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The 2016 Great and Holy Council of the Orthodox Church: Implications for Unity

by Fr. George Morelli
SSJC-WR President's Message Spring 20161

There are many serious challenges to the unity of the Churches, ecclesial communities and confessions and religious groups in today's world. Among these are: secularization, religious pluralism, fundamentalism and ethnophyletism. If the Orthodox Churches one of the Apostolic Churches tracing their succession to Christ Himself, in agreement on faith and morals can achieve agreement on approaching these issues confronting her today, God willing, this will be a witness and model for other Churches and religious communities to do the same. This would be a step toward healing the division among the Churches and communities.

Just such a witness was described in the document issued in January 2016 in Chambésy , Switzerland, by the Synaxis of Primates of the Local Orthodox Churches in preparation for the Holy and Great Council that is to be held on the Greek island of Crete during June 2016 - Pentecost as celebrated in the Eastern Orthodox Churches. This had been preceded by a draft document adopted by the 5th Pan-Orthodox Pre-Council in October 2015, also in Chambésy. Many ecumenical encounters between Eastern and Western Churches have occurred leading to these events.

Chaplain's Corner + Being True to Our Purpose

by Fr. George Morelli

"Have a purpose in life, and having it, throw into your work such strength of mind and muscle as God has given you," wrote1 Scottish essayist, historian, teacher and writer Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881). This highlights the importance of keeping focus on the goal to be attained. Canadian educator and writer Laurence J. Peter (1919-1990), author of The Peter Principle (1968), put it this way: "If you don't know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else."2 As the Book of Leviticus encourages us, we can have God at our side in our journey of life. "I will walk among you, and will be your God, and you shall be my people." (Leviticus 26:12).

The Buddhist tradition, while eschewing a personal God, nevertheless holds to the view of individual and group responsibility, so much so that one Buddhist scholar wrote: "Thus we are capable of changing ourselves, even to the extent of changing the world.... If we start toward the direction performing wholesome acts from this very moment, then our future will be full of brightness."3

Purpose in life is more complex in Hindu teaching. It involves four features: dharma (paying debts (thanks) for being born, cared for by parents and teachers, respect for guests and other living things; artha, (prosperity) guided by dharma; kama (desire) as is appropriate in terms of dharma and artha, and moksha (enlightenment) self realization, that is to say, liberation and attaining a sense of being one with God and the universe.4

Chaplain's Corner + What the World Needs Now is Personhood

by Fr. George Morelli, published in The Word Magazine, September 2016

A song that was popular from the start of the Vietnam War in the mid 1960's and re-recorded in ensuing years, up to the present time, by over a hundred artists was titled: "What the World Needs Now Is Love." A nutshell of the song's theme is in the lyrics: "What the world needs now is love, sweet love, it's the only thing that there's just too little of...." In some renditions of the song the lyrics are interspersed with sound bites of bigotry, hatred, prejudice, segregation, gunfire and references to the assassination of the Kennedys and Martin Luther King.1 That the world needs love is a truism. The question arises though, how do we bring love about? Setting aside the legal, political and scientific aspects of personhood, we can discern an answer by focusing on the individuality of each person.

Applying understanding and love to groups is more difficult than to individuals. Research psychology gives some insight as to why this is so. Individuals in groups are often de-individuated.2 That is to say, we do not see them as individuals but as group members. They are without individual personhood. By definition, 'groups' are an abstraction. Violent, destructive acts, and surely a lack of love toward them, are, therefore, more easily applied to groups, and by members of groups to each other.

The Spirituality of Moral Unity: Standing Together

by Fr. George Morelli
SSJC-WR President's Message Winter 20151

To borrow the opening lines of the famous 19th English novelist Charles Dickens in his A Tale of Two Cities (1859): "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness..." Though Dickens was referencing the pre and post-French Revolution state of political, social and spiritual affairs in London and Paris, we can well apply these words to the state of the contemporary world as we enter the 21st Century.

