MUSCLE SHOALS, Ala. (WHNT) – Faith-based counselors from across the state have stepped in to assist the members of Highland Park Baptist Church.
Members are dealing with the sudden arrest of their former children’s minister on dozens of child sexual abuse charges.
On Wednesday night, church leaders cancelled their normal worship schedule to help their members cope with the allegations swirling around Jeffrey Dale Eddie.
More than ten counselors were brought in to assist members and their families.
Ross Hickman with Pathways Professional Counseling, a faith-based service, is one of the counselors helping at the church.
And although he couldn’t speak about the incident surrounding Eddie, he did offer some insight into counseling practices after a traumatic experience.
“Often after an incident like this, any critical incidents, any individual will feel like they are going crazy or they are losing their mind,” explained Hickman. “As counselors we try to normalize that response.”
And Hickman said children are one of the hardest groups to counsel.
He said often times children don’t have the language skills needed to talk about a traumatic experience and their feelings.
Especially an incident that Hickman said involves someone they trust.
“We talk about if someone has a secret, getting that secret out is the most therapeutic thing they can do,” stated Hickman. “Talking about it and getting it out so that they are sharing that information so they don’t feel alone, alienated, they don’t feel like the shame is on them or there is any guilt.”
According to Hickman, parents should be proactive with children and build a level of trust with them in case something does arise in the future, so the child can freely come to them.
And Hickman said for the church to heal, members must get back to the roots of their faith which includes the doctrine of God’s love and grace in a fallen world.
Ross Hickman said they offer free counseling to anyone who has gone through a traumatic situation, and they plan to assist church members as long as the need is there.
Pathways Professional Counseling is a Family Ministry of Alabama Baptist Children’s Home.
Disaster Relief counselors with the Alabama Baptist Association are also assisting members of Highland Park Baptist Church.