Author Archives: Allison Peet

Hope and Healing for Children and Adolescents through C.O.O.L. (Children Overcoming the Obstacles in Life)

By Billie Wade, guest writer and PrairieFire graduate

The Paint Wall is a signature aspect of C.O.O.L. Children and teens express their feelings by flinging paint, facilitated by a licensed therapist. photo courtesy of: Business Publications Corp.

September heralds the end of summer, cooler weather, shorter days, and the annual exodus to school. It’s time for students of all ages to head for the classroom. From kindergarten through adult learner, going to school can be a time of joy and excitement or a time of apprehension and trepidation. Students entering school for the first time or going to a new school may have some uneasiness and fear of the unknown. Students returning to school may feel a sense of exhilaration or a sense of dread. Parents see their children off to school feeling a host of emotions ranging from fear to relief.

Years ago, I read that children are not miniature adults. Children have stressors adults may not understand. Parents and teachers may be in a quandary about how to help and feel overwhelmed with the challenges of children in addition to those they already experience. A stressed-out parent still must pay the bills, put food on the table, and quite possibly maintain a job. A stretched teacher still must develop lesson plans, create tests, teach the class, and maintain a learning environment for all students. Growing up and learning how to interact with others is hard. Children need the adults in their environment to model civil behavior. When the adults misread or do not understand a child’s perspective, problems can arise.

Sara Swansen, and Grace Sherer, former clinicians at Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center, recognized the mental health needs of children and their families and created a specialized clinical approach within the Center called C.O.O.L., Children Overcoming the Obstacles of Life. They believed in children’s abilities to thrive, given a fertile environment. Since December 1999, the experiential program has helped thousands of children, 645 in 2017. C.O.O.L. aims to help children, adolescents, and their families navigate the murky waters of life’s challenges. C.O.O.L. meets children at eye-level with age- and developmentally-appropriate activities and services. Kelli Hill, Ph.D., director of clinical services and one of six clinicians facilitating the C.O.O.L. program, said,” “The C.O.O.L. waiting room and wing of the Center is designed specifically to help children and adolescents feel comfortable being here.”

Dr. Hill said children come to C.O.O.L. in varying stages of mental health and for sundry reasons, including divorce, separation in impending divorce, abuse and trauma, attachment concerns, bullying, life decisions, anxiety, and depression. When life stressors pile on, children respond in myriad ways including poor study habits and the resulting grades; withdrawal from family members, teachers, and classmates; anxiety; depression; low self-esteem; substance abuse; and, inappropriate behavior, Dr. Hill said. C.O.O.L.’s clinicians work with children ages two through college-age and assessment and evaluation services are available to children of all ages, even younger than two. Sometimes, siblings participate in C.O.O.L. and may see the same clinician or a different one. C.O.O.L. works through the child’s strengths and perspective, relying heavily on age-appropriate “play, art, music, literature, the outdoors and physical movement” in a highly spontaneous and creative environment. Dr. Hill shared with me that some children refer to the Center as their second home. Children usually attend the program biweekly, and more often if necessary. Clinicians customize the program to the unique needs of each child and her or his family. Some activities focus on the child and others focus on interactions with their families.

Dr. Hill told me bullying is a big problem in schools and can follow students through several school years. Social media has changed the landscape of bullying. No longer confined to recess, gym class, the school bus, and the walk to and from school, the harassment and torment invade children’s’ sanctuaries—their homes. Bullies now can Tweet, text, post, and email damaging messages to large numbers of people simultaneously. Usernames allow them to carry out their hurtful behavior in anonymity.

I loved school and learning, but my experiences there were not always pleasant. Shy, soft-spoken, and overweight, from an alcoholic, abusive family, I was bullied through fifth and sixth grades and junior high school. My parents were ill-equipped to address what I experienced. My father demanded good grades and grounded us for anything less than an “A.” My mother demanded good behavior and a trip to the principal’s office for her meant grounding for us, regardless of who was at fault. Fortunately, my brother, sister, and I rarely wound up in the principal’s office. My father grounded us for not fighting; my mother grounded us for fighting. Thirty-two years later, as a single parent, I was ill-equipped to help my son as he faced teacher-supported bullying. When he reported offenses to teachers, they accused him of being a trouble-maker or tattling. School administrators surprised me by making excuses for the bullies while blaming my son. Punishment for my son often exceeded that of the bully’s. Bullies tormented him through elementary, middle, and high school. I spent several afternoons in principals’ offices defending my son after a bully or a group of bullies attacked him.

