Author Archives: Allison Peet

23 Tips to Get Through the Holidays

Fall is the harbinger of bold colors, mild temperatures, football, and the beginning of the Big Three holidays—Thanksgiving; Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa; and, New Year’s Eve. These holidays evoke a range of emotions from giddiness to panic attacks to emotional collapse. The five-week holiday season kicks off in early November as we prepare for these emotionally charged days. How we approach them can impact our experience.

The holidays carry different meanings for each of us whether we welcome and embrace them, have neutral feelings about them, or face them with dread and trepidation. This time of the year may trigger painful recollections. Present-day circumstances can nudge years-old memories. Or, we may wrestle with situations of recent years. Wounds may be fresh and raw. Our life may be starkly different from what we planned for ourselves. Whatever this time means for you, honoring your feelings and life rhythms can ease the stress.

Despite our most fervent efforts to avoid emotional pain during the holidays, we may face harsh realities. The past three holiday seasons were difficult for me. 2015 was my first holiday season without my sister. 2016 was my first holiday season without my mother and my partner. 2017, I faced cancer. New pain on top of old memories can be overwhelming. Caring for ourselves becomes critical.

I assess my values and define what the holidays mean to me and how they fit into my life. I explore the emotions that surface and express them safely. I work toward a place of acceptance and contentment. I will never arrive at these states permanently as they are not destinations but instead are points in my journey. Haunting memories are not as painful as in previous years. As each holiday season unfolds, I know healing has taken place within me over the years. When a memory visits me but I can no longer recall the details, I know I have healed and possibly even forgiven someone.

Getting through the holidays can be a challenge, but these twenty-three strategies may help smooth the edges of anxiety, depression, and tension:

  1. Be kind and gentle with yourself. The tiniest acts of self-love and self-compassion can be the most powerful.
  2. Pamper yourself in whatever way works for you. Get a massage, manicure, or pedicure. Stay in your pajamas all day.
  3. Take time for a quiet celebration and reflection, with or without others.
  4. Spend time in religious or spiritual activities that speak to you. Pray or meditate.
  5. Review the closing year, look for the lessons, and marvel at the wisdom you have gained.
  6. Make gentle and empowering plans for the new year without locking into resolutions. What and who do you want in your life in the new year? Try to approach the new year with joyful anticipation.
  7. Call a trusted friend or family member.
  8. Write out feelings in a journal or diary.
  9. See a counselor, minister, rabbi, priest, or spiritual director. The Center has counselors who work with grief.  To schedule an appointment, click here.
  10. Volunteer.
  11. Walk or exercise.
  12. Engage in activities that inspire awe and wonder in you. Gaze at a clear night sky. Watch a toddler at play.
  13. Practice yoga or stretching exercises. Or, try Tai Chi or Qi Gong.
  14. Listen to soothing or energizing music.
  15. Read uplifting, inspiring, comforting books.
  16. Find reasons to smile and laugh. Watch nurturing or funny movies.
  17. Let off steam, safely. Try Tae Kwon Do, kickboxing or screaming.
  18. Create something. Paint, color, or draw. Or sculpt, weave, or knit. Write an essay, blog post, or short story.
  19. Start new holiday traditions, rituals, and practices that nurture your spirit, with or without other people.
  20. Spend time with caring, supportive friends, especially sharing a meal, if possible.
  21. Honor the rhythms of your body. Eat, sleep, rest, and exercise as your body requires.
  22. Write a letter of gratitude, grief, anger, forgiveness, or apology regardless of whether you plan to send it.
  23. Address a holiday card to yourself, write a note inside the card that inspires and uplifts you, and mail it.

Other ideas may come to mind for you. Spread out a practice over several days or weeks. Or, try a different approach every day, or every few days. The crucial point is to be your own best friend.

As the 2018 holiday season approaches, I want to express my appreciation to Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center for the support and encouragement for writing these articles. The opportunity to serve you is an honor and a privilege.

The holidays hold the promise of beauty, wonder, grace, and hope. May you find peace, comfort, gratitude, and joy in the coming weeks and throughout 2019.

