Training Modules

Tending to the Mental Health of Adolescents

Rev. Canon Chris Russell
Dr. Nadja Reilly
Dr. Joyce Mercer
Kenda Creasy Dean
Dr. David White
Dr. Evelyn Parker
Dr. Stephanie Paulsell
Vanessa Zoltan
Dr. Sarah Farmer
Kate Hyde
Dr. Andy Root
Jorge Gonzalez
Tim Walsh
Kate Ott
Amanda Drury
Dori Baker
Patrick Reyes
Dr. Chap Clark headshot
Rev. William Mathis Headshot
Justin Forbes

Leading theologians and pastors explore adolescent mental health and the role of youth ministry and the youth minister in supporting youth.


Rev. Canon Chris Russell Chris Russell

Rev. Canon Chris Russell was schooled at a comprehensive school in Nottingham and after spending a year working at a church on a council estate in Birkenhead, went to Durham university where he did an undergraduate degree in Theology [1988-91]. He then went to work for Paul Boateng MP as a researcher [1991-93]. In 1993, he went to theological College to train for the Ordained Ministry at Ridley Hall. Whilst there he did an M Phil in Dogmatic Theology at Cambridge University. In 1996, he was ordained and served his title post at St Johns with Holy Trinity Deptford [Southwark]. Chris married Belinda in 1998. On the way to Reading, he served on staff at Soul Survivor Watford for a year, and in 2001 became vicar of St Laurence Reading. The church is in the centre of town and they began to work to the mandate of being a multi-generational community with a particular mission amongst young people. Chris’ First book, Ten Letters was published by DLT in 2012 and in July 2013, Chris was surprised, honoured and thrilled to be invited by Justin to serve him in this role as Adviser on Evangelism and Witness at Lambeth Palace. Chris & Belinda have three daughters [Hope, Jessie & Dora] and a very scruffy dog [Bernie]. He enjoys growing things [vegetables], chopping things [wood], listening to things [Dylan, Springsteen, Cash] and eating and drinking things in good company.

Dr. Nadja Reilly Nadja Reilly

Nadja Reilly is a licensed psychologist with 20 years of clinical experience specializing in children, adolescents, and families. Dr. Reilly completed her graduate training at the University of Miami, Florida, and her clinical internship and post-doctoral fellowship at Boston Children’s Hospital. She was a staff psychologist in the Department of Psychiatry at Boston Children’s Hospital for 12 years.

Dr. Reilly is currently the Associate Director of the Freedman Center for Child and Family Development at William James College. At the Freedman Center, Dr. Reilly focuses on prevention, school and community mental health work, consultation, curriculum and program development, and education. She is the Director of Training of the center’s American Psychological Association approved internship.She is also an Adjunct Faculty member in the School Psychology Department of William James College.

Dr. Reilly is the author of the book Anxiety and Depression in the Classroom: A Teacher’s Guide to Fostering Self Regulation in Young Students, editor of Preventing Depression: A Toolkit for Schools, co-editor of the How Not to Keep a Secret peer leadership curriculum, editor and primary author of the Break Free from Depression school curriculum, and executive producer of Break Free From Depression, a documentary focusing on adolescent depression. Dr. Reilly also has extensive experience in working with community and faith based groups in developing and implementing depression awareness programming. Dr. Reilly has presented in numerous local and national conferences, and continues to promote awareness of child and family mental health needs through her teaching, research, and private practice.

Dr. Joyce Mercer Joyce Mercer

Dr. Joyce Mercer is Professor of Pastoral Care and Practical Theology, Horace Bushnell Professor of Christian Nurture at Yale Divinity School.  Formerly a scholar-researcher, teacher, writer, retreat leader, and professor of practical theology at Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Virginia, Dr. Mercer is also an ordained minister (teaching elder) in the Presbyterian Church (USA). Her passions include:

  • Advocacy and welcome of children in the church and beyond
  • Exploring women’s religious experience
  • The spirituality of adolescent girls
  • Conflict transformation and reconciliation
  • Facilitating conversations about difficult subjects
  • Studying congregations
  • Global connections, especially in the Philippines and southeast Asia
  • Contemplative spiritual practices and their relationship with activism
  • Older adult ministries

Joyce teaches courses in pastoral care, conflict transformation, theologies of childhood, feminist theology, youth ministry, and practical theology. Before joining the faculty at VTS, she served on faculties at San Francisco Theological Seminary and the Graduate Theological Union, and at Union Theological Seminary in the Philippines.

