Skip to Navigation

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 + 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.

Chaplain's Corner + True Happiness

by Fr. George Morelli

There is a tendency in our society to point to outside events in and of themselves as the cause of our happiness or unhappiness. This is followed by the idea that individuals have limited power to control their emotional responses to such happenings. While it is true that physical assaults, depending on their gravity, could certainly harm us, psychological assaults are a different matter. Emotional responses, such as demanding expectations and overevaluations are often triggered by irrational beliefs specific to each individual. These irrational beliefs have been noted by the observations of clinical cognitive psychologists, such as Albert Ellis (1962, p.72)1 and others.  Especially in this day of instantaneous social media, I want to make clear that in no way am I condoning or excusing the proliferation of socially deviant egregious behaviors, such as bullying, harassment or sexting. However, understanding that we can develop control over our emotional reactions to such untoward events can aid us in walking a path leading to true happiness. Failure to do so leads to a cascading scenario of untoward events. A particularly nasty situation may in reality be quite unpleasant. However, a strong emotional reaction to it, which is also unpleasant, just adds to the problem. Furthermore, the more strongly emotionally reactive we are to such events, the less effectively competent we are at coping with them or in solving unpleasant events that can be changed.2 Thus, though we are now undergoing another bitter event, it is one which we can do something about.

Chaplain's Corner + What We Do Is Not Who We Are

by Fr. George Morelli

One of the more unfortunate irrational beliefs held by many is that some individuals are intrinsically evil or good. The assumption prompting this deleterious attitude is that the actions that people do define their 'personhood. In practical terms this means that if a person does good, prosocial, kindly and moral things they are a good person. On the other hand, if a person does evil, villainous, immoral and/or wicked things they not only are bad persons but are considered by many to be non-human. Biologically, humans are of the animal kingdom, but people who engage in especially nefarious acts are pejoratively referred to as "animals," - implying they are subhuman and, frequently, not even worthy of life. The implication of this, as cognitive-behavioral clinical psychologist Albert Ellis[1] (1964) puts it, is that, "They did this 'wrong' act, therefore they are perfectly worthless beings who deserve to be severely punished or killed." (p. 66).

Philosophers and philosophical psychologists have considered the basis of humanness to be "a personhood nested within physical, biological, and sociocultural reality, both historically and ontogenetically[ii]." The distinctiveness and worth of the human person, in contrast to others in the animal kingdom, even extends to those spiritual traditions who do not affirm a personal God. For example, The Council for Secular Humanism affirms: "We believe in the fullest realization of the best and noblest that we are capable of as human beings."[iii]

Dept. of Chaplain and Pastoral Counseling News Archive