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: www.dmpcc.org/Billie

Adult Therapist Position

The Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center, a well-established nonprofit organization, is seeking a full-time, licensed adult therapist to join our team of multi-disciplinary clinicians who are committed to a mind/body/spirit therapeutic approach. The mission of the Center is to bring understanding, hope and healing to people of all ages through counseling and education. We are seeking a licensed psychologist, social worker, licensed mental health counselor, or marriage and family counselor with preference to applicants experienced in working with trauma, sensorimotor psychotherapy, biofeedback, and/or couples. 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 khill@dmpcc.org.

The Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center is a nonprofit, nonsectarian organization offering a broad range of mental health services, serving more than 5,700 individuals in 2017, including 645 children plus their families. Although best known for its 46 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, EMDR, healing touch
  • 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 www.dmpcc.org.

Trauma Sensitive Living: What Can I Do?

by Jim Hayes, D.Min., M.Div., Executive Director at the Center

Sand therapy is one counseling method used by counselors at the Center to treat children who experience trauma. Click image for more information.

Trauma.
Assault.
Clergy abuse.
#metoo
Raising boys.

Any of these terms come up in your conversations recently?

This isn’t about politics, though really, what isn’t political?

I am talking about running into these terms in our daily encounters as human beings and what we can learn and how we can help.

We deal with trauma on a regular basis at the Center. Really rotten, downright evil stuff that has happened, often victimizing the most innocent we are all called to protect. It is such a large part of our daily lives here that we have to strategize on how to create boundaries for our excellent therapists because if they see too many trauma clients in a day, the secondary trauma can wear them down; burn them out.

It’s all around us.

For those of us not caring for others through therapy, what can we do to help these wounded in our midst?

First, recognize they are your family, your colleagues at work, and your neighbors.  Awareness is key. We can pay attention to our language and recognize that there are many ways memories of the trauma gets triggered. What for one person is innocently watching volatile political debate, for another is a trigger that traps an innocent in a horrible memory as real as the day it happened. The pain is real. Respectful awareness and listening can help.

Another avenue for us to pursue when we encounter such pain is to help those who have entrusted us with their stories to seek hope and healing. We all need trusted companions as we navigate life. This means being a good listener and sometimes helping someone to seek help at places like the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center. We and others in this field are here to help you help those you love.

Finally, we are called to build just communities so that all may flourish. This sounds like politics again, but it is politics in the best and most local sense of that word. It means asking the question: “What can I do to help?” rather than “What are you going to do to fix this?”  We are thinking about our role in this conversation, beyond the good counseling which is part of our daily work. Our mission is to bring hope and healing through counseling and education. We are well known for our long-standing commitment to helping girls and women, many of whom have suffered trauma. We fund much of that work through our Women Helping Women event.  Those funds and some grants have helped us to expand our partnerships with the Iowa Crime Victims Assistance Division as well as Latinas for a New Dawn (LUNA). Both of those organizations serve victims of assault.

On the educational side of the street we’re considering a number of initiatives. Some members of our community are exploring how to better equip all of us to carry on civil conversations. I’m excited to see that initiative take shape. A generous donor has provided us with funding to update our training for work with the LGBTQ population and explore how we can better serve those clients, many of whom have experienced trauma.  On another front, a number of us are working to organize an event in 2019 that will explore how to best support boys and men in maintaining their mental health. Men are much less likely to seek help and more likely to harm self or others.

These are just some examples of wrestling with the question, “How can we help?” Let me know if you have suggestions and/or would like to join us in answering that question. [Click here to send us a message.]

It’s a question we take seriously at the Center. I hope that you’ll join us in thinking of ways to bring hope and healing to a wounded world. Thank you for the many ways you already do so by supporting our work.

Click image to read more blogs posts from Jim

Got Gratitude?

Gratitude used interchangeably with appreciation and thankfulness, lets us experience life in all its colorful richness and fullness. There are many definitions of gratitude as people attempt to grasp its meaning in their lives. Gratitude is, among other things, a deep-seated feeling of satisfaction within each of us that recognizes the beauty and grace in our lives.

Gratitude lets us see the glass as half full under a running faucet of plenty. “Thank you” are two words that can transform your life whether you are communicating with people or the Divine Presence in your life. Gratitude ushers in a sense of peace, builds a sense of connection, creates a sense that we will be okay, and expands and deepens us even if we only touch it briefly. It happens when we don’t take the people and our circumstances for granted.

