UVU presents a new integrated-topic Mental Health Conference that offers separate dedicated ‘tracks’ focused on:
Addiction, Depression, Interpersonal Violence, and Suicide Prevention.
Participants are welcome to attend any sessions from any track or focus on a single track for the full day.
Attend in-person or virtually.


Sessions by track:

Opening Keynote
9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.

Opening Keynote: Sean Astin

The 2023 Conference on Mental Health will feature keynote speaker Sean Astin. Astin is a vocal advocate for mental health awareness, bi-polar disorder, civic engagement, and other issues. He is an energetic and passionate speaker who promotes a culture of volunteerism to all audiences. Sean Astin is an American film actor, director, voice artist and producer, best known for his film roles as Samwise Gamgee in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Mikey Walsh in The Goonies, the title character of Rudy, and Bob Newby in Netflix’s hit series, Stranger Things 2. He is also the author of the New York Times best-selling There and Back Again, a memoir – co-written with Joe Layden – of his film career with emphasis on his experiences with the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Morning Concurrent Sessions 1
10:15 a.m. – 11:15 a.m.

Healing Relational Trauma - Live Streamed / Recorded

Since the time of Erik Erikson, it has been clear that relationships within the first two years of life are of the utmost importance for how an individual engages with the world. This presentation focuses on how the first two years of life are vital for brain development, and how a lack of healthy, nurturing relationship with a primary caregiver impacts brain development throughout the life span. These struggles with brain development, for most people, can be resolved through evidence based treatments and loving, nurturing relationships, and new neurological pathways can be created. Relational trauma can only be healed through relationship.

The Intersection of Depression and Trauma - Live Streamed / Recorded

The Intersection of Depression and Trauma: Using the Poly-vagal Theory to Understand and treat Clients who are Disowned, Discounted and Down.

The Harms and Benefits of Pornography: An Intellectual Humility Perspective - Live Streamed / Recorded

Individual perceptions of the harms or benefits of pornography use vary widely with some dogmatically offering examples of sex positivity and others violence towards women to justify their respective claims. While groups and individuals continue to offer strong opinions on the impacts of pornography use, the scientific literature exploring pornography and its effects is filled with ambiguity, statistically trivial relationships, and severe methodological issues (i.e., how pornography is measured, defined, and conceptualized).

(ETHICAL CREDIT) Indigenous and Culturally Based Healing Practices - Live Streamed / Recorded

Ethical dilemmas that arise when evidence-based practices vs. Indigenous and culturally-based healing practices are used for suicide prevention, depression treatment, substance use disorders and domestic violence. Indigenous healers in many cultures have long been recognized for their traditional knowledge and practices in managing trauma, mood disorders, and pain along with promoting holistic well-being. These healers, who often hold deep cultural and spiritual connections to their communities, offer alternative approaches to mental health management that consider the physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of an individual. While indigenous healing practices vary across different cultures and regions, healthcare providers can resolve ethical dilemmas and make space for involving indigenous healers and practices along with evidence-based practices. These methods are often intertwined with spiritual beliefs and ceremonies, recognizing the interconnectedness of the individual with nature, cultural strengths and the spiritual realm. However, these approaches have not been broadly realized in Western health systems that privilege biomedical approaches and Western knowledge paradigms and models. Globally, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations support the availability of traditional health practices. The WHO provides a definition of traditional medicine, including indigenous healing practices, which is: "The sum total of the knowledge, skill, and practices based on the theories, beliefs, and experiences indigenous to different cultures, whether explicable or not, used in the maintenance of health as well as in the prevention, diagnosis, improvement or treatment of physical and mental illness." Furthermore, the rights to traditional health practices are declared in Article 24 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

Addressing Teen Dating Violence - In Person ONLY

Addressing Teen Dating Violence Through an Innovative Lens: Community-Based Participatory Research Interventions and Primary Care Provider Training Teen dating violence (TDV) is a pervasive form of interpersonal aggression with rates of self-reported TDV victimization ranging from 37-41% and perpetration rates from 29-35% (Ybarra, Epelage, Langinrichsen-Rohling, Korchmaros, Boyd, & Basile, 2013). Additionally, TDV is associated with negative socioemotional outcomes for both victims and perpetrators (Glew, Fan, Katon, & Rivera, 2008; Hickman, Jaycox, & Aronoff, 2004). While research and advocacy efforts have resulted in increase support and research for TDV prevention programing, there continues to be a need for effective and sustainable interventions. Research that has evaluated the effectiveness of dating violence prevention programs has shown mixed results (Hickman, Jaycox, & Aronoff, 2004). This presentation will provide an overview of TDV and current prevention programs and programmatic elements. The presenter will then discuss two potential approaches to TDV prevention programming to bridge the gap between research and community implementation. The first approach is utilizing community-based participatory research (CBPR) to create sustainable and effective community/school-based prevention programs. The second approach is providing professional education and training to pediatric primary care providers on TDV and associated topics to increase their ability to provide accurate, responsive, and appropriate prevention and intervention care to patients.