She is the author of Welcoming Children: A Practical Theology of Childhood (Chalice Press, 2005), Lives to Offer: Accompanying Youth on Their Vocational Quests (co-authored with Dori Grinenko Baker, Pilgrim Press, 2007), and most recently, Girl Talk, God Talk: Why Faith Matters to Teenage Girls—and Their Parents (Jossey Bass, 2008).

Joyce is a licensed clinical social worker with experience in community-based health care and addictions. She is married with three teenaged children.

Charles Atkins Charles Edward Atkins, Jr.

Charles Edward Atkins, Jr.’s work focuses on religious practice in incarcerated communities. Charles is an ordained minister who currently works as a full-time Chaplain with the N.J. Department of Corrections at the Garden State Youth Correctional Facility, where, over the last 20 years, he has developed and maintained programs that teach incarcerated youth and young adults methods of overcoming inner and outer violence through the practical application of spiritual principles. His work in prison was featured by the World Vision Report in November 2007 and in the nationally distributed Haverford College Alumni magazine (Fall 2009).In 2015, with a working group on Religious Education in Prisons, Charles was able to organize an international conference on religious education in prisons at the University of Montreal that invited educators from the United States and Canada. As he drew toward the completion of his dissertation, Charles also received funding in 2016 from the Louisville Institute in order to research the genesis and best practices of religious education programs in prisons around the United States. Since Charles is trilingual—speaking English, French (fluently) and Spanish (proficiently)—he has worked for the spiritual empowerment and the socio-economic development of people in Central America, Africa, Europe, and the Caribbean (Jamaica, Cuba, and Haiti). He is also very interested in the challenges to religious practice of immigrants in their adopted countries. Atkins currently serves as a part-time preacher and worship leader for the French Evangelical Church of NY (PCUSA) where he helps this fellowship in Manhattan to strengthen their French worship service and their outreach to French-speaking people. Charles also serves as a motivational speaker, seminar leader, poet and program host for various projects. He created and implemented New Jersey, a curriculum called the New Name Project that helps disadvantaged teens to find life purpose and live with self-esteem. Charles was nominated for a 2008 Emmy Award by the Heartland Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for his work as the host and narrator of the nationally distributed American Public Television series called “Beyond Theology”—an investigation of interfaith dialogue and the intersection of faith and public life. Having once been an artist in the hip-hop music industry (Blacksound Productions, Paris, France), Charles continues to enjoy producing music. He has produced music to support a campaign to raise awareness of child endangerment. In this effort, his 2012 CD with “XtraLenz,” was called “Snatch Hope Back,” a grouping of spoken word poetry and hip-hop music (on iTunes, and Charles has a wife, Margaret, and three children—Ashleigh, Jasmine and Nicholas.

Kenda Creasy Dean Kenda Creasy Dean

Kenda Creasy Dean is an ordained United Methodist pastor and the Mary D. Synnott Professor of Youth, Church and Culture at Princeton Theological Seminary. She is the author of Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers Is Telling the American Church and What Theological Education Can Learn from Youth Ministry—If We Let It (co-editor with Christy Lang Hearlson), among many others. A graduate of Miami University (Ohio) and Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC, Kenda served as a pastor and campus minister before earning her doctorate at Princeton Theological Seminary in 1997. In 2013 she founded Ministry Incubators, Inc. with Mark DeVries, a consulting and teaching organization to help churches turn hare-brained ideas into joyful, sustainable ministries. Kenda was blessed by incredible youth leaders and camp counselors as a teenager who saw God at work in her before there was any real evidence that they should, and she’s spent forty years trying to pay that forward. She and her husband Kevin love hanging out with their two grown children, Brendan and Shannon, and to binge-watch every beltway drama on Netflix. You’ll find her hanging out at the beach as much as is humanly possible.

