Reflections on CCCU Conference

I recently returned from the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) conference in Atlanta. I was only there for a day, squeezing it in between a visit to Asbury College (Faith & Culture Lectures) and getting back to Regent to interview prospective doctoral students for the psychology program. I went to the morning plenary session by Francis Collins, a Christian and a geneticist who led the Human Genome Project and is director of the National Institutes of Health. The session was opened by a devotional by Lauren Winner, author or Real Sex and Girl Meets God, among other books, and she spoke about “inhabiting time” rather than “spending time” (or other business-related images, such as “wasting” or “saving” time). This was a good fit with the Christian season of Lent.

Collins spoke on the relationship between science and faith in a talk titled, “Finding God’s Truth in Both of God’s Books,” by which he was referring to Nature and Scripture. A take-away line: “Science is a proper form of worship.” This reflects his understanding of Matthew 22:36-37 in which Christians are told to love God with their heart, soul, and mind. He then used his work in genetics and, in particular, in the discussion of human origins, as a kind of case study of the relationship between science and Christianity.

Later that afternoon I gave a talk titled “Navigating Sexual Identity Issues on Christian College Campuses.” The talk drew on a recent study of 104 Christian sexual minorities on three CCCU campuses. I discussed some of the findings from that study, particularly milestone events in sexual identity development and campus climate, in light of a broader discussion of sexual identity, how it develops and synthesizes over time, as well as the two primary challenges for people at this age: identity and community. The gay community offers Christian sexual minorities both a sense of identity and community, and I argued that the church and the CCCU institutions are having difficulty addressing these two central concerns.

If the interest in the session is any indication (the session was filled to capacity), there is a genuine desire among CCCU-affiliated institutions to find ways to address sexual identity issues on their campuses in a way that is helpful to their students and faithful to their Christian commitments.

Visiting Asbury College

On Sunday I head out to Asbury College in Wilmore, Kentucky, for a three-day visit. I’m really looking forward to it. I was at Asbury about five years ago to give a series of talks, and it was a great campus with a real heart for ministry, service, and worship.

The schedule this time includes chapel on Monday morning and a panel discussion that evening. The panel is a discussion of “What Scripture says about…” then they fill in the topic.

Tuesday morning includes time with Student Development staff, which I view as the critical proximal agent on any campus. They are in the “front lines” with the students, so that should be a good discussion. Tuesday afternoon and evening includes a presentation at Asbury Theological Seminary on pastoral care and sexual identity concerns. I will base this on the three-tier distinction between same-sex attractions, a homosexual orientation, and a gay identity, and then discuss how that distinction can be helpful for pastoral care and navigating sexual identity conflicts among Christians. Later that evening I will be part of a Coffee House, which is an informal Q&A discussion time with students back at Asbury College.

Wednesday morning is a second chapel address. I’ll be developing the theme from the first address on Monday that deals with creating a campus climate of care. This second address will bring us back to our fundamental identity and orientation, which involves creating a campus climate of praise.

DSM-V Draft is Ready for Feedback

What do all of the books on the right have in common? They are various revisions of The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). The DSM is heading into its fifth edition, but before it is finalized, the task force chairs are soliciting feedback on the draft. The proposed draft revisions to diagnoses and criteria for making diagnoses is available here for comment until April 20th, 2010. The DSM-V task force chairs are asking for feedback before making additional revisions and having it ready in May of 2013.

Clinical Practice with Middle Easterners & Arab-Americans

Our colloquium today featured Dr. Naji Abi-Hashem, a clinical psychologist with expertise on the Middle East. His talk was titled “Understanding and Counseling with Middle Easterners and Arab-Americans.” He regularly presents an extended version of this talk at the American Psychological Association. He is featured in the APA video on providing clinical services to Middle Easterners and Arab-Americans.

Interestingly, Dr. Abi-Hashem reported that there are significant discrepancies in estimates around religious identities of Arab Americans. It has been estimated 75% of Arab Americans are of a Christian background (Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant) while 25% are of Muslim background (some sources put that at 50-50). The majority are from Lebanese descent and relatively young (average age of 35). They tend to be highly educated and self-employed, with many involved in a range of professions.

Dr. Abi-Hashem reviewed several common misconceptions, such as All Arabs are Muslims, All Middle-Easterners are Muslims, All Muslims are Radicals, and All Radicals are Terrorists, in an attempt to help the audience move away from an They versus Us mentality.

To provide a context for understanding Middle Easterners and Arab Americans, he discussed concepts found in the following quote:

The Arabs are a proud and sensitive people whose culture is mainly derived from three key factors: family, language, and religion. No adequate understanding of Arab culture is possible without first examining these three major elements and the pervading impact they have had on their culture. Cultural understanding by Americans of the Arabs is especially important at present because it can provide a basis for our own interactive behavior with them as well as a basis frinterpreting their actions.                     – Edward Badolato

Dr. Abi-Hashem unpacked what this means in terms of understanding some of the nuances of family, language, and religion. He then briefly discussed virtuous characteristics including hospitality, truthfulness, respect, esteeming elders, insight, faithfulness, dignity, honor (saving face, avoiding public shame), hard work, generosity, and patience.

On providing clinical services, Dr. Abi-Hashem discussed assessing acculturation and community, flexibility in where you meet and the possible use of a translator. He discussed various gestures to avoid, as well as signs of respect to keep in mind, particularly if a person or family is more traditional. He encouraged us to note intergenerational dynamics (e.g., familial-communal heritage, moral-ethical values) and to be prepared to address grief and trauma when relevant. In this context, he compared and contrasted unhealthy coping styles (e.g., aggression, moving/leaving, blaming, complaining, etc.) and healthy coping styles (e.g., family/friendship bonds, expressing/talking, creating group atmosphere, public prayers/religious services, etc.).

We often discuss multicultural competence with different groups, but it was helpful to take one group and go deeper with it. Dr. Abi-Hashem is in a unique position to reflect upon the Middle East and to train psychologists in working competently with Middle Easterners and Arab Americans.

PsyD Colloquium on Counseling Middle Easterners and Arab Americans

The Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology is hosting Naji Abi-Hashem, Ph.D., this Friday, February 5th from 2-4pm in the Moot Courtroom. Dr. Abi-Hashem is speaking on “Counseling Middle Easterners and Arab Americans.” He is a highly-respected scholar on multicultural psychology, having written several chapters on the topic and been featured in an American Psychological Association (APA) video titled Working with Arab Americans.

I have known Naji for several years now. He often speaks at the Christian Association for Psychological Studies national conference, and I either run into him there or at APA. He is a tremendously active professional; he is a kind and generous person, and he has a unique platform as someone with expertise on the Middle East. It will be a delight to have Naji at Regent to speak to our students and to provide training for all of us interested in enhancing our cultural competence.

Note: We’ve been notified today of a location change for the colloquium. It is now scheduled for the Library Auditorium.