katie swafford

How to care for trauma survivors Q&A

Unfortunately, in our very broken world, we all too frequently hear about tragedies at home and abroad. These events can have significant impact on the mental and emotional health and well-being of those involved and, in fact, have an impact on you and me. To help us all better understand trauma, I reached out to one of our network counselors, Brady Robinson, LPC-S, who specializes in coping with trauma for a brief Q & A session.

1.  How do I know if I have experienced trauma?

Trauma in a traditional sense of the word implies that one has experienced a real or perceived threat to their life or physical integrity. This can also... [continue]

Protecting children in your church from sexual abuse

Sexual abuse is not a topic that most any of us want to discuss, but it is a discussion we must have in our churches because:

1 in 4 girls will be sexually abused before the age of 18.

1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before the age of 18.

Of child abuse cases reported in Texas, 68% were sexual abuse cases.

Think about your church congregation and apply some easy math. If you have 200 people in your church, 100 females and 100 males, those statistics translate to 25 females and 16 males in your church that either have or will experience sexual abuse. Chances are more likely than not that you have someone in your... [continue]

How sexual abuse prevention training can help your church

Sexual abuse is an uncomfortable topic to discuss. It seems to be even more uncomfortable when we think of the discussion within a church setting. For many of us, myself included, it is difficult to fathom how such painful and destructive experiences can occur in a church, but they can and do. And I assure you it is much more comfortable to discuss prevention of sexual abuse than to suffer the physical, emotional, and spiritual consequences of abuse that can occur by doing nothing.

Do you know what “grooming” means? Maybe I’m different than most, but I had not really paid attention to this term and certainly did not understand it... [continue]

Being a part of the mental health conversation

Over 43 million adults in the United States experience a mental illness in a given year, according to statistics from the National Alliance for Mental Health. Yet, we in the church are often silent on the topic of mental health for a variety of reasons.

One of which might be that we think of it as an “others” problem. Mental health issues affect others, not me, my family or my church family. However, statistics suggest something different.

How many people regularly attend your church? Take that number and divide it by five. Your answer is the number of individuals within your church who will likely experience a mental illness... [continue]

Do you see me?

People struggle with mental illness all around us. Though we may be shocked to hear the statistic that 1 in 5 will experience a mental illness in a given year or that 10 million adults in the U.S. live with some type of serious mental illness, we struggle to recognize how our personal world is touched by mental illness.

On more than one occasion driving to work, I have observed mental illness. You may think the next line will read something about episodes of road rage or technology addictions (because yes, those are evident in the morning/evening commute). But what about the others who we may drive by, but don't really see. Like the... [continue]

Why does mental health matter to me?

Have you heard that 1 out of 5 adults in the US will experience some type of mental health issue this year? Recently I spoke to a church on the subject of mental illness and used this statistic. One gentleman raised his hand and somewhat jokingly said "I'm looking around and there are about 40 people in this room….so you mean that about 8 of us are going to have a problem?"

Statistically, yes, that is what I mean.

Some people are taken aback by this realization because their thoughts immediately go to news stories or movies that depict more severe levels of mental illness. They can't imagine they would be at risk for such... [continue]

Brokenness is close at hand, but we are together

We've all heard the phrase "it's a small world" and may have even said it ourselves at some point when we realized we knew someone or knew of someone through another person. In fact, for years the idea has been that there are six degrees of separation between people – so much so that years ago it was made into a game – the six degrees of Kevin Bacon. More recently, Facebook has said there are only 3.5 degrees of separation between users.

Why am I talking about degrees of separation? It's estimated that one in five people will experience a mental health issue this year. I'm no mathematician, but I'm pretty sure the number five falls... [continue]

How to find life from death

This is the third article in a three-part series from our Director of Counseling Services on loss, which addresses how to deal with the emotional impacts of loss through grief, compassion fatigue, and finding life in death.

Amid all the awareness of death and loss in the last few weeks, God has proven faithful to show He makes all things new.

On the very day I had heard news of the devastating loss of a family member, a co-worker pulled me aside to chat about a loved one's spiritual growth and awakening. This was the story of a young adult, searching for meaning and belonging, love and acceptance in life. Several weeks... [continue]

Compassion fatigue and guarding your heart

This is the second article in a three-part series from our Director of Counseling Services on loss which addresses how to deal with the emotional impacts of loss through grief, compassion fatigue, and finding life in death.

