What is the Cerny Smith Assessment {& Giveaway!}

May 16, 2022 | 53 comments

Today we kick off our special two week focus on stress with an interview with Russell Semon who will lead the four part-series on stress starting tomorrow. Russell is certified in giving the Cerny Smith (stress) Assessment and explaining the results. Thanks to a generous donor, he is able to offer 25 of you a free assessment and zoom session to go over the results. You read that right, twenty five of you! And it doesn’t matter where you are in the world, he’ll work with your time zone.

If you’re like me, you might be vaguely familiar with the CSA or you may never had heard of it before, so I asked Russell a few questions about it. And, if you leave a comment on this post, we’ll kick this series off with five of you winning a stress and resilience assessment geared for cross-cultural workers!


Russell, thanks for being here. I’m curious, what got you interested in the Cerny Smith Assessment?

Good question. I’d have to say that my interest in the Cerny Smith Assessment came as my involvement in the local church intersected with a transition from 28 years of Behavioral Health employment. Seven years ago, I began working in the counseling center which is a ministry of my local church. The church is very involved in sending, supporting, and participating in cross-cultural work. One day, I got a call from a couple, working cross culturally in a South American country, seeking counseling for anxiety. I was confident that based on my years of experience in Behavioral Health I could help them. Their anxiety seemed to be due to the cumulative stress of living and working cross culturally. As I began to prepare to meet with them, I realized that the approach I would typically suggest to alleviate their anxiety would conflict with their call and their commitment to the cross-cultural work.     

This realization led me to start researching, learning as much as I could about cross-cultural issues and effective treatment approaches. I started by rethinking my own theology of suffering.  In the process, I discovered that there was a whole international, interdisciplinary approach that I knew nothing about called member care. I attended the Mental Health in M-work conferences, participated in a Workshop on Risk Assessment and Management for Cross-Cultural workers, participated in opportunities to see and learn directly from those working cross culturally in El Salvador, Lithuania, and Turkey. I read a lot about how to care for those working cross-culturally, and as I was looking for tools that would better equip me to serve, I learned about the Cerny Smith Stress Assessment.  In 2018, I participated in the CSA training and became a certified coach. I’ve been able to offer the CSA and follow-up coaching since that time.             

What is the Cerny Smith Assessment and how does it work? 

So, the Cerny Smith Stress Assessment is a research based, online tool that was developed to help people working in cross-cultural settings to be successful in adjusting to, or successfully managing their lives during times of transition. According to Cerny Smith’s own material, the CSA has been used in over 147 countries by thousands of international organizations, expatriates, families, and students.

The process is fairly straight forward, if an individual wants to take the CSA they can access the assessments through the CSA website. As a coach and through my agency, I can offer the CSA with feedback and a coaching session via Zoom. If they choose this option, I send them an invitation through the CSA system with a link to the online assessment. In my experience the time required for completing the assessment ranges from 45 minutes to just over an hour.  

Once the assessment is complete, the results are available to the user and the coach and can be downloaded. The coach and individual then decide on a day and time to review the results. This review usually takes about 1 ½ hours.

There have been occasions when the information provided through the assessment and/or the Zoom review has required more than the allotted time. In these instances, I have been able to provide additional follow up coaching meetings.

I’m curious how taking this assessment can help or be of value to a cross-cultural worker?

Although I often hear that the individual hasn’t discovered or learned anything that they didn’t already know about the source of their stress, there is significant value in the structure and format of the report because it allows them to “see” a more complete picture of their lives, particularly since stress tends to narrow one’s focus. Improved awareness is an important benefit.

The report also generates suggestions for how the individual might minimize or manage challenging areas and enhance areas of strength, which facilitates the development of plans for change.

The section of the report that I have found to be very helpful is the section that records individual statements that elaborate more on specific questions or areas of challenge.  These comments often clarify the individual’s responses, enhancing communication during the review process.

Ultimately, the goal is to help those working cross culturally to reduce stress, experience greater personal satisfaction, enhance general well-being, and improve functioning in their work. 

Just a few more questions. Do you meet with couples or just individuals?

I’m up for whatever is best for a couple. Each person will need to take his or her own assessment, but then they will have the option to meet with me individually or as a couple.

Last question to help us have a sense of what we would pay to take the assessment. Normally how much does this assessment cost? 

Cerny Smith offers 3 options for the CSA. CSA with a brief report for $24, CSA with feedback report for $50 and CSA with feedback report and coaching for $200. 

We are grateful for the donor who cares so much about you, oh cross-cultural workers, that they’re investing in 25 of these assessments … humbling and encouraging! We look forward to your 4-part series on stress, Russell!

Leave a comment below, and we will draw five winners by tomorrow when the series starts. Let the fun begin! The giveaway on this post is over … so to enter, leave a comment on another post in the series 🙂

Amy Young

Life enthusiast. Author. Sports lover. Jesus follower. Supporting cross-cultural work.

