Philadelphia area Healing the Wounds of Trauma Initial Equipping


Announcing the initial equipping training for those interested in becoming certified in the Healing the Wounds of Trauma curriculum. This will be offered at Biblical Seminary in Hatfield, PA, July 18-21, 2018. There are three ways the course is offered:

  • Graduate credit (2 credits, with pre and post course work)
  • Audit (shows up on a transcript)
  • Continuing education (NBCC approved CEs for social workers and professional counselors)

Teachers will be Heather Drew and myself.

For more information, start here. If you are interested in learning this train-the-trainer model of trauma care designed to raise up safe faith communities, this might be the training for you.

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MOTB Presentation: The Role of the Bible in Prisoner Transformation


On June 7, 2018 (6-7p EDT), I will be participating in a speaker series presentation at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, DC. I’ll be offering a brief response to Dr. Byron Johnson who is the main attraction. My focus will be on our trauma healing curriculum and program in jails and prisons. In addition, there will be a response by Prison Fellowship, International.

You can see the details here. I believe it will be aired on Fb Live.

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Signs of over-hyped psychotherapy treatment?


Donald Meichenbaum and Scott Lilienfeld have recently published a short essay entitled: How to spot hype in the field of psychotherapy: A 19-item checklist.† This can be helpful for both counselors and future clients who are both hungry for finding “what works.”

Before giving their 19 warning signs they remind readers of two important factors:

  • General factors in therapy (alliance, therapist skill, client commitment) do account for significant portion of the positive effects of many therapies but this should not be taken to mean that any therapy will work fine. In fact there is evidence that some therapies are harmful.
  • It is helpful to have some self-doubt. Skepticism can be helpful, both in maintaining some humility and self-reflection of what we think works. The authors quote another who suggested to therapist that they should “love yourself as a person, doubt yourself as a therapist.” And to point to the challenge with this, they cite a study of 129 therapists where many therapists rated themselves as effective as 80% of all therapists while no one actually rated themselves as below average. Maybe these therapists live in Lake Wobegon?

Warning signs?

I will not repeat the actual language of their checklist but will give you a summary

  1. Language. How do they talk about the intervention? Revolutionary? Ground-breaking? Do they use psycho and neuro-babble? The authors point out that dropping words like neural networks, body memories, and the like do not substitute for scientific evidence.
  2. Illustrations. Does the “packaging” feel slick? Lots of scientific-looking images (brains, PET scans, etc.)?  Lots of explaining how something works but no evidence offered that it works (beyond anecdotes)?
  3. In-group focus. How much do they refer to gurus, name-drop recognized leader endorsements? Do they offer special certifications that only they offer and special in-group activities that you can only get if you pay for it? Do they slough off critics and criticisms for not being on the inside. You can’t critique us because you didn’t see what only the in-group people see. 
  4. Effectiveness. What evidence do they offer that it works? Anecdotes? Testimonies? Years of experience? Every treatment must start with anecdotes until it can get published research studies. But compare the language used to talk about effectiveness (and also lack of side effects) and the amount of published data. If the volume of data is limited, then the language should be as well. Also, are there any studies done by someone other than key authors and disciples?

These warning signs do not mean a treatment protocol will not work or is not a break-through. Certainly older well-accepted treatments may work less well than the new treatment. Just because the mainstream does not yet accept a new theory or intervention should not be a reason to reject it. But healthy skepticism is still warranted. Be wary of hype and over-promotion. Things that are said to work for everyone rarely do. Solutions to complex problems rarely can be found in a few quick steps or sessions.

Desperation pushes us to find solutions. I was challenged to find a solution to a friend’s mental health concerns. In exploring options we came across an intervention that held our interest. But upon further investigation we discovered it would cost $3,000 up front and take 30 sessions before knowing if it would be effective. A further review found many claims of huge successes and when we asked the practitioner about when it doesn’t work the answers given were clearly defensive. In addition, we could find no one at established university programs offering training and research provided could only be characterized as superficial despite the intervention being around for a nearly 20 years. Bottom line: we went looking for something else. The intervention might work but we didn’t want to risk the time it would take to find out if it would work.