Mary Elizabeth Moore Mary Elizabeth Moore

Mary Elizabeth Moore is Dean of the School of Theology and Professor of Theology and Education, Boston University. Her passion is to journey with others to cultivate deeper faith, compassionate humanity, and a more just, peaceful, and sustainable world. She feels privileged to work toward those ends with colleagues in Boston University and around the world, especially in the practices of knowing the Holy, building justice, resisting violence, and caring for the earth. Her books include: Teaching as a Sacramental Act; Ministering with the Earth; Covenant and Call; Teaching from the Heart; and The United Methodist Diaconate (co-authored); plus three edited volumes, Children, Youth, and Spirituality in a Troubling World; Practical Theology and Hermeneutics; and A Living Tradition: Critical Recovery of the Wesleyan Heritage. She has engaged in interreligious relationship-building in local, professional, and academic settings and is presently working on a project to develop interreligious approaches to practical theology. Mary Elizabeth is married to Allen, and they have five wonderful children and eight fabulous grandchildren.

Dr. David White David White

David White is the C. Ellis and Nancy Gribble Nelson Professor of Christian Education and Professor in Methodist Studies at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. His recent publications include Dreamcare: A Theology of Youth, Spirit, and Vocation and Awakening Youth Discipleship in a Consumer Culture, as well as a number of journal articles.

Dr. Evelyn Parker Evelyn Parker

Dr. Evelyn Parker is the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and a Professor of Practical Theology at the Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University.

Dr. Stephanie Paulsell Stephanie Paulsell

Stephanie Paulsell joined the faculty of Harvard Divinity School in 2001 as Lecturer on Ministry and was appointed associate dean for ministry studies in 2003. She served in the post of associate dean until 2005, when she was appointed Houghton Professor of the Practice of Ministry Studies. For the 2007–08 academic year, she was also associate dean for faculty and curricular affairs. Previously she served as director of ministry studies and Senior Lecturer in Religion and Literature at the University of Chicago Divinity School.

Paulsell studies the points of intersection between intellectual work and spiritual practice, between the academic study of religion and the practices of ministry, and between the contemplative and active dimensions of the vocations of minister and teacher. She is the author of Honoring the Body: Meditations on a Christian Practice and co-editor of The Scope of Our Art: The Vocation of the Theological Teacher. Her current research is on Virginia Woolf and religion.

She is an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

Vanessa Zoltan Vanessa Zoltan

In addition to being the co-host of the popular podcast, Harry Potter & the Sacred Text,  Ms. Vanessa Zoltan is a research assistant at Harvard Divinity School. She graduated with her BA in English Literature and Writing from Washington University in St. Louis, her MS in Nonprofit Management from the University of Pennsylvania and her MDiv from Harvard Divinity School in 2015. She is working on a book about treating Jane Eyre as a sacred text. Her work with Jane Eyre and Harry Potter has been written about in The New York Times and covered on CNN. Vanessa blogs for the Huffington Post. She lives with 24 Harvard freshmen and her dog, in Cambridge, MA..

Dr. Sarah Farmer Sarah F. Farmer

Dr. Sarah F. Farmer is Assistant Professor in the Theology and Ministry Department at Indiana Wesleyan University.  A former associate research scholar at Yale Divinity School and Director the Adolescent Faith and Flourishing Program at Yale Center for Faith and Culture, Sarah received her M.Div. and Ph.D from Emory University, where she taught as an adjunct faculty and co-directed a Certificate in Theological Studies Program at a Women’s Prison. Sarah teaches in the areas of psychosocial identity and faith formation, community building, congregational studies, social change and transformative pedagogy.

Kate Hyde Katherine M. Hyde

Katherine Hyde is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker specializing in mental health psychotherapy for children, adolescents, and families. She completed her graduate work at the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis, and held a Clinical Fellowship at Boston Children’s Hospital, a teaching hospital of the Harvard Medical School. Kate worked closely with Dr. Nadja Reilly at the Swensrud Depression Prevention Initiative providing training and consultation around adolescent depression and suicide awareness and prevention. She participated in the development of the Break Free from Depression documentary and school curriculum. Kate is a Clinical Supervisor and also provides direct mental health services for adolescents and their families in an urban school district in Hartford, Connecticut. She is a member of the Adjunct Faculty at the School of Graduateand Professional Studies at the University of Saint Joseph. Kate has worked with the Yale Youth Ministry Institute since 2013 as a Lecturer and Program Coordinator, and served as a youth minister for a thriving youth program.

