Kanuga 2019 Fall Conference

October 25-27, 2019

Just Sex: Challenges for Psychotherapists and Spiritual Professionals

  • Specific skills required to meet the sexual concerns presented by clients; 
  • An exploration of the definition of gender and implications for providing care and psychotherapy with the transgender population; 
  • An understanding of the attitude and sexual value systems operating in a therapeutic setting;
  • Insights and working models regarding sex, gender, and sexual orientation; 
  • Theoretical models of understanding that can be helpful in a therapeutic setting; 
  • Simple skills required in working with many sexual issues.

Keynote Speaker:  The Rev. Cody J. Sanders, Ph.D.

How can psychotherapists, mental health professionals, or spiritual care professionals engage in conversations about sex and gender when our training and professional practices demand awareness of the complexities and nature of the subject? 

The Rev. Cody J. Sanders, Ph.D., is a pastoral theologian working at the intersection of LGBTQIA lives and religion/spiritual praxis. His approach in these plenaries will not only address what spiritually integrative practitioners need to know about sexual/affectional orientation and gender identity in order to be culturally competent, but will also privilege queer lives as sites of significant wisdom for clinical praxis. Participants will gain critical knowledge for counseling LGBTQIA clients, better understand the complex intersection of religion and suicide among LGBTQIA people, and develop therapeutic knowledge in relating to the lives of LGBTQIA people in order to better meet client needs while also sharpening the clinical insight of the spiritually integrative therapist. 

The Rev. Cody J. Sanders, Ph.D., is pastor to Old Cambridge Baptist Church in Cambridge, MA, where he also serves as American Baptist Chaplain to Harvard University and Advisor for LGBTQ+ Affairs in the Office of Religious, Spiritual, & Ethical Life at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). 
Dr. Sanders is author and editor of a number of books including, A Brief Guide to Ministry with LGBTQIA Youth (Westminster John Knox, 2017), Microaggressions in Ministry: Confronting the Hidden Violence of Everyday Church coauthored with Angela Yarber (Westminster John Knox, 2015), and Queer Lessons for Churches on the Straight and Narrow: What All Christians Can Learn from LGBTQ Lives (FaithLab, 2013) which won the 2014 national bronze metal in Gay/Lesbian/Bi/Trans Non-Fiction from the Independent Publisher Book Awards. He has also authored a number of articles in various publications such as Pastoral Psychology, the Journal of Pastoral Theology, and The Professional Counselor: Theory and Practice. 

Dr. Sanders is a frequent speaker in ecclesial and academic contexts on matters pertaining to LGBTQIA justice and care and will bring clinical insight and theological depth to questions pertaining to pastoral counseling and spiritual care for persons at the intersection of religion/spirituality, sexual/affectional orientation, and gender identity.

Conference Rates

ACPE Psychotherapists, Practitioner Members
& ACPE Certified Educators 
Student Members $50.00
Non-Members $180.00
Retired Professional Members
One Day Fee (less than 24 hours) $75.00
CEUs $30.00


Send scholarship inquiries to Will W. Eads.


For over 25 years, the former SE Region of AAPC met annually at the Kanuga Conference & Retreat Center in Hendersonville, NC. All ACPE members are welcome to join this year.

Kanuga: Conference, Retreat and Camp Center
130 Kanuga Chapel Drive
Hendersonville, NC 28739

 Workshops and Networking 

Friday, October 25, 2019

1:00- 2:00 pm

1. Queer Theory for Pastoral Counseling: Identity and Ethics beyond the Pronoun Problem, presented by Matthew S. Beal, LPC.

This workshop links ethical evaluations of approaches to solving the English pronoun problem to psychotherapeutic care for those within the LGBTQI range of identities. The pronoun problem refers to English’s lack of a gender-neutral personal pronoun in the third person singular. This lack has significant social consequences for those whose gender identity or sexuality does not conform to the male-female gender binary. This workshop surveys proposed solutions to this problem and evaluates their value through the lens of queer ethics. Beyond linguistics, however, the workshop uses the pronoun problem and the ethical evaluation of possible solutions as a point of departure for an approach to pastoral counseling that centers the liberationist concerns and epistemic advantages of non-heterosexual and non-binary persons. Specifically it highlights the harms of misgendering, social marginalization, and identity based oppressions, and it explores ways that pastoral/spiritual care and counseling can foster healing. This approach is intersectional in that it views gender and sexuality issues as vitally connected to all other aspects of human life. It is also spiritual in that it views gender and sexuality as fundamental aspects of the relational imago Dei and the human experience of the ultimate, the divine. Finally, it is a practical approach in that it fosters wisdom (phronesis) for psychotherapeutic best practices that promote human flourishing among LGBTQI persons at the interpersonal and systemic levels.

