As he prepared to leave his teaching post in Atlanta to join the Saint Rose faculty in 2018, Dr. Thomas Murphy received an email from Sister Sean Peters, from the College’s office of spiritual life. She requested a meeting.
So, soon after arriving on campus, Murphy and several other new professors, gathered with Sister Sean in the cozy library of the Interfaith Center.
“She asked us to think about how we could serve the dear neighbor as part of our work at the College,” recalls Murphy, an assistant professor of counseling who is a licensed clinical mental health counselor. “I’d never heard that before.”
For several decades Sister Sean CSJ, an alum who worked in teaching and administration at Saint Rose, guided students and colleagues to identify the needs of those around them and respond. She spearheaded volunteer efforts on campus and around the region, and led several service trips as far away as Honduras. The mission set forth when the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Carondelet founded the College, in short, became her mission.
The talk with Murphy and his new colleagues that day was brief, he said, and Sister Sean left it at that. But her words stuck.
“I really understood what Sister Sean was asking. As a clinical mental health worker, the heart of the job is the dear neighbor,” he explained.
He offered his services to Give An Hour, a national network of mental health professionals who pledge at least an hour a week, at no charge, to military veterans and their families. It is a population, Murphy notes, that is often reluctant to seek help. When they do, they frequently find that there are not enough experts to respond to their particular needs. Also, their health insurance sometimes caps the number of visits offered. Give an Hour has no such limits.
Sister Sean could not have planned a better alignment.
Murphy, who has his Ph.D. in counselor education, is uniquely qualified to assist people from the military. In addition to being a licensed mental health counselor in New York, his long list of credentials include EMDR clinician, or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, a treatment that promotes healing by asking patients to experience and process their painful memories.
Last spring, two veterans with trauma histories saw Murphy’s listing on the Give an Hour website and reached out. Murphy has met with each veteran, once a week, since then. To offer his services virtually during the pandemic, he also trained in telemental health.
Though the progress thus far is hard to gauge, Murphy believes he is helping clients build the foundation they will need to get past their struggles. It is work that he expects will take time.
“I’ve told them that as long as they want to see me, I’m here,” Murphy said. “They’ve said ‘I feel like I’ve taken advantage of you, but I tell them it’s my choice and my honor to help people who have given to our country.”
Sister Sean Peters, CSJ, asked Murphy what he could do for the dear nieghbor
Sister Sean Peters, CSJ, asked Murphy what he could do to help the dear neighbor.
Also, his work with Give an Hour is consistent with the work of the College graduate counseling program – which emphasizes advocacy and social justice. Murphy teaches clinical counseling skills and disaster, crisis and trauma counseling, among other classes.
Students in the program go on to counsel individuals, lead groups, become career counselors, school counselors or licensed psychotherapists in clinical practice. Some focus on assisting members of the military.
Now in his third year at Saint Rose, Murphy has gained a great deal from interactions with colleagues in his own program as well as those in communication sciences and disorders. He has collaborated in research and in teaching with many of them.
He also invited Sister Sean into a class to contribute a sister’s perspective on death. It all started with that first homework assignment – help the dear neighbor — a request she reiterated in an email after they met. In 2019, she moved on to join the Sisters of Saint Joseph leadership team in St. Louis, Missouri. But Murphy, and doubtless many others, continue following through on what she asked.
He obtained his New York license to practice mental health and signed on with Give an Hour. He supervised interns assisting on the state Office of Mental Health Covid-19 help line, and provides continuing education to counselors who work with those with developmental disabilities.
“I told her my primary focus would be tending to the needs of the time with the dear neighbor,” he explained. “It was my introduction to the Sisters of Saint Joseph and to Saint Rose and Sister Sean.”
As a School Psychologist and a Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Lehman provides in-person and telehealth services. In 2019, she moved her practice solely to telepsychology. Lehman joined Give an Hour™ because she is passionate about helping others recognize the importance of mental health and to “feel OK just to talk about it.”
The truth is, whether we like it or not, we are all experiencing “life in the context of a pandemic.” As such, we may wonder how or if we will be able to do our jobs or just get through the day with a new heightened level of awareness about the safety of the environment. On those days, Lehman tells herself “today may not be my best
day but I am here to make another person’s day better”. Lehman looked through the lens of her clients to uncover the impact of COVID-19 on individuals with a PTSD diagnosis. In other words, what happens when patients who have been diagnosed with PTSD are faced with a world pandemic? How do they react? How do they continue to cope? How can Health Care Providers address the seemingly overwhelming needs of patients when they (both patients and providers) are already feeling helpless and fearful?
Read More about her work: click the link below.