Greg Ellison Gregory C. Ellison II

The Rev. Dr. Gregory C. Ellison, II joined the Candler School of Theology faculty in 2009. His teaching draws primarily from his work with the organization he founded called Fearless Dialogues, a non-profit organization that creates unique spaces for unlikely partners to have hard, heartfelt conversations on taboo subjects like racism, classism, and community violence. Ellison’s research focuses on caring with marginalized populations, pastoral care as social activism, and 20th and 21st century mysticism. He is the author of Cut Dead but Still Alive: Caring for African American Young Men, and has two books in progress with Westminster John Knox Press – Fearless Dialogues: The Civil Rights Movement of the 21st Century and Anchored in the Current: The Eternal Wisdom of Howard Thurman in a Changing World.

Allan Cole Allan Hugh Cole Jr.

Dr. Allan Hugh Cole Jr. is Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Director of Undergraduate Programs, and Professor in the School of Social Work at The University of Texas at Austin. Prior to the University of Texas, he served as Dean and The Nancy Taylor Williamson Distinguished Chair of Pastoral Care at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Austin, TX as well a Lecturer at Princeton Theological Seminary. Among Dr. Cole’s current teaching and research interests are: Counseling Interventions Spirituality/Religion and Social Work, Mentoring, Psychosocial Development of Boys and Men, Disabilities. He has also written extensively in these areas. To name a few of his books, Cole is the author of:

1. The Life of Prayer: Mind, Body, and Soul
2. Be Not Anxious: Pastoral Care of Disquieted Souls
3. Good Mourning: Getting Through Your Grief
4. Brief Counseling in Action: A Task-Centered Approach for Social Workers

He has also edited:

1. Theology in Service to the Church: Global and Ecumenical Perspectives
2. Fathers in Faith: Reflections on Parenthood and a Christian Life
3. A Spiritual Life: Perspectives from Poets, Prophets, and Preachers

Co-authored with Donald Capps and Robert C. Dykstra, he has written The Faith and Friendships of Teenage Boys AND Losers, Loners, and Rebels: The Spiritual Struggles of Boys. Dr. Cole is also the author of various chapters, articles, and reviews in volumes and journals related to the fields of social work, counseling, and the psychology of religion. He serves on the editorial board for the Journal of Spirituality and Religion in Social Work: Social Thought. Responsible for leadership of the School of Social Work’s academic affairs and a member of the Council on Leadership Development for the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), his work focuses on educating and supporting persons in social work research, practice, teaching, and leadership.

Philip Browning Helsel Philip Browning Helsel

Rev. Dr. Philip Browning Helsel, is Assistant Professor of Pastoral Care and Counseling at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Previously he served for four years at Boston College School of Theology and Ministry. His current research interests include systemic pastoral care for oppression, migration as pastoral theology, collective trauma, and the care for families and kin networks, and pastoral care during a Trump presidency. He is author of Pastoral Power (Palgrave, 2015) a book in the New Approaches to Religion and Power Series that is the first full-length book in pastoral care to examine the Great Recession’s impact on mental health of communities. He is the author of numerous articles and book chapters, and is on the editorial board for The Journal of Pastoral Care and Counseling. He is co-chair of the Intercultural and Interreligious Pastoral Theology group at the Society for Pastoral Theology.

Dr. Andy Root Andrew Root

Dr. Andrew Root is the Carrie Olson Baalson Associate Professor of Youth and Family Ministry at Luther Seminary, USA. He writes and researches in areas of theology and youth ministry. His most recent books are The Grace of Dogs (Convergent, 2017), Faith Formation in a Secular Age (Baker, 2017), and Exploding Stars, Dead Dinosaurs, and Zombies: Youth Ministry in the Age of Science (Fortress Press, 2018).

