20 students along with myself and Dr. Diane Langberg just finished a 3 day marathon together at Biblical’s Hatfield campus. This inaugural cohort has been studying together via our e-campus since January. We’ve read books, articles, watched slides shows, and discussed a wide variety of topics (e.g., the psychological, social, spiritual, biological impact of trauma, shame, culture, strengths-based listening skills, and faith and psychological intervention strategies). At this meeting, we continued to consider how to listen and respond to traumatized individuals in places other than our own.
Morning Session: Romania
Our morning consisted of a live engagement (thank you Google Hangout!) with mental health practitioners in Romania. Dr. Ileana Radu and Stefana Racorean hosted the meeting. The Romanian contingent consisted of mental health therapists, psychiatrists, and Christian leaders. As part of their conference, they took time out to ask us questions about trauma, trauma recovery interventions, and integration of psychology and Christian faith practices. In return, we asked them about the mental health scene in Romania, the most common forms of trauma and intervention models in their practices. From our conversations, it appears that they experience a significant divide between secular mental health models or “bible only or prayer only” models.
The conversation bolstered our students understanding of Romanian culture and put a human face to what they had read about regarding torture trauma resulting from pre-revolution days in that country. In addition, students had the opportunity to discuss a couple of PTSD cases written up by mental health practitioners in the conference.
The entire conversation and connection (bridge, according to our new Romanian friends) was the result of Dr. Langberg’s inability to travel to Romania in April. She was to be their keynote speaker but due to the death of her mother, she was unable to attend. The conference was rescheduled and Dr. Langberg spoke via SKYPE and previously recorded DVDs.
Afternoon Session: North Philadelphia
Elizabeth Hernandez, executive director and founder of Place of Refuge, led our afternoon session by giving us a window into the trauma work going in North Philadelphia among the latino population. She shared with us some of the groundbreaking work they are doing with low-income population who have experienced many traumas. The class also engaged around the matter of syncretism (Catholic faith practices mixed with witchcraft and other superstitions) and how faith-based counseling services are delivered.
We ended the day with some brief use of video to “listen” to trauma stories in Eastern Europe and the US. After these engagements, we had our students explore writing their own laments as means to connect with God and concluded with a corporate lament. The purpose of lament is to confess (one’s own sin or the sins of others!), converse with God and others, question God about what we see that is not the way it is supposed to be, and by questioning acknowledge hope in God that he is in the process of redeeming and rescuing a broken world. Lament is not a tool to get better but to connect to each other and to talk to God about our suffering.