. Chose to allow the Divine within of our own personal path to be the central guiding force in ourselves and our lives.

4. Examined ourselves deeply and honestly on all dimensions, physical, mental, behavioral, emotional, and spiritual.

5. Acknowledged to the Divine, to our egos, and to at least one ally, what is
unhealthy and unbalanced in our bodies, thoughts, emotions, behaviors & souls.

6. Were ready for the Divine within to work transformation to restore balance to ourselves and our lives.

7. Sincerely invited the Divine within to dispel barriers to change, and to facilitate transformation.

8. Made a lists of all beings we have harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

9. Made direct amends to such beings as much as possible, except when to do so would cause harm to them or others or make a difficult situation worse.

10. Continued our process of self-examination, acknowledging our strengths as well as our problems, promptly acknowledging our mistake & successes when they occurred.

11. Sought through spiritual activities such as rituals, meditations, chanting, dancing,
rhythm making, invocations, prayers, vigils, nature walks, journal writing, and other practices, to strengthen our relationship with the Divine within and to allow this dimension of ourselves to be the guiding force in our lives.

12 . Having had a spiritual rebirth as a result of this process of healing transformation, we continue to work with these principles and are willing to share our story with those who come to us in need.

There actually used to be a Pagan AA meeting in office space I rented on Saturdays before the local Pagan shop Mystickal Voyage shut-down.   I’d love to know if they managed to relocate somewhere nearby.

I will comment that vanilla AA is often effective. I’m frequently glad it exists.  I think most of the problems are as much a result of local failings and local members as of the AA system itself.  Few groups run perfectly as intended.

My occasional objections to it are along the lines of AA as its own religion, the 12-Steps and the program being  inviolate and those questioning are “in denial”, and of course the emphasis on surrender to higher power.  Again — much of this depends upon how the local meeting is run.

Here are a few of the other variants I hear from my clients (Pagan or not):

1) Frequent complaints by high IQ clients that it seems simplistic and not open to intelligent challenge.

2) Frequent complaints of hypocritical/relapsing sponsors.

I’m not sure there is a summary point to this posting — I guess maybe that some flexibility is needed in finding a path to sobriety and to the Divine.  Also that such flexibility is being created by Pagans and atheists and others who need the help while stuck in our mainstream culture.

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Depression & Couple’s Counseling Blog Round-Ups

The parent website for these links looks a little corporate but the links themselves look quite good:

Here is a round-up of 25 couple’s therapy blogs.

Here is a round-up of 50 blogs about depression.

If these are topics that highly interest you the articles above should help you find several new blogs with lots of information of interest.

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Paganism as a Religion

The debate on whether or not the terms “Pagan” and “Neo-Pagan” represent all of us and whether or not they should be capitalized and considered as a religion has been raging for sometime across the blogsphere.

There are plenty of excellent places to go for more on this topic, but of course the Wild Hunt blog has two recent entries (with lots of additional links) located here and here.

My viewpoint is likely an older one but still rings true to me — I believe it is mostly that of Michael York who has a whole book entitled Pagan Theology: Paganism as a World Religion.  In it he argues that the basic tenets of our religions and spiritualities are similar enough that the whole umbrella term “Pagan” ought to be considered as a religion itself.

While I do firmly believe the above, there is a more important political reason (at least in the USA).  The easiest way for the right-wing evangelicals to deny us civil rights is to simply label our movement/s “not a religion”.  They side-step the whole issue of religious rights and put us outside the religious tent altogether.

Wicca MIGHT be able to fight its way into the religious tent of civil rights.  Asatru and Druidism might eventually manage it also.  But frankly our religions are small enough and disorganized enough that we don’t want to be doing this one small group at a time.  If you happen to be a member of one of the many tiny religious groups (4 people?, 12 people?, etc.) who don’t quite subscribe to the tenets of the “larger” groups like Wicca, you can forget being treated equally in the eyes of the law if Paganism in general is not regarded as a religion.

I’m told that Hinduism is/was a British colonial construction.  That each small village throughout India had its own local gods and goddesses and spirits and its own take on doing things.  They were all vaguely related of course.  In that case the British IMHO did them a favor in the sense of considering Hinduism all one religion — today that religion is able to speak as one very large entity when comes to asserting religious rights in the USA.

We need to fight for the term Pagan to be a religion and to represent all of us.  We can figure out later amongst ourselves how to tolerate internal differences, how much generic Wiccan practices are the default at festival rituals, etc.

