Category Archives: AACC

Repost at AACC: Seven Questions About Your Church Abuse Prevention Policy

The AACC has reposted my blog designed to help church leaders and counselors review current child abuse prevention policies. You can see the post at their site by clicking here.

As I say in the post, every church with any insurance policy likely has some measure of policy. However, why settle for something designed only to limit liability? Such an approach does not seek first the protection of the vulnerable. Rather, limiting liability places the protection of the organization ahead of the protection of children. In fact, policies that are tools of protection of children will also limit liability. We just need to get the order straight.

For further information and help with child protection, don’t forget to check out G.R.A.C.E.


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Filed under AACC, Abuse, Christianity, Christianity: Leaders and Leadership, church and culture, ethics

Self-care or stewardship?

Last night, Dr. Tan (Fuller) spoke on the topic of self-care. During the presentation he interacted with Dr. Sally Schwer Canning’s short essay in a previous Journal of Psychology & Christianity issue (2001, v 30, p 70-74). Dr. Canning raised some concerns about self-care and “balance” language. We all know that we can get out of balance and that we do need to do things to care for ourselves. However, there are times, Dr. Tan said, that we are put out of balance by God. He reminded us of Paul’s statement that he was overwhelmed to the point of despairing of life. He was ship-wrecked and more.

In the name of self-care, we sometimes put up inappropriate boundaries.

Both Tan and Canning suggest that “stewardship” may be a better image for us to us? How are we stewarding the gifts and resources we have, even when life is out of balance?

What do you think? Does stewardship get the same point as self-care?


Filed under AACC, christian counseling

Guest Post at Society for Christian Psychology, the on-line home for the Society for Christian Psychology has posted a recent post of my own on their site and newsletter. You can find it here. Check out the rest of their site to find great full-length articles and journals. The Society is a division of AACC.

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Filed under AACC, christian counseling, christian psychology, Christianity, conflicts

DRC/Rwanda Trip: Day 9

October 19, 2011, Kigali, Rwanda

Finally! Our conference begins. 19 separate group represented here for a total of 42 caregivers. Baraka Unwingeneye (IJM and lay counselor trainer) opened the conference with small and large group discussions on the causes, symptoms, and definition of trauma. The participants were active in discussions. The energy is high! Baraka concluded her section by reminding us all that everyone can be traumatized, even the strong in body and faith. Diane then spoke for 50 minutes or so on the nature of traumatic memory and an overview of the first two phases of intervention. Her voice was a bit weak as she came down with a cold but she delivered it well just the same. Her outline provided a useful reminder of treatment necessity: talking…tears…time. She concluded with some discussion of how having healing relationships, a purpose, and faith all play significant roles in the recovery process.

We ended the morning with a handkerchief project where participants created a depiction of their grief/suffering and then shared it with others. We knew this was going to be powerful and that it would take time. However, we were somewhat surprised at just how powerful it was and how much the participants valued telling others (in dyads and groups) a portion of their trauma story. Several told us that even though they had been counseling others since the genocide in 1994, they had never told anyone their own trauma story.

Our afternoon continued with small and large group activities/discussions and concluded with a question and answer session. The group is hungry for information and we do not have to do much to encourage conversation, discussion, and engagement. Our late afternoon and evening is spent resting, planning for tomorrow’s work and enjoying each other’s company. The food continues to be outstanding at Solace. The only complaint I have is how early the roosters and birds start calling. 4 am is way too early for this. Just outside my window is something sounding like a bird having swallowed a bugle. I later discover it is the gray crowned crane. Here’s a short video I shot from my balcony where I got it to “sing.”  (photos by Joshua Straub)

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Filed under AACC, counseling, counseling skills, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Rwanda, trauma

DRC/Rwanda Trip: October 13, 2011

Up by 5:30am, a nice breakfast (omelet, Nescafe, fresh avocado half, and bread with Nutella), and then a trip to the airport to catch another MAF flight hop south to Beni (3 hour stop) and then on to Goma in the afternoon.

The flight to Beni from Bunia lasts about 35 minutes and travels a over verdant landscapes criss-crossed with reddish dirt paths. Wish we could stop here and there to check out some of the remote places. We see frequent fires being used to burn vegetation to prepare the land for farming. We arrived on time to Beni, a tiny dirt-tracked airport. I do not believe the small building space we walked through had electricity. Surprisingly, the road outside the airport was paved. In fact, it was the best paved road I saw in all of the DRC. We hear that the Chinese built it. What is the pay off for them I wonder.

Our quick car trip takes us to UCBC, a bilingual christian university in the town. We met with a number of young teachers and staff along with Daniel Masumbuko Kasereka, the chaplain and an administrator. The school was running some intensive English language classes in preparation of the start of a new term. Here too we hear about the trauma in students and the negative impact on their learning. We also learn about their attempts to bring some trauma recovery to the community by hosting some seminars using the trauma/reconciliation materials of Rhiannon Lloyd. We hear of sex trafficking and abduction of women by militias. Our time is short but we do have some good conversation with them. Nice to meet Baraka Kasali, the son of the rector and someone who clearly was raised in the US but using his talents in this small area. Also, met an American, Bethany Earickson who teaches English here.

Our time is short so we say our goodbyes (after using the pit toilets), pile back in the car and head back to the MAF plane awaiting our trip to Goma. We arrive at Goma around 1:00pm. Sadly, it was raining and so we did not get a view of the massive volcano just outside Goma. Instead we dodged clouds, flew over high peaks and Lake Albert, and then flew just above the tree tops to avoid turbulence.

First sights at the airport are rusting UN aircraft, lookouts, someone who demands money for landing, and customs officials who laboriously re-enter all of our visa information. Our passports disappear and then reappear. Not sure what they do with them.The trip to the hotel is our first glimpse of this chaotic city. All streets are rutted with potholes and unpaved. Piles of lava chunks litter the streets. Besides potholes and lava, you see boys going in every direction pushing the congolese “bike” as they transport goods hither and yon?

We arrive at Hotel Linda by 2pm. Hotel Linda sits on the edge (literally) of Lake Kivu. It is a beautiful view and beautiful sound (waves). This will be our home base for the next several days. Kingfishers are sitting on flowers outside my room. I find that the hotel has a public computer and free (slow) internet so I quick pop off an email to my family to let them know we have arrived. We have time to rest and talk about what we have so far seen and heard and how we might develop a trauma curriculum for training the faculties of various schools. For dinner, I choose Capitaine fish (chunks not fillet) cooked in spices and a banana leaf. Excellent.

Tomorrow begins an intense time of listening to trauma workers and trauma victims.

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Filed under AACC, counseling, counseling science, Uncategorized

Trauma Recovery Work in Africa: Itinerary

Those of you interested in trauma recovery work can feel free to pray through our upcoming trip and itinerary (as well as for our families!). Our team (Diane Langberg, Carol King, Josh Straub, Baraka Unwingeneye, Josephine Munyeli, and me) will be providing a 3 day trauma recovery training for Rwandan nationals October 19-21 funded by generous donors from the AACC and WorldVision. Diane and I are leaving early for some assessment work with the American Bible Society and national bible societies in the region.

  • Oct 10-11: DL and PM to Entebbe, Uganda to meet up with African and American Bible Society leaders
  • Oct 12: DL and PM (via MAF plane) to Bunia, DRC to meet with Bible Society workers and those receiving care
  • Oct 13: DL and PM (via MAF plane) to Beni, DRC to meet with seminary/university professionals; then on to Goma, DRC
  • Oct 14-16: DL and PM meeting with Bible Society staff, trauma victims, and trauma recovery workers in Goma, DRC
  • Oct 14: JS and CK to leave for Kigali, RW
  • Oct 17: DL and PM to drive from Goma, DRC to Kigali, RW
  • Oct 18: Meetings, prep for conference
  • Oct 19-21: Conference lead by BU, JM, DL, JS, CK, and PM for WorldVision workers, clergy, educators, and others
  • Oct 21: Leave Kigali
  • Oct 22: Arrive Philadelphia

Pray for health, safety, ability to listen well, to teach well and to be flexible. Pray for our families in just the same way.

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Filed under "phil monroe", AACC, christian counseling, christian psychology, Democratic Republic of Congo, Goma, Rwanda, teaching counseling, trauma

Healing Trauma in International Settings: AACC Seminar

Today, Carol King and myself will be presenting this PowerPoint show for our 1 hour breakout at this year’s AACC World Conference. Feel free to check out what we talk about by following the link.