Art and activity room for C.O.O.L. clients.

The holistic approach of the C.O.O.L. program reaches beyond a child’s need for physical safety to psychological and emotional safety. Children learn personal limits and gain confidence in their evolving bodies and identities. Finding the balance between giving a child too much rein and not enough can baffle adults. C.O.O.L.’s staff are there to bolster the parents and families as well as the child. They encourage children to explore and trust themselves, and they encourage parents to trust their child’s autonomy.

Dr. Hill said, “I get to come to work every day and watch the amazing growth and development of young people. I have a great opportunity to serve children and their families. We at C.O.O.L. feel blessed and honored to be on the journey of hope and healing with the children and adolescents.”

C.O.O.L. is a dynamic intervention for children and their families. Participants receive the support system and guidance that is so crucial to their development and their ability to engage fully in life’s opportunities and to face life’s challenges with confidence and courage. For more information about C.O.O.L. please visit To start the process to schedule an appointment for your child or adolescent, please visit or call 515-274-4006.

Billie Wade, writer

Billie Wade is a gregarious introvert whose primary interests are writing, lifelong learning, personal development, and how we all are affected by life’s vagaries. Issues facing black people, women, the LGBTQ community, and aging adults are of particular concern to her. She enjoys open-hearted dialogue with diverse people. The opinions expressed here are her own.

To read more of Billie’s blogs:

3 Simple Ways to be More Mindful Today

By Allison Peet, BA, RYT200
Development & Marketing Assistant at The Center

Photo credit: Grand Rapids Therapy Group

If you’ve ever tried mindfulness meditation, even if only for a few minutes, it has probably become very clear that it’s seemingly simple, but not easy.  Mindfulness is called a practice for a reason; it’s not perfect. This is what I think is so refreshing about meditation.  In formal practice, we already have everything we need, there is nothing lacking and nothing that needs to be fixed, managed, or improved upon. There is no need to do it perfectly and there is no such thing as failing, doing it incorrectly, or having a “bad” meditation…whatever that my mean to you. In this way, we practice kindness, mercy, and a sense of befriending ourselves. Mindfulness is a process of self-exploration; a way of discovering our inner landscape from moment to moment and becoming more familiar with who our essential Self actually is.

“Meditation is simply about being yourself and knowing about who that is. It is about coming to realize that you are on a path whether you like it or not, namely, the path that is your life. Meditation may help us see that this path we call our life has direction; that it is always unfolding, moment by moment; and that what happens now, in this moment, influences what happens next.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn

Sign up for our next “Meditation for Beginners” class coming up in November 2018.  Registration is open – no prior experience is necessary and no floor sitting is required.

Mindfulness can be practiced any time, the tricky part is remembering to do it; catching ourselves living on auto-pilot and using the present moment to come back home to the here and now…Again, simple, not easy!  Here are three simple practices you can begin to practice right now:

  1. Mindful Minute – Taking one-minute, purposeful pauses can drastically change the way you move through the day. Accessing your innate center, grounding yourself in the here and now, brings you out of the swirl of reactivity and acting out of busyness, anger, frustration, etc.
    You can use your smart phone to set a timer for one minute. Take a seat, and bring your back away from the back of the chair to sit with a sense of resolve and wakefulness. Bring attention to the physical sensations of your breath. No need to change the breath in any way – just allow a natural pace and let your attention rest, riding the waves of the body breathing itself.  When…(not if) the mind wanders away from the breath as the object of your attention, gently but firmly gather your awareness back to the sensations of breathing. Notice how you feel both before and after this mindful minute. The power of mindfulness lies in it’s simplicity.
  1. SinglemindednessSingle-tasking vs Multi-tasking. Our minds are very content to bounce around to the future and past quite often. In fact, most of what we do in our waking hours encourages or even demands multitasking and we’ve probably spent decades conditioning this behavior. However, human minds are not meant to multi-task…computers multi-task, we do not.  Our minds toggle back and forth so often, we end up spent by midday.
    Bring your entire attention to doing one thing at a time – also known as “single-tasking.” When you incorporate mindfulness into carrying out tasks, less mistakes are made, you don’t feel as rushed and hurried, and you may remember more details or nuances that may be missed when you’re doing too many things at once with a scattered, distracted and flitting mind.  You may even find that by bringing all of your awareness to each task, it feels like there is more spaciousness in the day.
  1. Mindful Listening – When in communication with another, many times we don’t listen to understand and to really be present with compassion. Instead, we’re caught up in our own mental dialogue, distracted by the environment around us, or thinking of what we’ll say next.
    Using listening as a mindfulness practice is very transformative. When you notice the mind wandering as the other person is talking, honor that opportunity to stop what you’re doing, put down the phone perhaps, and utilize the person as the object of your attention. This is sometimes called “deep listening”. Tune into your own internal experience as you’re taking in this interaction. This offers a huge amount of information – for example, is there tightness in the chest, or a sensation of lightness and expansion?