Chaplain's Corner + The Best Thanksgiving is Giving

by Fr. George Morelli

All have heard the popular aphorism 'it is more blessed to give than to receive.' Well, it turns out that the blessing received by giving may be more extensive than previously imagined. For example, a recent survey indicated that those who had a practice of giving reported greater physical health, an elevated level of happiness and well-being as well as a substantial attenuation of feelings of stress.1 Does social connection turn good deeds into good feelings? On the value of putting the 'social´ in prosocial spending, the answer is definitively yes.2 Other studies indicate that giving thoughtful, empathic (giving something meaningful to the recipient) gifts brings the gifts gives the gift giver the greatest overall satisfaction.3 This implies that seeing the person you are giving to as a unique person is more efficacious in bringing about the 'blessings' in giving, versus contributing to the masses. As St. (Mother) Theresa of Calcutta put it: "If I look at the mass, I will never act. If I look at the one [the single individual], I will."4

As any individual in mankind is a unity of body, mind and spirit, a spiritual connection to giving can aid in our understanding of generosity, and even prompt us to be giving thanks by giving. One recent study on philanthropy (gift giving) concluded: "The more important religion is to a person, the more likely that person is to give to a charity of any kind, according to new research released today."5

Understanding Orthodoxy for Mental Health Practitioners + Part 9

[This is a follow up course to Orthodox Christian Spirituality and Cognitive Psychotherapy: An Online Course, that appeared in four parts over the years 2012-2013. This second course is specifically oriented to explain Orthodoxy to mental health practitioners,and serve as a useful resource for Orthodox Clergy and laity as well. Ethically, mental health practitioners should incorporate the spiritual values of their patients in the therapeutic process. The course would serve as an introduction of the Eastern Orthodox ethos and cultural traditions to these professionals.

One of the most frequently questions I am asked as Chairman of the Chaplain and Pastoral Counseling Department of the Antiochian Archdiocese is for a referral to an Orthodox mental health practitioner. Sadly Orthodoxy is not a majority spiritual tradition in North America and Orthodox practitioners are few. So careful questioning by potential patients, family and clergy of a potential practitioner regarding the practitioner's understanding and respect for the spiritual values of their patients is very important. This course is meant to aid in this inquiry.

It also should be noted that this course is an updating and reworking of a recently published chapter: Psychotherapy with members of Eastern Orthodox Churches, (Morelli, 2014).]

by Fr. George Morelli

You doctors, must take good care of your patients in order to avoid unpleasant situations. You should have a practical mind. Generally speaking, every one of us must take advantage of his mind which is a gift from God.
(Saint Paisios of the Holy Mountain)1

Chaplain's Corner + Courageous Engagement

by Fr. George Morelli

The issue of bystander intervention in crisis situations became a major media and social frenzy as well as a topic of extensive behavioral science investigation after the early morning stabbing murder of a 28 year old woman, Catherine Susan ("Kitty") Genovese, in Queens, NY, on March 13th, 1964. Typical of Initial media reports of the incident was a New York Times front page headline on March 27:: "37 WHO SAW MURDER DIDN'T CALL THE POLICE- Apathy at Stabbing of Queens Woman Shocks Inspector." Subsequent investigations did reveal that a couple of individuals did respond, albeit ineffectually.1 However, this incident and reports about it did highlight the general apathy among individuals when confronted with critical incident events. This is what makes those who do act courageously in moments of danger more heroically notable.

Recently, news media worldwide told of the Moroccan alleged terrorist with an AK-47 and 300 rounds of ammunition traveling from Amsterdam to Paris on a high speed train. After hearing the first shot he fired, USAF Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone (receiving a severe hand wound in the engagement), Alek Skarlatos, Oregon National Guard specialist, accompanied by their friend Anthony Sadler, and joined by British citizen Chris Norman, tackled and subdued the gunman. It was reported that a couple of others also were involved in overcoming the gunman. As the encounter happened on French soil, they were awarded the French Legion of Honor. In giving the award, President François Hollande said, "Your heroism must be an example for many and a source of inspiration. . . .Faced with the evil of terrorism, there is a good, that of humanity. You are the incarnation of that."2

Saving God's Creation: Another East-West Alliance

by Fr. George Morelli
SSJC-WR President's Message Summer 2015

Patriarch Bartholomew I and Metropolitan John of PergamumPatriarch Bartholomew I and Metropolitan John of PergamumAn exciting convergence of agreement between major Eastern and Western Churches has recently taken place on a critical contemporary moral issue: care for the environment. Orthodox Metropolitan John Zizioulas of Pergamum has labeled the issue in question existential ecumenism,i because it deals with the problem of living out our lives on earth and cosmos, the creation God has given us dominion over. (Gn 1: 28)

