Speakers and Class Descriptions

2022 Hope and Help for the Holidays Speaker Bios:

Mitchell D Carmody, CGSP, CCP (Grief Services Provider with Heartlight Studios)

 Mitch Carmody has been providing provocative insightful healing resources for the bereaved for over 30 years with writings, workshops, books, and more recently YouTube videos (Mr Heartlight) on Proactive Grieving. Mitch is the author of Letters To My Son, hosts his own radio show “Grief Chat”, former member ADEC, and longtime presenter for BPUSA, TAPS, TCF and other grief organizations and has presented in almost every major US city including Newtown/Sandyhook and Parkland Florida.

Dennis Gillan (Executive Director of Half a Sorrow Foundation)

Dennis Gillan is a national thought leader on the topic of Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Advocacy. He travels internationally speaking, raising awareness, and reducing the stigma surrounding mental health. Dennis has been deeply touched by suicide after the losses of two of his brothers to suicide 11 years apart. After years of sitting on the sidelines, he jumped into helping those in need by

working on the suicide prevention hotline when he lived in Chicago. After moving to South Carolina, Dennis got involved with several non-profits that take on mental health issues and this allows him to lobby lawmakers and raise awareness by sharing his story. Dennis did a TEDx talk on loneliness and recently started his own non-profit called the Half a Sorrow Foundation. You can find out more here:  www.halfasorrow.org.

Andy Johnston, MA MDiv LPC (Therapist, Upstate Living Clinic)

Andy Johnston has spent his career exploring what it means to help people create a meaningful life.  This exploration has included working at nonprofit agencies, serving as a Mennonite pastor, being a stay-at-home Dad, working as a certified EFT couples therapist, and running a small business.  Currently, he is a therapist in private practice.

Susan Brunson Bouknight, RN (Chemo/Biotherapy Administration, Lexington Medical Center)

Susan Brunson Bouknight is a Registered Nurse of 28 years currently employed at Lexington Medical Center in Lexington South Carolina.  She began her career working as an Oncology nurse for 16 years where she earned her certification in Chemo/Biotherapy administration. For the past 12 years, she has worked with Lexington Rheumatology as their lead infusion nurse treating multiple autoimmune diseases.

Susan is a mother of four children (Josh, Jeremy, Jacob and Jenna).  For 10 years, she struggled to understand and help the addiction struggles of two of her children. Her worst fears became a reality three years ago when she lost her son Jacob to an overdose. Through her pain she has been determined to seek answers to help make a difference in the lives of other families.  Her mission is to take Jacob’s story into schools and to other events to bring awareness to this disease.   She and her children created a video to share Jacob’s struggles as well as to teach how drug addiction affects families. Susan hopes this video will impact many lives and end the stigma associated with addiction.  Her mission has brought her healing and hopes it will save lives and prevent other families from experiencing this tragedy.

Laurel Shaler, PhD, NCC, LPC, LCSW, LISW-CP/S (Professor, Liberty University)

Dr. Laurel Shaler is a licensed mental health professional with a PhD in Counselor Education and Supervision and Masters Degrees in Social Work and Theology. She is a Professor at Liberty University, and the author of “Reclaiming Sanity: Hope and Healing for Trauma, Stress, and Overwhelming Life Events” and “Relational Reset: Unlearning the Habits that Hold You Back.” She widely speaks and writes on a variety of topics. Learn more or contact Dr. Shaler at www.drlaurelshaler.com.

Michael McLain, LPC, LAC (Community Engagement Director at the Phoenix Center)

Michael McLain serves as Community Engagement Director at the Phoenix Center in Greenville.

Michael holds a Master’s Degree in Counseling and is licensed as a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and Licensed Addiction Counselor (LAC) and has served in the addiction treatment field for 28 years helping individuals and families seek treatment and recovery from substance use disorders.