Bringing a sense of curiosity to your mindfulness practice is essential. Remember to go easy on yourself, as this is a life-long way of being. If you’re interested in learning more about meditation – sign up for our next “Meditation for Beginners” class coming up in November 2018.  Registration is open – no prior experience is necessary and no floor sitting is required.

For more information:

Contact the facilitator, Allison Peet at

Allison Peet, BA, RYT200 Qualified MBSR Instructor

Allison Peet, BA, RYT200 is a qualified MBSR™ (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) Instructor trained at UMass Medical Center for Mindfulness, founded by Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD. She is trained through Mindful Schools and teaches mindfulness to youth, K-12 and is also a therapeutic yoga instructor. She’s completed 27 full days of silent meditation retreats to date and has a daily practice. Allison has a personal path of living and working with chronic stress and anxiety which is why she started her own business in 2015, From Within Wellness, LLC, to benefit others. She is committed to creating a more mindful community by helping people develop pragmatic life skills in attentional strength, present moment awareness, self-compassion, and stress resiliency.

Learn more...”3 Tips to Starting A Mindfulness Practice” by Allison Peet

Fascination for the Unseen

By Billie Wade, Guest Writer

Billie Wade, writer

I am always fascinated by what goes on behind the scenes of an event or a planned gathering, most of which rely heavily on the organization and coordination of several parts. Sometimes one person manages the event, and other events require a massive amount of people.

The 2018 Iowa State Fair is set to draw a crowd of over one million people from all over the world. Attendance for 2017 was 1,130,017. The paid staff of sixty people swells to 1,600 during the Fair’s ten-day run. Dubbed one of the best state fairs in the country, the Iowa State Fair is an annual opportunity to celebrate Iowa’s unique heritage and culture.

Every year, whether I attend the Fair, I pause to consider the inner workings. What does it take to get a pork chop on a stick into a Fair-goer’s hand? What does it take to get an animal into competition or the Animal Learning Center? What must happen to set up a ride? I think of coordination, synchronization, fortitude, and an unwavering belief in the tenets of the Fair’s mission statement: “To celebrate Iowa’s heritage by providing a quality environment and facilities to further education and to offer entertainment and competition for all ages.” Every individual is a part of the experience that attracts visitors year after year. The sights. The sounds. The smells. The thrills. Whatever you love about the Fair, be sure to head out for ten days of fun.

I have a deep appreciation for everyone involved in organizing the Fair. It is an exercise in collaboration and precision. My favorites are corn dogs, funnel cake, and fresh lemonade that is perfectly tart-sweet. When I was eleven years old, my mother and I had the frightening pleasure of being stopped at the top of the Double Ferris Wheel at night. We could see the Grandstand in the distance. After that, I was never able to get my mother onto the ride again. The last year for the ride was 2016.

Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center is a lot like the Iowa State Fair, serving the Des Moines metro area’s need for comprehensive mental health and spiritual services. Like the Fair, the Center operates with collaboration, synchronization, and precision. Also, like the Fair, the Center grows every year to meet the ever-changing challenges of the community. A look behind the scenes reveals a lot of logistics. What does it take to get a client into a clinician’s office? What does it take to create and hold a class or training? What does it take, financially, to keep the Center’s doors open and the lights on? As a client, what goes on in the background is invisible and seamless to me. Here, again, I am reminded of coordination, fortitude, and an unwavering belief in the tenets of the Center’s mission statement: “To bring understanding, hope, and healing to people of all ages through counseling and education,” The Center operates with a synergy of twenty-eight clinicians plus administrative staff, Board members, volunteers, and donors. In 2017, the Center served more than 5,800 people included a total of 19,344 counseling sessions, 2,532 sessions of psychiatry, and 448 sessions of spiritual direction.

In addition to counseling for adults, you may be surprised to learn that the Center offers a holistic approach to mental health and well-being for adolescents and children, women’s and men’s programs, spiritual direction supervision, pastoral training, community education, and an array of classes. The Center now offers Spanish-speaking options at the front desk and in counseling sessions. Additionally, the Center opened a satellite office in the Drake University neighborhood to serve the needs of refugees. The Center makes the work appear effortless.

