Lead pastor Kurt Lange at East Coast International Church north of Boston texted Kristen Kansiewicz, “How do you know if a person is emotionally healthy?”
While that is a big question — one Kansiewicz ended up writing an entire book about, instead of just responding in a text — it’s not uncommon for Kansiewicz, a licensed counselor and staff member at East Coast International Church, to get texts like that as Lange or one of the other pastors is writing their sermon.
Kansiewicz is also the founder of Church Therapy, which provides low cost mental health services in churches and offers training for Master’s-level counselors specializing in Christian integration.
Her model is about getting counselors in church settings — not only to ensure congregants get the professional resources they need but also, she said, in the hopes of prompting pastors to talk more openly about mental health.
“My presence keeps mental health at the front,” she said. “Decreasing stigma happens all the way from the sermon on Sunday to the way we interact with people who arrive at our church.”
One in five adults in the United States experiences mental illness, and suicide is the second leading cause of death among people ages 10 to 34, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.