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For week ended January 10, 1999 Posted 22 Jan 1999
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Psychologist helps Mormons and others deal with Faith

Summarized by Leesa Magoch-Johnon

Psychologist Helps Youth on Faith Journeys
Salt Lake Tribune 9Jan99
By Bob Mims: Salt Lake Tribune

In a complete turn around from the views of Sigmund Freud, psychologist, Michael Schreiner, encourages and accompanies troubled youths on their journeys of faith. Although, there are still many psychologists who stay away from religious concepts, there are also a growing number of therapists who make faith a part of their counseling treatments.

Timothy W. Smith, chairman of the University of Utah psychology department states, "[Therapists] are beginning to get much more sympathetic with the idea that psychological interventions need to be able to accommodate, and occasionally address issues of people's faith and its impact on their personal adjustment and relations."

The difference between Freud and Schreiner may be that while Freud practiced in turn-of-the-century Austria, Schreiner practices in Utah, where an estimated 70 percent of the population are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Even though all of his patients are not Mormons, the state's religiously charged atmosphere keeps him busy with the group he opened in September, Salt Lake's Utah Child & Youth Guidance Center, 1414 E. 4500 South.

Fresh from two years of private practice and an internship and post-doctoral fellowship at the renowned Bingham Child Guidance Center in Louisville, Ky., Schreiner's outpatient list has already topped 40.

The cases have ranged from child depression, anxiety, and drug abuse, to family conflicts. Many times, though, Schreiner and his child psychology colleague, Deidre Caplin, deal with a recurring theme of youths wrestling with "religious issues".

That group has included not just teenagers rebelling against their parents' beliefs, but also "several" young men whose struggles about faith, have led them to cut short their LDS church missions.

Even though, Schreiner declined to discuss the specifics concerning such cases he has categorized them as, "individuals who grew up feeling they had to go on a mission, and then they go, but a month or two out they are really struggling; deep in their hearts, they don't want to be there."

It's after ending the mission that these youths will often face even more of a struggle. They experience guilt, anger, and depression, as they return to face the disappointment of their family, and their own feelings of failure.

Other children simply balk at their parents' faith long before they have even considered going on a mission. This type of rebellion can range from disinterested participation to avoiding religious services and associating with non-believing peers to substance abuse and sexual activity, Schreiner has said.

The main goal is to put the child at the center of treatment. Even though Schreiner never tears down the parents' faith, he does allow the child freedom to express their feelings. Sometimes this leads to spiritual reapproachment with parents and a return to religious activities, but sometimes it does not.

The aim is for a general respect of spirituality. Some are just not interested in formal religion, but Schreiner makes sure they are at peace with themselves. This is an approach which is slowly gaining acceptance in the mental health community.

Schreiner, who is also the father of six children, has some advice for the parents of questioning children:

- -Understand that it is natural for youths to seperate from parents as they reach adulthood.

- -In a nondefensive manner, explore what the child believes.

- -Seek a balance between understanding your child's developing beliefs and following your own value system.

- -Live your own beliefs. "Your child will follow what you do, not what you say."

- -Finally, trust yourself and children, allowing them to learn from their mistakes.

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Kent Larsen · Privacy Information