Shalem’s Congregational Assistance Plan (CAP) has been featured in two journal articles recently—one giving an overview of the program, and another reporting on research about the experiences of the counsellors providing the services.
The Banner, the official magazine of the Christian Reformed Church in North America, has published an article entitled Two Counseling Services Partnering with Churches. It describes Shalem’s CAP program in Ontario, as well as a similar Church Assistance Program being run by Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services in Michigan and Iowa.
The article explains how these programs reduce barriers to counselling services and normalizes getting help for emotional, mental and behavioural issues people are facing. It also shares the benefits of the various trainings and workshops that church leaders and members can access.
While there are some differences in how the programs are administered and funded, both programs allow churches to give their congregants access to free and confidential counselling services.
A second article, published in the most recent edition of the journal Social Work & Christianity, shares research conducted with CAP service providers about their perceptions of the CAP program. Counsellors who work with Shalem Mental Health Network to provide the CAP counselling services were surveyed about their experiences of working within the program.
The survey results show that the counsellors who responded are very positive about their experiences overall. They identified benefits such as having a senior clinical supervisor in place with whom they could consult, whose purpose is to support a positive outcome for the clients within the program.
They also reported that the CAP model allows them more flexibility than similar Employee Assistance Programs to deliver the services clients need. Counsellors expressed an appreciation for the transparency of the model in terms of being able to explain the number of sessions available and the opportunity for clients to meet with the counsellor for additional sessions, if needed, beyond what the CAP program provides.
A prominent response from service providers involved the benefits of being able to integrate counselling, faith and spirituality within the CAP counselling sessions. Clients are able to access services with a counsellor who shares their faith, allowing them to feel understood and engaged. Counsellors are able to access the whole range of emotional, physical, relational and spiritual considerations in their work with clients. The counsellor feedback suggested that having a faith-based perspective in counselling also opens doors for clients who might not seek counselling without a faith foundation.
Some limitations of the program were also noted, primarily about the challenges of supporting those with long-standing emotional, relational or mental health issues within the program’s short-term model of service. The counsellors also indicated that they would benefit from some adjustments to the administrative processes such as paperwork and billing procedures.
The researchers conclude that CAP is a valuable and effective means of offering short-term counselling services through churches: “CAP was established to meet the needs of a Christian community using the church rather than the workplace as the source of referral. After nearly a decade of service provision, the study’s respondents indicated that this mandate is being met.” (Csiernik, Darnell & Trotter, 2017, p. 35).
It is exciting to hear that the research confirms the value and benefits of this counselling program designed to make services accessible through churches, allowing them to expand their ministries beyond the pastoral support provided to individuals and families in their care.
If you are curious about how your faith community, church or school might benefit from the Congregational Assistance Plan or the Counselling Assistance Plan for Students (CAPS) program, check out Shalem’s website, email Marg Smit Vandezande, or call her at 905.515.4758.
If you are already connected with a CAP church or CAPS school and would like to explore the resources available or set up a counselling appointment, please contact our intake department toll free at 866.347.0041 or by email: [email protected].
Susan Winter Fledderus is a Clinical Therapist with Shalem Mental Health Network