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53 Comments

  1. Mikayla

    I’ve never heard of the CSA, but I’m interested. I’ve been trying to figure out how to better manage my stress on the field, but keep getting stuck on the fact that it is just a part of the ministry and life I have chosen. This sounds like it could be a great tool!

    Reply
    • Sharon

      This is so timely as we enter the cycle of transition with people leaving and coming.

      Reply
    • Sarah W

      I would love to learn more. After 18 yrs on the field I am sure it would be very helpful.

      Reply
    • Dina

      I’ve also never heard of CSA, but I know I’ve been through a long sustained period of stress and am eager to hear more.

      Reply
  2. Amie

    I’m excited for this series. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Brenda Herowai

      I find this Interesting. I am in year 4 1/2 of a cross cultural marriage and find the stress more difficult at times then I imagined. We are preparing to go back into the field and I want to do everything I can to be ready and resilient!

      Reply
    • Russell

      I hope you find the articles to be helpful.

      Reply
  3. Dileeni Abraham

    This looks very helpful and interesting. I am about to teach a class on stress, but often don’t stop to reflect on the stress that I am dealing with myself.

    Reply
    • Russell

      You’re not alone, many people don’t pay attention to their stress until it gets their attention !

      Reply
  4. Stephanie Gutierrez

    As a cross-cultural worker who transitioned off living in the field a year and a half ago) but continues to serve the church there digitally), just started up a new job in member care, and is about to send daughter off to college in August, an assessment like this would be really helpful in this season! Also, as I step into the area of member care, I’m really eager to learn about the CSA as a way to help serve other missionaries. Thank you for your consideration!

    Reply
    • Susanna

      Looking forward to this new series and learning how stress impacts workers at any stages of their faith and mission journey.
      .

      Reply
  5. Corinne

    I’m very intrigued about how to enlighten someone who is being negatively affected by the amounts of stress they live with. Most of us “sign up” for the life overseas knowing stress is part of the job. A tool that helps a cross cultural worker see the need to remediate harmful stress? Love it!

    Reply
    • Russell

      Using individual responses, the CSA generates proposed suggestions, an initial plan, for alleviating challenges (stress) and encouraging or enhancing identified strengths. It’s helpful for initiating thinking around both.

      Reply
  6. Suzanne Varghese

    This sounds like a helpful and much needed series! Thank!

    Reply
  7. Ailisha

    I think I may have heard of this, but knew very little about it, so appreciated the brief interview. As someone who lives cross culturally and supervises a small team of expats, I’m always interested in resources such as this.

    Reply
  8. Wendy

    I too have never heard of the CSA. How exciting to know that there are resources like this to help cross-cultural workers work through stress so they can thrive on the field! I am looking forward to learning more.

    Reply
  9. Michele Zintz

    This sounds like a great tool and I’m excited for this series too. I love Russel’s comment that he had to think through his theology of suffering to help people called to cross-cultural work deal with stress and anxiety.

    Reply
    • Russell

      A really helpful resource for that time of reflection, re-learning was Anna Hampton’s book “Facing Danger, A Guide through Risk”, also participated in their RAM training.

      Reply
  10. Donna Mills

    After being on the field 17+ years, we returned unplanned and unexpectedly into our “home” culture which was not home anymore. We then moved to a small town where we knew no one and where knowing people was important. It was a tough time as outsiders but God’s mercy is always more than our tough times. We are now helping to launch younger generation “goers” at our church and we want to send them well. Looking forward to this much-needed series!

    Reply
    • Russell

      An encouraging testimony of your resiliency and God’s Grace. Hope you enjoy the series.

      Reply
  11. Mary

    Thank you for offering important resources to help cross cultural workers stay committed to their calling

    Reply
  12. Mechthild

    OK, either I am too long in Africa, or the CSA is mainly known in the anglophone part of the world, but I have never heard about it. In any case, it sounds interesting to me. Looking forward to this series about stress.

    Reply
  13. Kimberly

    I am excited to learn more about this tool, as a member care worker for many years I have heard of the assessment. Looking forward to the teaching in stress and how we can manage it within cross-cultural work. Thank you!

    Reply
  14. Lynn

    I am interested in learning more. I haven’t heard of the CSA and think it sounds like a great tool to help manage how we respond to stress.

    Reply
  15. Lauren

    Oh such interesting timing! I was just reading about the CSA at a retreat home we are looking at staying at during our Stateside ministry assignment this summer. So good to hear Global Trellis recommend it too!

    Reply
  16. Char

    The CSA sounds really interesting and informative. My family have only been in field for 7.5months so on some ways we still feel very transitional and the stress/anxiety hit at different and often unexpected times. This tool could be very useful in helping me manage my stress/anxiety this provokes.