Years have passed since I last attended the Iowa State Fair. Many sights, sounds, smells, and adventures have been added while others no longer exist. For people who love it—I have friends who visit the Fair several days each year—the allure of the excitement never fades. And the Fair doesn’t disappoint. If an Iowa State Fair visit is in your future, think of me as you enjoy a delectable treat, stroll the over 500 exhibits, and delight in a thrilling ride.

I have experienced Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center over many years and location changes. I have deep respect and gratitude for the Center and everyone who contributes to the sense of peace I feel every time I enter the doors. Everyone I encounter is friendly and gracious and helpful. Because of each one of them fulfilling the mission, the Center is a beacon, an extraordinary and steadfast respite for all who seek consolation and guidance. As you enter the doors of the Center, may you find healing, hope, and solace whatever your circumstances may be. May the Center’s mission be with you on your life journey.

For more of Billie’s writing, click here.

Women Helping Women: A Tradition of Healing and Hope

Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center hosts the 20th Annual Women Helping Women luncheon Friday, May 18, 2018, at Embassy Suites. Attendees are treated to a delectable lunch while honoring female community leaders. Women Helping Women began in 1999 with a mission to support women and girls who lack financial resources to access mental health services. The first event was held in the Kelley Conference Room, Methodist Conference Center on Thursday, March 18, 1999. One hundred women attended. Since then, the initiative has raised over $1 million. Last year, the event was held May 19 at Embassy Suites with 500 women in attendance.

In 2017, the fund helped over two thousand women access the services of Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center. The fund is available for counseling and many other services, programs, and classes. Clients access the fund through their counselors.

I connected with Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center using the now-largely-forgotten relic, the telephone book yellow pages. The name of the center had an air of spirituality that spoke to me. The array of offerings attesting to the Center’s holistic approach to client-centered mental health services impressed me. I perused the Center’s website and read all the counselor profiles, then called for an appointment. I appeared on the Center’s doorstep January 15, 2013, uninsured. My counselor worked with me to develop a workable sliding fee for counseling services.

Women and girls face unique challenges in mental health issues. Women may develop harmful coping strategies such as eating disorders, prescription drug dependence such as the use of opioid medications, risky sexual behaviors, and self-injury. There is a tendency in our busy society to view stress as a normal part of life, and women are expected to accept their responsibilities stoically. Frequently, they must juggle several stressors, with little or no active support, including:

  • Pregnancy
  • Post-partum depression
  • Menopause and midlife changes
  • Single-parent household
  • Caring for aging parents
  • Sexual abuse and trauma
  • Emotional abuse
  • Grief
  • Working outside the home

Each one of these stressors can upend a woman’s life. When two or more combine, they become daunting and formidable.

Single women with children are especially vulnerable as they are more likely to have fewer financial resources and face greater barriers to health care, including mental health services. Barriers include lack of reliable transportation and lack of reliable and affordable child care options. According to SAMHSA—Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration—women’s mental health can impact their relationships with family members and friends and influence how they raise their children. Women’s mental health directly impacts children, who face their own particular life challenges. Some women face additional barriers to mental health care because they do not know help is available, or they may feel ashamed or embarrassed or frightened about what mental health services entail. Cultural and personal beliefs further complicate access to mental health care.

Women Helping Women Luncheon 2017

Diane Glass, a spiritual director for Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center’s powerful two-year spiritual enrichment program, Prairie Fire, has attended eight of the last ten Women Helping Women luncheons. She said she identifies with the cause, recognizing the crucial need for counseling as women face life issues—parenting, work life, intimate relationships, finances, running a household, and much more. Attendance at the luncheon increases every year which Diane said speaks to an awareness of the needs of women and girls in central Iowa. She said she enjoys seeing friends at the luncheon, networking, and feeling a part of a community of caring, supportive women. She highly praised the speakers and honorees at the event, community leaders who inspire and empower virtually everyone they encounter. Diane also noted that the event raises the visibility of the Center, allowing it to showcase its numerous services.

In addition to counseling for adults, Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center offers:

  • Specialized counseling for children and adolescents
  • Psychiatry (medication management)
  • Psychological testing and assessment
  • Biofeedback therapy and other holistic approaches
  • Training for clinical professionals
  • Spiritual direction
  • Career counseling
  • Leadership and spiritual life programming including Prairie Fire mentioned above
  • A variety of classes and workshops

I will attend the Women Helping Women luncheon this year as the guest of friends. I am looking forward to a well-prepared lunch, an enlightening presentation, and time with my delightful friends as well as the opportunity to meet new people.

