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Annual Conference 2012
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Sneak Preview of Invited Speakers' Remarks

By Karen Langer, LMHC, Chair
Conference Planning Committee, and 
AMHCA President-Elect, 2011–2012

To give you an unfiltered glimpse of the ideas of the main conference speakers, following are excerpts from each speaker’s works. 

You asked, we listened! This year we are offering additional opportunities for CEU credits by adding conference programs on Thursday evening following the reception and poster sessions as well as on Friday evening. 

Be sure to attend the reception, spend some time reviewing the array of high-quality poster sessions we have this year, and stick around for an extra session!

Get more information about AMHCA’s 2012 Annual Conference, or register online for the conference. Register by June 26 to take advantage of advance registration rates.

Keynote Speaker

Brené Brown, PhD, LMSW
“The Power of Vulnerability”

Brown is a professor and vulnerability researcher at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. An award-winning teacher whose work has been featured on PBS, NPR, and the Oprah and Friends Radio Network, Brown was named one of “The 50 Most Influential Women of 2009” by Houston Women Magazine. Her latest theory based on her vulnerability research, Wholehearted Living, was the topic of two recent TEDx talks.

“Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of authenticity and worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, ‘No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough.’ It’s going to bed at night thinking, ‘Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love, belonging, and joy.’ 

“If we want to change the way we live, love, parent, work, lead organizations, and build communities, we have to start talking about the messages and expectations that move us away from being authentic and believing that we are enough.”


“As someone who is intimately familiar with overachieving, I recognize the angst behind the questions I hear from men and women who have accomplished so much professionally but struggle to stay connected personally. Questions ranging from, ‘Why am I so engaged at work, yet I feel increasingly disconnected from my wife and children?’ to, ‘How do I turn off the self-critical instincts that serve me as a leader? I don’t want to be that kind of mother.’

“… [W]hen we push vulnerability away at work, we tend to unknowingly push it away at home as well—and end up pushing away all of the experiences that bring meaning to our lives.

“Vulnerability is indeed the ce
nter of difficult experiences like fear, disappointment, and shame, but it is also the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, creativity, innovation, authenticity, and engagement.

“… Our willingness to own our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage, the clarity of our purpose, and the fullness of our life.”

—From Brené Brown, in The Washington Post, 2/13/2012.


Pre-Conference Workshops

The pre-conference workshops provide an opportunity for longer sessions on very specific topics that appeal to a wide range of attendees. Each year we offer an Ethics workshop along with a second session on a topic relevant to the conference theme, which this year is “Counseling in the Modern Era: Challenges & Opportunities in the Modern World.” Both workshops will be held on Thursday afternoon, 1:00–5:30 p.m.

Judith Harrington, PhD, LPC, LMFT 
“Suicide Prevention, Intervention, and Postvention”

For more than 20 years, Harrington has provided counseling, psychotherapy, and consultation to couples, individuals, families, and organizations. Before that, she provided counseling on college campuses. She was the grant-funded coordinator for the Alabama Suicide Prevention Task Force for 2007–2008. She has a 25-year affiliation with the Crisis Center, having been the bereavement coordinator and facilitator of the Suicide Bereavement Group for the last 10 years. Harrington was named AMHCA’s Mental Health Counselor of the Year in 2007 and Outstanding Practitioner of the Year in 2006 by the Alabama Counseling Association.

“Many well-meaning individuals believe that when people (especially children) exhibit suicidal gestures or messages, they are ‘attention-seeking.’ Teens’ ‘help-seeking’ through risky behavior or suicidal statements have been minimized through such euphemisms as ‘she is a drama queen,’ ‘he just needs better limits,’ or ‘it’s just a call for help,’ as if it is normal or healthy for a teen to write in his or her English classes about morbid death wishes, or ‘doodle’ in a notebook startling images of death, or to inflict self-injury alongside verbal messages of hopelessness. Indeed, it is a call for help that must be taken seriously by parents, friends, teachers, counselors, and all persons to whom children in despair turn.”

—From “Answering the Call: Responding to Youth Suicide,” in Saving Alabama’s Kids … Our Most Precious Resource: Alabama Child Death Review System 2003 Annual Report, pp. 30-31." 