— Michael

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The Pagan Journey — 2011 Interfaith Film Festival

Not perfectly on-topic — but I wanted to take a moment to say thanks to the Washington, DC area local producers and Pagan leaders who produced and appeared in the film “The Pagan Journey” — part of the 2011 Interfaith Film Festival and, I’m told, their “Proclamation of Faith” category winner.

I know several of these folks and I’m delighted to see their work and see it do well!

You can see “The Pagan Journey” here

The YouTube channel for the 2011 Interfaith Film Festival is here

— Michael

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Staff of Asclepius: Pagans With Disabilities & Health Conditions

I added a new blog to the Pagan Counseling links section (scroll down on right-hand side).   Staff of Asclepius is an attractive blog mostly about Pagan health issues.  The main author Masery posts an interesting mix of Pagan health news (much of it mental health-related), interviews, and personal observations.

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New Pagan Psychology Blog

Dr. Valerie Cole,  the Department Chair of the Pagan Pastoral Counseling program at Cherry Hill Seminary, has started a new blog.

Dr. Cole’s blog is mainly for “psychotherapists, psychologists, helping professionals of all kinds, scientists and others who would like to discuss how a pagan perspective informs our understanding of the human psyche.”

Her first promising post is entitled “What if We are All God?”  Her blog can be

http://paganpsychology.blogspot.com/ 

I'm looking forward to it.

-- Michael

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Information on Paganism and Wicca for Counselors

I’ve posted many of these resources here before, but never in one entry.  I suppose this should evolve into a resource guide — but for now it will do as a post entry.

~~~~~~~~~

WEBSITES:

My website at http://www.pagantherapy.com has basic information on what Paganism is.

http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/pagan_professional_counseling/
http://www.pagantherapy.com/pagan-professional-counseling-yahoo-group/

Information on a Yahoo Group of professional therapists interested in counseling Pagans or religiously Pagan themselves. 100+ members strong worldwide.

Covenant of the Goddess (CoG): http://www.cog.org — Has a good basic faqs section on witchcraft, Paganism, and Wicca.

The Witches’ Voice: http://www.witchvox.com/basics/wfaq.html — Another good FAQ on Wicca and Paganism.

The Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids: http://www.druidry.org/ — Good basic site about modern Druids.

Raven Kindred (Asatru): http://www.ravenkindred.com — Good site about Asatru (Norse Gods worship)

The Shadow of Olympus (Hellenismos): http://www.iskios.com — Blog and information on the worship of the Greek/Roman Gods in modern times.

I have put together several other sources for finding out more about Neo-Paganism and Wicca. Most of these are resources I developed — but you can see bibliographies and links at the end of several of them to other materials by other presenters.

PAPER:
“Understanding and Counseling Neo-Pagan and Wiccan Clients”. A comprehensive paper intended for publication. Please note the bibliography at the end of the paper. Even if you are not really looking to read the paper — there is a long list of websites and other information sources in the Suggested Resources and References sections at its end.

http://www.pagantherapy.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/Pagan_and_Wicca_-…

PRESENTATIONS:

1) Pagans and Counseling — My lecture notes for a workshop I give to therapists and social workers about Paganism. These are a bit rough — but can largely be deciphered on their own.

http://www.pagantherapy.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/Pagans-and-Counse…

2) Pagans and Hospitals: Meeting the Growing Need — An old slideshow I did primarily devoted to educating hospital chaplains about how to deal with Pagan patients. See:

http://www.washington-baltimore-paganclergy.org/archives/hospital-chapla…

http://www.washington-baltimore-paganclergy.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/20…

PODCAST INTERVIEW:
This podcast might be a good place to start if you have Pagan clients and are trying to figure out how to better service them. It’s primarily aimed at potential Pagan clients who are trying to decide what to expect from therapy.

You can download the entire .mp3 file directly at this link:
http://download.imbleedingprofusely.com/pcp/PcpEpisode108.mp3

A full minute-by-minute outline of the topics discussed is available here:
http://imbleedingprofusely.com/archives/tag/pcp108/

If you have trouble with the above links, the show can be downloaded from iTunes. Search for episode #108 of the show “Pagan Centered Podcast”.

Their main website is at http://www.pagancenteredpodcast.com

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PCP Episode #108 is Online!

Pagan Centered Podcast (PCP) episode #108 is now online.  As I discussed in earlier posts here and here, we discuss several topics related to therapy and Paganism for a bit over an hour.  It’s been online for 3 days and already has 424 downloads — I’m psyched! (Bad pun intended.)

Amber and Dave at PCP also posted a nice outline of the show online so that if you are interested in a specific topic you can jump right to the portion of the show that it’s discussed.

The outline of the show is here.

The actual .mp3 file is available for download here.

This show is also available through iTunes.

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