The Women Helping Women Luncheon is held annually, but the Center accepts donations for the fund year-round. Contact the Center at 515-274-4006 and ask for Terri Speirs or visit the website at


Billie Wade, writer

Billie Wade is a gregarious introvert whose primary interests are writing, lifelong learning, personal development, and how we all are affected by life’s vagaries. Issues facing black people, women, the LGBTQ community, and aging adults are of particular concern to her. She enjoys open-hearted dialogue with diverse people. The opinions expressed here are her own.

Administrative Assistant/Receptionist

The Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center is seeking an administrative assistant/receptionist to join our team. The ideal candidate is reliable, well organized, able to multi-task and pay close attention to detail. Responsibilities include handling front office reception and administrative duties including, but not limited to, greeting guests, checking clients in and out, answering telephones, scheduling appointments, data entry and sorting mail.

Experience and educational requirements: The ideal candidate will have a high school education, two or more years of office experience, advanced telephone and computer skills including email, internet and MS Office. Preference will be given to applicants with scheduling and front desk experience, such as in a medical office. Knowledge of insurance company practices such as deductible, co-ins, authorizations is a plus. Experience with Salesforce a plus. Bilingual skills a plus.

Benefits: Competitive hourly wage, individual health insurance, and paid holiday, vacation, and sick leave. Collegial working environment. Training provided.

Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center is a nonprofit, nonsectarian organization offering a broad range of mental health services, serving 2,450 individuals annually including 700 children. Although best known for its 43 years of quality, professional mental health therapy, the Center provides multi-faceted services, programs and classes:

  • Counseling, including specialized services for children and adolescents
  • Psychological testing and assessment
  • Psychiatric consultation and care
  • Training for clinical professionals
  • Leadership and spiritual life programming
  • Conflict transformation and strategic planning services for congregations, nonprofits and businesses

Please send a letter of interest and resume to:

Penny Heiss, Office Manager, Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center, 8553 Urbandale Ave., Urbandale, IA 50322, or email

For more information about the Center, visit our website

Career Opportunity: Child/Adolescent Therapist position

The Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center, a well-established nonprofit organization, is seeking a full-time, licensed therapist to join our team of multi-disciplinary clinicians who are committed to a mind/body/spirit therapeutic approach and serving all ages. We are seeking a licensed psychologist, social worker, marriage and family counselor, or mental health counselor with a specialty in working with children and adolescents to join our COOL (Children Overcoming the Obstacles of Life) department. Computer proficiency is required.

Please send a letter of interest and vita to: Kelli Hill, Ph.D., Director of Clinical Services, Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center, 8553 Urbandale Avenue, Urbandale, IA  50322, or email

Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center is a nonprofit, nonsectarian organization offering a broad range of mental health services, serving 2,450 individuals annually including 700 children. Although best known for its 43 years of quality, professional mental health therapy, the Center provides multi-faceted services, programs and classes:

  • Counseling, including specialized services for children and adolescents
  • Psychiatry (medication management)
  • Psychological testing and assessment
  • Training for graduate students, clinical professionals and the community
  • Holistic approaches such as biofeedback
  • Spiritual direction
  • Career coaching
  • Leadership and spiritual life programming
  • Conflict transformation and strategic planning services for congregations, nonprofits and businesses

For more information about the Center, visit our website

The Other Side of Change

“The best part of your story is when it changes.”
― Bella Bloom

James E. Hayes, D. Min., M. Div., Executive Director, DMPCC

Writers know this better than most of us: it’s all about the transitions, moving the narrative from point A to B in order to create a beautiful and compelling story.

I’ve noticed of late that it is difficult to make smooth transitions in the narrative we call life. I’m not sure how we were trained to think that change or transitions come easily. Ask any writer, transitions are often hard work.

Here are some of the examples I’ve encountered of late:

• A spouse has a health setback and you find yourself in a hospital room wondering, “How did I get here?”
• A family endures a work transfer and the kids find themselves in a new school
• A marriage is at a crisis point
• Your job description at work changes and you find yourself needing to learn new skills
• Your identity begins to come to full bloom and others seem surprised
• A lengthy career comes to a celebratory end and you wonder, “Now what do I do with my life?”

Each transition brings with it incredible stress and what might feel like insurmountable challenge. At such points, I am grateful that a place like the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center exists. We’re here to help others come to understanding, hope and healing through counseling and education.

