Mercer Counseling Team to Travel to Newtown, Conn.


ATLANTA — A team of Mercer students and faculty, funded by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, will travel to Newtown, Conn., on Thursday to hold a pastor training conference, focused on conducting post traumatic stress disorder counseling sessions with local ministers. Many of the expected 50 pastors have experienced secondary trauma caused by the Newtown school shooting that occurred on Dec. 14. Although not victims themselves, many worked around Sandy Hook Elementary School, knew someone who was directly affected or have someone in their congregations who was affected.

“I approach this trip with excitement and apprehension because this is such an incredible tragedy and it strikes at everyone's heart when something happens to their children,” said Dr. W. David Lane, professor and to associate counseling program coordinator for doctoral studies. “I am praying we do something of meaning for these folks to help them move forward.” 

The Mercer team of seven includes Dr. Lane, the team leader; Dr. Craig McMahan, university minister and dean of the chapel; Dr. Arthur Williams, professor and chair of the Counseling and Human Sciences Department; and Dr. Donna Lane, an adjunct professor in counseling and co-author of the material being used at the conference and Dr. Lane's wife. Three doctoral students in the counselor education and supervision program will also travel with the group, including David Kim, Sanaz Rezaei and Stan Hoover.

The Mercer team will work with the local pastors in small groups. One of the important steps in dealing with trauma is debriefing and letting the affected tell their story, Dr. Lane said. The group will teach the pastors using a program that Dr. Lane's team used in Haiti in 2010 following the devastating earthquake there. The program, which “trained the trainers,” proved to be successful and the group will seek to replicate parts of the curriculum in Newtown, he said. The Mercer team will teach the pastors to learn to spot post-traumatic stress disorder cases and how to refer the sufferers for help.

The Mercer team will present on Friday about “Working with People Affected by Trauma” with an introduction and overview led by Dr. David Lane. He and Dr. Williams will present on the “Effects of Trauma” and Dr. Donna Lane will end the presentation by discussing “The Story of the Gold Stone,” which is part of the trauma materials. Following the presentations, attendees will break up into small groups for intensive work. The day will end with a question-and-answer session about what can be done to further help and what problems may occur.

On Saturday, Dr. McMahan will moderate a panel discussion before the group departs and returns to Atlanta later that day.

“It's an approach to teaching small groups about trauma and how to deal with it and teaching them how to teach it to their congregations as they deal with this horrific trauma,” Dr. Lane said.