Plenary Session
11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Plenary Speaker: Dr. Nadine Burke Harris

During her keynote address, Dr. Burke Harris will share her groundbreaking research on adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and the long-term effects of childhood adversities. She will discuss how ACEs can lead to toxic stress, which can disrupt brain development and increase the risk of chronic diseases later in life. Dr. Burke Harris will also highlight the importance of early intervention and trauma-informed care in mitigating the impact of ACEs. In addition to her research, Dr. Burke Harris is a passionate advocate for children's health and well-being. She has been a vocal proponent of policies and programs that prioritize the needs of children and families, including the creation of a California Health Task Force led by Dr. Burke Harris herself. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards and honors, including a MacArthur "Genius" Fellowship.

Lunch, Exhibit Fair, & Student Poster Presentations
12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Afternoon Concurrent Sessions 1
1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.

Interpersonal Violence thru the lens of Internal Family Systems (IFS) - Live Streamed / Recorded

The presentation delves into the complexities of interpersonal violence through the innovative lens of Internal Family Systems (IFS). This session will explore how the IFS model, a cutting-edge approach to understanding the human psyche, sheds light on the origins, perpetuation, and potential solutions related to violence in our communities. In this engaging presentation, we will examine the different "parts" within individuals involved in violent behavior and how these parts may be driven by trauma and protective instincts. Through case studies and real-life examples, we will illustrate how IFS can be integrated into therapeutic interventions, fostering healing and self-awareness among individuals affected by interpersonal violence. The speaker will also discuss the role of self-leadership in prevention efforts and how cultivating self-awareness, empathy, and emotional regulation can contribute to building healthier relationships and communities. Whether you're a mental health professional, educator, or community leader, this presentation offers valuable insights that can transform the way we approach and address interpersonal violence.

Beyond the Baby Blues: Understanding & Treating Postpartum Depression & Anxiety Disorders - Live Streamed / Recorded

Pregnancy and the period after delivery can be a particularly vulnerable time for women. Many mothers experience immense biological, emotional, and social changes during this major life transition to becoming a mother. In fact, 1 in 7 women are at an increased risk for developing mental health problems, most commonly depression and anxiety, after birth. Postpartum depression and anxiety disorders present women with unexpected, complicated outcomes that can have a long-lasting impact on their most important relationships and can often result in feelings of isolation, confusion, detachment, and hopelessness. The good news is that perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMAD's) are detectable, treatable, and in some cases, even preventable. As mental health providers, we have a responsibility to learn about and understand the complexities of these unique issues and to know how we can best treat them with our clients.

Adverse Childhood Experiences and the Tools to Build Positive Childhood Experiences - Live Streamed / Recorded

Building on what we have learned about Adverse Childhood Experiences we should have the tools we need to help build Positive Childhood Experiences. Is it just possible that all we need to know is contained in the works of Ainsworth on Secure Attachment, Vygotsky on The Zone of Proximal Development, Piaget's Stages of Development, Erickson's Stages of Development, Kohlberg's Stages of Development, Anderson's work on Early Personality Development, Henderson's work on Resiliency and Victor Frankl's thoughts on building and maintaining our own individual inner tranquility? Surely we can put what we know into a comprehensive pattern of growth and development which will enable any individual to achieve a level of inner stability and resiliency as to be close to immune to any of the issues of focus in this conference.

(ETHICAL CREDIT) Indigenous and Culturally Based Healing Practices - Live Streamed / Recorded

Grief Literacy is a goal within the larger compassionate communities movement. Recognizing that our society is fragmented, and the varying norms and traditions to support one another in times of suffering are unclear, increasing grief knowledge would equip both the public and professionals to identify grief and suffering more readily and to activate appropriate supports to be proactive in avoiding complications from the grief and suffering such as isolation and suicide-risk. In addition to formal care offered by grief counselors, mental health clinicians and palliative and hospice care professionals, the Grief Literacy Movement seeks to equip all citizens to support one another in times of loss, suffering and bereavement. In this session, we will provide a framework for creating and sustaining compassionate communities across multiple social and community settings that enhance supportive care and contribute to mitigating risk of suicide.

