a prayer before the fall begins

Hi friends,

I wanted to pop in to offer a brief prayer for those of you about to launch into a new semester or season of life, but especially for those starting a new school year…

…for our kids who are bravely facing a new year, new classroom, new grade, new classmates, new teachers, and new unknowns

…for parents and loved ones who have butterflies for our kiddos’ first days (like me!)
…for teachers who are praying over their new class and the lessons of the year, double and triple checking their to do lists
…for administrators overseeing an overwhelming number of details, tasks, and concerns for our kids, families, and school staff
…for custodial staff who will are working tirelessly to ensure a clean and safe learning environment for our kids
…for nurses who will soon be fighting the influx of germs and anxiety among our kids as everyone is back together
…for the lunch team who feed our hungry (and energetic!) kiddos each day
…for the bus drivers who pick up and drop off our kids safely each day
…for the after-school teams who continue to care for our kids while parents and caregivers work
…for the school counselors who see a spike in assessments and appointments to best serve our kids
…and for all of us in the community to drive safely, to be patient as our kids transition back in school, and to extend grace to one another and ourselves as we find a new balance/rhythm in the shifting season.

I am certain I am missing some key helpers who are serving kids, families, and teachers, but if you are engaged in serving these groups in any way during this time of year, I want to pause before tomorrow launches in our corner of the world and say how much you matter. Thank you for how you’re building a better tomorrow for our kiddos, one day, one idea, one encouragement, and one patient and kind moment at a time (toward our kids, others, and yourself). Thank you. I hope you each have a great start to the new academic year!




Spirituality among young adults with serious mental illness

Hi friends,

This is a long overdue share on a paper that was published last year, but I wanted to be sure to let y’all know about it before more time passed! Back in 2017, Dr. Sarah Narendorf (Assistant Professor at the University of Houston’s Graduate College of Social Work), Kelsey Moffatt (MSW graduate of Baylor University’s Garland School of Social Work) and I had a couple of research questions we were interested in:

1: How do vulnerable young adults in psychiatric crisis talk about religion/spirituality?
2: How do religion/spirituality emerge in the narratives of their experiences, understanding, and management of their mental health problems?

Dr. Narendorf had interview data with 55 young adults who were using emergency psychiatric services, and as she read through the data initially, she realized religion/spirituality (RS) unexpectedly emerged throughout many interviews! None of the interview questions directly asked about the young adults’ faith, and this wasn’t at all the focus of the project, yet these participants who were facing extremely difficult situations were describing their RS in a number of ways tied to their mental health, including:

  1. Positive RS coping strategies (54 times mentioned across 23 participants)
  2. Role of support systems & RS (52 times mentioned across 27 participants)
  3. Relationship with God/Higher Power (38 times mentioned across 15 participants)
  4. Negative RS experiences/coping (21 times mentioned across 13 participants)

If you’re curious about the details of the project and what we found, the original research article is entitled, Religion and spirituality among young adults with severe mental illness and can be found here. It’s clear from these young adults’ stories that without even asking about RS explicitly during the interview, it was an important topic for many of these 18-25 year olds who had been admitted for psychiatric services for bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, or a schizophrenia spectrum disorder.

As mental health care providers, it’s critical we continue considering and assessing the ways in which this area of clients’ lives can be woven into the presenting issue in these areas above (positive RS coping; negative RS coping/experiences; relationship with God; role of social support & RS), or in other ways, and often in a complex combination of many topics related to RS and mental health.

If you’d like to read more about this study, there were a few media pickups on it here:

Baylor University
Business Standard
Psych Central
La Croix International
and others…

I hope each of you are well and enjoying your summer! It’s been quiet in the Oxhandler home lately, as I’ve kept my head down to tackle a few big projects, write a lot, pause on CXMH podcast this summer, catch up on reading (see my goodreads page for what books are on my night stand!), prepare for the tenure process this upcoming year, learn a new rhythm of rest, and most importantly, spend lots of time with my family. I hope the summer has been good for each of y’all, too, and I look forward to sharing some more recent research and findings with you in the near future!



These days…

Hi friends,

I hope this finds each of you well! I am popping in after a very long pause on this site, with over 7 months since my last entry. (Goodness gracious…) It has been a full season with new learning curves, new schedule juggles, new adventures, and new opportunities, all while still fully focused on my research, teaching, service, inner work, and sacred time with family.

But I wanted to pop in and say hi, and I am still here… 🙂
…still humbly serving Baylor’s Garland School of Social Work as Associate Dean for Research & Faculty Development.
…still gratefully navigating another year on tenure-track before submitting my final materials this summer/fall to go up for tenure & promotion.
…still running with various research projects that are near and dear to my heartbeat of serving those who serve others.
…still serving CXMH each week with my wonderful cohost, Robert Vore.
…still squeezing my two beautiful babies as often as I can and carving out valuable time to tend to my marriage (Cory & I celebrated 8 years of marriage + 14 years of being together last month!)
…still creating space for my own spiritual growth & development via retreats, daily centering prayer, lots of reading + journaling, and leaning into my 2019 word of the year: grounded.

(It’s worth noting that being off social media for Lent has been one of the greatest gifts I could have given to myself, my family, my work, and my faith journey during this season, especially to let my soul catch up in each of these areas.)

I’ve also had lots of exciting opportunities to share my research since last September and hope to offer some updates on them in the coming months, in addition to some current research projects I’m working on. One is a Templeton Foundation-funded project looking at client preferences for integrating their religion/spirituality into mental health treatment(!!) The second is a Spencer Foundation-funded project I’m about to launch regarding social work faculty views/experiences on teaching students to integrate clients’ religion/spirituality into practice. I love what I get to do, the colleagues and research teams I get to work with, and I can’t wait to share this work with you… stay tuned!

Thank you for your patience, friends, especially through this season of a new way of balancing work I love with people I love with a new (to me) take on self-care that involves lots of silence + stillness + solitude. (Each of which absolutely requires practice, as noted in the image above, but are so worth every minute spent practicing them.) I know and trust that we are all truly doing the best we can with what we have. I know I am, and I trust you are, too. 🙂