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The Chaplain and Pastoral Counseling Ministry supports chaplains and pastoral counselors working within the Antiochian Archdiocese. Under the coordination of Fr. George Morelli, the department organizes retreats, workshops, and courses, as well as posting pertinent articles and web links on this page. Personal consultation by phone and e-mail is available for those seeking more specific, situational guidance as they practice in the fields of mental health and pastoral care.

Because ministry takes place in a complex, pluralistic world, this department provides clear archdiocesan guidelines to help Orthodox chaplains and pastoral counselors adhere to Orthodox teaching, spirituality, and healing traditions, while also knowing when and how to incorporate scientifically sound clinical interventions.

 

Chaplain's Corner + Healthy Dependence

by Fr. George Morelli

An irrational belief: that is what cognitive clinical psychologists consider an attitude of desperate need to depend on others (Ellis, 1962). However, they distinguish between unhealthy dependence and psychologically and spiritually healthy dependence. The characteristic signs of unhealthy dependence are the high intensity of the emotional need, a sense of self worthlessness, and a lack of confidence and ensuing helplessness and hopelessness when not dependent on others. To discern between them in and for oneself, a good beginning would be a realistic assessment of one's strengths (talents) and weaknesses. It is important to know one's God-given strengths in the various domains of life, academic, cognitive, creative, social skill and sport. Then one can build on those gifts of strength, often by enhancing them with the aid of others who can guide because of their more advanced skills. If our weaknesses can be compensated for, then others may help us in this regard as well. Another way of looking at this is to say that we attain independence by recognizing our strengths and weaknesses while remaining open to guidance from others to attain even greater competence. Thus, we develop a healthy dependence. Many of those engaged in the most demanding professions, who demonstrate what we consider great personal acts of bravery and skill, may initially appear 'independent.' However, such individuals would be first to acknowledge their reliance on others around them. Frequently heard among those in the military and among emergency first-responders are: "I got your back," and "it was a team effort."

Chaplain's Corner + Overcoming the Avoidance of Responsibilities

by Fr. George Morelli

Basically, people prefer not to face discomfort. The consequence of their feeling anxious about possible impending discomfort is that they avoid "life's difficulties and self responsibilities." (Ellis, 1962)1. The comfortable route is to do what is easy, natural or intrinsically enjoyable. Avoiding responsibilities, and their ensuing untoward consequences, can be exacerbated by the imagery we create of scenarios, that is to say, the imagined sequence of possible efforts in actually doing these tasks. Often we create an image of how awful we would feel doing the most difficult part of the task. A cognitive therapeutic alternative is to transform the image into an affirmative one. Imagine yourself performing the simplest part of the task and then re-evaluating how uncomfortable it would be to do that. Then imagine yourself starting at that simple point.

Chaplain's Corner + Persevering in Fearsome Situations

by Fr. George Morelli

When encountering fearsome situations some people have an automatic appraisal that they must flee from them at all costs and that they should continue to keep such dangers in mind - and even "keep dwelling on the possibility of such events occurring" again. This is described by clinical cognitive psychologist Albert Ellis, (1962)1 as being "terribly concerned about" them. Another possible common reaction is to 'freeze in place.' Granted, there are some dangerous events in which it may, in fact, be appropriate to flee or freeze. To run and call attention from someone threatening harm would be functional in some situations; naturalists, however, would advise that when coming upon a harmful animal in the wild many times it is best to immediately stop, and not move to prevent calling attention to yourself. Most common everyday situations are not this extreme, and for our well-being it behooves us to deal with them.

When I was in post-graduate clinical training under Ellis, I was instructed in the technique of performing a public "shame exercise' and then teaching the technique and encourage its use by patients who were adversely affected with fear in their daily lives. One example suggested (and that I practiced) was to go into a large department store and shout out the time of day every 10 seconds while riding up and down the escalator for a few minutes. I quickly learned that I could get through such shameful and potentially fearsome situations. The "shame exercises" given to patients as psychotherapy 'homework' are related to their particular feared circumstances. To this day, I tell patients that they are capable of carrying fears with them as they journey through their various life activities.

Dept. of Chaplain and Pastoral Counseling News Archive