Chaplain's Corner + Undue Concern over Others' Problems

by Fr. George Morelli

There is a deep chasm between genuine and sincere concern for the problems that beset others versus undue personal disturbance. One of the major disaffirmative consequences of an undue concern for others problems is that we are not able focus on fostering our own healthy physical, psychological or spiritual functioning and wellbeing. This is often accompanied by our own emotional distress. Furthermore, this then leads to being ineffective in giving others the help they may deservedly need and that we might want to give to them. Irish author, poet and playwright, Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), put it this way: "Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live."1

Sometimes there are situations in which others' problems do affect us. We may personalize the idea that others are not acting the way we want, taking it as a personal insult or slight. However, as cognitive clinical psychologist, Albert Ellis (1962)2 points out, it is our own "injustice-collecting ideas," or what I would label as our demanding expectations that we be 'justly treated,' that inflates our own feelings of annoyance. For example, if someone acts ill-manneredly towards us, it is our own 'self talk' about it that triggers our untoward feelings: "What rudeness he/she has! How dare he/she do that to me." We insist that others follow our own set of rules. We fail to perceive the reality that people are going to act the way they want, not the way we want them too. A psychological alternative is to stop focusing on our own irrational reaction to what others are doing or not doing so that we are able to focus on calmly and caringly help others in overcoming their impediments and challenges.

Understanding Orthodoxy for Mental Health Practitioners + Part 8

[This is a follow up course to Orthodox Christian Spirituality and Cognitive Psychotherapy: An Online Course, that appeared in four parts over the years 2012-2013. This second course is specifically oriented to explain Orthodoxy to mental health practitioners,and serve as a useful resource for Orthodox Clergy and laity as well. Ethically, mental health practitioners should incorporate the spiritual values of their patients in the therapeutic process. The course would serve as an introduction of the Eastern Orthodox ethos and cultural traditions to these professionals.

One of the most frequently questions I am asked as Chairman of the Chaplain and Pastoral Counseling Department of the Antiochian Archdiocese is for a referral to an Orthodox mental health practitioner. Sadly Orthodoxy is not a majority spiritual tradition in North America and Orthodox practitioners are few. So careful questioning by potential patients, family and clergy of a potential practitioner regarding the practitioner's understanding and respect for the spiritual values of their patients is very important. This course is meant to aid in this inquiry.

It also should be noted that this course is an updating and reworking of a recently published chapter: Psychotherapy with members of Eastern Orthodox Churches, (Morelli, 2014).]

by Fr. George Morelli

You doctors, must take good care of your patients in order to avoid unpleasant situations. You should have a practical mind. Generally speaking, every one of us must take advantage of his mind which is a gift from God.
(Saint Paisios of the Holy Mountain)1

Chaplain's Corner + Fixation on Past History

by Fr. George Morelli

Sometimes we carry around the idea that what we have done in the past is a determiner of what we will do now and in the future. We become, so to speak, captives, prisoners or slaves of our past. A variation of this attitude is that if we have felt strongly about something that has occurred to us in the past, then we are bound to feel the same in the future. Cognitive clinical psychologist Albert Ellis (1962)1 considers such attitudes 'irrational beliefs.' Such attitudes can be subset under a superordinate automatic thought of generalization. (Burns, 19802, Morelli, 20063). That is to say, the thought that events and the way I respond to them will always be the same way and never change. Such attitudes propel a cascade of thought-behavioral scenarios that lead to inaction. For example, a person may focus on failing or performing poorly at a past endeavor, think that they will fail on a new task, and never even try to begin the new task. A functional approach to the difficulty would be to attempt to find a new, that is to say, alternate solution toward accomplishing the task or solving the problem. Many times individuals will simply repeat ineffectual ways of approaching the problem that have proved inadequate in the past and have led to failure. Previous failure becomes a vicious excuse to avoid real, effective problem solving.