After this workshop, participants will be able to:

  • Demonstrate familiarity with the range of sexual and gender identities among LGBTQI persons.
  • Describe the English pronoun problem, approaches to its resolution, and its relevance to pastoral/spiritual care and counseling.
  • Identify the elements of a queer intersectional approach to spiritual/pastoral care and counseling.
  • Implement queer intersectionality into their approach to the counseling profession.
  • Identify best practices in caring for those with needs related to LGBTQI identity.

2. Theological Reflection 101: God Image & Mental Health, presented by Chris O’Rear, LCPT. 

This workshop is an introduction to spiritual assessment and theological reflection in psychotherapy and is intended to assist professional counselors to become more sensitive to issues of faith and spirituality in the counseling process, to provide a framework for understanding how those issues relate to presenting issues, and to know how to ethically and meaningfully elicit and respond to those issues therapeutically.

Participants will be able to:

  • Describe a framework for assessing the underlying and sometimes unconscious operational faith and spirituality of their counseling clients.
  • Explain how to assess the congruence of practical and professed beliefs.
  • Apply steps for listening for the spiritual story of their clients and how to ethically integrate that story with other aspects of therapy.
  • Identify and describe their own spiritual and religious traditions and explain how and when to appropriately draw on these for the benefit of their clients.

3. Why Are Clergy So Unhealthy? Constructively Engaging Pastoral Wellness Challenges, presented by Rev. Dr. Karen H. Webster and Rev. Travis A. Webster.

Research has shown that mainline Protestant clergy suffer from extremely high levels of stress and burnout, both of which are contributing to clergy having higher rates of obesity, heart disease (and related diseases), and poorer mental health than the general population.  Though there may be a number of reasons for this, stress, caused by the interplay between the pastor’s sense of vocation, personhood, official role, and both inner and outer expectations of what that role entails, seems to play a central role in this endemic pastoral unhealthy.

According to Carl Jung, in his writings on the ego, there is a significant danger for individuals when they over-identify with a role, thus forgetting the totality of who they are.  As pastor and professor Andrew Irvine elaborates, “How easy it is to lose sight of one’s humanity, suppressing the emotions and denying the factors which, if left unattended, turn healthy stress into excess stress and subsequent distress.” (xii).  This workshop will explore how we as mental health professionals can provide support and counseling to clergy facing burnout and challenges with mental health.

After this workshop, participants will be able to:

  • Describe the factors currently impacting the mental health of clients who serve as clergy and spiritual/religious leaders.
  • Apply Carl Jung’s thoughts on both individuation and the person of Jesus to explain how the most common causes of the profound stress that frequently impacts clergy.
  • Explain the importance of integration by describing the connections between personal well-being and faith community well-being for clergy.
  • Identify strategies to support clergy in the work of integration.

4. Faith Responses to Suicide, presented by Rev. Robert Cooke, D.Min, NC Fee-Based Practicing Pastoral Counselor; and Kevin E. Varner, LPC.

As Spiritual Care professionals and Psychotherapists, we are faced with the deep woundedness of those who present for help after a loved one has completed or attempted suicide.  Clients bring their own faith traditions and value systems to the therapy room.  Some have values that can help with their healing process.  Some values act as barriers.  This workshop will be an opportunity for professionals to reflect on experiences of suicide within their own personal contexts as well as with clients.  This in turn will provide insight into how to partner with clients on their own journeys toward healing.

Participants will be able to:

  • Construct a theological and theoretical reflection on causes of suicide.
  • Identify appropriate ways counselors and spiritual care professionals can respond to those affected by suicide within a faith context.
  • Describe the ways faith can act as a resource or a barrier to a client coping with the suicide of a loved one.
  • Identify ways in which therapists and care professionals can provide client-focused care that provides healing to those wounded by suicide.

2:45- 4:45 pm

5. New Wine in New Wineskins: Developments in Spiritually-Integrated Psychotherapy, presented by Bernard Kynes, LMFT and Kathryn Summers, NC Fee-Based Practicing Pastoral Counselor.

In 2015, the national office of the American Association for Pastoral Counseling made the decision to de-centralize their office and end the process for certification of pastoral counseling. 

For four years the American Association for Pastoral Counseling has had to re-imagine the good work of pastoral counseling and its identity.  In April of 2019, AAPC as it has been known for more than 50 years is now a part of the family or organization of ACPE: The Standard for Spiritual Care & Education.  This workshop will be a reflection, a report, and musings about our lives together.

At the end of this workshop, participants will be able to:

  • Identify changes and trends in the field of pastoral counseling.
  • Assess the impact of associational change on professional counselors.
  • Describe opportunities for counselors that have emerged from organizational change and shifts in the field.

7:00- 9:00 pm

Plenary 1: Sexuality & Gender Identity: Challenges and Gifts to Pastoral Counselors

Description: In the opening session, Dr. Sanders will explore the issues and trends in a multicultural and diverse society that impact the counseling profession in relation to embodiments of sexual/affectional orientation and gender identity. A foundation will be developed out of which to explore questions related to spiritually integrative psychotherapy with LGBTQIA clients.