Why am I grateful? First of all, I’m biased because I think this is an awesome place.

More importantly, the above bullets are not hypotheticals, they are experiences that are recent content of my own personal narrative and folks who are significant part of my life story. I’ve done my best to walk with the people who are working their way through these transitions. There are times, however, that our personal support systems can’t quite handle the stress. It’s nice to know there are compassionate, highly trained professionals who can walk with us in these moments of transition. Sometimes it is our role to point folks in the right direction so that they can find the resources they need. I hope that when that happens, people think of the Center—and that their experience of us is truly one of understanding, hope and healing.

May we all discover at some point that on the other side of the transition or change is the best part of your story.

click image to read more of Jim’s blogs

The Healing Benefits of Journaling

Some people see or hear the word “journaling” and flee for the hills. Others are intrigued but not sure they’re ready to take the step. Others are neutral, unaffected by encouragement to keep a journal. I am in the camp of avid journalers and have been since age twelve. Throughout the years, my journaling ebbed and flowed, depending on my life circumstances. Most recently, I have journaled steadily since September 8, 2002, and journaling is a daily priority.

Journaling is one of the best ways to explore emotions and feelings, sort through events and relationships, and grow as a person. It moves issues out of my head and onto the page where I can take an objective look at a situation. My journal is my closest friend. I write thoughts and feelings that I cannot express to other people. I learn about who I am, what I want from life, and strategies for solving or managing problems. Difficult emotions and painful aspects of my life challenge me on the page. Journaling supports and sustains me between counseling sessions. I often journal about a session or discuss an entry in counseling.

Journaling requires no special writing skills or costly equipment and has no penmanship rules. You can write anything you choose without attention to grammar, punctuation, or word choices. Write diagonally on the page, upside down, and in the margins. Experiment writing with your non-dominate hand. Make your journal a place to express who you are.

There are probably as many types of journaling as there are people who have a journaling practice. I have identified six basic types:

1. Introspective—an exploration of thoughts and feelings about specific topics or life in general;
2. Reflective—a thoughtful look at experiences and meaningful events;
3. Situational—an examination of one specific event or experience;
4. Gratitude—a collection of those aspects of life that bring joy and thankfulness;
5. Dream—often a rich source of symbols and messages that enhance all of one’s life; and,
6. Spiritual—an introspective or reflective approach to one’s experience of reverence however that is defined in each person’s life. You may want to read books about journaling or research online for articles on types of journaling. I keep all my journal entries together in one series of books whereas some people prefer to maintain a separate book for each of their journaling categories.

When I sit down to journal, I write the day, date, and time of the entry. For subsequent entries on the same day, I record only the time. I write at various points in my day, but some people have a dedicated period. How much I journal varies from a paragraph one day to ten pages the next. Numbering pages helps me when I reread my entries. While daily journaling is beneficial to me, some people find it necessary only occasionally or when a special need arises. Honoring personal rhythms is important. I carry a small notebook with me to jot down journaling ideas when I am away from my book or unable to interrupt another activity.

As you contemplate a journaling session, consider your emotions and what is on your mind. Ask questions. What motivated you to write the entry? What is the lesson in the experience or how can you learn from it? What do you know for sure? What do you want to know more about? If you’re new to journaling, you may want to start your sentences simply—“I want…,” “I’m so angry about…,” “I wish I could…,” “I’m crying about…,” “I’m so happy about…,” etc. Describe the situation in whatever language works for you. Let your emotion fill the page. Stop when you feel relief or when no more words come. Journaling is often done to facilitate emotional healing. Out of the pain comes insight, epiphany, and transformation. But, you also can celebrate the joys of your life in your journal. Happy events can be powerful catalysts for healing.

Your journal may be as simple or elaborate as you choose. You can use anything from scratch pads and wire-bound notebooks to hand-bound leather journals that store in their own box. They come with a variety of beautiful covers and either lined or unlined pages in a variety of colors. Some journals feature quotes or inspirational messages at the top of each page or attractive page borders. To find journals you may want to try, visit bookstores, drug stores, and office supply stores. They also are available from online retailers, but you miss the opportunity to examine before you buy.

Personalizing a journal is easy. I use writeable stick-on index tabs on the tops of pages of special entries I want to remember. I use different ink colors to color-code my entries and enliven my journal and journaling experience. I print or cut out quotes, glue them into my journal, and reflect on them. I save magazine and online articles and blog posts. Some people save movie tickets and other memorabilia. Some people draw or sketch in their journal or write poetry. Colorful shoelaces make fun bookmarks. When you finish a book, move the shoelace to the next book or use a different one for each book or category. I try to put “fun” into functional.

