171st hosts spiritual resilience class
November 10, 2011
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- The man who taught America "How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk," visited Fort Jackson last week to teach Soldiers, family members and civilians about resiliency.
John Van Epp, who holds a doctorate in counseling and psychology, spoke to leaders and Soldiers from throughout the Southeast during spiritual resiliency training at the Family Life and Resiliency Center Thursday.
Van Epp's Relationship Attachment Model has been showcased by national press as a key to building successful marriages and is often used as part of the Army's chaplain-led Strong Bonds program.
His latest program, titled "Ultimate Spiritual R&R: Resiliency and Relationships," applies RAM to individuals as in an examination of spiritual resilience.
Van Epp said his concepts could help Soldiers and others change their perspectives on life.
"Techniques for resiliency will only work if they tap into the deep-seated values and beliefs you hold," he said. "When we're able to tap into our core beliefs and examine how we use them in our lives, then we are able to see true change in how people live their lives. That's what we do in this course."
During the course, students work from their own definition of spirituality while examining the RAM model.
"The goal is to help those that come to reflect and explore the spiritual beliefs and values they hold," Van Epp said. "I ask them to clearly define where their spirituality comes from because how you relate with spirituality is going to determine how it strengthens your life."
Col. Tom Donovan, commander of the 171st Infantry Brigade -- whose chaplain hosted the event -- spoke to event participants, and said the spiritual resiliency training will help Soldiers and leaders work through troubled times.
"In leadership, we are dealing with Soldiers with a lot of issues. The more ways of helping Soldiers deal with their grief and feelings, the better," Donovan said. "Everyone is not comfortable with going to see a chaplain, so if others can speak to (the Soldiers) about spiritual matters, that helps."
In the past, Donovan said, there has been a stigma surrounding seeking help for stress or mental issues. Training leaders in resiliency, he said, will move toward the Army's goal of having healthy Soldiers.
"I think big Army wants the Soldiers to get help and to get well. We have to get Soldiers to believe the Army is not going to punish them. There's nothing wrong with getting treatment," Donovan said.
Those who attended the course said they will use the concepts to deal with their Soldiers in the future for encouragement and seeking professional help, if needed.
"This has been great. It has shown me that we have challenges at different levels in life and you need different tools to deal with them," said Capt. Marie Louis-Jean of 120th Adjutant General Battalion (Reception).
"This allows you to help others and that's what is needed most, for us to look out for each other."