Participants will:

  • Increase multicultural competency as a professional counselor or psychotherapist in meeting the needs of clients in relation to sexual/affectional orientation and gender identity. (Social & Cultural Foundations)
  • Understand contemporary societal changes and trends in areas of self-identification in relation to affectional orientation and gender identity. (Social & Cultural Foundations)
  • Develop perspectives in the integration of social justice concerns with counseling and psychotherapeutic praxis in relation to LGBTQIA clients. (Social & Cultural Foundations)

Saturday, October 26, 2019

9:00 am- 12:00 pm

Plenary 2: The Souls of Queer Folk: Clinical Insights on Religion & LGBTQ Suicide

Description: This plenary will explore insights derived from qualitative research with LGBTQ suicide survivors. First-person narrative accounts of suicide attempt and survival will help develop a robust picture of suicide experience for LGBTQ people for whom suicide becomes a thinkable option. Specific attention will be given to how religious and spiritual traditions and practices become contributing factors in LGBTQ suicide experience, and how religious and spiritual sources can be leveraged as sources of strength and resilience for LGBTQ clients.

Participants will:

  • Understand suicide not only as a mental health concern, but also as a concern with social justice implications for certain societal subgroups, including LGBTQIA people. (Social & Cultural Foundations)
  • Develop complexity of understanding at the intersection of sexual/affectional orientation and gender identity with the religious/spiritual commitments of clients. (Social & Cultural Foundations)
  • Increase competency to address the intersection of LGBTQIA identities and religious/spiritual commitments in spiritually integrative ways in counseling praxis. (Theoretical Education)

1:30- 2:30 pm

6. Spiritual Interventions: Working with Harmful Spirituality and Religion, presented by Russell Siler Jones, Th.D., LPCS.

Religion and spirituality are often sources of resilience, meaning, and healing, but they can also do harm. Sometimes the persons we serve are the ones being hurt by religion, and sometimes they’re the ones using religion to harm others.

Harmful religion is sometimes connected to an underlying mental health issue, but more often it is related to social factors. The spiritual virtues at the heart of religion get suppressed by the demands of religious group cohesion. Under strong social influence, people sometimes participate in behaviors that diminish the human capacity for compassion and empathy. Furthermore, an individual’s anxieties, defenses, and prejudices are all more entrenched and intractable when they are supported by some religiously-based rationale.

It can be challenging for therapists, chaplains, and educators to mitigate the destructive impact of religion. Interventions with harmful religion and spirituality require considerable skill, respect, and patience and they proceed from safety, respect, and curiosity. Working with harmful spiritual or religious beliefs or practices is an advanced skill that requires significant self-reflexivity and support.

This workshop is an abbreviated version of one of the 10 courses in the Spiritually-Integrated Psychotherapy (SIP) curriculum. A brief overview of the SIP curriculum will be provided at the beginning of the workshop.

At the end of this workshop, participants will be able to:

  • Identify elements of harmful spirituality or religion.
  • Discuss how spirituality and religion become harmful.
  • Identify examples of harmful spirituality or religion that they have encountered personally or in their practice. 
  • Discuss strategies for countering the impact of harmful spirituality or religion.

3:45- 5:45 pm

7. Email, Texting, and Social Media: Oh My!  Ethical and Therapeutic Considerations When Communicating with Clients Beyond the Office, presented by David Harris, MTS, MS; and Thom Anderson, LCSW.

How do YOU work with your clients when they want to communicate with you outside the space of your office?  Learn methods for communicating with your clients in an ethical AND therapeutic approach using our mindful practices of compassion, awareness, and focused presence. Gone are the days when we could simply defer or re-route all conversations to the confines of our office. We now have guidelines, ethics, and even state laws requiring training in “tele-mental health,” distance counseling and online therapy. More importantly, our clients not only expect us to respond, they can actually be much helped by our therapeutic responses!

In this interactive and hands-on workshop, participants will learn through demonstrations of our templates and practice using them in case scenarios. We will also cover some of the professional and ethical considerations of communicating with clients, along with ethical considerations not yet addressed in our ethical codes.

After this workshop, participants will be able to:

  • Apply strategies to communicate therapeutically with clients in a manner that feels invitational, promotes trust, and strengthens the relationship.
  • Identify how to evaluate your client’s ego state and respond to it with compassion and warmth.
  • Describe the importance and inherent ethical obligations of using secure vs. non-secure email; secure and non-secure texting apps, video-conferencing, and the expanding world of social media.
  • Assess how to incorporate relationship development strategies into the client’s work.

