Psychological Services helps students with Crisis on Faith
Published: Thursday, January 31, 2013
Updated: Thursday, January 31, 2013 12:01
On Monday evening, the USU Counseling and Psychological Services center held their first-ever workshop designed to help people who are struggling with religion and spirituality.
The workshop was the first of a five-part sequence entitled “Successfully Navigating a Crisis of Faith.” The other four parts of the series are to be held over the next four weeks.
Twenty-four students, faculty members and individuals from the community attended the workshop, and most actively participated in the discussion.
According to the event summary on the USU events calendar, topics to be discussed during the five-week sequence include the relationship between faith and doubt, the common stages of faith and belief, the interplay between morality, religion and spirituality, coping with distress and harmonizing belief with intellect.
John Dehlin, a fourth-year Ph.D. student studying psychology and the presenter of the workshop, said it was designed for people who need some support with a very sensitive aspect of their lives.
“Facing a crisis in faith often makes people feel stuck,” he said. “We are here mostly to support people where they are and help get them unstuck.”
The workshop focused primarily on identity and emphasized the journey rather than an end.
“I really don’t like the term ‘crisis.’ We want to help participants see their crisis as a gift,” Dehlin said. “It’s OK to never reach a final state.”
Another purpose of the workshop was to normalize the idea of having a crisis of faith.
During the workshop, attendees were invited to supplement the presentation with examples from their own lives. The participants were able to see other people facing similar challenges.
Ian MacFarlane, a predoctoral intern studying psychology, assisted in the presentation of the workshop.
He said in Utah, where the vast majority of the population is religious, it is often taboo to talk about religious beliefs and especially the lack thereof.
“A lot of people don’t have someone to talk to or don’t know how to handle it,” he said.
MacFarlane went on to say that he and Dehlin want to help people navigate through their spiritual struggles without favoring a specific outcome or destination.
“We don’t want to favor or put down any specific religion or spiritual beliefs,” he said.
Dehlin said religion is a very important part of most peoples’ lives whether they know it or not, and the emotional turmoil a spiritual crisis brings can lead to other complications.
“It can lead to depression, anxiety and even physical illness,” Dehlin said.
MacFarlane said good psychologists and therapists often ask their patients about religion because it tells them a lot about the person.
“Religious beliefs are potential sources for great conflict or great strength,” MacFarlane said.
Besides wanting to help people facing spiritual hardships, Dehlin also said his interest in the effects a crisis of faith has on individuals led him to study psychology and eventually develop the “Successfully Navigating a Crisis of Faith” series.
“One of the reasons I got into psychology is that I feel that a lot of people struggle with the idea of faith,” he said.
Dehlin said holding the workshop on a college campus is ideal.
“College is a natural time to be learning and questioning,” he said.