†Meichenbaum, D. & Lilienfeld, S.O. (2018). How to spot hype in the field of psychotherapy: A 19-item checklist. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 49, 22-30.

 

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Living with the Inheritance of Trauma


Last week at the Global Community of Practice, Dr. Diane Langberg and I presented “Living with the Inheritance of Trauma” as a kick-off to the conference theme on trauma through the generations. Our two-part presentation can be found here.

Diane’s presentation begins at the 12:05 minute mark. She explores the impact of complex trauma on stages of individual and social identity development and how this has an impact on trauma being passed on to the next generation.

My portion begins at the 58:30 minute mark. I consider some examples of direct and indirect transmission of trauma across generations as well as the systems that maintain trauma transmission. This is a question that I asked the audience and I ask you:

What are the social conditions and structures that maintain systems that transmit trauma to the next generation?

If the question seems a bit obtuse, you can listen to the case I read from “The Warmth of Other Suns” (p 62f) which begins at the 1:08:32 mark. Or, if you didn’t see Rod Williams presentation the next day, check out this video on mass incarceration.

My question really is this: what are the factors outside of individual behavior (e.g., one traumatized person’s behavior towards another) that maintain conditions encouraging generational trauma? And for those of the higher caste in a society: what are the mechanisms that enable those with greater social power to (a) avoid many generational traumas and to (b) remain blind to the structures and systems at work?

 

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Live stream the 2018 Global Community of Practice conference, March 13-15


This year the Global Community of Practice is on the theme of generational trauma (and its antidotes). If you aren’t coming, you may wish to access the live stream link below and watch the main sessions. I believe the link will contain the means to text or type logo-thiquestions and comments to what you are seeing. A moderator will review the comments and questions to be included in large group discussions so your thoughts may well be part of the global discussion.

See Agenda flyer listing the program for the next three days. The times listed are Eastern Daylight Time. Be sure to note the time that Diane Langberg is speaking on Tuesday on “living with generational trauma” and her closing on Thursday afternoon. There are many other can’t miss moments: devotions by Rev. Gus Roman and Carol Bremer-Bennett; presentations by Dr. Michael Lyles, Carolyn Custis James, Rod Williams and many more.

Live stream link: abs.us/COPLive

 

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When don’t we support victims of abuse?


At the American Bible Society, where I work, those of us involved in trauma healing often say that what gets us up in the morning is our mission to equip the church to be a safe place, a place of hope and healing, for traumatized individuals. I think most Christians want to believe that the church is a safe place for the most vulnerable among us.

But this has not been the case for far to many who report child or adult abuse and harassment.

Now, as a son of a pastor, I am well aware of the challenges pastors and church leaders have in leading their congregations. Frequently, the leaders need the wisdom of Solomon, especially in cases of life and death conflict. The work of pastoring through abuse allegations is never easy. Don’t let your love of the church stop you from reading the rest!

I imagine we all believe that the Church can do so much better. And we ought to be asking ourselves, why have we failed as much as we have? In theory, we are always against abuse and always for protecting the vulnerable. But it does not always play out this way.

Consider what responses might be given to these three “first meeting” vignettes:

  1. A woman comes to church leadership to seek pastoral support in light of her husband’s abusive behavior. This man is well-known to be antagonistic to church and to the Christian faith.
  2. A woman comes seeking pastoral support in light of her husband’s abusive behavior. This man is well-respected in the community and has been a Sunday School teacher for the past decade. She is also known to be a wise and careful woman.
  3. A woman comes seeking pastoral support in light of her husband’s abusive behavior. The man is involved in the church and the woman has been known to be a bit of a church hopper.

Whether or not there is objective evidence supporting her allegations what response should these women receive? Will it be the same? Will the compassion and support offered be the same for each woman? Who will be treated with more compassion, who will be treated with more suspicion (or even just neutrality)? Will the amount of circumstantial evidence influence our response?