7:00- 9:00 pm

Plenary 3: Queering Pastoral Counseling & Spiritually Integrative Psychotherapy

Description: Beyond learning about LGBTQIA people and the concerns they bring with them into counseling, what can we learn from LGBTQIA lives that will enrich our clinical practice? This session will que(e)ry psychotherapeutic practice through an epistemological lens that privileges LGBTQIA lives as sites of significant wisdom in relation to religion, theological foundations for spiritually integrative counseling, and theories and techniques of counseling and their application in mental health settings.

Participants will:

  • Develop an epistemological lens for psychotherapeutic theory and technique that draws upon the wisdom of LGBTQIA experience, the burgeoning literature of queer theory, and postmodern shifts in psychotherapy. (Theoretical Education)
  • Understand ways that religious praxis, spiritually integrative psychotherapy, and pastoral counseling can be shaped by inquiry into the wisdom of queer experience. (Social & Cultural Foundations)
  • Increase competency in use of counseling theories, principles, and techniques that are not only multiculturally appropriate for LGBTQIA clients, but also are responsive to the societal changes and trends that take shape through a foregrounding of queer perspective and embodied experience. (Theoretical Education)

Sunday, October 27, 2019

9:00- 10:30 am

8. Was Jesus a Virgin?  (And Other Queered Theological Reflections), presented by Daniel Stillwell, PhD, LMFT-S; and Sarah Causey, MA, LMFTA.

The topics of gender and sexuality are increasingly raised within clinical settings.  The purpose of this workshop/presentation is to create a space where God can queer us.  Queering is a verb in which the socially constructed norms around sexuality and gender are unmasked.  An expansive view of God embraces this unmasking, opening up our hearts, minds, and relationships to questions we never thought possible.  God does this with love, with openness, and with hope.  How we respond to these moments reveal the limitations and strengths of our own theological reflections.  After going through two theological reflection models, this workshop will engage a variety of questions on sexuality and gender that affect how professionals approach this concept in the work of clinical care (i.e., Is God Polyamorous?  Was Jesus a virgin?  Does God have a gender?  What does sexual violence do to sacredness?  Where are the LGBTQ people in sacred texts?).  Not only will this process reveal our own embedded theology, but it will empower the participants to be more compassionate and non-judgmental with their clients.  Lastly, the participants will have an opportunity to pose their own questions to queer theologically.

After this presentation, the participants will be able to:

  • Apply strategies for engaging clients about the intersection of faith and sexuality.
  • Describe queer theology and explain how it might affect the care of clients.
  • Identify ways to support clients in developing their own narrative within a non-judgmental context.
  • Analyze personally embedded beliefs that might impact one’s interactions with clients identifying as LGBTQ.

9. And on the Seventh Day, God Retired: A Guide to Helping Clients Face This Life Transition, Presented by Wayne Perry, D.Min., Ph.D., LMFT.

Retirement is something that all workers eventually face. According to several estimates, some 10,000 Baby Boomers turn 65 every day. While that does not mean these people are necessarily retiring on that day, it does suggest that huge numbers are facing their retirement in the very near future. What are the themes that these people bring into their retirement? How do these themes help them adapt to this new life stage? How can we as professional counselors and therapists provide support and counseling to those who face this life stage?

This workshop will present the results of a narrative research project with clients who face this life transition.  It will then engage participants in discussion about how to use these results within the context of counseling and how to think theologically about their own retirement.

By the end of this session, participants will be able to:

  • Identify those social and developmental experiences that clients face during the retirement process.
  • Analyze how these experiences relate to reported incidents of mental illness during depression.
  • Explain how a client’s perception of retirement might impact their priorities and needs in counseling.
  • Assess how professionals who also face retirement find acceptance of their own life transition while working within the context of helping others with this transition.

10. Essentials of Pastoral Counseling: Personal Formation, Communal Authority, and Imaginative Serviceability, presented by James R. Coffman, LCPT, LMFT, LPC.

Drawing on more than forty years of experience in pastoral care, counseling, and training, the presenter will share reflections of his experience in the field and of its ongoing evolution.  The workshop will reflect on a personal and professional pilgrimage with a specific focus on professional identification, communal authority, and disciplined functionality—essentials that frame religiously-informed psychotherapy.  The teaching method will include the presenter's autobiographical sharing, clinical examples, and participatory parentheses.  The seminar dispenses with the aforementioned example of "monastic" religious clinical practice and values of personal integration (coping with conflict), cultural sensibilities (coping with connection), and reflective clinical practice (coping with communication).  

After this workshop, participants will be able to:

  • Identify practitioners’ roots in major faith traditions, particularly in the cultural formation that emerged in the 1930's as the clinical method.
  • Describe the philosophical undergirding of contemporary pastoral counseling.
  • Explain your understanding of pastoral counseling.
  • Analyze the relational/cultural context with which we cope.
  • Apply strategies for communicating effectively within today’s context.