How to Help Someone with Depression Using Simple Science - In Person ONLY

This presentation educates about how to interact with those suffering from depression using a simple approach that accounts for brain function. It teaches how to identify depressive symptoms in ourselves and others, depathologizes them by explaining their evolutionary function, and provides principles of effective interactions. It emphasizes the basic therapeutic principle of "meet them where they're at" in a scientific sense, using observable brain and body cues to guide friends, family members, and therapists to aid in long-term care of those with depression. It also discusses the difference between short-term coping and long-term treatment to help caregivers provide educated interventions depending on context.

Afternoon Concurrent Sessions 2
2:45 p.m. – 3:45 p.m.

The Intersection of Interpersonal Violence and Religious Trauma Syndrome - Live Streamed / Recorded

This presentation will be an intersection of Interpersonal Violence with a focus on religious trauma syndrome. This form of trauma can lead to depression which may lead to suicide. Common types of interpersonal violence are: Domestic Violence, Child Abuse, Sexual Assault, Bullying, and Elder Abuse Religious Trauma Syndrome can be another form of interpersonal violence. This form of violence is so subtle it is often missed, there isn't always a consciousness about it. Just like domestic violence or child abuse it is hard to leave the person or entity that has also been there for you. Let's start by understanding what RTS is. While not officially recognized in the DSM-5, RTS has been identified by many psychologists and psychotherapists as a group of symptoms experienced by individuals who have been a part of an authoritarian, dogmatic religious group or belief system. Recognizing that for many people religious teachings and community are a place to find comfort and peace, for some it does the opposite. Siting examples from my work with the FLDS and Centennial Park Understanding Religious Trauma Syndrome understanding how even though many people will hear the same message and not have any trauma response someone else will have it. Recognizing who those people are and why it might lead them to suicide. Understanding how cognitive Dissonance plays a role in the trauma. Understanding how trauma can occur whether you leave or stay. Understanding what to do if: You have RTS to any degree, a friend or family member has RTS, your client has RTS, understanding RTS and empathizing with those who have experienced it is crucial. By moving away from blaming those who interpret religious teachings negatively, and instead seeking to understand their unique experiences, we can help shed light on this overlooked form of trauma and pave the way towards healing and less suicides.

Social Isolation and Loneliness in Older Adults - Live Streamed / Recorded

Nearly one in four adults aged 65+ experience social isolation, and over two in five adults aged 60+ experience loneliness. Given social isolation and loneliness are important risk factors for both mental and physical health, presenters will discuss current challenges and paths to influence positive change for older adults. Rural and urban geographic contexts each contain a mix of adverse and beneficial factors that may influence social isolation and loneliness, highlighting the importance of tailoring solutions to the specific needs and strengths of respective communities. This presentation will cover current data specific to rural Utah older adults and evidence-based practices to mitigate social isolation and serve older adults. Additionally, attendees will gain tools for assessing and reducing social isolation through learning about philanthropy's role in supporting communities to improve quality of life for older adults.

The Eating Disorder High: A Comparison of Evidenced-based Modalities and Their Effectiveness - Live Streamed / Recorded

Eating disorders are a complex mental health concern that is often missed by medical practitioners, therapists, and other treating professionals. The addictive nature of eating disorders is not widely known despite the relapse rate, difficulty in maintaining recovery, and the average length of getting into recovery. In our society, losing weight and being thin is touted as "superior" and healthy without looking at the underlying issues. These beliefs contribute to the disorder through the praise of those around them, the belief that they are doing what others cannot do, and the need to numb the emotional pain that they are experiencing. Due to all of this, individuals with eating disorders have been identified as a "difficult" population to treat due to the chronic nature of the disorder, lack of training and education, and the addictive qualities of the disease. Clinicians often feel under-prepared, under-educated, and out of their depth in working with clients with eating disorders. We aim to empower clinicians with tools and a greater understanding of the evidenced-based modalities that they are likely already using in their practice, to better help their clients with body image concerns, disordered eating, and full-blown diagnosable eating disorders. The modalities that will be reviewed are CBT-E (Enhanced CBT, specifically for eating disorders), DBT, ACT, RO-DBT, FBT (Family Based Therapy, also known as the Maudsley Method), and EFFT (Emotion-Focused Family Therapy). Each modality will include a description, direction on how to use the modality, and the most recent research for the use of this modality within the eating disorder population. We will expand upon what modality is most appropriate for the treatment of the different eating disorders (i.e. Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Binge Eating Disorder, and OSFED, (Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder)) and how to implement them in the office. Furthermore, we will aid therapists in when to apply specific interventions/modalities throughout the course of the eating disorder and within the different diagnoses. In addition, we will compare and contrast the effectiveness of the treatment modalities within the different disorders. The presentation will also focus on individual and support person/family/couples therapy treatment modalities to better empower the support people in their lives and give therapists more support and tools to use in the recovery process. In addition, we will discuss the complexity of the disease and how to incorporate a multidisciplinary team (Primary Care Physician, Dietitian, Psychiatrist, etc) to help improve outcomes and review the basic medical complications that can arise in this population.