Minto, Hornsey, Gillespie, Healy, & Jetten (2016) have attempted to research (a) whether we are more likely to fail to support abuse victims when the abuser is one of our own and (b) whether circumstantial evidence will change our position. [You can download their full-text research essay here.] Their interest was exploring how social identity (what group you are a part of and have pride in) influences how we handle allegations of abuse by fell0w group members.

Study 1. 601 individuals read a vignette of an adult male alleging that a priest sexually abused him as a ten year old. The vignette included details of the alleged abuse and the rebuttal made by the defense attorney for the priest. Catholics, Prostestants, and non-believers all rated the assumed credibility of the victim and the perpetrator. Results indicate both Catholic and Protestant individuals with high church identity were significantly more likely to defend the accused and doubt the accuser. This was especially true if their faith was central to their core identity.

Study 2. 404 individuals also read the same vignette however the level of circumstantial evidence against the priest was manipulated. For some, the survey participants learned that church authorities were not defending the priest and that there had been a previous suspension for similar behavior (i.e., higher certainty of truth). The remaining participants learned that there had been no other cases and that this case was thrown out for insufficient evidence. The results for this study indicate,

ingroup participants were more likely to defend the integrity of the accused (and to cast doubt on the accuser) than were other participants, an effect that was exclusively driven by high identifiers. Interestingly–and somewhat surprisingly–this effect was not moderated by the subjective level of certainty surrounding the guilt of the accused.

In other words, those who highly identify with the Catholic church are more likely to defend the accused even when there is considerable circumstantial evidence against that person.

While this research was carried out examining responses to Catholic priest allegations, it appears that the problem does not lie only within the Church. Consider the obstructing responses of Michigan State to allegations of Dr. Nasser’s abuse of young female athletes over the years. The authors conclude,

Our data confirm that such highly identified ingroup members are the least willing to believe that the accusations are based on fact. This helps to provide psychological explanations for qualitative and anecdotal accounts of senior group members failing to adequately follow up allegations of child sexual abuse within their institution.

But why? The authors ask, wouldn’t the ingroup members be more motivated to purify their ranks by rejecting those who are accused of bad behavior? What is gained (or lost) by standing by accusers when the there is circumstantial evidence of abuse and no evidence of circumstantial evidence of lying on the side of the accuser? This is the challenge for those of use who listen to stories of abuse that happen in our own cherished communities.

Until we solve this problem, we will stand with the young women who accused Dr. Nasser of sexual abuse because he was not one of us but refuse to do the same when the accused is one of our own.


For further reading on reasons why we fail to act well in light of abuse allegations or reports of failures to act:

  1. Why we fail to act: Sins of complicity
  2. Failures to act: Why we don’t always blow the whistle on abuse
  3. After failures: What is more important? Gospel behaviors or reduction of liability?

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Filed under Abuse, Christianity: Leaders and Leadership, church and culture, Uncategorized

Generational Trauma the theme for the 2018 Global Community of Practice


Each March, the American Bible Society’s Trauma Healing Institute hosts the Global Community of Practice. This year its theme is on the topic of Generational Trauma. We will have presentations about historic and generational trauma and the ways the church can be an agent of healing. Here is the official description

The 2018 Global Community of Practice Gathering will explore trauma
and healing through generations. You will hear from a wide range
of global speakers about how trauma gets passed down from one
generation to the next, infuses social structures, and results in unique
symptoms calling for unique responses. As always, we will focus on
how the Church (that’s you!) is helping

If you are interested in this topic, want to rub shoulders with those involved in trauma healing around the world, or want to get a taste of the trauma healing curriculum we use, register now.

When is it? March 13-15, 2018

Where is it? The American Bible Society headquarters at 101 N. Independence Mall East, Philadelphia, PA.

How do I find out more details? This link Registration flyer – COP Gathering will give you the details, show you the speakers and topics, and provide the link to register. Don’t delay. Last year we turned people away!