Smart Parenting XXV: "Yes, Virginia, Second and Third Hand Smoking is Child Abuse"

by Fr. George Morelli

A recent Google Alert on Psychology referenced an article addressing the effects of exposure to tobacco smoke titled - I pray facetiously as a question - "Is Secondhand Smoke Child Abuse?"1 The answer is obviously: "Yes!" Even those who would argue contra-wise would at the very least maintain that exposing children to secondhand smoke is a "moral failure" that needs addressing by mental health practitioners. I would be remiss if I did not add a couple of increasingly occurring unhealthy, and thus abusive, habits related to smoking: vaping, a recently emerging health hazard, and even some culturally sanctioned perilous practices such as 'hookah' smoking.

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."

Understanding Orthodoxy for Mental Health Practitioners + Part 7

[This is a follow up course to Orthodox Christian Spirituality and Cognitive Psychotherapy: An Online Course, that appeared in four parts over the years 2012-2013. This second course is specifically oriented to explain Orthodoxy to mental health practitioners,and serve as a useful resource for Orthodox Clergy and laity as well. Ethically, mental health practitioners should incorporate the spiritual values of their patients in the therapeutic process. The course would serve as an introduction of the Eastern Orthodox ethos and cultural traditions to these professionals.

One of the most frequently questions I am asked as Chairman of the Chaplain and Pastoral Counseling Department of the Antiochian Archdiocese is for a referral to an Orthodox mental health practitioner. Sadly Orthodoxy is not a majority spiritual tradition in North America and Orthodox practitioners are few. So careful questioning by potential patients, family and clergy of a potential practitioner regarding the practitioner's understanding and respect for the spiritual values of their patients is very important. This course is meant to aid in this inquiry.

It also should be noted that this course is an updating and reworking of a recently published chapter: Psychotherapy with members of Eastern Orthodox Churches, (Morelli, 2014).]

by Fr. George Morelli

You doctors, must take good care of your patients in order to avoid unpleasant situations. You should have a practical mind. Generally speaking, every one of us must take advantage of his mind which is a gift from God.
(Saint Paisios of the Holy Mountain)1

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.

Understanding Orthodoxy for Mental Health Practitioners + Part 6

[This is a follow up course to Orthodox Christian Spirituality and Cognitive Psychotherapy: An Online Course, that appeared in four parts over the years 2012-2013. This second course is specifically oriented to explain Orthodoxy to mental health practitioners,and serve as a useful resource for Orthodox Clergy and laity as well. Ethically, mental health practitioners should incorporate the spiritual values of their patients in the therapeutic process. The course would serve as an introduction of the Eastern Orthodox ethos and cultural traditions to these professionals.

One of the most frequently questions I am asked as Chairman of the Chaplain and Pastoral Counseling Department of the Antiochian Archdiocese is for a referral to an Orthodox mental health practitioner. Sadly Orthodoxy is not a majority spiritual tradition in North America and Orthodox practitioners are few. So careful questioning by potential patients, family and clergy of a potential practitioner regarding the practitioner's understanding and respect for the spiritual values of their patients is very important. This course is meant to aid in this inquiry.

It also should be noted that this course is an updating and reworking of a recently published chapter: Psychotherapy with members of Eastern Orthodox Churches, (Morelli, 2014).]

by Fr. George Morelli

You doctors, must take good care of your patients in order to avoid unpleasant situations. You should have a practical mind. Generally speaking, every one of us must take advantage of his mind which is a gift from God.
(Saint Paisios of the Holy Mountain)1

Factors Affecting Human Behavior

Icon of Ladder of Divine Ascent based on the spiritual treatise written by St. John of the LadderIcon of Ladder of Divine Ascent based on the spiritual treatise written by St. John of the LadderSuch Church Fathers as St. John of the Ladder and St. Gregory Palamas indicate that continual sin becomes habitual. [Thereby making behavioral patterns less voluntary.] Habits can make the spirit dark. They work by blackening our minds, which guides and inclines people to do things they would not normally think of. (Palmer, 1984-93) The Church Fathers suggest reducing the strength of habits by removing sensory factors and stopping memories [thoughts] as they begin. With repetition, these new techniques become stronger. This is not unlike the 'thought stopping' techniques proposed by Cognitive-behavioral therapists. For the Christian, putting these techniques in a spiritual perspective, as suggested by the Church Fathers, provides added motivation and rationale for the treatment.

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.