Privacy reigns supreme. Your journals are personal, and you determine how much security you need. Consider your situation and your tolerance for risk and take steps to protect your journals accordingly. Recognizing your comfort level and deciding how you will protect your writing early on in your journaling practice is often easier than trying to institute a system after a security breach. While I am a strong proponent of hand-written journals, you may find a password-protected online journal or document on your computer more suitable. Online, you can choose from several free and premium options. Some people publish their journaling as a memoir while others make provisions in their will to protect their writing. Be wary of anyone who tries to coerce you into destroying your journaling. Make sure it is what you want to do. If someone reads your journaling without your permission, seek ways to protect yourself and your writing in the future.

Whatever your comfort level, I hope you decide to try journaling, perhaps committing to a month, week, or a specified number of entries. You may even want to start with journaling about your feelings about journaling. You may be pleased with the insights you uncover and the epiphanies you experience. May journaling be as comforting, challenging, rewarding, and empowering for you as it is for me.

Happy writing to you.

Billie Wade, writer

Billie Wade is a gregarious introvert whose primary interests are writing, lifelong learning, personal development, and how we all are affected by life’s vagaries. Issues facing black people, women, the LGBTQ community, and aging adults are of particular concern to her. She enjoys open-hearted dialogue with diverse people. The opinions expressed here are her own.

The Daring Way™ Show Up. Be Seen. Live Brave.™

PROGRAM  The Daring Way™ is a one-day workshop based on the work of Dr. Brené Brown.  Participants can take this opportunity to learn how to show up, be seen and live brave in the challenging arenas of life.  In this workshop we will learn about how to understand shame and move through shame towards wholeheartedness.  Through experiential learning, we will explore key components of Dr. Brené Brown’s research regarding shame, vulnerability and wholehearted living.

∙ Participants will understand the difference between shame, guilt, humiliation, and embarrassment.

∙ Participants will recognize shame when it is triggered.

∙ Participants will engage in experiential learning about shame resiliency skills to move through shame towards wholeheartedness.

∙ Participants will explore the relationship between vulnerability, courage and trust.

∙ Participants will learn the value of empathy and self-compassion as significant remedies to shame.

AUDIENCE therapists, spiritual directors, pastoral care professionals, others
DATE/TIME April 5, 2018 / 9:00AM – 5:30PM
COST Early Bird: $85. After March 16: $100. Tuition and snacks provided. Lunch on your own.




First Christian Church  / 2500 University Avenue / Des Moines, IA

Clergy and Therapy



Dianne Morris Jones is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) and a Certified Daring Way™ Facilitator-Consultant (CDWF-C) practicing at Family Legacy Counseling in Des Moines, Iowa. Dianne is the author of Stop Breathe Believe, Mindful Living One Thought at a Time and I’m Fine, A Real Feelings Journal.  She has a degree in Family Finance from Texas Tech University and a Master’s degree in Counseling from West Texas A&M University.  Dianne is an energetic and creative person who approaches life and her professional counseling with an enthusiasm for growth in wholehearted living.  She practices individual and couples counseling from a mindful, cognitive behavioral approach.  Her clinical focus includes depression, anxiety, relationship issues, trauma and life transitions.  In addition to being a Certified Laughter Yoga Instructor, Dianne has extensive training in Spiritual Direction and the Enneagram.  She speaks frequently on the joys and challenges of choosing to live life in an intentional, contemplative and authentic way.  Dianne enjoys outdoor adventures, photography and spending time with friends and family.  Dianne and her husband Roger, live in West Des Moines, Iowa.

Nancy Schornack:  Nancy received her Master’s degree from Colorado Christian University, and is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) in the State of Iowa with over 30 years of counseling experience. Nancy owns her own private practice, Second Journey Counseling in Johnston, IA ( where she focuses her clinical work towards adults, groups, and couples in the treatment of anxiety, depression, trauma, shame, life adjustment, and spiritual formation.   As a Daring Way™ certified facilitator and consultant (CDWF-C), Nancy is passionate about facilitating the work of Dr. Brené Brown with individuals, couples, and groups and mentoring other professionals in this work.   Nancy also enjoys speaking to a variety of groups on topics related to emotional and relational wellness and spiritual growth. Her greatest joy is being married to Kent and enjoying adventures with their adult sons and their wives.   She enjoys travel, cheering on the ISU Cyclones, and being in her kayak enjoying the solitude and beauty of nature.