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Filed under AACC, counseling, counseling science, counseling skills, Uncategorized

Off to Nashville!

This marks the 6th trip to the Opryland Hotel for AACC’s World Conference. It is quite the spectacle. I love meeting up with old and new friends. I love the opportunities to teach and learn. I don’t love the Opryland. It is behemoth (though good for exercise) and feels fake after a day or two in the climate controlled indoor bubble. Nice greenery and all but still a bit stifling for my taste.

This year I will be present at the following

  1. 9/27
    1. Speaking to Salvation Army Officers on ministry challenges and spiritual renewal (slides on slides page)
    2. Speaking to golfers at the Project Tuza Golf fund-raiser and dinner about Rwanda and the work we will do there in a few weeks.
  2. 9/28
    1. Presenting with Diane Langberg on Complex Trauma (3 hour pre-conference seminar)
    2. Meeting with the American Bible Society, AACC, and others about supporting global trauma recovery
    3. Meeting with those going to Rwanda to make final plans on our 3 day training of World Vision workers
  3. 9/29 Conference opens!
    1. Attending as many plenary and breakouts as possible
    2. Representing Christian Psychology to counseling students at “Awakenings” event
    3. Pizza with Langberg & Associates staff who will be there!
  4. 9/30
    1. Presenting a 1 hour breakout with Carol King on international trauma recovery (slides on slides page)
  5. 10/1
    1. Making a pitch from the main stage to all attendees during the “ask” for support for Project Tuza.

I think I will be plenty busy. This doesn’t count all the interactions with friends and colleagues I often have. So, I look forward to it and look forward to it being over and returning home to family. Feel free to pray for their stamina as well!


Filed under AACC, christian counseling, christian psychology, Christianity, counseling, counseling skills

Sneak preview: Healing Trauma in International Settings (AACC seminar)

Cascade Atrium, Gaylord Opryland Resort & Conv...

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Just completed preparing my breakout seminar for this year’s AACC World Conference at the beautiful but outlandishly expansive Opryland Hotel in Nashville (Sept 28-Oct 2). This time around I presenting with my colleague Carol King on “Healing Trauma in International Settings: Best Practices.” Carol has had some experience in Rwanda and Goma, DRC and will be with our group in October when we do trauma recovery training in Kigali. Come back to the blog on the 30th and you can see and download the slideshow we will do.

What will we be talking about? 3 main points:

  • Listen…don’t assume you already know trauma or treatment practices
  • Train…don’t do the interventions yourself (train local leaders)
  • Utilize…don’t reinvent the wheel (use existing models)

Now obviously we will be fleshing those points out. Our goal is to help prepare interested counselors to develop short and long-range intervention strategies that utilize the cultural and human resources of the people they will serve. The only way to do this well is to have a listening and collaborative/support role approach. To that end I will talk about hoe to build an effective area case map.  We end by reviewing a few models for trauma recovery (both Christian and secular).

Check back on the 30th for the full set of slides.

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Filed under AACC, Abuse, christian counseling, christian psychology, Christianity, counseling, counseling science, counseling skills, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Competing Models of Christian Counseling? Who is Right?

A couple of recent pieces have me thinking about (a) models of Christian counseling and, (b) the intramural conversation amongst Christians on which model is most Christian. One piece is David Powlison’s article in the Summer 2011 issue of the Westminster Today magazine (this link is to the magazine site but the current issue is not yet up). The second is by Ed Welch–a blog on Biblical Counseling Coalition website.

This is not a new topic for me. From my “About Me” page you can see that I have training in biblical counseling and also in clinical psychology. I respect the folks at CCEF who had a huge impact on my life and thought–especially that lovely editor they employ ;). While getting my PsyD I published on the historic divide between biblical counselors and Christian psychologists and the need to build bridges. I’m an associate editor for Edification, a Christian Psychology peer-reviewed journal.

All that to say, I have some thoughts on some ways we might move beyond right/wrong while still being concerned about building a clear, cogent, God-honoring model of Christian counseling.

Drop the labels

Yes, we should drop our labels. What is the difference between a Christian counselor, Christian psychologist, integrationist, or biblical counselor? These differences are as varied as the numbers of people who use them. Yes, there are probably some benefits to communicating a personal stance with one of these terms. But, for every benefit, there are probably any number of negatives, including the use of the label as a curse. “Are you that kind of biblical counselor” (whatever kind you find offensive)? “Are you a Christian who happens to be a psychologist or a Christian psychologist?”

