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The Soul Repair Center offers free monthly webinars of use to religious leaders and professional caregivers supporting veterans and their families.

Integrative Mental Health: How Integrating Spiritual Care into Mental Health Care has helped VA better meet Veterans’ Needs

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

1:00 - 2:30 CST

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For the past 15 years, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has championed more intentional integration of spiritual and psychosocial care services through Integrative Mental Health (IMH; formerly Mental Health and Chaplaincy). This program office has sought to meet the dynamically interrelated biopsychosocial-spiritual needs of Veterans via numerous research, educational, quality improvement, and community engagement efforts. In this presentation, efforts in each of these domains will be broadly described to illustrate the importance and interconnectedness of activities in each. In particular, we will: overview findings from research with Veterans, mental health providers, and community clergy; describe the Mental Health Integration for Chaplain Services (MHICS) training program that provides the foundation for a Doctor of Ministry (DMin) in Integrative Chaplaincy through Vanderbilt Divinity School; and illustrate how chaplain mental health integration can effectively help to address moral injury, an issue at the intersection of psychological and spiritual suffering.


Keith G. Meador, MD, ThM, MPH, is Anne Geddes Stahlman Professor of Medical Ethics and Professor of  Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, and also serves as Professor of Ethics and Society at Vanderbilt Divinity School. He serves as the Director of Integrative Mental Health, a national initiative to foster integration of chaplaincy services into mental health care within the Department of Veterans Affairs. He has served as the Director of the Center for Biomedical Ethics and Society at VUMC since 2012 having joined the faculty at Vanderbilt in July of 2010 as Vice-Chair for Psychiatry prior to becoming director of the Center. He is a physician and board certified psychiatrist with training in theology and public health. Dr. Meador is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Vanderbilt University and received his medical degree from the University of Louisville. He completed his residency in psychiatry and fellowship in aging and human development at Duke University. His theological education leading to the ThM was at Duke Divinity School and he received his MPH in Epidemiology from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill.

Jason Nieuwsma, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist who serves as the Associate Director for VA Integrative Mental Health and who holds faculty positions at Duke University Medical School and Vanderbilt Divinity School. His work focuses on increasing the availability and cultural relevance of evidence-based psychosocial approaches across various contexts, with areas of expertise in health psychology, cross-cultural psychology, dissemination and implementation science, and spirituality and health. In recent years, Dr. Nieuwsma has helped to lead multiple national-level projects aimed at more effectively integrating chaplaincy and mental health care services. Dr. Nieuwsma has authored numerous journal articles and book chapters, serves as Senior Associate Editor for the Journal of Health Care Chaplaincy, and has co-authored the books: ACT for Clergy and Pastoral Counselors; and Addressing Moral Injury in Clinical Practice

Melissa Smigelsky, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist with VA Integrative Mental Health (IMH). Dr. Smigelsky’s work with IMH focuses on equipping VA chaplains and mental health clinicians to provide moral injury care that integrates evidence-based psychosocial principles with spiritual care practices. Dr. Smigelsky facilitates an expanding network of chaplain-mental health teams and individual providers that focuses on the development, refinement, implementation, and dissemination of promising practices for moral injury. Dr. Smigelsky has collaborated with VA chaplains and mental health clinicians to develop a group therapy approach to address moral injury (“REAL”) and provides moral injury care to Veterans within the Durham VA Health Care System.

Jennifer Wortmann, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist with VA Integrative Mental Health (IMH). She serves as instructor and consultant to chaplains in the Mental Health Integration for Chaplain Services (MHICS) intensive training program, which forms the core of the first three semesters of the Doctor of Ministry degree in Integrative Chaplaincy offered by Vanderbilt Divinity School. Dr. Wortmann is engaged in a variety of research, educational, and clinical efforts related to mental health and chaplaincy integration. She completed her undergraduate education at North Park University, graduate work at the University of Connecticut, clinical internship at the VA Connecticut Healthcare System, and postdoctoral training in PTSD and moral injury at the VA Boston Healthcare System. Her work has focused on the intersection of religion and spirituality with PTSD, moral injury, and meaning-making in the context of trauma, bereavement, serious illness, and young adult life transitions. Dr. Wortmann has additional expertise in measure development and psychometric evaluation.

A recording of the webinar will be available on the Soul Repair Center website and the VOA’s YouTube channel.

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