Courtney Chandler, LPC, ATR-BC, AADC, E-RYT (Somatic Art Therapist HeARTS for Hope Therapy, LLC)

Courtney Chandler is a Board Certified Art Therapist, Licensed Professional Counselor, Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor, and Trauma-Informed Yoga Teacher. She is the founder of HeARTS for Hope Therapy in Greenville, SC, where she currently works in private practice offering individual and group therapy for teens and women. She integrates the expressive arts with somatic therapy techniques to offer a mind-body approach to support her clients growth through trauma and grief.

Debora Faulkner (Greenville County Probate Court)

Judge Debora A. Faulkner is serving her sixth consecutive term as Probate Judge, having first been elected to office in 1998. Prior to her judicial service, she practiced law for 13 years. As chairperson of the S.C. Supreme Court Task Force on State Courts and the Elderly, she oversaw an in-depth study and comprehensive report detailing how the court system can be more responsive to seniors.

The Probate Court under her leadership has been innovative in promoting public education, protecting incapacitated adults, and providing a user-friendly Probate Court. She instituted classes on estate administration, developed a national award-winning website, and produced a helpful how-to estate video along with numerous step-by-step brochures on how to use the services of the Court. Judge Faulkner designed and oversaw the implementation of the PAWS system allowing free online access for Attorneys to all probate court filings.

Rev. Patrick Jinks, M.Div., BCC, HEC-C (Spiritual Care Coordinator, Prisma Health Children’s Hospital – Upstate)

Patrick is the Spiritual Care Coordinator for the Prisma Health Children’s Hospital in Greenville, South Carolina. Patrick is an ordained minister of the Presbyterian Church (USA), and Board Certified by the Association of Professional Chaplains. He serves as the staff chaplain to children and their families, and bereavement coordinator for Children’s Hospital. Outside of work, Patrick and his spouse Kate enjoy the energy and creative spirit of their three children and their “fur baby” dog.

Elizabeth Lauer Robison, MA, LPC, NCC, ACCA

Elizabeth’s background includes over thirty years in counseling, business, and legal environments. She entered the counseling profession later in life.  Even though she has a varied background, “relationship” has always been a “cornerstone” in journeying with others.  She brings to the counseling profession a lifetime of experiences, career expertise, and varied disciplines. Her integrated background, coupled with her clinical work, provides others with tools necessary in their journey to wholeness.  She works with adults and children challenged with grief, trauma, anxiety, and depression.

2022 Hope and Help for the Holidays General and Small Group Sessions Descriptions:

Mitchell D Carmody, CGSP, CCP (Grief Services Provider with Heartlight Studios)

General Session 1: “Proactive Grieving: Hope for the Holidays and Beyond”

Navigating the Grief Journey Through the Holidays and Beyond is introducing the fundamentals of Proactive Grieving which is, processing grief in 4 distinct functions of Body, Mind, Soul, and Spirit.

This includes the S.T.A.I.R.S. modality of long-term grief processing and the introduction of “Grief in the 100 Acre Wood” Who are you as a griever.                                     

This workshop is designed to discover who you are as a griever, what are your strengths, what are your weaknesses, what are your complications? This session will introduce The 20 Faces of Grief® Slides and a personality profile test called the P.O.W.E.R Personality Indicator (PPI) quiz for identifying who we as a person and as a griever as denoted by one of the characters from Winnie the Pooh.  “Proactive Grieving® is finding equilibrium body, mind, soul and spirit”         

General Session 2: “Whispers of Love, Signs, Synchronicities and Continuing Connections”

This workshop’s goal is to educate grievers on the phenomenon of signs, dreams, visitations, and other evidential experiences that validate that the soul and personality live on beyond death. The presenter will share his personal experiences and that of others with anecdotal evidence and photographic evidence that this phenomenon exists and valuable resource for the bereaved.

Continuing connections provides the griever with an avenue of hope, healing, and resilience found in no other way. Our loved one dies a second time when no one speaks their name; we keep them present by maintaining a relationship beyond the limits of physicality.

