Jennifer Payne

Assistant professor, social work


Jennifer Payne

Jennifer Payne / Photo: Jenny Fontaine/UIC Office of Public Affairs (click on image for larger file size)

Mental illness is seldom discussed inside the church. Jennifer Shepard Payne, a licensed clinical social worker and ordained minister, hopes to remove some of the stigma. She is looking at how both clinicians and clergy can best minister to church members suffering from depression.

Payne was the principal investigator of the Clergy Depressive Counseling Survey, a study completed in 2008 asking clergy about their beliefs and their treatment practices when working with depressed parishioners.  She is presently the principal investigator of the Urban Pastors Project, a qualitative study in which pastors from Chicago and Los Angeles share their counseling experiences in dealing with people with emotional problems.

Payne is also a consultant to pastors on mental illness issues. She has trained clergy at a variety of churches and councils on recognizing signs of mental illness, handling congregants with personality disorders, and addressing child abuse.

Her primary research focus is minority mental health disparity, focusing on depression in black communities.

Subject areas:

  • Intersection of religion, spirituality, and mental health
  • Minority mental health
  • Mental health assessment of underrepresented groups
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