Episode 13 of our Mental Horizons Podcast is with Matthew Stanford, PhD, the CEO of the Hope and Healing Center and Institute in Houston, Texas and adjunct professor of psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine and Houston Methodist Hospital Institute for Academic Medicine. This episode is about the ways faith communities support (or don’t) their members with a mental illness.

Dr. Stanford’s research on the interplay between psychology and issues of faith has been featured in The New York Times, USA Today, Christianity Today, and U.S. News & World Report.

Dr. Stanford earned his doctoral degree in behavioral neuroscience at Baylor University and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. Professionally he has worked with a variety of clients with mental illness, including those with aggression, personality disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance dependence, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.

As director of the Hope and Healing Center and Institute, he conducts training seminars and serves individuals living with mental illness and their families. He is the author of three books

  • Grace for the Afflicted: A Clinical and Biblical Perspective on Mental Illness, Revised and Expanded
  • The Biology of Sin: Grace, Hope, and Healing for Those Who Feel Trapped
  • Grace for the Children: Finding Hope in the Midst of Child and Adolescent Mental Illness.

Three main talking points for the episode:

  1. Dr. Stanford will talk to us about how people often turn to their clergy for support around their mental health issues. In this light, congregations have the potential to act as a healing community for these individuals. But some clergy can “over spiritualize” mental illness and this is where training and awareness raising efforts for congregations can help to steer people towards the proper supports.
  2. Dr. Stanford will then tell us more about a critical aspect of this issue: that clergy do not make a lot of referrals to mental health professionals. Dr. Stanford believes that with the proper training, clergy and leadership in congregations can help to spot, support, and refer parishoners at the right time to the right people, leveraging the trusting relationship they already have and helping get people the help they need.
  3. And lastly, Dr. Stanford will outline some excellent resources for anyone who wants to learn more: a CBT-based curriculum and training he has developed that prepares people who are part of faith communities to act as mental health coaches, other training resources offered by the Hope and Healing Center and Institute, and an annual mental health conference they host.

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