Dennis Gillan (Executive Director of Half a Sorrow Foundation)

“Journey of Recovery After Two Suicides”

Dennis Gillan will take the audience on his life journey that includes losing not one, but two brothers to suicide. He is still standing, and actually enjoying life, but it has not always been that way. Come listen to Dennis detail how he got back on his feet and turned his misery into his mission. Crying and laughing are included!

Andy Johnston, MA MDiv LPC (Therapist, Upstate Living Clinic)

“When Faith Is a Help and a Hindrance to the Grief Process”

When grieving, many of us lean heavily on our spiritual beliefs and religious communities for support. In this seminar, we will use what we know about healthy grieving in order to discuss what elements of one’s faith might be valuable for the grief process, and what elements may be causing problems.

Susan Brunson Bouknight, RN (Chemo/Biotherapy Administration, Lexington Medical Center)

Laurel Shaler, PhD, NCC, LPC, LCSW, LISW-CP/S (Professor, Liberty University)

Michael McLain, LPC, LAC (Community Engagement Director at the Phoenix Center)

“Addiction, Overdose and Grief: Coping and Healing from Unexpected Loss”

With over 100,000 drug overdoses annually, families are encountering unexpected loss of their friends and family at alarming rates. Susan Brunson will share her grief recovery journey after losing a son to overdose and what systems of support helped her and her family through the grieving process. Dr. Laurel Shaler will be sharing about the dynamics of unexpected loss and its impact on family dynamics of grief and healing, as well as healthy coping skills and making meaning, growing, and healing from losses such as overdose, addiction, accidents, and other types of unexpected loss. Mike McLain will share recent trends regarding substance use in our nation, traits of alcoholism/addiction and how it develops over time, as well as treatment resources available for people struggling with substance use disorders.

Laurel Shaler, PhD, NCC, LPC, LCSW, LISW-CP/S (Professor, Liberty University)

“Support After Loss: The Important Role of Others in Your Grieving Process”

Social support is imperative in the aftermath of loss. Research shows the important role social plays in grief recovery. At the same time, sorrow can lead to isolation and, in turn, loneliness. This workshop will address the necessity of social support, offer examples of how to seek and receive social support, and provide an opportunity for social support within the session.

Courtney Chandler, LPC, ATR-BC, AADC, E-RYT (Somatic Art Therapist, HeARTS for Hope Therapy, LLC)

“Grieving HeARTS: Creating Safe Space for Sorrow through Group Art Therapy” (Clinician Focus)

The grieving process can be overwhelming to navigate. Art therapy can offer a container for complex emotions and existential thoughts to be witnessed, held, and transformed. This experiential breakout session provides a creative lens for clinicians to support their grieving clients in a group setting. Participants will experience a first-hand account of the healing powers of the expressive arts through a guided art activity, gain an understanding of the benefits of art therapy for grief, and learn compassionate ways to support reflection and group processing of deep sorrow expressed through art.

Judge Debora A. Faulkner (Probate Judge for Greenville County)

Top Ten Reasons to Have an Estate Plan”

The session is designed to highlight cases in Probate Court in which an appropriate estate plan would have eliminated delays and legal fees.  Examples will be used to illustrate common failures to plan.

Rev. Patrick Jinks, M.Div., BCC, HEC-C (Spiritual Care Coordinator, Prisma Health Children’s Hospital – Upstate)

“Mending Hearts: Caring for Grieving Children”

Children grieve, too. Children are unique, complex, and wonder-full. When a family experiences a significant loss, however, children may be unintentionally left behind in their own grief and processing. This interactive presentation will utilize case examples and multimedia resources to strengthen the caregiver’s awareness to the presence and needs of children in the midst of grief, and to begin the journey of mending hearts.     

Elizabeth Lauer Robison, MA, LPC, NCC, ACCA

“Grief 101: Grieving Toward Healing, Finding Strength During Your Grief Journey”

This session will focus on the basics of grief and share about various aspects that will assist you in your grief journey.  During our time, we will focus on grief during the holidays and “firsts”. We will also discuss ways to celebrate the loss and move forward.