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Caldwell, N.J., March 18, 2016 – Students, alumni, faculty, staff and counseling professionals gathered March 12 on campus for the 8th annual “Caldwell University Counseling Conference”. The day’s theme focused on spirituality in the helping professions.

Dr. Catherine Waters, O.P. , coordinator of counseling programs and professor of psychology and counseling, presented on the role of spirituality in counseling and the research related to the topic.

The keynote address, “ No Forgiveness, No Recovery: Know Forgiveness, Know Recovery” was given by Dr. Bryce Hagedorn of the University of Central Florida, who is former president of the Association for Spiritual, Ethical, and Religious Values in Counseling.

The speakers and presentations represented all three of the university’s specializations in counseling — Mental Health Counseling, Mental Health Counseling with Art Therapy, and School Counseling.

Art therapy graduate student Alexandria Lanza presented a personal reflection based on her time at Caldwell.

Faculty members Dr. Marie Wilson, Dr. Emma Kendrick and Professor Annette Vaccaro coordinated the event. A number of graduate students volunteered to work at the conference.

At lunchtime attendees enjoyed networking and discussing the workshop topics. It was also a great time to see old classmates. The Art Therapy Alumni Association organized a reunion party after the conference for faculty and graduates of the program.

Linda Kasnetz, a student in the Mental Health counseling with Art Therapy program, appreciated the theme saying  studies have shown that religious service attendance has been on a decline. “If people are no longer exposed to the concept of forgiveness in their religious practice, what will happen if as counselors and therapists we deny the recognition of this deeply profound act that ultimately defines humanity?”

She said the keynote by Dr. Hagedorn helped her understand how to help her clients at her internship site “navigate the waters of anger, shame, and guilt using forgiveness as a vessel that protects the soul.”

Beth Low, a student in the Mental Health Counseling post-graduate program, said it was a day “full of insightful and inspiring moments.” She was moved by Lanza’s “determination and intentionality.” And the keynote “provided the perfect balance of relatability, humor, and wisdom. I found myself wishing I could hear much more,” she said.

Lindsey Kimball, a graduate student in the Mental Health Counseling/Art Therapy program, also found the conference to be very enriching. “My belief that spirituality is a beneficial component to the counseling process was enhanced by the knowledge and inspiration of our empowering guest speakers and professors. We were provided with insightful tools that I am excited to integrate into my practice as a future counselor.”

Keith LaBadie, a graduate student in the master’s in school counseling program, said the speakers and conversations were very beneficial. “I look forward to enjoying next year’s conference.”

Attendees were able to receive 4.0 continuing education hours from the National Board of Certified Counselors. “The evaluations collected at the end of the day indicated that attendees really valued the experience,” said Dr. Wilson.

She shared feedback from the evaluations with comments such as:

“This was a life changing experience that I will use both personally and professionally.”

“Loved the messages that were being put out…messages of acceptance, forgiveness and meeting clients where they are at, were so powerful.”

“Program met all expectations…well organized and well run.”

“A growing program and better every year.”