Statements & Press Releases

Statements & Press Releases

Statements Press Release

Ruderman Family Foundation and Chaplaincy Innovation Lab Launch Mental Health Support Training for Spiritual Counselors in Colleges Across Massachusetts

May 22, 2024

The new initiative, which will train pairs of counselors and spiritual care providers to facilitate student groups across the state, aims to enhance mental health support on college campuses. 


Boston, MA, May 22, 2024 — The Ruderman Family Foundation and the Chaplaincy Innovation Lab (CIL) have announced a groundbreaking new program that will offer training to mental health counselors and spiritual care providers to serve students at higher education institutions across Massachusetts.  


The project — Spiritual and Mental Health in Higher Education, for which a training curriculum was developed at and licensed from Mass General Brigham McLean Hospital — aims to significantly enhance the mental health support offered on college campuses. Up to 33 teams from participating Massachusetts institutions of higher education will be trained annually to offer these groups on their own campuses. The training and subsequent support group sessions will be completed over a period of two years. This unique partnership is led by Professor Wendy Cadge, Founder and Director of the Chaplaincy Innovation Lab and incoming President of Bryn Mawr College.  


More than 60% of college students in the U.S. meet the criteria for experiencing at least one mental health challenge during their time on campus, according to the most recent comprehensive study on this issue conducted by Healthy Minds. Another national survey, conducted by the National College Health Assessment, reported that almost three-quarters of students experience moderate or severe psychological distress.  


“Many students are suffering in silence as they confront mental health challenges and lack the essential resources to help address them,” said Sharon Shapiro, Community Liaison and Trustee at the Ruderman Family Foundation. “Our new partnership with the Chaplaincy Innovation Lab will provide another avenue for young adults to access the mental health support they need. Filling this void is crucial not only for college students but for all of society, as today’s students are tomorrow’s leaders.” 


CIL launched in October 2018 at Brandeis University to bring chaplains, theological educators, clinical educators, and social scientists into dialogue about the work of chaplaincy and spiritual care. The current program was designed to address the growing mental health crisis in higher education by tapping into a resource that has been largely left underutilized: college chaplains. By giving them the tools they need to serve students, the project hopes to also address the high demand for counseling which often sees students on lengthy waiting lists. The Ruderman Family Foundation partnered with CIL on a pilot of this program in 2021 on the Brandeis University and Northeastern University campuses, and based on its success made the decision to expand.  


The mental health professionals and chaplains participating in the program will undergo a four-week group counseling training program that is based on cognitive behavioral therapy and aims to serve some 250 students per year. The resulting support groups will welcome those of all spiritual-religious backgrounds, including those who claim no religious affiliation. 


“This work will significantly raise the profile of spiritual care resources on college campuses,” said Professor Cadge, who is also the project’s principal investigator. “Spiritual care is often underutilized despite being prepared to serve all students of all backgrounds. This program brings spiritual care to the conversation on student mental health in a sustainable and accessible way.” 


As such, the project will strengthen professional collaboration between spiritual care and mental healthcare providers on college campuses and build capacity for their continued collaborations to address student mental health. It will also extend the preventative resources available to students on campus, which are often less robust than the resources available to respond to student mental health issues, and significantly raise the profile of spiritual care resources on college campuses. Ultimately, The Ruderman Family Foundation and the CIL hope the success of the program will encourage more campuses, not only in Massachusetts but nationwide, to adapt such initiatives within their own chaplaincy programs and counseling centers. 


The initiative represents the most recent example of the Ruderman Family Foundation’s long-standing commitment to ending the stigma associated with mental health challenges among young adults by partnering with leading higher education institutions and innovative organizations in the field across Massachusetts and throughout the U.S.  



About Ruderman Family Foundation 


The Ruderman Family Foundation is an internationally recognized organization that works to end the stigma associated with mental health. The Foundation does this by identifying gaps in mental health resources and programs within the high school and higher education communities as well as by organizing other local and national programming and initiatives that raise greater awareness around the stigma.  


The Ruderman Family Foundation believes that inclusion and understanding of all people is essential to a fair and flourishing community and imposes these values within its leadership and funding. For more information, please visit 


About the Chaplaincy Innovation Lab 


The Chaplaincy Innovation Lab (CIL) brings chaplains, theological educators, clinical educators and social scientists into conversation about the work of chaplaincy and spiritual care. 

As religious and spiritual life continues to change, the CIL sparks practical innovations that enable chaplains to nurture the spirits of those they serve and reduce human suffering. Our work is shaped by four central commitments maintained by all who are connected to CIL: all are welcome; we respect differences; we value learning together; and we are research-driven. 

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