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Questions about the APA Guidelines for PTSD treatment?


Check out this opinion piece (rebuttal) published in Psychology Today by Jonathan Shedler. It challenges the notion that randomized control trials (RCTs) are the “gold standard” to determine the best forms of treatment in the real world. While RCTs can answer certain questions, he argues they cannot answer the most important questions. As a result, the APA recommended treatments are all short-term treatments but will not be able to tell us whether those who undergo the treatment really get better and what options are available for those who drop-out of treatment (there is a significant drop-out rate with several of these recommended treatments).

For those interested in this controversy, I’d like to find out if you have (a) heard anyone challenging Shedler’s criticism and (b) what alternatives are offered by them. I’ve seen zero challenges to his piece to date.

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Jonah 4: Do YOU have a right to be angry about injustice? Jonah’s anger is not the problem…


Last Sunday I did something I rarely do (at least in the United States). I preached. In the sermon I explore Jonah’s anger and our anger about injustice. I point out that the problem is not that Jonah is angry but that he is hardened and blinded. And then I end with the good news about how God relates to angry people and what he does to injustice.

You can listen here: 

(recording by New Life Glenside, original here)

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Shame and ministry of seeing vulnerable people


When Jesus saw her [someone crippled for 18 years], he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” (Luke 13:12)

When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6)

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (Matthew 9:36)

When you think of Jesus’ ministry, you may think about the miracles or the sermons or the conflicts with the priests or the conversations with his disciples. But notice how much of his ministry is the work of seeing invisible and burdened people; people with shame. He sees lepers, the blind man Bartimaeus, the bleeding woman, the Samaritan woman, the centurion with a sick child, the rich young ruler and many more.

He had to see them; he had to go through Samaria. Why did he have to go? He had to go in order to meet broken people where they lived (or sat or lay).

Crossing the chasm of shame 

This past weekend I taught at Biblical Seminary on the topic of pornography and sexual addiction. The MDiv course, was designed less to help current and future pastors help addicts and more to help ministry leaders address their own struggles with sexual shame.  The truth is that we all carry around in our being some form of sexual shame. It is something we want to hide and keep from others. We don’t want this shame to be seen, even if our shame is caused by the sins of others.

During the class I asked everyone to consider one of their experiences of shame and to then list on separate post-its what sensations, images, feelings and thoughts that it might evoke (HT to the post-it queen herself–Heather Drew–for this idea!). Then, I had them consider what sensations, images, feelings and thoughts they had when they recalled a time they felt loved and cared for by someone who knew that shame story they carried. Students then placed their post-its on opposite walls of a hall. Silently the class first examined the shame side and then moved to consider the grace side. While it was easy to move from shame to grace in our activity, we considered the chasm shame creates and the impossibility of really being seen AND loved at the same time.

When I asked students how they moved from shame to grace in their own lives, the stories contained a common element. There was someone who pursued them, who stuck out a hand and drew them out of their shame. This someone was someone who saw them and love them just the same.

This is the central ministry of Jesus. He crosses the chasm of shame and sees (and touches) the unloved. Lest you think that God the father is a distant member of the trinity, remember that his first action after Adam and Eve sinned was to go find them. He pursued them. He saw them. He engaged in conversation. He provided a covering for them. Some of the most beautiful images of this ministry of seeing us in our shame and pursuing us just the same is found in the book of Hosea. Depicted as a wayward wife who has returned to prostitution, God’s people are pursued by him, bought back from the pimp and invited back into the marriage bed.

The main ministry of Jesus is pursuit of broken people, to see them and touch them. It is not to put them in a program of change as we are often want to do. Rather, Jesus invites those he loves to remain connected to him, to follow him. Consider the invitations Peter received before and after the crucifixion:

Peter said to him, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “if I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” (John 13:8)

He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.” (John 21:17f)

What if the work of the church is to see and serve shamed individuals? How might this change how we evaluate Christian ministry outcomes?

 

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