Knox student to present at Mental Health and Spirituality Conference
Antonio Siracusa, Master of Pastoral Studies student at Knox College, will present a workshop at the conference, “Mental Health and Spirituality: Contemporary Issues and Practical Implications for Researchers and Practitioners.” The Centre of Excellence for Research in Psychotherapy and Spirituality (Ottawa), and Ottawa’s Saint Paul University (School of Counselling, Psychotherapy and Spirituality) will host the conference, March 20-21, 2020. Siracusa’s presentation is titled “Religious Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (RCBT) in Daily Practice: A Somatic Experience in RCBT.”
“After attending my presentation and workshop, I hope people come away knowing that it’s not just the awareness of thoughts, feelings, behaviours, and faith that help clients (and ourselves) move out of the dark times we all occasionally find ourselves in,” said Siracusa. “Awareness of the physical body is another resource we can utilize and tap into – to keep clients and ourselves on, or to return to, the path that God has laid out for each of us.”
Siracusa is excited about this opportunity and said that his participation came about as he responded to “the gentle but persistent nudges of the Holy Spirit.” His workshop topic began with research he did for the course, “Worry and Anxiety: Helping Ourselves and Others.” He wrote a final paper on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Religious Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (RCBT), and their application to helping people with worry and anxiety. When a professor then told Siracusa that the Ottawa conference (which he had already planned to attend) was seeking proposals, he submitted a topic that took his research with RCBT further, adding elements of body awareness (somatic therapy).
Along with faith, a client’s physical body is another resource they can use in overcoming emotional dysregulation and distress. Listening to what’s happening in the body, along with faith practices, feeds into the other ‘homework’ the client is doing with thoughts, behaviours, and feelings.
In March, Siracusa will present information on anxiety and depression, psychotherapeutic approaches such as CBT and RCBT, and then he’ll conduct an RCBT exercise. He’ll cover somatic/sensorimotor therapy and build on the RCBT exercise by adding a somatic or body awareness component. The workshop will demonstrate that somatic therapy can complement other psychotherapeutic approaches such as CBT and RCBT. He said, “Along with faith, a client’s physical body is another resource they can use in overcoming emotional dysregulation and distress. Listening to what’s happening in the body, along with faith practices, feeds into the other ‘homework’ the client is doing with thoughts, behaviours, and feelings.”
Siracusa, who has experience as a geriatric and mental health Registered Nurse, said, “I loved my nursing work, and yet I also felt that there was something else I needed to do, a new way to move forward. That sense of the Spirit’s gentle but persistent nudging got me interested in an MDiv, and then the MPS program. Being at Knox, I really feel that the Holy Spirit has been guiding me to be here. I am grateful every day for responding to that nudging and finding my way to Knox College. Knox is such a good fit.
“The courses at Knox really facilitate going deeper in one’s faith — which was, at the core, what I was seeking when I began the MDiv. Faith matters to the professors, and it shows. The professors welcome hearing from everyone’s diverse faith backgrounds and traditions. I believe that acceptance helps to fuel creativity and our best work. I, as well as those who know me, see the difference in myself at Knox,” said Siracusa.