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!

 

Kindly,

holly3

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
ScienceDaily
Business Standard
Psych Central
WellBeing
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!

Kindly,

holly

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. 🙂

Kindly,

holly

CXMH co-hosting!!

Hi friends! Happy start to the new semester, to a new academic year, or to the hopeful transition into cooler weather soon (especially for those of us in Texas!) I have some exciting research I’ll be sharing with y’all soon… but in the meantime, I wanted to pop in to offer an exciting update that I am joining Robert Vore as a new cohost for the CXMH podcast!

I am thrilled, humbled, grateful, and honored to join Robert this season! Our first episode came out on Monday, in which Robert introduced me as the new cohost and asked me a bunch of questions. In sum, I told him about the heartbeat behind my research, teaching, and service is at the intersection of religion/spirituality and mental health treatment — including mental health care providers ethically integrating clients’ faith AND equipping religious leaders to be mindful of/sensitive to mental health needs in their congregations (and referring when needed!). I also told Robert my why is to…

serve those who serve others

…which fits beautifully with this podcast, designed to serve mental health care providers, pastors/religious leaders, and anyone impacted by mental health struggles – personally or a loved one. (ps. if you’re interested in learning more about identifying your why, check out Simon Sinek’s Start with Why).

Our hope is this podcast continues to serve others in the weeks and months ahead! AND since we’re so excited about launching season 3 this week, we also released an episode on the History of CXMH (on Robert’s birthday!) Please subscribe, share episodes with friends and loved ones, and let us know how these conversations serve you! And if you would like to support the podcast, there are a lot of ways to do so, as mentioned at the bottom of the episode show notes! (The simplest is leaving us a review – it helps so much!)

And here are the links to both episodes…

cxmh-holly

CXMH46

Thanks, friends! I hope you each have a great start to September!

Kindly,

holly3

Namaste Theory

One of the (many!) things I love about research is when I have an unexpected “ah ha!!” moment that no amount of planning or hope or best intentions could have created – only  a little breathing room to think. Last year, I had such a moment reflecting on my dissertation findings and some more recent surveys of various helping professionals.

In my national sample of clinical social workers, I noticed that their intrinsic religiosity (or the degree to which they’re deeply motivated to carry out their religion/spirituality into all areas of their lives) was the top predictor of their attitudes, confidence, perceived feasibility, and behaviors related to assessing and discussing clients’ religion/spirituality. Yes, their intrinsic religiosity. Not training… though, that was the second and only other predictor. Not gender, race, ethnicity, age, region of the country, years in practice, age of clients served, type of clinical issue most often treated, religious affiliation, etc… it was their own intrinsic religiosity first, and then whether or not they received training. This finding echoed in the qualitative responses I wrote about here.

One morning last year while I was getting ready, without really even thinking much about work, it dawned on me…


Namaste…
The divine in me sees the divine in you…
The light in me sees the light in you…
That’s IT!!!


Practitioners who have higher levels of intrinsic religiosity – those who deeply recognize the sacred within, or that which they consider sacred, such as their spirituality – tend to recognize the sacred within their clients more. The Hindi term, Namaste, which literally translates to “I bow to you” and acknowledges the divine/sacred within both individuals, helped to bring order and understanding to what I saw emerging in the data regarding the role of the therapist’s spirituality in considering the clients’ spirituality. This wasn’t just in my research, but this pattern echoed across helping professions with elements of practitioners’ religion/spirituality influencing whether they considered their clients’ religion/spirituality. And, as I mention in the original article, published in Religions, I’m also curious if this theory could be extended beyond one’s religion/spirituality to include other areas of intersectionality (e.g., the more practitioners are deeply aware of their race/ethnicity/gender/sexual orientation/age/ability/culture/etc., the more likely they are to recognize this layer if diversity in clients.)

Baylor University’s Garland School of Social Work put together a great video about this theory, which you can find here, and even wrote an article describing Namaste Theory in more detail here. (A special thanks to Baylor graduate Connor Watkins for putting together the video and article!) Also, if you’re interested in hearing more about this theory, check out my podcast episode with Steve Austin here!

While I strongly recommend receiving training on integrating clients’ religion/spirituality, particularly if you did not receive such training in your graduate program, Namaste Theory suggests it is also critical that you take time to become deeply aware of your religious/spiritual beliefs. Not only will this awareness help you become more comfortable and grounded with your own beliefs, allowing you to hold space to discuss others’ diverse beliefs, but it can also allow you to be mindful of biases, reduce the risk of imposing your beliefs (whether intentionally or unintentionally), and recognize the complexities of others’ spiritual journeys.

