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David Christy
Buddhist & Pagan Contemplative: Exploring earth-based approaches to psychology, religion, and life.
Buddhist & Pagan Contemplative: Exploring earth-based approaches to psychology, religion, and life.


I'm presenting at the ASERVIC conference in Texas this summer. Topic is helping clinicians develop multicultural competence with Pagans and other earth-based practitioners. I've got an hour time slot, and am planning on doing an introduction to Paganism, wherein I'll talk about demographics (our overlap with LGBT+ and poly communities), identify and differentiating traditions, common beliefs and practices (wheel of the year, magic, multiple divinities, divination, ancestor reverence, sacred earth), and talk about some of the common challenges we face (e.g. discrimination/stigma/prejudice, the broom closet, dual-faith partnerships, fear of being overly diagnosed/pathologized).

I'm planning on spending a good deal of time talking about how therapists can respectfully address things like magic, divination, communication and relationships with non-human beings in therapy. As well as differentiating spiritual experiences from psychosis.

To keep time manageable I'll probably go light on history, and am thinking about skipping less common practices like aspecting/possession. I'd love to hear this community's thoughts on what to present. Are there topics y'all consider must-cover?

+1 Faith in Humanity. Talked with a Baptist hospice chaplain in Texas this morning about how to support a Wiccan patient who is going to transition soon. The chaplain has a super respectful and humble approach. Did a little intro to Wicca, talked about ritual elements that may be appropriate, and coached the chaplain on what kinds of questions to ask the patient in order to make it the funeral an outgrowth of the patient's life and faith.

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Dear Pagan chaplains and therapists,

My name is David Christy, I am currently a Ph.D. student in the Pastoral Counseling department at Loyola University Maryland. Several years ago I participated in a series of conversations at Pantheacon focused on the needs of the Pagan community. One of the most pressing needs identified was for increased understanding of our community among mental health professionals. One of the best ways to do this is through research. While the field of psychology as a whole is beginning to wake up to the benefits of spirituality, few researchers are looking at non-Abrahamic traditions. I’m trying to change that, and I hope you will help me.

I am currently conducting a study that examines the role of spirituality in resilience. I am especially interested in reaching out to the Pagan community since we are so underrepresented in the research literature (despite the fact that we’re the second fasted growing religious group in the US). Please consider taking this survey and sharing it with others in your community.

Participation involves responding to a number of forms, checklists, and questionnaires relating to your experience, knowledge, attitudes, and behavior, as well as providing non-identifying demographic information. These instruments include attitudinal surveys, activity checklists, and self-report measures. It should take approximately 30 minutes to complete all the measures. If you are interested in participating either click on the link below or copy and paste it into a web browser. Please also feel free to share the link to this study.

If you have any questions or concerns about this study, please contact me at the address listed below. This study was approved by the Institutional Review Board at Loyola University Maryland. You may contact the IRB at 410-617-2004.

David Christy, M.Div.
Primary Investigator
Department of Pastoral Counseling
Loyola University Maryland
8890 McGaw Road, Suite 280
Columbia, MD 20145

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Read this, embrace today.
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Had a professional accomplishment this weekend: I was a panelist at the AAPC conference at Loyola University Maryland. Conference discussions focused on spreading awareness of facets religious diversity, cultivating curiosity toward "the other," and developing pluralistic praxis. In light of the events in Paris (and some of the responses), these conversations seem all the more urgent.

While I was probably not the only non-Abrahamic practitioner at the conference, I also didn't meet anybody else openly practicing outside that paradigm. In general attendees were respectful and curious - both about my own spiritual life, and how my religious location impacts my work as chaplain and therapist.

Many of the attendees talked about how the AAPC, as an organization, is trying to expand from a predominantly Christian framework into a more robustly pluralistic paradigm. After this experience I'd encourage other folks in this group to think about connecting with your local/regional Pastoral Counseling organizations to see if other similar professional opportunities may be available. 

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I was recently invited to contribute to the Interfaith Ramadan series, a project that looks at the Muslim holy month, and interfaith work, from multiple perspectives. My contribution looks at interfaith chaplaincy and tending to people's souls across religious lines.

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Some thoughts about addiction/recovery work (in response to +Christina Gargiullo's question & current CPE placement).

Addiction and recovery work is complicated because it so frequently co-occurs with other types of mental illness. Generational, cultural, and environmental factors frequently reinforce these behaviors. Achieving a robust sobriety usually means leaving these factors (family, friends, neighborhood), at least for a time, while other coping mechanisms are developed. 

There are a lot of things that helped me while working with this population. In terms of my own understanding & approach, one of the things that helped me most was seeing the urge to use/escape as an adaptive response to to something overwhelming in life. It's a maladaptive response, but it's important to acknowledge the inherent wisdom people show in wanting to get away from bad situations. 

Once people can see how and when they use to escape (and really see how their drug of choice isn't making things better), they are usually game to learn more adaptive ways of coping. In general I think 12-step programs are a mixed bag (I think it's great to check out the various groups in your area so you can make grounded recommendations & referrals). AA/NA/etc. seem to work best when paired with both with a sponsor and a counseling of some sort. On top of that, the groups can be really useful in providing people a new community - which is absolutely crucial. 

I definitely see spiritual components to addiction, and think spirituality can be important in recovery (belief in basic badness/original sin; anger at G-d; desire for connection; yearning for wholeness, sometimes confused with holiness). With that said, most of the folks I've worked with haven't found the "higher power" language of 12-step models very useful. Prayer, and specific mindfulness practices have been useful for just about everyone. What seems to help people struggling with addiction more than anything else are basic validations of worth, improving communication skills, and learning to identify & regulate emotions. I should also note that if folks don't have housing or other basic resources the work has to start there.

In terms of resources, SAMHSA has a for addictions work. I'd recommend their TIP 24 as a good starting place. Understanding the neurobiology of addiction can be helpful too, but it's not something clients are usually interested in.

I'm sure other folks here have other great thoughts & resources as well. These are just the first things that came to mind for me.

Hello all. I identify as both Buddhist and Pagan. My formal religious training is Buddhist (Soto Zen; Buddhist MDiv from Naropa), after working as a chaplain my spiritual life has evolved to include lots of earth-based ritual and training form a variety of Pagan and Indigenous traditions (mostly West African).  As a multi faith chaplain, I understand that each religion asks different questions and has unique insights into the human experience. Just as it doesn't make sense to ask if chemistry or physics is "true," it doesn't make sense to ask which religion is "true" - they examine different phenomena. 

I've recently completed all of the coursework for Sofia University's (formerly Institute of Transpersonal Psychology) PsyD program. This summer I am applying to pre-doctorate internships in clinical psychology and working on my dissertation. I'm also currently teaching a Cultural Diversity class in Sofia's MA in Spiritual Guidance. 

My chaplaincy work was primarily with cancer care and ICU patients, while my clinical placements have been in community mental health, focused on addiction, trauma, and serious mental illness. I've found bringing a spiritual lens into clinical work to be very fruitful and rewarding. 

I'm actually a little stymied in my dissertation process, so I'm excited to join this community. I hope the conversations will inspire and help me keep pushing through to completion.
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