Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center?

The Center is an independent not-for-profit organization, dedicated to providing quality, affordable counseling to adults, adolescents and children, couples and families. The Center’s mission is to bring understanding, hope and healing to persons of all ages through counseling and education. The Center was organized in 1972 and has grown to become one of the largest counseling groups in central Iowa, serving over 2,400 clients annually.

The Center also provides educational opportunities for mental health and religious professionals. In addition, the Center offers employee assistance programs and consulting and coaching services to area small businesses and organizations.

What disciplines are represented on the Center staff?

The Center has a highly-credentialed, multidisciplinary staff of 27 that includes psychologists, pastoral counselors, child therapists, mental health counselors, licensed independent social workers, marriage and family therapists, spiritual directors, a holistic nurse and Healing Touch practitioner, a career counselor, and counselors who specialize in working with the deaf and hearing-impaired, Spanish-speaking clients, pregnant and postpartum women, and veterans and their families. We have clinicians who are trained in sensorimotor psychotherapy and EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing).

What is pastoral counseling?

The Pastoral in our name is the traditional name for counseling that integrates therapy with a client’s values and/or faith. It also refers to how Center counselors respectfully accompany their clients through the transitions and crises of life’s journey. Center counselors seek to offer healing for the whole person and see each dimension – body, mind, and spirit – as worthy of care.

Pastoral counseling is psychotherapy that takes seriously the spiritual dimension of a person while working with individuals, couples, and families to resolve emotional or relational problems. Pastoral counseling is built on the belief that life’s crises and transitions are best met by the knowledge of psychology and the wisdom of theology, with respect for a person’s faith background and values. However, only if a client so chooses will Center counselors directly address specific spiritual issues.

What are pastoral counselors?

Pastoral counselors are psychotherapists with specialized training in the areas of psychology, theology, and the behavioral sciences. Pastoral counselors come from all faith backgrounds and are sensitive, respectful, and responsive to their clients’ belief systems. Four (4) of the 25 Center clinicians are pastoral counselors.

Is the Center a religious organization?

The Center is not a religious or faith-based organization. While the Center was initially organized in 1972 by the First United Methodist Church, the Center became an independent community-based nonprofit provider of counseling and psychotherapy services in 1973.

Does the Center provide counseling for children and adolescents?

Yes, the Center has an innovative child and adolescent program called C.O.O.L., Children Overcoming the Obstacles of Life. C.O.O.L. offers a safe and nurturing place within the Center for counseling youth. C.O.O.L. has a staff of six counselors with many years of experience. C.O.O.L. creates a nurturing environment to facilitate the natural growth and healing potential of youth, ages 2-20+. C.O.O.L. staff provide a variety of services to children and their families including individual counseling, parent training, testing of children, and seminars or presentations within the community.

What issues do clients bring to the Center?

People seek counseling for depression, anxiety, grief, anger, marital or family conflict, past or current abuse, chronic/terminal illness, and parenting issues. Some individuals come to the Center to explore career issues, others to heal the ruptures in their mind-body-spirit connections.

Parents bring their children to the Center’s child and adolescent program, C.O.O.L., with a variety of presenting concerns including coping with divorce or the death of a loved one, chronic illness, developmental delays, separation anxiety, school phobia, poor progress in school, sibling rivalry, depression, temper tantrums, low self-esteem, behavioral disorders like ADHD, or developmental disorders like autism or Asperger’s Syndrome … life stuff!

What is the Center’s fee structure?

The standard fee in 2013 is $140 per 45-50 minute counseling session. However, the amount a client pays is determined by the counselor and client during the initial appointment. That amount depends on the availability of health insurance coverage, the level of the client’s gross income, and the number of people living on that income.

Will health insurance cover the cost of my counseling?

Some insurance plans provide mental health benefits depending on the issue for which you are seeking counseling. We recommend that you call your insurance company to determine if your counseling will be partially-covered, fully-covered, or not covered at all by your particular insurance plan. When health insurance does provide mental health benefits, the client is often required to make a co-payment each time you meet with your counselor. If you are not able to use health insurance to pay for your counseling, the Center has a sliding scale for payment.

If I see a counselor, does that mean I have a mental health problem?

People experience a variety of difficulties over the course of a lifetime, and a professional counselor can offer an objective perspective on important issues in their lives. Often times people talk to a counselor when they need to make a difficult decision, cope with a transition, or improve a relationship. So, meeting with a counselor does not necessarily indicate that you have a mental health problem, but rather that you want to chart a more productive and satisfying course in life.

How do I schedule an appointment with a Center counselor?

To make an appointment at the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center, call (515) 274-4006 between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. Explain to the receptionist that you would like to set up an appointment with a counselor. She will ask you several questions to determine how best to address your reasons for seeking professional counseling. The receptionist will also want to know what time of day you are able to come to the Center for counseling.

The receptionist will ask if you plan to use health insurance to partially cover the cost of counseling. If you do not have insurance, she will explain our sliding scale for payment. The receptionist will then tell you the date and time of your first appointment, your counselor’s name, and she will give you directions to our office. The entire process usually takes about five minutes.

When an appointment has been scheduled, an email will be sent to you with a link to set up an account in our Patient Portal. Our initial forms can be accessed there, printed, filled out by you, and brought to your first appointment.

What usually happens during a client’s first counseling appointment?

A new client typically comes fifteen minutes early to the first appointment to fill out paperwork. In the first session, the client tells the counselor what brings him/her to therapy at this time and what goals he/she has for therapy. During the initial sessions, the counselor will want to gain an understanding of how a client’s life story pertains to their current circumstances. Together the client and the counselor develop a plan to address the client’s needs.

What geographic area does the Center serve?

The Center serves central Iowa, with the majority of Center clients living in the greater Des Moines area. The Center has a satellite office in Mitchellville.

A Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center counselor is also seeing clients in southern Iowa. Lowell Houts, D.Min., is currently seeing clients, by appointment, in Lamoni, Leon, Mt. Ayr, and Osceola. Call the Center for more information or to schedule an appointment at any of our locations (515) 274-4006.

Who makes referrals to the Center?

People are referred to the Center from a variety of sources including mental health professionals, managed care companies, former clients, attorneys, physicians, and clergy. However, a referral is not a requirement for counseling, and many people contact the Center on their own, having found us in the phone book, on the internet, or heard about us from a friend.

How does the Center make up the difference between expenses and client fees?

When a client’s circumstances do not allow him or her to pay the full standard fee, the difference between what it costs the Center and what the client can afford to pay is covered by counseling assistance through contributions raised from corporations, foundations, individuals, and churches.

What is the American Association of Pastoral Counselors (AAPC)?

The Center is accredited by the American Association of Pastoral Counselors (AAPC), which is an international organization of pastors, professional pastoral counselors, other helping professionals, and the institutions that train and employ them. The AAPC establishes standards for training and supervision in pastoral counseling that lead to certification of people for competent practice as pastoral counselors and to accreditation of institutions which provide counseling services and education. Click here to go to the AAPC website. The Center received its most recent reaccreditation by AAPC in November 2011.

The Center continues to be proud that in 2006, the Center received the AAPC’s Distinguished Program Leadership Award!

What is the Samaritan Institute?

In 2005, the Center affiliated with The Samaritan Institute of Denver, CO, which operates as a trade association for pastoral counseling centers, providing administrative, consultative, educational, and organizational services to its affiliated centers. The Center looks to its affiliation with the Samaritan Institute as a source of continuing collegial connection and organizational consultation and support. In 2007, the Center received accreditation from The Samaritan Institute. In November 2011, the Center was reaccredited by The Samaritan Institute.