As always, I hope this serves you well in your work, particularly as you seek to serve your clients to the best of your ability, both ethically and effectively! Namaste, friends! 😉

Kindly,

holly3

Sabbathing – June 2018

Last summer was the first time my family and I fully unplugged and rested for an extended period of time. We took off almost three entire weeks and had our first family vacation. After running full-speed ahead, working way too many hours for nearly a decade through my MSW/PhD/first few years of tenure-track, and having Callie & Oliver during that time, we finally chose to rest and play. Thankfully, we’re repeating this summer Sabbath practice again this year and already had plans to get out of town for a couple of weeks. As my friend, Steve Austin, recently posted his commitment to unplug for June, I found myself thinking of one of my favorite quotes by Marianne Williamson:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” 

The last two sentences are my favorite – when we decide what’s true for us, who we are, what we value, and share it in love, we give others permission to do the same. This leads me to wonder about our culture’s orientation toward busy and why we so often work without resting or pausing or playing? I know when I was in graduate school, I picked up on cultural messages that rest was often scoffed at as a luxury few could afford (both in time and finances) or for those who seemed to care less about their work. I was always nervous to admit if I took a day off over the weekend or got a full 8 hours of sleep, so either a) I wouldn’t, or b) would lie. It seemed “I’m so busy!” and “I’m so tired!” got more accolades than “I rested/played/relaxed this weekend”, and usually, the latter would be met with a sarcastic “must be nice!” and an eye roll. Quickly, I learned the ropes and bought the lie that busier meant better and perfection, productivity, and people-pleasing meant security.

Unfortunately, academia and social work (like many other fields) aren’t always friendly toward the idea of not working constantly. Thankfully, I’ve noticed since joining Baylor how many supportive colleagues I have who DO value rest and balance and self-care and celebrate when I choose to do any and all of that, knowing that I still get my work done. It has been in their choice to openly value rest that I’ve learned to unwind the narrative that busier is better and rewrite what I really believe about balance and rest, while trying to empower those around me to do the same.

I think Jonathan Singer‘s recent podcast episode on self-care explains this myth of burnout as a badge of honor so well and how damaging it is to our profession. The truth was, I could have made the time to rest, but my inner dialogue convinced me that I couldn’t. There was just too much to do. And while I couldn’t financially afford to not work, I’m sure I could have saved up and then taken off. For me, it went way deeper. My inability to prioritize rest was out of a deep fear that if I rested, if I slowed down, I couldn’t bear the crippling self-talk that I wasn’t being a good steward of the time I’m given to serve others, that my work would be less-than-perfect, and that eventually, when I reached some arbitrary goal, then I could rest. I have lived in the narrative of “if I can just get XYZ done, THEN I can rest” for as long as I can remember.

But XYZ gets done. And do you know what? The list circles back to ABC with more things to do. So then it becomes, “when I get ABC done, then I can rest.” Of course, you guessed it, DEF are the next items on the to-do list. And on and on it goes. There will always be work to be done. But my kids will not always be 2 & 5, I may not always have the abilities I currently have to play with them, and every single day with Cory, Callie, and Oliver is a gift. We never know which day will be our or a loved one’s last, and if I miss the moment because I’m so overwhelmingly worried about finishing the next item on my to do list so that I can later rest, I will regret it. That realization carried with it a hard lesson and heavy responsibility to make some changes – some quickly, and some over time.

Working without pause and a chance to be quiet, still, and listen does not offer healing or creativity or presence. Working without rest or play does not make manifest the glory of God. Truthfully, working without rest makes me less productive, less attentive to details, and less efficient. So for the next month, I’m unplugging. I’m offering two weeks of undivided attention to my family, followed by a couple of weeks of just focusing on my work projects and then coming home to play with the kids, go on a date with my husband, practice solitude with my journal/books/paints, or go grab coffee with a friend.

Why do I share this with y’all? Because though culture celebrates busy more than rest, I hope that openly sharing my struggle with a broken accelerator and the need to rest/practice sabbath empowers you to use the time you’re given to do the same. Maybe for an hour, a day or two, a week, or longer. But rest. Don’t numb, rest. (So sorry, but an 8-hour Netflix or 2-hour social media scrolling binge often aren’t resting – they’re numbing agents, and I’m guilty of using them, too). We need you to take care of you in order to care for others well. You can’t draw water from an empty well. If it helps, make a list of things to do that fill up your spirit so that you have options and aren’t tempted to numb. I also share this because I admit this is really hard for me and accountability often helps. Maybe disconnecting is easy for you, but it’s not for me. (See Adam Alter’s Irresistible: The rise of addictive technology and the business of keeping us hooked)

If you’ve been waiting for permission to rest, grab a piece of paper and write yourself the permission slip you need. Celebrate those around you who are choosing to rest as they’re able to. Remember to let your light shine, so that you can give others permission to shine as well. And have a restful, fun, memorable summer, friends!

Kindly,

holly3

“The Enneagram & Communities”: Taking over CXMH (again!) to interview Dr. Jon Singletary!