Jorge Gonzalez Jorge Gonzalez

Pastor Jorge Gonzalez is one of the Founders and Directors of Power House Youth Ministries.

Tim Walsh Tim Walsh

Tim Walsh is Director of Experiential Learning at Newport Academy, a teen rehabilitation center with the mission to provide teens and their families with care and treatment for trauma, mental health issues, eating disorders, and substance abuse. Walsh is a mental health professional, outdoor educator, certified recovery coach trainer, and recovery expert. He has more than 20 years of experience leading programs for young adults, adolescents, and families. Particularly, Tim has spent decades cultivating his expertise in program development. He is a thought leader in adventure-based counseling and recovery. However, his main areas of expertise include youth mentoring, outdoor leadership, prevention, and recovery coaching.

He is cofounder and director of Adventure Recovery, an outdoor education and mentoring group. As one of the founding members, Tim spent five years as Executive Director of Mountainside Treatment Center in Canaan, Connecticut. At Mountainside, he created the center’s adventure-based counseling program. Also, prior to this, Tim spent 10 years at the Mountain Workshop, an outdoor leadership school, as Program and Staff Development Director. In addition, he is a consultant and former youth director for the New Canaan Congregational Church youth programs since 1998.

Tim develops and facilitates awareness programs for private schools, youth development agencies, and national conferences. Hence, his unique model of engagement draws young people in. As a result, Tim generates a dynamic, solutions-based conversation on mental health and substance use awareness.

Kate Ott Kate Ott

Dr. Kate Ott is a feminist, catholic scholar addressing the formation of moral communities with specializations in sexuality, technology, children/youth, and professional ethics. She is author of Sex +Faith: Talking with Your Child from Birth to Adolescence, co-editor of Faith, Feminism, andScholarship: The Next Generation, and the forthcoming Life Enhancing Settings: The Technology andEthics of Everyday Living. She lectures and leads workshops across the country on sexuality andtechnology issues related to children, teens, young adults and parents. She is Assistant Professor of Christian Social Ethics at Drew University Theological School in Madison, NJ and a Lecturer at Yale Divinity School in New Haven, CT. Prior to Drew, Kate was the Deputy Director of the Religious Institute, a non-profit committed to sexual health, education, and justice in faith communities andsociety and served as a youth minister for six years. To find out more about her workvisit

Amanda Drury Amanda Drury

Rev. Dr. Amanda Drury is Assistant Professor of Theology at Indiana Wesleyan University and her teaching interests include Youth Ministry, Christian Education, Homiletics, Pastoral Care, and Spiritual Formation. Rev. Beck serves as the Family Ministries Pastor of College Wesleyan Church.

Dori Baker Dori Baker

Dori Baker is Senior Fellow for Research and Learning at the Forum for Theological Exploration (FTE), an Atlanta-based leadership incubator for the church and academy. Her research lies at the intersection of young adult culture, innovative leadership, cultural studies of race/gender, and spiritual practices that sustain activism. She wrote Doing Girlfriend Theology: God-Talk with Young Women, is the series editor of a Chalice Press imprint highlighting diverse faith-based leaders of social change, and is the author of numerous other books and journal articles. She is a United Methodist clergy woman who facilitates interfaith gatherings of women and is active in movements for racial justice in the Virginia Annual Conference/UMC.

Patrick Reyes Patrick B. Reyes

Dr. Patrick B. Reyes, Director of Strategic Partnerships for Doctoral Initiatives at the Forum for Theological Exploration (, is a Latinx practical theologian, educator, administrator, and institutional strategist. At the Forum for Theological Exploration, he supports scholars of color and works with institutional leaders on a number of inclusive excellence initiatives. His expertise is helping communities, organizations, and individuals excavate their stories to create strategies and practices that promote their thriving. He is the author of the book, Nobody Cries When We Die: God, Community, and Surviving to Adulthood. Learn more at