Healing Society: Understanding True Personhood

by Fr. George Morelli

The featured author article this month is an updating and reworking of the Society of St. John Chrysostom-Western Region’s President’s Message Light of the East Newsletter (Spring 2015) originally entitled PERSONHOOD: DISUNION AND UNION.[i] This article focuses on the need of the healing of society from making Christ and His Body the Church criminals and non-persons worthy of marginalization, murder and torturous execution, and recognizing that all of mankind, in fact are made up of ‘persons,’ and are of worth. Furthermore all Christians should join in prayer, witness and action to cure the increasing societal illness of depersonalization.

And God created man to his own image: to the image of God he created him: male and female he created them. (Gn 1: 27)

And the Lord God formed man of the slime of the earth: and breathed into his face the breath of life, and man became a living soul. (Gn 2:7)

One would hope that the basis of union among those who acknowledge the transcendent personal God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob would be that of the worth and sanctity of personhood. It would appear, however, that rather than a reestablishment of cordial relations among those who acknowledge the sacredness of Scripture, and the Book of Genesis in particular, there is an ever growing divide.  Understanding how the differing religious traditions view the genesis and development of the concept of personhood gives an insight of what fuels this ‘great divide.’ Spiritual and moral values differ among those who all consider themselves followers of Christ, and the difference in the understanding of personhood is not only a good reflection of the chasm, but may be in part what is fueling the widening of it. The Apostolic Churches view is that persons are known by God outside of created space and time. The Prophet Jeremiah (1: 5) tells us: “Before I formed thee in the bowels of thy mother, I knew thee: and before thou camest forth out of the womb, I sanctified thee, and made thee a prophet unto the nations.” The traditional Christian Churches understand that God created body and soul, fused together at the moment of conception. This is based on the Virgin Mary’s response to the invitation from God delivered by the Archangel Gabriel: “The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the most High shall overshadow thee.” (Lk 1: 35) The ‘to be’ Mother of God (Theotokos) responded her fiat (“let it be done”): “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.” (Lk 1:38).

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]

Understanding Orthodoxy for Mental Health Practitioners + Part 5

[This is a follow up course to Orthodox Christian Spirituality and Cognitive Psychotherapy: An Online Course, that appeared in four parts over the years 2012-2013. This second course is specifically oriented to explain Orthodoxy to mental health practitioners,and serve as a useful resource for Orthodox Clergy and laity as well. Ethically, mental health practitioners should incorporate the spiritual values of their patients in the therapeutic process. The course would serve as an introduction of the Eastern Orthodox ethos and cultural traditions to these professionals.

One of the most frequently questions I am asked as Chairman of the Chaplain and Pastoral Counseling Department of the Antiochian Archdiocese is for a referral to an Orthodox mental health practitioner. Sadly Orthodoxy is not a majority spiritual tradition in North America and Orthodox practitioners are few. So careful questioning by potential patients, family and clergy of a potential practitioner regarding the practitioner's understanding and respect for the spiritual values of their patients is very important. This course is meant to aid in this inquiry.

It also should be noted that this course is an updating and reworking of a recently published chapter: Psychotherapy with members of Eastern Orthodox Churches, (Morelli, 2014).]

by Fr. George Morelli

You doctors, must take good care of your patients in order to avoid unpleasant situations. You should have a practical mind. Generally speaking, every one of us must take advantage of his mind which is a gift from God.
(Saint Paisios of the Holy Mountain) [1]

Considerations in the Psychotherapy for Orthodox Christians

Cognition, emotion and behavior interact with each other in complex ways.Cognition, emotion and behavior interact with each other in complex ways.Emotion and Neural Processes

There are currently various psychological models to explain this interaction. One model, based on Darwinian evolutionary theory, is that emotion develops as an adaptive value to a stimulus. From the different laboratories of Izard (1993, 2001, 2002), Plutchik (1984) and Tomkins (1991) come remarkably similar findings on the presence of primary emotions shortly after birth. 

Chaplain's Corner + Perfectionism vs. Diligence

by Fr. George Morelli

One of the major irrational beliefs that cause and sustain disturbing emotions and unproductive behavior is a perfectionistic personal rule that “one should be thoroughly competent, adequate, and achieving in all possible respects if one is to be considered worthwhile.” (Ellis, 1962, p. 63) [1].  The inherent irrationality of perfectionism can be seen by considering that no one can be masterful in all things, and that it is often accompanied by undue anxiety, stress and physical disorders. Focusing on trying to excel over others, or considering perfection as the measure of our personal worth by demanding perfection of oneself, distracts us from task-attention and from making the appropriate choices to achieve success.