I felt alone and hopeless. I did not think anyone cared. I even met with a friend trying to find the courage to ask for help, but my friend did not see my pain. I began to engage in risky behavior. I took large doses of the Ativan and Valium prescribed to me. Additionally, I drank wine along with the medication. As a result, I found myself in the Emergency Room, near death with my husband by my side. I was very lucky the medical staff was able to save me. I overdosed twice more after this initial episode. Since then, I have received help and I want to tell my story to encourage others to seek help as well if they are suffering emotionally.
Everyone can benefit from understanding and applying the Five Signs. I am confident that my friend, with no formal mental health training, could have recognized the symptoms of emotional suffering had the Five Signs existed. As a Chapter Captain for Team Red, White and Blue as well as a clinician at Bacon Street Youth and Family Services, these Five Signs helped me to get those in need help quickly. Knowing the Five Signs and educating our military communities will help reduce the risk of suicides, drug and alcohol abuse, and domestic violence. Most importantly, it provides military communities a very accessible, affordable and safe tool to use.”
“I believed if I kept myself busy, served others, ran races, and continued my education that I would feel better, fill the void, and that would make me a better mother and wife,” Renee said. “But exactly the opposite happened. I ended up exhausted and disconnected. This exacerbated the symptoms of my PTSD which directly affected my ability to function. I couldn’t complete tasks. I constantly felt like a failure. I struggled with my emotions and felt lost.”
Renee discovered yoga and began to rely more on mindfulness as well as her spirituality to guide her out of her darkness. She pursued and achieved multiple Yoga certifications. Renee has been featured in Yoga International and is recognized in Yoga circles worldwide. As a certified Yoga Alliance instructor and wellness coach, Renee said that acceptance of her emotions was also key to her moving to a happier place in her life.
“When I started to realize that it was okay to not be false-positive all the time and to feel emotions like shame, guilt, sadness, and anger, that’s when the healing began,” Renee said. “I learned to let go of the things, people, and environments that were unhealthy for me. I began to feel empowered, clearer, and healthier both physically and mentally.”
“Mental health affects how we think, feel, and act,” she said. “It guides us on how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. We need to teach our children and families how to cope with stress and not shame them. We need to allow them to feel natural emotions and address them in a healthy manner not just view them as good or bad or they will not develop the capability and skills to deal with the experiences in their lives.”
Renee is an example of how mental health can have an impact on one’s entire life, either good or bad, and now she works toward helping others in similar situations. That is why Renee, along with her husband, Joe Davis, founded the organization Sustaining Youth & Families, LLC. The Wyoming-based organization takes a holistic approach to mental wellness providing service nationally. Sustaining Youth & Families, LLC provides health counseling, consulting, education, yoga lessons, fitness training and outdoor adventure programs as outlets for individuals affected by mental illness, particularly military families, at-risk youth, and those with special needs. The goal is to help prevent people from falling through the cracks left by other available services. Her experience as a certified K-12 teacher enhances her ability to connect with and understand children and teens needing someone to reach out to.
“If you know someone who has mental health issues, listen to them,” Renee said. “Be there for them without expectations and judgment and help them find resources. If you can’t support them, then step away and help them find someone who can. Don’t just blow them off.”
And, of course, he volunteers for Give an Hour, and has provided hours of free therapy at no cost to veterans, and free consult services for Everytown for Gun Safety trainings (which help family and friends who have lost loved ones to gun violence).
He is a Navy brat, the son of a Navy Captain who served in the Medical Corps as a flight surgeon and was an XO (basically a second in command) of a hospital. While his family was stationed in Rota, Spain during the early 1980's, he did a bit of volunteer work as a teenager with a parachurch organization. In 1983, the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut happened, and a number of the Marines who went through that returned to the States for debriefing through Rota. While his role was washing dishes and serving food, it was his first encounter with the "Thousand Yard Stare" and helping others reorient when they fade out (dissociate). He's had a love and understanding of military family life for many years, and cultivated it in graduate internship work at the VAMHC (Veterans Administration Mental Health Clinic) in the VA Medical Center in Philadelphia, considered a flagship of the VA system. He also worked in the PTSD clinic there and learned EMDR while there. Over the years since, he continued to work with people who have endured all kinds of trauma and has learned that the key is to help invite the person seeking care to enter into a restorative relationship where they can learn skills, experience trust, and, when ready, lay their burden down. This work defines him.
Outside of work, he is married with two kids in art school, and has a zoo of pets and musical instruments of different kinds. He plays in a mandolin orchestra and has been a piper in a pipe band in the past. Ham radio is a new venture, and he volunteers with the Amateur Radio Emergency Service, which provides backup communications in disasters when communication is down.
Why does he do this work? Because to serve someone in need is to serve God. To serve God through that person is to become an even better soul. To be a catalyst for that is a very fulfilling calling.