International Educator - November/December 2014 - 20

meditation centers everywhere." Exploring spirituality was
an important motivator for Andrew's participation in the
trip in the first place. "Spirituality can be self-defined and
very different from religion," she explains. Americans often shy away from talking about politics and religion, yet
spirituality "can be an important part of wellness-being
present and mindful and living with intention." Andrew
now works with American teens "who are just establishing their belief systems. I feel I can draw them out a little
more, help them define what makes them feel connected,
what makes them feel alive to the moment."
Plonsky, now a middle school counselor, says she was
"completely changed by my experience in India-how I relate to students, understanding the importance of culture. I
make sure I understand the differences their world brings
to their life." Speaking with one student who had been traumatized by her experiences in Congo before her family
escaped, Plonsky said, "We were able to talk about culture
because I had things from India in my office. I felt okay asking if I didn't understand something rather than assuming
I understood." Noting that "middle school students don't
get listened to enough," Plonsky added that "when students
say they celebrated an event at a family gathering, before I
would have said, 'that sounds wonderful.' Now I would ask
'what did that celebration mean to you?'"

A 2011 report from the American Counseling Association on Integrating Spirituality and Religion into
Counseling: A Guide to Competent Practice recalls a time
"when the realm of spirituality and religion was clearly
separate from the counseling process." Now, many consider "that spiritual and religious matters are therapeutically
relevant, ethically appropriate, and potentially significant
topics for the practice of counseling with diverse client
populations in a variety of settings." The University of
Wisconsin Oshkosh trips to India reflect this changing attitude. Time was set aside for students to participate in an
evening of meditation. A leading expert on sacred Hindu
texts discussed connections between the Hindu Bhagavad
Gita and Ramayana and the profession of counseling.

Mission-Driven Travel
Not surprisingly in a profession that seeks to help people
understand themselves and their purpose in life, some
overseas programs in counseling and mental health are
mission driven. The World Health Organization's Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan 2013-20 reports
that up to 85 percent of people with severe mental disorders in low- and middle-income countries receive no
treatment. The plan is a call to action, with psychologists
expected to be among the prime movers. William From-

ISTOCK/ THINKSTOCK

"Spirituality can be self-defined and very
different from religion," Andrews explains.
Americans often shy away from
talking about politics and religion,
yet spirituality "can be an
important part of wellness-
being present and mindful
and living with intention."

20  

INTERNATIONAL EDUCATOR N O V + D E C .14



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of International Educator - November/December 2014

International Educator - November/December 2014 - Cover1
International Educator - November/December 2014 - Cover2
International Educator - November/December 2014 - 1
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International Educator - November/December 2014 - Cover3
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International Educator - November/December 2014 - SCover1
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International Educator - November/December 2014 - S1
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International Educator - November/December 2014 - SCover3
International Educator - November/December 2014 - SCover4
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