When I was picked up at the Jackson airport, I was asked, “What would you like for dinner?” I suggested we have something unique to the region, so my host suggested Catfish Haven, a local spot for fresh catfish. The catfish was good, very good, but I was most surprised by the side order of fried pickles. I understand that you can fry anything in the South, but I’ve not really had as much experience with it. I also understand that this is not that odd – compared perhaps to the fried twinkies you can pick up at a carnival. But I enjoyed them nonetheless.
The reason I was in Jackson was to present at the 2009 Counseling Conference at Reformed Theological Seminary. The training program at RTS prepares students for licensure as marriage and family therapists (MFT) or counselors. They had asked me to go over research on sexual orientation and then to present on ethical and counseling issues that come up for Christian counselors. In the morning session we reviewed recent research on prevalence, etiology of homosexuality, mental health correlates, and the question of change.
The afternoon session focused on ethics. We discussed the AAMFT Code of Ethics, recent statements by the ACA, and recent developments in the APA. Since the students were primarily MFTs, we focused mostly on the AAMFT and how Christians practice when value conflicts may arise. Of course, Christians in the field are not the only ones who experience value conflicts. In fact, nearly every textbook I’ve reviewed has indicated that value conflicts will arise between a counselor and a client, and it is more of a question of whether the conflict will be an obstacle to services. If so, a referral is typically recommended.
The conference continued on Saturday, but I had to catch a flight back home. It was a good visit, and I enjoyed interacting with the faculty, students and alumni at RTS. They have been doing some nice work there, and their graduates appear to have a very good reputation in the community. It was a nice idea to host a conference primarily for your graduates; it allows you to visit and get reacquainted while also getting updates on recent findings in the field. It’s also great for graduates – why shouldn’t they stay in the area? They can can get their fill of catfish and fried pickles anytime they want.