Understanding Trauma and Suicide Among First Responders: Navigating Challenges and Promoting Resilience - Live Streamed / Recorded

The primary goal of this presentation is to raise awareness about the prevalence and impact of trauma and suicide within the first responder community. The first responder community has one of the highest rates of suicide of any population. I have given different versions of similar presentations well over a hundred times. The presentation aims to equip the audience with a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by these heroic individuals and provide practical strategies to enhance resilience and foster a culture of support.

State of Utah and Federal Updates on Psychedelic Therapeutic Intervention Research and Legal Landscape - In Person ONLY

State of Utah and Federal updates on psychedelic therapeutic intervention research and legal landscape. Summary of the history and current research as well as a summary of legislative report and recommendations to the Utah legislature for MDMA and psychedelic treatment of mental conditions. Discussion about concurrent therapy treatment and safety protocols in development in research and practice across the US and the world.

Afternoon Concurrent Sessions 3
4:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

The Role of the Therapeutic Relationship in Treating Childhood Sexual Abuse in the Clinical Setting - Live Streamed / Recorded

The role of the therapeutic relationship in treating childhood sexual abuse in the clinical setting. In order to more deeply understand the experiences of victims, this presentation will overview the cultural, historical, and social understanding of, and attitudes toward, childhood sexual abuse within the last 50 years in the United States. This presentation will give clinical insight to common factors that arise when working with this population and will help to support the development of a trauma-informed framework to be used by those who work with this population. This presentation will shed light on how victims may construct their narrative, how they may perceive treatment, common pitfalls of treatment and how to over come them, as well as how the therapist can best support the healing of the survivor.

Operationalize the Power of a "Caring Adult" to Solve the Youth Mental Health Crisis - Live Streamed / Recorded

According to the Utah SHARP survey, the number of kids and teens struggling with mental health has more than doubled in the last 10 years. Everyday Strong is dedicated to teaching parents and educators how safety, connection and confidence can be used to strengthen relationships with kids. Our program is unique because it is easy to learn in a short amount of time and apply to everyday life. Through these three deeply researched tools, adults can strengthen their relationship with kids/teens and create a safe space for them. Attendees will be able to understand how to take youth from surviving to thriving. They will learn how safety, connection, and confidence give youth a space to grow and learn. Kids need adults' help to become resilient, and with the proper tools, they can create a safe space for them. Through a simple, research-based framework, attendees will learn how to apply this tool to everyday situations.

Creating a Circle of Hope for Women and their Families Living with Addiction, Stigma, and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) - Live Streamed / Recorded

This session will focus on how addiction can impact a women's health, family, children, and their unborn babies. Research on lifelong cognitive, neurological, and behavioral disorders related to prenatal alcohol exposure will be reviewed. Additionally, research on stigma towards mothers of children that used during their pregnancy will be summarized. Women with this lived experience face on-going stigma and bias, loss of their children, and debilitating shame that can place them at high risk for relapse. The focus of the session will be on how education on both addiction and recovery transforms systems of care to reframe both expectations and interventions to improve outcomes for women and their families. Participants will learn about resources for women and their families.

Beyond the Alarm – Youth Mental Health Solutions - Live Streamed / Recorded

Youth suicide, anxiety, and depression are on the rise, and school shootings are reported in the news. Parents feel desperate to protect their children physically and emotionally. When a child cuts their finger, parents know how to treat it and when to get medical care. Yet when a child is bullied, experiencing anxiety or depression, or struggling with thoughts of suicide, parents don’t know how to help. Additionally, mental healthcare workers and school counselors are stretched thin and unable to meet increasing demand alone. We are leaving out an important member of the team by not engaging and educating parents about their child’s mental health. As parents learn to care for their child's mental health they can strengthen their communities by increasing resilience among youth. In this session, participants will learn how parents and practitioners can work together to improve youth mental health and prevent suicide. Access to free online parenting courses that support parents in addressing common mental health issues will be provided.

CALM – Counseling on Access to Lethal Means - In Person ONLY

CALM: Counseling on Access to Lethal Means is an evidence based training designed to help providers implement counseling strategies to help clients at risk for suicide and their families reduce access to lethal means, particularly (but not exclusively) firearms. It includes a number of components: background on suicide data and lethal means; an introduction to firearms; video and didactic presentation that models the counseling strategy; a presentation and discussion on conducting a counseling session and includes role plays.