Psychology professor shows love of Christ through mental health care

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned while working as a counselor is that it really does boil down to love God and love others,” assistant professor of psychology Kevin Conner said.  

Serving as an assistant professor and chair of the psychology program, Conner has been a valued member of Liberty University’s staff for over 23 years.  

However, Conner didn’t begin his journey in the field of psychology. While a master’s student in Liberty’s School of Divinity, he began to recognize the need for psychological care in addition to spiritual care in the church. He worked in a church for a few years between undergrad and starting his master’s program. 

“I began to realize that there’s a definite need for integration between individual spiritual understanding and their psychological state,” Conner said.  

Already having a solid foundation in theology, Conner sought to bring the two worlds together by studying the field of psychology, a journey that would eventually culminate in his position as chair of the psychology department.  

In 2010, Liberty sought to invest in training faculty and staff to be better prepared for individuals with thoughts of suicide.  

“It’s something that touches each family,” Conner said. “I’m personally invested in the topic of suicide. …  I had a father that had thoughts of suicide, another family member that had  suicided. It is something that I know can be prevented.”  

In response to this increase, Conner underwent training to become a provider of Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) so that he could instruct RAs and RDs on campus on what to do if a student they were in contact with was having thoughts of suicide.  

ASIST is a two-day training program that teaches participants how to help those at risk for suicide. Training is open to anyone 16 and over. Conner described ASIST as “suicide first aid.”  

“ASIST is designed to give someone the confidence to be able to help someone that’s having thoughts of suicide and then be able to connect them to resources for long-term care. Sometimes it’s that initial first aid that’s needed for individuals to be able to get the help that they need,” Conner said.  

Chase Gyles

In addition to his work with ASIST, Conner travels around the world with students in his PSYC 499 internship course. In March, he’ll be taking students to Ecuador, where they will learn about local culture and visit various nonprofit organizations serving the community.  

“You can’t understand a psychological component outside of the context or outside of the culture, so we’ll really get to dive into Ecuadorian culture,” Conner said. The rest of the weeklong trip will be “packed with visiting different sites, organizations and ministries so that students can see the breadth and depth of how they might work in the field of psychology.”  

According to Conner, analyzing both psychology and religious studies has enabled him to have a broader understanding of God’s word.  

“Scripture says cast all your anxiety upon him, for he cares for you,” Conner said. “The theology side says, ‘Oh, you just cast your anxiety.’ Well, what does that mean? What therapy can I use to help? Having that integrated piece really began to, I think, deepen my faith as well as broaden how I see God operating.”  

Throughout it all, Conner’s biggest support has been his family and church community. “I appreciate the support that I have from my brothers and sisters in Christ in my community,” Conner said. “It really does allow me to accomplish what God has given me, whether it’s as a faculty member, working with LU Send or even the work I do in suicide intervention across the state. It really does take God’s people to do God’s work.”  

Perez is a feature reporter for the Liberty Champion

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