Deep Gratitude to our Board of Directors

James E. Hayes, D. Min., M. Div., Executive Director, Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center

February 2018 – A reflection by Jim Hayes, Executive Director, Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center.

Thanks to Our Board of Directors:
I follow a number of feeds related to best practice in the nonprofit world. Recently, on Joan Garry’s blog, which offers lots of useful information on nonprofits, I ran across a description of a Five Star Board Chair:





  • Do you want the job? Seems like a pretty obvious question but a reluctant board chair doesn’t work.
  • Do you respect the work, skills and attributes of the CEO? This person will be your partner for a minimum of two years. Can you work together effectively?
  • Do you have time? Now, most Type A board members being considered for leadership positions are so busy they can barely breathe.  That doesn’t mean they don’t have time. Karen was ridiculously busy in her day job but we planned, and she understood the commitment she was making to work closely with me.  She made the time.
  • Do you have schedule autonomy? Typically, meetings are scheduled. But things come up that require board chair attention. If you have a boss who drags you into meetings with regularity and does so with precious little notice, this can be a problem for an ED with a pressing issue. And frustrating too. Because ED schedules are no less challenging.
  • Can you ask someone a tough question in a really constructive way?I’m going to put it out there. ED’s have thinner skin than you think. They get defensive. After all, they know their organization backward and forward. You? You’re just a volunteer. You don’t know what it’s really like. It can be very unflattering. Board chairs need to, in that context, learn how to ask smart, constructive questions that lead to productive conversations rather than a 15-minute defense.
  • Can you meet face to face with your CEO at least monthly? You need time that is not focused on a narrow and tactical agenda. You need to exhale and breathe through larger issues, issues that are coming down the pike. You need a partner to brainstorm with, a thought partner. And if you are talking about centerpieces for the event tables rather than a strategy for capitalizing on the event to build your major donor program, you miss the most important part of the relationship. The most valuable.
  • Can you enthusiastically model good fundraising behavior?Board members will follow your lead. If your rolodex is open and being mined, board members will see what that looks like. And if they choose not to go that route, it won’t be because they don’t see what that looks like.
  • Can you mentor and guide committee chairs?Done properly, today’s committee chairs are tomorrow’s board leaders. Have the chairs worked with their committees to set annual goals; to identify a project they want to work on?  Do they meet regularly? How is attendance? What kind of agenda is circulated?  How is the meeting facilitated? Far too often, the staff liaison takes responsibility for the meeting agenda and the forward motion at the meeting. Not her/his role.
  • Can you take the time to appreciate the successes of the staff? When something happens, are you going to be able to make time to shoot an email to staff ASAP? More importantly, can you command the attention of the board to encourage them to do the same?
  • Would you consider yourself a good coach / mentor? The role of board chair is a delicate one indeed. You really don’t tell the ED what to do but coaching them to ask the right questions, to consider more dimensions of the issue — this kind of guidance can be invaluable.

That last bullet really caught my eye.

You see, I’ve been mentored over the past year by our board chair, Mary Gottschalk. Mary and so many other members of our board of directors have made my job easier because of their dedication and leadership. I am grateful for their service. Mary helped to guide the succession planning as we prepared for Ellery Duke’s retirement after 40 years of service to the Center. She then helped with the search process that ended up with yours truly. She led board meetings for two years and worked hard on our recent strategic planning process. Mary and I met regularly in my first year as executive director. Her insights and advice were invaluable. I/we can’t thank her enough for her two years as president. I am also excited to begin serving with our new board president, Sally Wood, yet another in a long line of Five Star leadership at the Center.

Of course, board chairs don’t work in a vacuum. Our board of directors is exemplary in talent and commitment. You can find them listed on our web site:

Board membership is a big responsibility and can take up a good bit of volunteer time. We believe it’s also one of the most rewarding opportunities one can find. A board member helps to guide our organization and keep us faithful to our important mission of understanding, hope and healing through counseling and education. So much of their work is behind the scenes and can be underappreciated. I am so grateful for their service. I hope others who care deeply about our mission will consider board service in the future.

I am especially grateful for those who have completed their terms:

Denise Essman
Tim Pearson
Dave Shogren
Rhonda Watton

They have made us better through their efforts.

We look forward to on-boarding new members as they begin their term at the February board meeting. We have much work to do and I am confident we have the leadership necessary to move us to greater heights.


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More blog posts from Jim Hayes here: