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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.

Skills for Chaplains Walking Beside Personnel Whose Spiritual Practices Are Uniquely Personal

March 19, 2024

1-2:30 CST

Our March webinar features two skilled VA Chaplains and a Psychologist on the staff of the VA’s Integrative Mental Health program. They will provide guidance for effectively accompanying military personnel whose spirituality and related spiritual practices are highly personal rather than reflecting beliefs and practices within historical religious traditions. The importance of these skills is an emerging reality for military chaplains and an important addition to current curricula and training for chaplains.

Our panelists include VA Chaplains Robin Booth, DMin. and Rotunda East, DMin., and Psychologist, Dr. Melissa A. Smigelsky, who serves on the staff of the Integrative Mental Health program affiliated with Vanderbilt Divinity School. All serve on the Board of the Soul Repair Center. Together these panelists bring substantial experience in the important work of caring for persons affected by moral injury.

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Robin D. Booth is a Chaplain and Certified Educator with the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education. He is the Director of Clinical Pastoral Education within the VA North Texas Health Care System.  A native of Chicago, Illinois he received a Bachelor of Art degree from University of Georgia, a Master of Divinity degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and a Doctor of Ministry degree from Columbia Theological Seminary. He is an ordained minister with the Alliance of Baptist Churches, USA and a Board-Certified Chaplain with the National Association of Veteran Affairs Chaplains.  Chaplain Booth served in numerous leadership positions within the ACPE organization, including regional and national Certification Chairperson. Robin is an instructor at University of Texas Southwest Medical School where he offers an elective course on Spirituality and Mental Health. He serves as a “coach” with the Integrative Chaplaincy Training program affiliated with Doctor of Ministry program at Vanderbilt School of Theology.  As a coach he assists students to integrate evidence-based mental health practices with the provision of spiritual care.  The teaching and provision of spiritual care is one of his passions, and he find fulfillment in assisting others to learn the art of spiritual care.

Dr. Rotunda East serves as Chief of Chaplains at the Providence VA Medical Center in Providence, Rhode Island.  She is a Board-Certified Clinical Chaplain with a specialty in Mental Health through the National Association of VA Chaplains.  Chaplain East retired from the United States after 21 years of Active-Duty military service.  Her shared experience, alongside other members of a Weapons Intelligence Team, informs her daily ministry and service to Veterans who suffer the lifelong effects of moral injury from having served their country.  Her work is rooted in the concept of addressing moral injury from a lens of grief, loss, companionship, and community engagement.  She holds a Master of Divinity Degree in Pastoral Counseling and Chaplaincy from Denver Seminary and a Doctor of Ministry with a concentration in Mental Health and Chaplaincy Integration from Vanderbilt Divinity School.  Chaplain East has co-authored several articles on Moral Injury and continues involvement in quality improvement studies that will produce evidence-based modalities used within the VA Healthcare system to address the importance of spirituality on mental health outcomes. 

Melissa Smigelsky, PhD, is a licensed clinical psychologist with Integrative Mental Health, a national program under the Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention in the Department of Veterans Affairs. Dr. Smigelsky facilitates an expanding network of VA chaplain-mental health teams and individual providers that focuses on the development, refinement, implementation, and dissemination of moral injury care practices. Dr. Smigelsky also co-developed a moral injury group curriculum that is being used at numerous sites across VA, and She provides moral injury care to Veterans within the Durham VA Health Care System. Recent publications include “Emerging interventions for moral injury: Expanding pathways to moral healing” Current Treatment Options in Psychiatry, in press; “Core components of moral injury groups co-facilitated by mental health providers and chaplains” Spirituality in Clinical Practice, vol. 9:3, 2022; “Patterns of potential moral injury in post-9/11 combat Veterans and COVID-19 healthcare workers” Journal of General Internal Medicine, vol. 37:8, 2022; ” Let’s get ‘REAL’: A collaborative group therapy for moral injury” Journal of Health Care Chaplaincy, vol. 28:S1, 2022; and “Dynamic Diffusion Network: Advancing moral injury care and suicide prevention using an innovative model” Healthcare, vol. 8:3, 2020. Dr. Smigelsky completed her graduate training in Clinical Psychology at Wheaton College Graduate School and the University of Memphis.

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