    Reply
  17. Rebekah

    This series sounds really helpful and the CSA sounds good too, I’d not heard of it. I’m interested in how it is geared towards those working on the mission field since, as Russell states above, much common advice and typical approaches to alleviating stress and anxiety conflict with a call and commitment to cross-cultural work.

    Reply
  18. Sarah

    Cross cultural worker in South Asia; definitely interested!

    Reply
  19. Sarah Leonard

    Learning about CSA is particularly timely as this last year has been extremely stressful with losses and transition. I would very much be interested in taking this assessment.

    Reply
  20. Fiqirte

    Serving with SIL in Ethiopia and stepping out of my comfort zone: going to teach crisscross-culturally this summer with more than 20 bible translators from all over Africa. I’d love to learn more about tools and strategies for handling stress while learning and living together with people from different cultures.

    Reply
  21. Jordan

    Im looking forward to this!

    Reply
  22. Stacey

    What a great tool this is and so valuable for everyone and cross cultural workers.

    Reply
  23. Stephany Moser

    It sounds like a great tool for many, especially with all the living in limbo and transitions happening these years….

    Reply
  24. Angelica

    Stress management is such an important factor in longevity in ministry. I’m looking forward to learning from this series!

    Reply
  25. Phyllis

    I had heard of it, but that’s about it. Just a passing mention somewhere. I’m looking forward to learning more.

    Reply
  26. Linda Schrock

    I would love to know more about this. War in my country of service (Ukraine) has made my stress-load higher than it has ever, ever been.

    Reply
  27. Paulette

    Becoming more resilient and dealing with stress in Biblical and healthy ways are areas I need to grow in. I am looking forward to the series on stress and observations Russ may share on his theology of suffering. Thank you so much for tackling the topic of stress and mental health on the field!

    Reply
  28. Suriati Abdul Gani

    Just started my cross cultural journey in East Africa. This is the first time I read about CSA and I am interested in trying this assessment. Thank you!

    Reply
  29. CHERYL YENNIE

    I had the opportunity to receive an Assessment during a difficult transition in 2017 and I found the process to be helpful to me! Grateful for this tool and am encouraged that it is still in use!

    Reply
  30. JL

    I’ve been wanting to take the CSA!

    Reply
  31. Jennifer H

    This is the first I am hearing about the CSA tool and I am looking forward to learning more. Also, thankful for the generosity of the donor to help in this capacity. Thank you!

    Reply
  32. Ashley

    What a great resource. We are new to the field and the first 6 months in has been lots of transitions built on top of the obvious and getting ready for a few more. Would love to have this tool.

    Reply
  33. Heather Fowler

    Might be too late, but I’d be grateful.

    Reply
  34. Kat

    Fascinating! I’ve never heard of it, but it sounds v helpful!

    Reply
  35. Jaimie

    This is so important and not talked about enough in the cross cultural ministry community. Thanks so much!

    Reply
  36. Naomi

    It’s good to hear about resources that have been specifically developed for cross cultural contexts – I’ve seen other resources that just don’t seem to fit in my kind of context. I’d be interested to know whether this is just for an individual or couple, or whether it had applications for a team context?

    Reply
    • Russell

      Naomi, the CSA is specific to an individual’s experience of stress and yes, it has application to couples and teams to the extent that the individual’s coping or challenges impact or influence these relationships. I haven’t used this in a team context, but I would think it would require a high degree of trust within a team particularly since some of the questions, answers might reveal stressors within that team or relationships.

      Reply
  37. Rachel

    So excited hear a bit more about Russell’s journey in exploring the differences in serving needs in home country context vs those of cross-cultural workers. Having done some work in home country context, it would be really helpful to hear the differences. I haven’t done the CSA but also sounds like a potentially useful tool.

    Reply
  38. Joan Justiniano

    I’m really interested to learn more about this, especially since it’s adding the cross-cultural work aspect. There are stressors here that others just don’t experience. I’ve been experiencing the stress of helping aging parents when I live overseas. I’ve been fortunate enough to go back a couple times and help them deal with health issues and my mom’s dying, but my heart still aches to be present for my dad, especially as his health declined significantly after my mom passed.

    Reply
  39. Amy Young

    Hello friends! The five winners from this post have been drawn and notified. If you haven’t received an email, I’m sorry to say your name wasn’t drawn … but thankfully you have four more chances to win! Leave a comment on today’s post “What is stress” and you’re entered afresh!

    Reply
  40. Lynette

    Sounds like an interesting study and series.

    Reply
  41. Jimmy R

    Our organization does the CSA but I’ve only ever gotten a brief report. In six years of being overseas, I’ve never had a coaching call around the results. Hoping I’m a lucky winner for one of those!

    Reply
  42. Elaina

    Looks like a great resource! Looking forward to learning more about this and how it can be used to promote health on the field.

    Reply

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