Burnout. It’s an issue that pastors and mental health professionals often face. Effectively managing burnout is an important topic for caregivers so that they can continue to provide help to those in need.
Ouachita Baptist University hosted the second annual Conference on Issues in Christian Counseling on Feb. 25. The conference theme, “Caring for the Caregiver,” provided ministers, caregivers and students the opportunity to come together and learn about the causes and effects associated with their own personal burnout and coping strategies for preventing and alleviating counselor burnout.
The conference was sponsored by Ouachita Baptist University’s Pruet School of Christian Studies in partnership with Henderson State University and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
The one-day conference offered participants the opportunity to select among eight sessions led by faculty from each of the sponsoring schools. Sessions included topics such as how to balance personal and professional priorities as a counselor, identifying compassion fatigue and providing coping strategies for dealing with it, how to evaluate one’s own mental health and how to handle crises in the life of the counseling professional.
There is a great need for mental health professionals in the U.S., noted Dr. Bill Viser, conference coordinator and associate professor of Christian ministries at Ouachita. In the January 2011 issue of Counseling Today, it was reported that only 34 percent of Americans with mental health issues are seeking treatment. Viser pointed out that this demand is already greater “than there are therapists to handle the need, increasing the amount of stress and burnout of counselors today” and making self-care “very important so they can continue to address the mental needs of our country.”
“The problem for caregivers is that we have a heart for people, so it is easy to be overwhelmed by the needs and to neglect your own well-being,” Viser explained.
Tracy Carden, a licensed clinical social worker from Marion, Ark., said the subject matter made the conference appealing to her because she feels “strongly that managing burnout is important.” Carden said the conference provided her with “a lot of good information and things I can take back to share with my colleagues at my agency.”
“The conference is important because it is practical,” said Craig Garrett, dean of students, director of student enlistment and a member of the graduate adjunct faculty in the counseling department at NOBTS. “It allows you to continue your education and offers a professional Christian perspective on counseling issues.”
Dr. Jeff Nave, associate professor of psychology and counseling at NOBTS, said the conference is “a good example of the integration of the highest standards of Christian ministry and professional practice.”
During the conference’s lunch session, Viser highlighted crises counselors face. He then invited the participants to discuss crises in their own lives and how that affected their ministry or ability to counsel.
Dr. Ian Jones, professor of psychology and counseling at NOBTS, led a session on “Crisis Responders and Christian Counseling Self-Care and Spiritual Resources,” which focused on how to deal with extraordinary situations such as disasters and tragedies. Jones used the example of the Wedgwood Baptist Church shootings to illustrate his point. He showed videos of a counselor who had been present at the shooting explaining how he dealt with the tragedy and the post-trauma counseling of his church.
Viser said he plans to continue the opportunity for professional education by hosting lunch sessions led by local professionals on the first Monday of each month. The sessions will be held at 12 noon in the Alumni Room of the Ouachita Commons Dining Hall; sessions are planned for April and May but will break for summer. Continuing education credit will be available and the sessions will be free to attend. For more information, contact Dr. Bill Viser at (870) 245-5524.
By Nicci Fillinger