Dr. Chap Clark headshot Chap Clark

Chap Clark (PhD, University of Denver) is professor of Youth, Family, and Culture at Fuller Seminary, President of ParenTeen, Inc., and co-interim preaching pastor at St Andrews Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach, CA. Chap is also chair of Christian Discipleship department. Formerly the senior editor of YouthWorker Journal, an administrative and senior pastor, a Sojourner contributing writer and “Red Letter Communicator,” and currently president of ParenTeen™, he’s also a speaker, trainer, consultant, as well as the author or co-author of 24 books, including the award-winning Hurt 2.0: Inside the World of Today’s Teenagers, Sticky Faith, Deep Justice in a Broken World, Adoptive Youth Ministry: Integrating Emerging Generations into the Family of Faith and the forthcoming Practicing Adoptive Youth Ministry. Before teaching, Chap was on Young Life staff for 15 years as an area and regional director and training director; and for the last 25 years while a seminary professor, Chap has served as a consulting producer for a reality television production company. Chap and Dee have three grown children, one grandchild (and another on the way) and mostly live in Gig Harbor, WA.

Rev. William Mathis Headshot William Mathis

Rev. William Mathis serves as a Lecturer in Divinity at Yale Divinity School. Rev. Mathis is Pastor of Springs of Life-Giving Water Church (The Springs), an American Baptist Church in New Haven, CT. He is also the CEO of WLM Ministries, Inc., a non-profit devoted to providing consulting services for the development of community and faith-based initiatives with a specialty in the areas of Criminal Justice/Neighborhood Safety, Community Building, Youth Empowerment, Social Justice, and African Diaspora Collaboration.

Justin Forbes Justin Forbes

Justin serves as the director of the Youth Ministry program at Flagler College and has been involved in youth ministry since 1998. Currently a candidate for his PhD from the University of Aberdeen, Justin is a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary earning a Masters of Divinity as well as a Masters of Arts in Youth Ministry. He also attained a Masters of Arts in Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary. Having spent 12 years working for Young Life, and serving locally in his church, Justin brings a broad base of experience across different types of youth ministry to include urban, multicultural, suburban, special needs, and college ministries. He is the co-founder of, a youth ministry resource organization, and is a proud foster parent. His passion is teaching and mentoring youth ministers. He and his wife Bethany live in St. Augustine, FL with their 4+ children.

Jannah Scott

Jannah Scott is a Strategist, Planner, Advisor, Public Policy Expert, who has served in many capacities with faith, government, business and the nonprofit community.

For eight years, Jannah served in President Obama’s administration as Deputy Director, Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. In that role, Jannah guided the engagement of faith-based and community groups on issues of resilience integration, emergency preparedness and response; countering violent extremism; religious accommodations in homeland security; H1N1 and other issues within Homeland Security. 

Her most recent endeavors included an assessment and engagement process in cities across the nation to promote the affiliation of diverse faith-based & community groups with local police, fire and emergency management agencies (Building Resilience with Diverse Communities).

Jannah also helped groups get connected with President Obama’s White House Office for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and the other federal centers for faith-based and community initiatives. She also served as the Policy Advisor on Faith and Community Initiatives to former Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, where she represented the Governor with community investment coalitions, faith leaders, cities and counties to establish local initiatives aimed at serving in international missions and among the poorest and most vulnerable citizens of that state. 

As part of her international work, Jannah has been an Arizona delegate on several faith and civil society exchange journeys with Arizona government and business leaders. She also hosted, with the Bush White House, the first-ever jointly –sponsored faith-based and community convening, bringing together over 2,000 faith and community leaders, elected officials and philanthropy organizations to seek solutions to common problems.

Jannah is an associate with the International Foundation and a host to the annual National Prayer Breakfast. 

She has a graduate degree from the University of California at Berkeley in Public Health Planning and Policy, and an honorary Doctorate of Theology from the Gateway International Bible College in Phoenix, Arizona. Jannah has five children and ten grandchildren.

Laurie Santos

Dr. Laurie Renee Santos is a cognitive scientist and Professor of Psychology at Yale University. She is also Director of Yale’s Comparative Cognition Laboratory, Director of Yale’s Canine Cognition Lab, Head of Yale’s Silliman College, and she is also the host of “The Happiness Lab” podcast. Her course, “The Science of Well Being” is the most popular in Yale’s history.

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