On March 21-23, LCC International University hosted another Academic Conference organized by the Center for Faith and Human Flourishing (CFHF) in partnership with Friends University, Wichita, Kansas, USA. The topic of the conference was “Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Trauma.” The presenters of the conference were LCC faculty and guest researchers—representing five countries in all. The conference presenters came from a variety of disciplines including history, literature and translation studies, communication, economics, social work, political science, and even legal history. The participants and keynote speakers brought new light on the understanding of trauma and its many aspects. One of the keynote speakers, Professor Dr. Chris Habben, who has been a program director of Marriage and Family Therapy since 2001 at Friends University, USA, has kindly agreed to share about his field of research and his experience with LCC.
Dr. Habben, what is the topic of your research that you presented at the conference?
I tried to approach the topic of the conference from a clinician’s point of view. I am less of a researcher, but more of an educator and trainer of people who treat trauma. I think there are interesting research questions that come out of the topic “interdisciplinary perspectives on trauma”. Trauma is extremely complex. It can be a singular traumatic event, an international event, an institutional trauma, an individual’s trauma and other kinds. There are a couple of evidence-based approaches to treating trauma that are fairly widely accepted internationally and I tried to introduce those briefly. Many of them are very effective and sometimes we still do not know why, which is an intriguing kind of question in and of itself. There is a particular theoretical framework that I like to utilize with clients that come into my office, regardless of what the presenting issue is. It is a systemic-minded approach and it is something that has been identified as another useful tool in addressing trauma, which I wanted to introduce at the conference as a starting point. I also tried to summarize what 20 years of experience as a clinician has taught me about trauma. There are basic principles that no matter what comes into my office, whether it is trauma or not, there are similar sorts of scenes and processes that I notice, so I tried in my time to identify some of them. Frankly speaking, those principles often overlap with faith-related things.
Could you elaborate on the overlap of faith and trauma?
Many times when a person comes to my office, they are presenting an issue and there is a fundamental need, at least in my experience. There are two things that we need in our human experience: significance and safety. These are the main questions: Am I safe and do I matter? For people who have been traumatized, particularly with the different types of trauma, their experience is concerned with the safety issue, but on an even larger scale is the question of “Do I matter?” There are a lot of inter-generational narratives that inform the sense of inclusion people have. I find people are hungry for the message that they can experience inclusion, connectedness, and belonging, regardless of what has happened to them or what they may have done in their lives. I think that message for me is central to my own understanding of Christian faith.
How do you see the future collaboration between Friends University and LCC?
We are from different academic disciplines and types. I have a theology background too, so I have a strong interest in the intersection of faith and practice. There is always an interesting overlap when you have different disciplines that get together on different topics and all look at a topic from a variety of perspectives. Anytime you make connections with other professionals across the world they lead to opportunities. Sometimes you do not know what they are initially until you start having conversation. There is an exploratory advantage to just sitting with people and hearing what they are doing and making those types of connections. I think I will be nearing a sabbatical opportunity in a couple of years and just having been here at LCC, I thought it would be a really fun thing if I could figure out how to get myself invited here. If there was something that as an American professional in the field of Marriage and Family therapy I would be able to contribute to the teaching and learning here. LCC has a strong sector of students who are interested in psychology, which is a wonderful undergraduate degree for my particular field at Friends University. In general, it was a tremendous honor for me to be invited to participate in the Academic Conference. I was unfamiliar with this university and went out with our own dean’s connection here. I can see why Dr. Kenneth Stoltzfus loves LCC so much and why this is such a special place in his heart. LCC is a remarkable university, even though I have been here only for a few days. It is a unique and wonderful place and it has been a treat to meet this community; maybe even build some relationships that I hope will last beyond the conference.
“LCC is a unique place for academic conversations,” explained Dr. Benjamin Giffone, Director of the CFHF. “All of our scholars are involved in rigorous conversations within our respective fields. But the size of our institution cultivates intimacy, which makes interdisciplinarity almost a necessity—a welcome benefit for ourselves and our students. We cannot help but have conversations across disciplines, with colleagues from many different nations and cultures. Moreover, questions relating to faith and the immaterial aspects of human existence are not considered ‘out of bounds.’ Faith provides a motivation for pursuit of human flourishing, and several presenters highlighted the protective benefit against trauma that comes from sense of belonging in a faith community.”