In addition to dropping labels, we should also drop broad brush judgments. Calling Christian psychologists “syncretistic” is offensive and ill-fitting. Calling biblical counselors “psychology bashers” does not accurately portray their nuanced approach. Saying that psychology and biblical counseling is “fundamentally incompatible” (from either side of the debate) ignores the benefits that both sides gather from each other.

No labels? What then?

Facets. I’m sure there going to be problems with this idea too but let us choose to focus on facets of counseling models. For example:

  • How does Scripture shape counseling foundations and goals?
  • How do we learn from, utilize, and critique psychological constructs, data, etc?
  • How does typical human development trajectories influence our understanding of the change process?
  • How do we learn from those who do not share our epistemic foundations?
  • How do we articulate diverse counseling goals (suffering well? symptom reduction? discipleship? skill acquisition? insight?) as all working toward the common goal of glorying God and enjoying him forever.

Listen first, repent first

In Ed’s blog post (linked above on the BCC site), he captures the most essential characteristic needed if we are going to learn from each other. We ought to,

listen and enter into the world of the other person (or in this case the other counseling perspective) in such a way that the person representing the perspective says, “Yes, that’s me. You understand.”

It is a sad thing that we counselor types start with diagnosing other model builders without listening first to both the content of that model and the person behind it. We treat our fellow counselors in ways we would never treat a client. How should we listen to others? Can we see what they see? Can we see what they see that we tend to ignore? Can we see the benefits of what they do and the potential liabilities they see in our model?

Be willing to repent where you have unfairly labeled, categorized, and marginalized one who was working for Christ’s kingdom–even if you think you have been hurt more.

List own weaknesses first

Most debates, whether between thinkers or spouses, rarely succeed in winning over the other person. Why? Because we are too busy defending, explaining away, pointing out the weaknesses of the opponent to actually deal with reality.

Wouldn’t it be refreshing to hear a counseling model builder express his/her models weaknesses or needed growth points first before exploring the deficits of the another? “My model doesn’t yet have a good understanding of ____. Your model does so much better with that and I want to learn from you.”

Build the center

Rather than start with the differences (which do indeed exist), what if we cataloged the similarities and areas of agreement among Christian models of counseling? In addition, what if we recognized those things we might not have noticed with out the help of those outside our own community. For example, Scripture may speak a great deal about loving neighbors but a particular model of psychology may flesh out what loving a very unique population of client ought to look like. Even if Scripture is sufficient, we do not diminish it when we acknowledge we hadn’t made a particular application without our neighbor’s help.

Acknowledge differences

We will not see eye to eye. We will disagree. Let us acknowledge these where they arise. Let us make sure the differences are real and categorize them into those that are peripheral and those that are substantial. For example, David Powlison speaks about the need for a counseling/care for the soul model back in the 1950s. Despite quality practical theology and discipleship programs, he asked,

But what was the quality [in the 50s] of corporate wisdom in comprehending the dynamics of the human heart? What sustains sufferers and converts sinners? Westminster Today, 4:1 (2011), p7

Right away I ask myself, are these the only two options (sustaining, converting) for Christian counselors? Is it possible also to have the role of treating symptoms? Teaching skills? Reducing suffering? I’m fairly sure that this initial difference is not really there. I suspect David does not reject mercy ministry to reducing suffering. But in dialog, he and I might end up agreeing that some biblical counseling models fail to focus on skill intervention in their quest to address the human heart. And we would likely agree that some christian psychology models fail to address the spiritual discipline of suffering well and the need for conversion. Might we end up agreeing that we want a full-orbed model that neither diminishes nor over-promises symptom care or sanctification?

Promote each other

Finally, we do well to promote each other at our conferences and learning communities. We encourage wide-ranging reading, critical interactions (note, not criticizing), and sharpening of each other. And we commit to lovingly correcting those of our “friends” who speak ill about our neighbors. We reject the fear of defending an outsider for fear of being rejected ourselves. 



Filed under AACC, biblical counseling, CCEF, christian counseling, christian psychology, Christianity, counseling, counseling science, Psychology, Uncategorized