Within a short period of about four weeks, I've been impacted in some way by about 10 deaths. Each life lost has a story. Each life has family members, loved ones and friends who are grieving and dealing with the reality death brings.

God gifted me with a great capacity for empathy. Rarely does a situation come across my path that I do not try to imagine myself in another person's shoes. Though God can use... [continue]

Grief is a journey – just be present

This is the first article in a three-part series from our Director of Counseling Services on loss which will address how to deal with the emotional impacts of loss through grief, compassion fatigue and finding life in death.

I've always heard losses come in "threes." Well, the past few weeks have gone way beyond that number in my world. I know there are many families and friends grieving – some I know personally and some I only know by name as brothers and sisters in Christ. Most of these losses have come in very tragic situations and circumstances. Others have come after long illness and suffering.

As I reflect on these losses... [continue]

How to overcome root rot

I have never claimed to have a green thumb, but I am an eternal optimist. So recently, when my peace lily was just about on her (yes her, I named her Lily) last leg, I decided I couldn't let her give up without a fight. I researched online until I found out what might be wrong with my quickly fading Lily (pictured left). My conclusion was she had developed root rot.

The only hope for her was to remove the diseased and rotting roots, which had probably developed from over-watering or poor soil, and replant her in a healthier soil and environment.

I took Lily and all the necessary replanting elements outside and began the... [continue]

The best filter ever

Google "best selfie filter apps" and you will find over 2 million results in under a minute. You'll also find which filters are best for the perfect selfie. You can find apps to add phrases to your selfies, cartoon yourself, make your selfie look surreal, make cosmetic changes like hide blemishes or change the tone of your skin, make you look taller or have larger eyes, overlay images on your selfie, and my favorite – make you look more SPARKLY!!

Everyone looks to someone for information on who they are, what their purpose in life is, whether they are beautiful, strong enough, funny, worth anything – whether they belong. And in... [continue]

Connecting the dots

When I was small, I would sometimes sit right up next to the TV screen and look at all the red, green, and blue dots. It was weird, and cool at the same time, how all those tiny little dots came together to make a recognizable picture once you stepped back to see the connections. I can easily get caught up in looking at the dots - focused in on my little world. But God's been reminding me that He as a big picture – one that I don't necessarily see in its entirety. If I get focused on my own dots, I can neglect to make connections with others and in doing so, miss out on great relationships and other awesome things God is... [continue]

​Depression Ripples

Depression is something we are becoming more aware of and less fearful of in our Christian circles. I'm thankful the information is available and glad we are becoming more comfortable with these discussions. But I think there is a piece that we sometimes miss. Depression has many ripple effects and spouses or loved ones are often struggling in the wake.

So here are some thoughts to consider if you find yourself bobbing like a buoy in the wake of a loved one's struggle with depression. These aren't how-to fixers, but might be lifesavers to help you in weathering the strong and sometimes lengthy storms.

1. Cling to God as... [continue]

Rays of hope result from counseling

A senior pastor struggling with his marriage. A worship pastor battling a pornography addiction. A youth pastor wrestling with depression. A children's pastor trying to cope with anxiety. A minister's spouse dealing with depression after a forced termination. A ministry couple struggling with a child embracing an alternative lifestyle. Grief, burnout, substance use, eating disorders, stress, transition, trauma, pre-marital counseling, personal growth and a host of other issues have been the subject of conversation for Texas Baptist Counseling Services this past year. Regardless of the struggle Texas Baptists find themselves walking... [continue]

Live the Difference: on social media

This year's Annual Meeting theme is "Live the Difference." We asked several individuals what it looks like to live the difference in their day-to-day lives. Here's what Katie Swafford, director of Counseling Services, had to say:

I'm browsing through Facebook this morning when I see the status update of a childhood friend. This friend is describing how she doesn't feel that people treat her as she deserves to be treated.

Makes a few comments about how she perceives herself to be a good person who is fun to be around, yet feels as if the world takes her for granted or just gives her an "ehh, maybe" rating. She proceeded to ask for... [continue]

Lay down your burdens

This story is 3 of a 3-part series addressing the effects of sexual abuse and the power of healing through Jesus Christ.

Sexual abuse - An uncomfortable phrase for most of us and a horrific experience and reality for far too many. In Christian circles, these words are not talked about very much. Whether it is the fear of the unknown, shame, disgust, naiveté or something else, there seems to be a common theme of silence.

Yet when we see others struggle, we have a tendency to talk about that. Many who have been sexually abused find themselves dealing with issues involving drugs, alcohol, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, panic... [continue]