Keynote Speaker

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Dr. Holly Oxhandler

The Soul of the Helper: Elevating and Integrating the Intersection of Spirituality and Mental Health

Learn about the intersection of faith and mental health. Dr. Oxhandler will discuss how this topic is relevant to not only mental health care providers but also helpers in general - including faith leaders, parents, teachers, administrators, nurses and volunteers. She will draw on the seven stages from her recent book, The Soul of the Helper, to help attendees consider ways to honor the intersection of spirituality and mental health within their own lives and the lives of those they serve.

Current Position: Associate Professor and Associate Dean for Research and Faculty Development at Baylor University’s Diana R. Garland School of Social Work

  • PhD from Graduate College of Social Work, University of Houston, Houston TX 
  • MSW from Graduate College of Social Work, University of Houston, Houston TX (Clinical Track)
  • BS in Psychology from University of Houston, Houston TX

Author: The Soul of the Helper: Seven Stages to Seeing the Sacred Within Yourself So You Can See It in Others.

She also co-hosts the weekly podcast, CXMH: A Podcast on Faith and Mental Health

Special Guest Artist & Speaker

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Danny Gokey

Danny Gokey will share about his own mental health journey and perform a few of his hit songs.

Three-time Grammy nominee, three-time KLOVE Male Vocalist of the Year, Dove Award winner, and eight-time Dove Award nominee Danny Gokey became a favorite of millions of fans as a top 3 finalist on season eight of American Idol. Gokey has since appeared on and topped radio charts in the U.S., Canada and Latin markets and has been RIAA gold-certified. The desire to make a broader impact with his message of hope led to the founding of the nonprofit organization Better Than I Found It. He and his wife Leyiet also launched Livin’ la Vida Gokey, a podcast featuring conversations about faith and family. They currently live outside Nashville, TN with their four children.

Panel Discussion

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Denise Espino
Mollee Reitz
Michelle Leahy
Seminarian Nathan Widener
Deaconess Carole Terkula

Congregational Mental Health Ministry Approaches – Panel Discussion

When a pastor or congregational lay leader is asked to incorporate a mental health element into their congregation’s ministry, the response is often, “What are we supposed to do?” In this session, faith-focused mental health leaders will share their stories and insights in developing a congregational-based response to spiritual, physical and mental health care.

  • Denise Espino, Director of Mental Health Support Groups at Community Bible Church, San Antonio TX
  • Mollee Reitz, Wellness Director at Christ Church Charlotte, Charlotte NC
  • Michelle Leahy, Director of Ministry Programs at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, Fort Wayne IN
  • Seminarian Nate Widener, St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, Fort Wayne IN
  • Deaconess Carole Terkula, Ministry Associate and Mental Health Advocate Coordinator at The Lutheran Foundation, Fort Wayne IN

Breakout Speakers

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Rev. Jermine Alberty

Emotional, Physical, Spiritual (EPS) Check-up: Your Wellness Matters

During these uncertain and unstable times, it is paramount that faith leaders and faith communities conduct a regular wellness check to ensure that they are emotionally, physically and spiritually (EPS) healthy—with an aim to not only survive but thrive in life and ministry. Participants will learn what they can do to evaluate their wellness and will be equipped with the tools they need to do an EPS checkup utilizing a Five Step Self-Care Model.

Current Position: Executive Director of Pathways to Promise, Las Vegas NV

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Dr. Jamie Aten

Spiritual First Aid

Spiritual First Aid is a first-of-its-kind disaster spiritual and emotional care intervention that uses evidence-informed psychological and spiritual insights gained from years of scientific study. This session will help you learn more about this unique approach so you can provide care for victims of disasters and crises using research-backed methods.

Current Position: Executive Director of Humanitarian Disaster Institute at Wheaton College, Wheaton IL

  • BS in Psychology, MS and PhD in Counseling Psychology from Indiana State University, Terre Haute IN
  • Pre-Doctoral Internship in Clinical Psychology at Chicago Area Christian Training Consortium
  • Founder and executive director of the Humanitarian Disaster Institute (HDI) and MA in Humanitarian & Disaster Leadership program at Wheaton College. HDI is the first faith-based academic disaster research center in the United States

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Catherine Boyle

Why Church is Hard for People Impacted by Mental Illness & Practical Strategies to Help Your Church Welcome Families

Church communities are inherently social and relational. But common mental health conditions often cause unintended social barriers, particularly in environments like church. In this session, we will present the basic features of common mental illnesses and share specific, practical strategies for each issue to help individuals and families who are living with these conditions fully participate in the ministries of the local church.

Current Position: Director of Mental Health Ministry at Key Ministry, Cleveland OH

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Dr. Jessica Young Brown

Mental Health Stigma, Church and Race

For Black churches, responding to the mental health needs of their congregants is complicated by cultural challenges, such as mistrust of medical systems, familial norms, racism and other systems of oppression. This session will focus on best practices for understanding these cultural realities and holding space for honest conversations in faith communities.

  • Current Position: Licensed Clinical Psychologist and owner of Choices to Change, Richmond VA
  • MS and PhD in Counseling Psychology from Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond VA
  • BS from Elon University, Elon NC

Author: “Making Space at the Well – Mental Health and the Church”

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Dr. Philip Monroe

Session 1: Trauma Healing and the Church: How We Can Support Rebuilding Hope After Tragedy

Trauma is a wound of the heart that affects every part of our being—body, soul, mind and relationships. Often, traumatized individuals feel disconnected from friends and family, their own sense of self, and even God. This presentation will explore how trauma can be a blocking factor for engaging with the Bible and God but also an opportunity for healing. We will focus on the role of the church and the Bible to encourage and support healing and to build trauma-responsive communities.

Session 2: Generational Trauma Healing: Does the Church Have a Role in Healing the Racial Divide?

Some traumas are not just our own experience but something passed down to us through our families or communities. This presentation explores generational trauma specifically related to the legacy of slavery and ongoing racial discrimination experienced by African Americans. We will examine how these realities affect both Black and white communities today and discuss how the church can use a program of the Bible and mental health practices to lead conversations about suffering and healing.

Current Position: Director of Trauma Healing Institute of the American Bible Society, Philadelphia PA

  • MA and PsyD in Clinical Psychology from Wheaton College, Wheaton IL

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Joe Padilla

The Future of Mental Health Ministry in a Post-Pandemic World

The psychological impact of the pandemic and surrounding issues has led to the church seeing unprecedented mental and emotional health needs. We will examine why this is happening, how the church can help, and what simple ministry solutions can reach and heal whole communities. Participants will see ways the church can change lives with clinical-level results when it is armed with the right perspective and localized support.

Current Position: Co-Founder of Mental Health Grace Alliance, Waco TX

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Dr. Sonia Waters

The Spiritual Dilemma of Addictions

Many addictions begin as solutions—using drugs or alcohol to manage painful feelings or difficult life situations. We will talk about some of the personal and social suffering that fuels addictions so that we can think about caring for the whole person in recovery. We will also consider common spiritual struggles that tend to appear for the addicted individual—such as shame, guilt, feeling distant from God, self-involvement and lack of empathy—and discuss how these are symptoms of spiritual pain arising from the neurobiological progression of the disease.

Current Position: Professor of Pastoral Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton NJ

  • BA from Wheaton College, Wheaton IL
  • MDiv from The General Theological Seminary, New York NY
  • PhD in Pastoral Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton NJ

Author: “Pastoral Care and Addiction”

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