“Worried About Someone? 100+ Things I Can Do To Prevent Suicide”

  • If you are worried about a friend or family member, always ask. Never assume that he or she would tell you if they were feeling suicidal.
  • Ask that your mental health professional utilize a valid suicide assessment tool in addition to interview and diagnostic impressions. Tools available include: The Scale for Suicide Ideation (SSI) (or the SSI-Modified), The Self-Rated Scale for Suicide Ideation (SSI-SR), The Suicidal Ideation Scale (SIS), The Suicide Behaviors Questionnaire (SBQ), The Reasons for Living Inventory (RLI), The College Students Reasons for Living Inventory (CSRLI), Brief Reasons for Living Inventory (RFL-B), The Suicide Probability Scale (SPS), The Suicidal Ideation Questionnaire (SIQ), The Multiattitude Suicide Tendency Scale (MAST), The Fairy Tales Test (FT—also called the Life and Death Attitude Scale or the Suicidal Tendencies Test, which is suited for children), The Suicide Status Form (SSF), and The Suicide Intervention Response Inventory (SIRI).
  • Avoid using guilt as leverage when someone you know is feeling suicidal (“Don’t you want to live for your family?”). Instead focus on what is at the root of the pain and hopelessness. Take him or her seriously.
  • Develop a list with your loved one, or with the help of your mental health professional, of at least 10 things that would be self-soothing and safe as alternatives to risky behavior.
  • Do not assume that if your loved one about whom you are concerned begins to seem happy or euphoric that he or she is out of risk. Euphoria may be a sign that a decision has been made to yield to suicide. Report your concerns to your mental health professional.
  • Help your loved one to achieve basic activities of daily living, such as eating three meals a day, bathing and grooming, taking a walk, sleeping or napping, etc., if possible.
  • Take care of yourself and don’t go it alone if you are caring for someone who is at risk for suicide.

—From “Worried About Someone? 100+ Things I Can Do To Prevent Suicide,” Alabama Department of Public Health, Suicide Prevention Task Force, developed by Judith A. Harrington, PhD, September 2004 (partial list).

Michael Kahn, LPC, JD 
“‘Reel Therapy’: Ethical and Professional Issues for Therapists”

A licensed professional counselor and life coach, Kahn has been working with individual adults and teenagers since 1994. Areas of focus in psychotherapy include anxiety, depression, grief and loss, life transition, career, anger management, men’s issues, and hypnosis. Michael facilitates groups and workshops on the above and other topics, including a “Reel to Real” program that uses movies to facilitate personal and professional change.

“Saw ‘Moneyball’ over the weekend. ‘Moneyball’ tells the story of Billy Beane (Brad Pitt), the general manager of the Oakland A’s baseball team, and his efforts at implementing a system that the baseball traditionalists can’t comprehend. So where’s the grief? A colleague of mine said that if you pay attention, you will notice that most of our clients present with some kind of grief issue. That’s probably true with the movies we watch. Throughout the film we see flashbacks of Beane’s days as a major league baseball prospect. He chose to skip going to Stanford University and instead signed a contract to play baseball for the New York Mets. He failed spectacularly, even though he was seen as a ‘sure thing.’ We see how he grieves the path not taken and how it impacts choices he makes in the present. This triggered my own anticipated grief related to my last season with a softball team I have played with for 16 years. Reminds me yet again of two things: grief and loss are our constant companions in our journey, and the power of film.”

—From “Moneyball, Brad Pitt, and Grief,” Oct. 4, 2011, on Kahn’s blog.

“Why Does Cinematherapy Work? 

  • Go deeper than self-defenses
  • Provide stimulus for creative solutions
  • Remind us of what we know
  • Help us stretch and change/model traits we have or haven’t nurtured
  • Offer stories of resilience
  • Reframe problems 
  • Prioritize values
  • Afford hope and encouragement
  • Initiate the story-telling process
  • Illustrate differing grief responses
  • Help understand grief issues”

—From Michael Kahn’s “Cinematherapy: Reel Therapy Basics,” a PowerPoint presentation 

Another highlight of the conference will be a panel discussion on Saturday morning:
“Warriors and Their Families: Adjusting to Pressures and Transitions”
Do you want to be more effective with clients who are members of the military, or family of servicemembers? Join us for an interactive panel discussion Saturday morning, featuring leaders in our field who work with active duty military, veterans, and their families. Our panelists work with veterans in different capacities and provide an insider’s perspective to the challenges facing counselors and the veterans they serve.

  • Major Ammon Campbell, active duty and veterans issues
  • Colonel Nathaniel Crawford, PhD, military chaplain
  • Judith Harrington, PhD, LPC, LMFT, suicide prevention
  • Adrian Magnuson–Whyte, LMHC, disenfranchised veterans
  • Susanne Walker, LPC, military family issues

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