Learning & Resources

Shalem Mental Health Network

A Tale of Two Churches: The Development of a Congregational Assistance Program

Journal of Spirituality in Mental Health, 2013

Marg Smit-Vandezande, Mark Vander Vennen, Ken Van Wyk, Rick Csiernik


Drawing upon the principles of employee assistance programs, a congregational assistance program was piloted in two churches: one urban and one rural in Ontario, Canada. The developmental processes of a faith-inclusive, external counseling service with no direct-cost user fees is discussed highlighting the distinct issues addressed by each congregation. Despite uncertainties, the use of the program for a range of personal issues exceeded utilization expectations with the program’s ease of access, confidentiality and lack of fees cited as significant factors.