Hi friends! I’m back with another CXMH episode with Dr. Jon Singletary, Dean of the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work at Baylor University! Our first episode was on “The Enneagram and our faith journey“, and this time, we talk about the Enneagram and communities! The episode launched a couple of weeks ago but the end of the semester was a bit… full! 🙂 (Sorry for the delay and thank you again to Robert Vore for allowing us to take over CXMH yet again!)

In this more recent episode, Dr. Singletary unpacks how the Enneagram helps us consider the ways in which we engage the world, particularly through thinking/feeling/doing, and how this doesn’t just apply to individuals but also to communities, too! (Especially faith-based communities!) This episode is especially relevant for those who lead organizations, communities, and congregations and my hope is if that includes you, that this episode serves you well. You might even find yourself considering whether your community is a thinking/feeling/doing community and ways to bring these three in balance with one another! 🙂 Enjoy!!

CXMH: Episode 39: The Enneagram & Communities – Part 2
(feat. Dr. Holly Oxhandler & Dr. Jon Singletary)

CXMH+-+Main+Episodes+(24)

Kindly,

holly3

“The Enneagram & Our Faith Journey”: Taking over CXMH to interview Dr. Jon Singletary!

Hi friends! Robert Vore, host of the CXMH (Christianity & Mental Health) podcast is officially is on paternity leave to be with his sweet wife and their beautiful new son! (Congratulations, Robert & Brooke!!) In the meantime, Robert asked me to host some episodes. Of course, one of the topics I pitched was on the Enneagram, especially given how unbelievably helpful it has been for me in my own life, faith journey, and relationships with others. I wholeheartedly admit I am a better me/ wife/ mom/ family member/ colleague/ teacher/ friend/ human being/ etc. since learning about it a few years ago, and I have more grace for others and myself than ever before.

So I asked Dr. Jon Singletary, Dean of Baylor University’s Diana R. Garland School of Social Work, to join me in a couple of episodes on this personality typing system. He is one of Suzanne Stabile‘s apprentices and has so much wisdom to offer on the Enneagram. In this first episode, I ask Jon to unpack what the Enneagram is and we discuss how it can be used along our faith journeys. (It even launched on my birthday, which was such a fun treat in the midst of an already wonderful day of celebrating with my husband, kiddos, and parents! Thanks, Robert!)

Enjoy friends, and I hope this episode serves you well!

CXMH: Episode 38: The Enneagram & Our Faith Journey – Part 1
(feat. Dr. Holly Oxhandler & Dr. Jon Singletary)

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Kindly,

holly3

“The Namaste Project & Spiritual Self-Care”: An interview with Steve Austin on the #AskSteveAustin podcast!

Hi friends! I have another great conversation that I’m so excited to share with you! I recently had the opportunity to talk with lifecoach and author, Steve Austin, for his podcast, the #AskSteveAustin podcast, and the episode went live last night! We had such a fun conversation about a number of topics that are near and dear to my heart. Our original focus for this episode was on Namaste Theory and spiritual self-care, but Steve and I had a blast talking like old friends and the chat ended up including some of my journey, practicing contentment, being an Enneagram 2, my love for research, and some new research on client preferences for integrating their spirituality into mental health treatment (which has since been accepted to be published in Social Work!). Plus, we talked about the importance of spiritual self-care and walked through a number of spiritual practices I lean on, including centering prayer, Sabbath, gratitude, journaling, and more!

We had a BLAST, and I would highly recommend his podcast if you haven’t heard of it before! I am honored to have had the chance to chat with him, and am grateful for all of the work he’s doing at the intersection of faith and mental health.

I hope you enjoy the episode and it serves you well! I’m off to go celebrate being married to my best friend for 7 years and together for 13 by watching Callie play t-ball and getting some quality family time tonight!

#AskSteveAustin Podcast Episode 55:
“The Namaste Project & Spiritual Self-Care (with Dr. Holly Oxhandler)”

podcastCredit: feature photo (source) and podcast photo (source).

 

Kindly,

holly3

“Does it matter if your therapist is a Christian?”: An interview with Robert Vore on CXMH!

Hi, friends! I recently had the opportunity to talk with Robert Vore on his podcast CXMH: Christianity and Mental Health, and the episode just launched this week! We had a great conversation about the role of religion and spirituality in mental health treatment, some of my recent research findings regarding a national sample of mental health clients’ preferences for integrating their religion/spirituality in mental health treatment, the role of the therapist’s beliefs (related: see Namaste Theory), and bridging the gap between mental health care providers and religious leaders. As you can quickly tell in this episode, I was over-the-moon excited to get to talk with Robert about these topics I wholeheartedly love!

If you have not heard of CXMH before, please take a moment to check it out! I’m honored that Robert invited me to the show, and am grateful for all of the work he is doing to highlight the intersection of faith and mental health!

Enjoy!

CXMH: Episode 31 (Does It Matter If Your Therapist Is A Christian?,
feat. Dr. Holly Oxhandler)

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Kindly,

holly3