Sunday, August 3, 2008

Counselor transforms 'Star Trek' into class on stress management

By TOMIE LUNSFORD
Telegram Staff Writer

Captain Yule B. Calm of the starship InnerPeace is about to embark on a four-week mission across the Adrenal Frontier.
It is Stress Trek - one man's attempt to teach the techniques of stress management with the Bible and the glamour and hilarity of photon torpedoes.
'I promise I'm not a Trekky,' said Captain Calm, err - Larry Hall, the family life counselor at Belton Church of Christ. 'People just started giving me this stuff.'
Hall's office could suffice as a prop closet for any version of the 'Star Trek' television shows.
His desk plays space dock for a couple of miniature starships. The filing cabinet makes a nice cloaking device for Dr. McCoy's tricorder and Captain Kirk's phaser. And the closet must be subject to a force field because three of Starfleet's highest officers are held captive. Kirk, Picard and Mr. Spock look comfortable enough, but their bodies have become the consistency of cardboard.

'I can't get rid of any of it because I'm fundamentally cheap,' Hall said. 'So I had to come up with a way to make use of it.'
Hall set out to apply 'all things Star Trek' to the work he knew - psychology.
'I've been giving stress management seminars since the 1980s,' he said. 'In the beginning, the teaching itself was stressful, and that kind of defeated the point. It wasn't fun, and nobody was getting anything good out of it.'
That observation led him to an important lesson.
'I had to be less the expert and more the clown,' Hall said. 'And that made it work.'
By the 1990s, his void-of-character 'Stress Management Seminar' had transformed into the colorful, full-of-life 'Stress Trek.'
'At first I had to use overhead projectors and handouts,' Hall said. 'Now it's is as advanced as the show. It's on PowerPoint.'
This month will be the second time for Hall to present Stress Trek at Belton Church of Christ. The first program was in 1991.
'It was great fun,' said Mickey Blanks, remembering the first time he was beamed aboard InnerPeace. 'It teaches you how do deal with stress and reminds you of the value of a good laugh.'
Jane Gibson said she also enjoyed her intergalactic Stress Trek.
'The information is good, logical, practical and memorable,' Ms. Gibson said. 'It teaches you see circumstances in non-threatening manners.'
A professional photographer, Ms. Gibson was able to help Hall to update some of his Stress Trek material.
'She's real good with the camera,' Hall said. 'It was so funny, going through all these slides.'
The Stress Trek program starts with some goofy pictures of Hall as Captain Calm. In one photo, he's dressed in a proper starfleet captain's uniform, complete with an authentic-looking communicator. In another, Captain Calm is off duty, dressed in a Hawaiian shirt, just hanging with his buds, ole' Kirk and Spock.
Then the lessons start. Stress Trek is divided into four parts that focus on a variety of topics from coping skills to the importance of perspective.
'The goal is to learn how to laugh at yourself,' Hall said. 'If we took ourselves a lot less seriously, we'd all be a lot more healthy, I bet.'

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