ACISTE Certification Programs
“Where can I go to get competent support for the difficult challenges I am facing as a result of my spiritually transformative experience(s)? I’m now dealing with two realities I have to process. My family and friends don’t get why it’s such a big deal for me. My husband won’t even talk to me about it. I don’t know why I’m having all these psychic aftereffects. I don’t know what it all means for my life and beyond. I don’t know what my purpose in life is anymore. I’m lost. I’m depressed. I am homesick or I am terrified of returning. Will a professional think I’m crazy, shun me, want to lock me up, or medicate me? Will someone from my faith try to impose their beliefs on my own or judge me? Does anyone even know HOW to help me?”
These are just a few of the questions millions of people ask when faced with the many common challenges that might arise from having had a deeply profound and transformative spiritual experience (STE). According to the Chicago Opinion Poll, a full 35.7% of Americans have had at least one religious or spiritual experience “that changed their life.” ACISTE surveys have confirmed prior research that those changes bring challenges that experiencers often have to face alone.
According to ACISTE’s first survey of 60 STErs, 50% dealt with depression, 10% suffered from substance abuse, 6,7% had attempted suicide as direct or indirect consequence of their STE(s). Only 5% indicated they had no challenges.
As the adjustment or integration period following an STE can take years, if not a lifetime, these challenges are eventually worked through and the stressors may lessen over time. Research has shown that ultimately, the vast majority of near-death experiencers (for example) tend to become healthier than the general population. It is the interim where the need exists.
ACISTE surveys indicate both a huge need and a desire for COMPETENT professional help NOW. In response this need, ACISTE has gathered the best research and educators it could find to provide education and training to professionals who want to provide that support and answer that need.
The result was a first-of-its-kind certification program for mental health professionals, pastoral counselors and spiritual directors launched at our conference in San Mateo, CA in October, 2012. At its November, 2014 conference in Dallas, TX, ACISTE added a certification program for life coaches – a program designed to both train new and certify existing life coaches who want to specialize in supporting individuals who have had STEs.
ACISTE Certified professionals are included in the ACISTE support directory, complete with profiles to help experiencers find a match.
As this is a growing area of research, all ACISTE certificants are required to attend the full conference, as well as specific pre-and post conference workshops and to keep current with information relevant to their practice by participating in tele-meetings.
In the future, a certification program will also roll out for volunteer mentors. Non-professional peers can also apply to lead a support and discussion group. These programs, together with a planned support and referral line, and outside agencies can then use the directory for referral purposes for issues beyond their capacity.
Knowing when to refer is part of the training. The certification programs together with ACISTE online links and resources provide a network of comprehensive support.