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Conference for Mormon counselors focuses on 'return of virtue to psychological care'

By Russell Gaede

For the Deseret News

Published: Sunday, Oct. 2 2011 5:00 a.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — Counselors and psychotherapists from around the world converged on Salt Lake City this week to attend the yearly Association of Mormon Counselors and Psychotherapists Conference, on Thursday and Friday at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building.

AMCAP is an international organization dedicated to providing information and support to LDS mental health professionals and the leaders are committed to assisting LDS counselors in carrying out counseling and therapy in a manner consistent with the teachings and principles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The association has approximately 400 members worldwide, and about 225 attended the annual conference.

“We have been very pleased with not only the high rate of turnout but also with the enthusiasm shown by first-time and longtime attendees,” said Doug LeCheminant, vice president of the organization. “We are particularly pleased with the number of students attending,” he added. Graduate students from various universities attended the conference to learn new ideas and understand various career paths they can take after graduation.

The theme was “Return of Virtue to Psychological Care.” The conference began with an address by Richard Williams, director of the Wheatley Institute at BYU, who spoke on same gender and dual gender marriages.

Counselors and psychotherapists attended lectures on ethics, addictions and treating trauma. Lectures and presentations focused on both research and treatment. “We have had a number of new presenters and fresh presentations,” said LeCheminant.

AMCAP presenter Russell Seigenberg of Providence, Cache County, spoke about positive psychology, mindfulness and the brain.

“The brain responds to our thoughts about the environment as well as our interactions with the environment. Medication is not the only answer; the person needs to change their thoughts and activities which support the medication effects,” Seigenberg said.

“Positive psychology builds hope because a person gains confidence they can create a future with meaning and joy without having to reach every single life goal,” he added.

Many presentations focused on addictions and helping individuals work through and overcome them. In addition, all the presentations had a spiritual aspect. Many presenters discussed the difference between religion and spirituality. Knowing the difference helps therapists work with individuals from all walks of life. Therapists were also encouraged to understand themselves and their personal difficulties.

For information about AMCAP, go to ldsamcap.org.

Russ Gaede is a licensed mental health professional. He has a doctorate in clinical psychology and is the executive director of the Life Enhancement Center in Provo. His website is at www.lecutah.com and his email is at r.gaede@lecutah.com.

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