NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Two distinguished neuroscientists took the stage this weekend at the American Association of Christian Counselors’ (AACC) 2017 World Conference to speak on their research on the human brain and their findings on how mental health is tied to the physical science of the brain.
In Saturday morning’s plenary session, prominent psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Amen discussed his decadeslong work in neuroscience. Dr. Amen shared stories of recovery that highlighted his widely published research on the brain, which advocates for utilizing brain scans to diagnose mental health problems (SPECT).
Dr. Amen showed multiple before-and-after brain scans, including of his own brain, to prove that people are not “stuck” with the brain they have but can improve the health and function of their brain over time through proper care.
The day before, Dr. Dan Siegel, M.D. Harvard and renowned professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, addressed the 7,000 mental health professionals and lay caregivers gathered for the conference. Dr. Siegel, recognized as a pioneer in the field of interpersonal neurobiology, spoke about the human experience of consciousness and explained the “wheel of awareness,” which breaks down the concept of “knowing.”
Dr. Siegel commended those present for their crucial work that liberates hurting people from “the prisons their own minds have become.”
Dr. Siegel used the analogy of a candle and its flame to explain human awareness and how we relate to each other. Contemporary society tells us that we are just physical bodies or “candles,” and thus that we should be better than others by diminishing the light of other candles and augmenting our own.
But the flame of the candle, which Dr. Siegel described as the source of one’s awareness, is supposed to brighten the world, lighting the wicks of those whose flames are out (the hurting).
Dr. Siegel said that helping others “brightens the world,” and it’s the work of “kindness and compassion.”
“That’s where science meets spirituality,” he noted.
For the nearly 50,000 Christian mental health professionals being resourced by the AACC, bringing science and spirituality together is a necessary step in the successful therapy and rehabilitation of those suffering from mental health problems.
The AACC recognizes the importance of keeping its members informed of the latest scientific findings and approaches. With over 175 training workshops and over 20 acclaimed speakers in 10 plenary sessions during its 2017 World Conference, AACC members are given training and exposure to prevailing research and evidence-based treatment applications.
The conference has assembled an impressive lineup of almost 350 experienced and licensed psychologists, psychiatrists, doctors and social workers to teach its workshops. Over 100 of the workshops focus on scholarly work, with topics such as “Interpersonal Neurobiology and the Progression of Psychotherapy,” “Treating Chronic Depression and Attachment Wounds with Research-based Practices” and “New Insights on Addiction and the Brain.”
Though the conference has concluded, information regarding schedule, keynote speakers, and the full list of workshops, is available here.