Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist
Doctor of Ministry, Presbyterian Church USA
After seminary and ordination in the Presbyterian Church (USA) in 1981, I spent 8 years as a campus minister on a large commuter campus in Fort Wayne, Ind. My interest in counseling was further solidified in these years, and I completed my doctor of ministry degree in pastoral psychotherapy in 1989. After 5 years on a church staff as a pastoral counselor, I moved to Minneapolis and took a position at Westminster Counseling Center (WCC). Since then I have been privileged to work with outstanding colleagues and to experience the satisfaction of accompanying people as they face life's challenges.
Pastoral counseling. As a pastoral counselor I bring my learning and commitments in the fields of clinical psychology and theology into the practice of psychotherapy. My concern in working with clients is their emotional and spiritual health. (I use "spiritual " as an intentionally ambiguous word.)
In my work as a pastoral counselor, I see many people in one-on-one therapy. I also see people in the context of a couple: married, engaged, dating, in committed partnerships, or looking at the possibility of divorce/separation. Sometimes counseling is most beneficial when a whole family comes in together. And here at WCC we also offer group therapy, an especially rewarding context for learning, growing and changing.
Clinical perspectives. I have come to respect several schools of understanding about emotional health and illness, specifically object relations theory, cognitive/behavioral theory, systems theory, and mindfulness/self-awareness. I also have received Level II training in EMDR. I explore with each client to discover how best to mix these tools and perspectives to favorably impact our work together.
I begin by hearing the problem as the client sees and knows and experiences it. I listen to what they want and need from our work, and together we formulate a set of goals. Getting to know a client is the beginning of our work, although current crises are always dealt with first. I take a history to become familiar with the events, persons, relationships, memories and feelings and self-understanding that have brought the client to be the person I am meeting today. If I am working with more than one person, we do a version that includes everyone in the process. Then we work from the here-and-now, with knowledge of the past to give us some depth, to encounter what is the present problem.
In our conversations during appointments - which may be weekly or less often if that seems advisable - I look for ways to enhance a person's understanding of
Our histories and families shape us and we carry that shape into the world of adulthood and responsibility. I like to talk about that shaping as the ‘suitcase' our parents packed for us that we carry with us when we leave home. All parents, even the best parents, unintentionally pack some ‘bricks' in their children's suitcases. Some of us leave home with more bricks than others. But once we are adults we have the choice/responsibility to remove those bricks as we become aware of them. Rather than be burdened by their unneeded weight we can leave our trail of bricks by the side of the road.
When a life circumstance awakens us to our need for more understanding and support than we can find among our own resources, we have an opportunity to look more closely through our suitcase in the context of counseling and make discoveries that can lighten our load. Leaving some of those bricks behind can be the beginning of a new sense of self. Looking through our suitcase with some curiosity and self-awareness can also reveal gifts we may not have let ourselves recognize before. These gifts, when acknowledged and lived into, become a source of enlightenment, joy and gratitude.
This is not to say that talking to a pastoral counselor is all about looking at the past. As I have indicated above, most often the past is best understood and revisited by paying attention to the present, to the relationships and emotions that are part of our everyday lives.
Theological perspectives. People come to Westminster Counseling Center from other towns and cities, other congregations, even other faith traditions. We welcome and respect the traditions and beliefs that sustain them and give them hope.
One's experience of the Sacred Other, whether God, Mystery, a Higher Power, or in some cases one's philosophy of life, is sooner or later often a topic of conversation in the course of therapy. In that eventual conversation I am always curious, intensely respectful, and ready to be affirming of the health I see.
I do not believe that all people must share the same understanding of God. I do believe that a healthy faith acknowledges a God of love, a God of mercy and compassion, a forgiving God who invites us into relationship. When a religious belief or philosophy of life has become the occasion for shame, anger and doubt I see that as a time to listen, to be patient and understanding, and to encourage questions and exploration. Faith or belief becomes a supporting matrix for what we give ultimate meaning. A healthy and life affirming matrix is essential for the nurture of a healthy self and relationships.
Life is a conversation with oneself, others, and for many of us, with a higher power. Counseling is a conversation with another that is uniquely privileged. It is confidential. It is protected by professional boundaries. It is limited in time and space. It is sacred reality, in other words, an hour of liminal space that is not ‘in the world.' Our conversation may be of the everyday world, but it takes place in a setting that is uniquely not ‘everyday.' That is the power of the therapy relationship.
In the past decade I have found great nourishment, hope and practical wisdom in the teachings of Buddhism. Although I am a Christian, my understanding of how God works in and through relationships, nature, and the "isness" of all life is daily enhanced by Buddhist philosophy. Coming awake and being aware of the present moment that we inhabit, not the past we once were or the future that has not yet arrived, is a powerful gift of being that I encourage myself and others to appreciate.
I feel and know that my faith and experience of God's presence in my own life gives me a resilience that I call on daily in my work. Sharing the intimate lives of others who have the courage to ask for help and guidance is a gift that I never take for granted. I learn from every person I meet in the sacred space of the counseling office. What I learn becomes part of what I offer, and in this I feel I give glory to the Creator.
D.Min., 1989 – Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, Evanston, IL
M.Div., 1981 – McCormick Theological Seminary, Chicago, IL
B.A., 1969 – Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY
Ordained Minister, Presbyterian Church (USA)
Fellow, American Association of Pastoral Counselors
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, State of Minnesota
Integration of theology/spirituality and psychotherapy