Cuban Episcopal Women - Psychologists of the Heart
By: José Bringas, Coordinator of the Integral Development Program of the Episcopal Church in Cuba.
Guantanamo, 25 March 2023. It is a sunny day in the easternmost part of the island. As part of the agenda of the annual Convention, forty-five Cuban Episcopal women, representing 12 communities in the country, celebrate their day and decide to spend some time reflecting on a new challenge faced by their communities.,
In the last three years, Cuban families have been affected by a series of health, economic, social and environmental crises and disasters. Their impact has led to one of the worst migratory crises in the last sixty years. People are still struggling to cope with these difficult circumstances.
People were confronted with situations increasingly marked by uncertainty, ambiguity and fear. The mental health of the most vulnerable began to deteriorate rapidly and adapting to the new scenario has become essential.
For the first time, these Episcopal women have learned to identify the emotional reactions that occur in their families during these events, including the migratory phenomenon that causes a human decapitalization of the country, damages the social fabric and generates dysfunctional lifestyles within families.
At the same time, they have adopted a program of psychological support for families experiencing emotional reactions to situations of this kind and have committed themselves, in a first stage, to replicating the lessons learned in twenty-five municipalities in the country.
Through dynamic peer exercises, video analysis and specialized presentations, the participants learned that psychological support goes through several phases: Active listening - Facilitation of
verbal expression (use of narratives) - Facilitation of emotional expression (use of venting) - Normalization of reactions - Resignification.
The workshop participants, as caregivers and promoters, defined what to do and what not to do in psychological support.
WHAT TO DO? WHAT NOT TO DO?
Do Embrace different beliefs and values.
Don't try to understand, judge or intervene on the basis of our values and beliefs.
Do explain what psychological support is and the functions it will perform.
Don't assume that the person's situation will be understood from the start.
Do adapt the content of the relationship to the family's culture and values.
Don't use expressions of our personal values to explain terms of support.T
Do provide relief and self-sufficiency and to strengthen one's own abilities.
Don't adopt a patronizing attitude and ignore personal capabilities and resources.
At the end of the meeting, some participants shared doubts about their abilities to provide psychological support to others, to which one participant responded with accurate questions:
- "Are we not daughters, mothers and wives who care for our families? Are we not women of faith who manage the various ministries of the Church and the missionary program?
A silence of affirmation filled the room.
- We may not be psychologists by training, but we are psychologists of the heart and of the love of our Lord Jesus Christ!", she concluded as a loud applause of approval sealed the event.