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Connection and Community at the 2024 American Counseling Association Conference

Some Solihten Institute staff members had the privilege of attending this year’s American Counseling Association Conference and Expo in New Orleans on April 11-13, 2024. Not only did staff attend superb conference sessions, but it was also a rewarding experience to host a booth at the expo to engage with hundreds of people about our mission to inspire, educate, connect, and equip professionals who integrate mind, body, spirit, and community in their approach to caring for the wellbeing of others.

Our booth, strategically placed at the heart of the expo, attracted a steady stream of attendees eager to learn about our approach to educating and training therapists regarding spiritually integrated psychotherapy. Engaging with counselors, therapists, students, and other mental health professionals from around the country, we shared our expertise and resources, sparking meaningful conversations about the intersection of spirituality and mental wellness. The conference provided a platform to showcase our commitment to holistic healing and cultivate partnerships with like-minded individuals and organizations. The vibrant energy of New Orleans mirrored our enthusiasm for promoting comprehensive mental health support, leaving us inspired and motivated to continue our mission of integrating spirituality into mental health care.

The conference – with the theme “Pause, Prepare, Provide” – encouraged reflection, connection, and learning within the counseling community. The conference featured thought-provoking presentations and enlightening sessions on a broad range of topics. We were heartened that there were multiple sessions regarding integrating spirituality in counseling. Those sessions were at capacity, and there was much discussion in the sessions and at our booth about the idea that counselors are experiencing an increase in the frequency of clients seeking either to integrate spirituality into their therapeutic plan or to gain a better understanding of their spiritual selves.

In addition, we excitedly attended an informative session on Artificial Intelligence (AI). Incorporating AI into mental health counseling practices can enhance efficiency and accessibility, but it’s crucial to mitigate risks such as biased algorithms and inaccurate assessments by using diverse and representative data, implementing human oversight, and establishing clear ethical guidelines. The speaker gave all attendees hope for our future relationships with AI with his closing comment that “jobs that require empathy will least likely to be taken over by AI.”

Executive Vice President, Laurie Pechie, had this to say about the conference and expo:

“Even four years removed from the COVID-19 pandemic, I still sometimes find myself experiencing things through the lens of pre/post-pandemic. Professional Conferences are definitely a place where a shift is felt as both vendors and participants are feeling extra pressure, both about spending their dollars, but also where to invest their emotional energy. It is with that perspective that I was especially pleased to find that the 2024 American Counseling Association Conference & Expo had a wonderful energy to it. It would be easy to attribute that to the fact that New Orleans brought the fun, because of course, it did; but this enthusiasm was absolutely coming from the people we had the pleasure to engage. The behavioral health field has been particularly hard hit over the last number of years with a surge of client need combined with the fact that many professionals have left the field. At the ACA Conference, my colleague and I met with so many students who cannot wait to get out and make a difference. We also interacted with people whose faces would beam as we spoke of the importance of spiritually integrated psychotherapy in the treatment of the whole person. While many who stopped at the Solihten Institute booth walked away with a sun stress-shape, we were also filled by the bright light of so many current and future professionals in the field of counseling. What a gift!”

The Solihten team left the conference and New Orleans new knowledge, connections, and a renewed passion for the work we do and the Network we lead.

Picture: ACA Conference organizers gave attendees a chance to show off their spirit and personality with customized name badge ribbons.

Solihten Collaborating on Research Regarding the Impact of Spiritually Integrated Therapy

Solihten Institute is participating in research being done at the University of South Alabama to understand the value of diverse ways of attending to peoples’ spirituality and/or faith in therapy.

The study is being led by Dr. Joe Currier. As part of the research, Solihten Network Centers will have the chance to participate in reporting their experience of spiritually integrated therapy. “Spirituality and/or faith is a powerful source of identity, well-being, and healing in many peoples’ lives,” said Dr. Currier. “Our study will look at the role that spirituality might play in the growth and healing of clients and the best ways for therapists to address this core area of their lives.” 

Joe Currier, PhD, is Professor of Psychology at University of South Alabama (USA) and the Principal Investigator of the “Spiritual and Religious Competencies Project,” a JTF-funded grant aimed at catalyzing systemic and cultural changes in mental health fields to train clinicians in attending to peoples’ faith or spirituality. He is also an editorial board member with Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, Spirituality in Clinical Practice, Traumatology, and Death Studies.