Such perfectionistic standards are opposed to diligence. A sense of diligence guides us to be conscientious in appropriately paying attention to a specific task and giving it the actions necessary to carry it out to a successful conclusion.

Chaplain's Corner + Overcoming the Need for Approval

by Fr. George Morelli

In clinical psychology there is a well-known irrational cognition that prompts dysfunctional emotions such as anxiety and depression and ensuing maladaptive behaviors. The impaired belief or cognition is that: "I must [emphasis mine] be loved or approved by practically every significant person in my life---and if I am not, it's awful [emphasis mine].i It can be noted that must, implies a personal rule or demand. Awful implies that the result is the 'end of the world' 'more than 100% bad. The dire need for approval, as in the case of other irrational beliefs, dis-affirmative emotions and faulty behaviors, lead to a cascading domino of untoward problems. Such need for approval undermines being able to overcome obstacles to attain desirable goals and very often leads individuals to set high standards that are so perfectionistic as to be practically unattainable all with accompanying increasing dysfunctional emotions mentioned above.

Allied Against Criminalizing Christ and His Church

by Fr. George Morelli

The featured author article this month is an updating and reworking of the Society of St. John Chrysostom-Western Region’s President’s Message Light of the East Newsletter (Winter 2014-2015) originally entitled ALLIES IN THE BATTLE AGAINST THE CRIMINALIZATION OF CHRISTIANITY.i This article focuses on the need of the healing of society from making Christ and His Body the Church criminals and that all Christians should ally to cure this increasing societal illness.

The work of Satan, the great divider, or separator, is not new, It goes back to Christ, Himself, His Apostles and Disciples and many early Christians. They were criminals in the eyes of the law, the state. We know from the Holy Gospels and historical accounts that real possession by Satan can occur. However as one Christian author C.S. Lewisii, has pointed out most of the work of Satan is not done by him or his demons, but by us, that is to say, people like you and I. Lewis writes a fictional account of an experienced devil or demon named Screwtape who teaching a novice devil, his nephew called Wormwood to adopt a "war aim," that would entail a, "world in which Our Father Below has drawn all other beings to himself...." (p. 38). The moral of the story boils down to this: 'you don't have to do much, you can more or less stand back and people will do the Devil's work for you.' This is due to the brokenness, weaknesses, biases, foibles, prejudices and passions we all have, which of course we have inherited from our ancestral parents. (Gn 3)

Understanding Orthodoxy for Mental Health Practitioners + Part 4

[This is a follow up course to Orthodox Christian Spirituality and Cognitive Psychotherapy: An Online Course, that appeared in four parts over the years 2012-2013. This second course is specifically oriented to explain Orthodoxy to mental health practitioners,and serve as a useful resource for Orthodox Clergy and laity as well. Ethically, mental health practitioners should incorporate the spiritual values of their patients in the therapeutic process. The course would serve as an introduction of the Eastern Orthodox ethos and cultural traditions to these professionals.

One of the most frequently questions I am asked as Chairman of the Chaplain and Pastoral Counseling Department of the Antiochian Archdiocese is for a referral to an Orthodox mental health practitioner. Sadly Orthodoxy is not a majority spiritual tradition in North America and Orthodox practitioners are few. So careful questioning by potential patients, family and clergy of a potential practitioner regarding the practitioner's understanding and respect for the spiritual values of their patients is very important. This course is meant to aid in this inquiry.

It also should be noted that this course is an updating and reworking of a recently published chapter: Psychotherapy with members of Eastern Orthodox Churches, (Morelli, 2014).]

by Fr. George Morelli

Intellect, Science and Healing

Clearly, the Church Fathers teach that intellect and reason are highly valued characteristics in man. It is important to note that intellect does not mean high intelligence. It refers to the spiritual perception of the principles of the Divine. The Greek term dianoia refers to the ability to reason, distinguish, create, and all the qualities associated with it. Further, there is a moral imperative implied in the assessment of the Church Fathers. Since the intellect and reason is a gift from God, we must exercise reason to the best of our ability. Failure to responsibly apply our intellect and reason in our lives means we are not conforming to the will of God.

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