As my cancer story unfolded, I became acutely aware that I had much for which to be grateful. I found the tumor early, and it was small. The lumpectomy was uneventful. I had no post-surgical pain. The “cell margins” and lymph nodes were clear, indicators that the tumor had not metastasized. I did not require chemotherapy. Friends brought food and transported me to all thirty-three radiation treatments. Two of my friends took me into their home for several days following surgery. Gratitude, helping me see what could have happened but did not, showing me the profound good of everyone who attended to me, giving me an ever-expanding sense of relief, brought me many smiles and a lot of laughter. I am not grateful for cancer invading my body, but I am quite grateful for the outcome that followed. I am grateful for all the medical professionals who treated me with respect and dignity and answered all my questions. I am grateful for the prayers of friends.

Gratitude is easy to practice and often takes virtually no time to express. “Thank you” takes only a couple of seconds. And, of course, fervent, focused, and detailed expressions of gratitude are always in order. You can express gratitude out loud, silently, by phone, face to face, text, voicemail, email, card, letter, Facebook, Twitter, Skype, or even a sky-writing plane. Expressing gratitude is a joyful outpouring of recognition for the goodness and grace of life.

Sometimes, gratitude is difficult. Gratitude is not a panacea, a quick fix, or a cure-all for pain. Be wary of sentences spoken by others or in our mind that begin with a terse, “You ought to be grateful that…” We will not always feel grateful for the pain, emotional and physical, in our lives. We may not find the nugget of gold in a painful situation, or it may take a very long time. When gratitude is hard, the best recourse may be using our coping skills and mechanisms: counseling, journaling, supportive and trusted friends and family members, prayer and medication if those practices are useful, leaning on our spiritual foundation.

Gratitude does not mean we never feel angry or scared or frustrated or annoyed or lonely. It does not mean that we stop trying to live our best life through continuous learning and evolution. We can express gratitude for what we have while striving for self-development or improved circumstances. For example, we may say, “I’m grateful to be employed, and I’m looking for a more fulfilling, higher-paying job.

To begin a practice of gratitude, take a few moments through your day to notice a favorable situation, good news, or a kindness. Be grateful for uneventful days and positive outcomes, recognizing that some situations could have been much worse.

Here are fifteen ways to bring more gratitude into your life:

  • Take moments throughout your day to notice the good happening in your life and around you. Perhaps you find a dollar bill on the sidewalk or a parking meter with time on it.
  • Every day at bedtime, take time to reflect on your day, and write three things you are thankful for and why. Then write three things that happened during the day that brought you peace, relief, pleasure, or joy and why. Focused reflection and writing can relax you for restful, refreshing sleep.
  • Create a gratitude journal. You can go back over your entries and see the accumulation of good things in your life. You may be surprised at the sheer volume of good stuff in your days.
  • Carry a small notebook to capture snippets and nuggets of gratitude throughout your day. Your notes will spark your memory when you sit down to write.
  • Pay for the meal or beverage for the person behind you in line. You’d be amazed how far down the line this can go, sometimes for hours (True story—no one wanted to be the one to break the chain.).
  • Be kind, polite, supportive, and gracious. Extending courtesy to others feels good and may bring out gratitude in them.
  • Make a conscious effort to smile and laugh often. Need I say more?
  • Savor things that stimulate awe in you. Awe ushers in reverence and reverence leads to gratitude.
  • Practice feeling grateful even when it is not a holiday. Everyday gratitude makes holidays even more precious.
  • Share your gratitude with those around you, in your interactions and your relationships. One of the hallmarks of gratitude is to share feelings of satisfaction and connection.
  • Compliment others. Find something good in other people and play to their strengths. It could turn around someone’s otherwise unpleasant day. It can be as simple as saying, “Nice socks,” or “Great haircut,” to “You always have a gracious disposition. I appreciate that,” or “You have a beautiful smile.”
  • Slow down. Take time to notice, savor, and celebrate the beauty and grace of life.
  • Celebrate the wonder of Life. Life is wondrous and precious. Take time to enjoy the mundane as well as the profound events and circumstances and conventions of life.
  • Remember that bad things that did not happen are good things. Breathe a sigh of relief and gratitude when situations did not turn out as bad as they could have.
  • Acknowledge that some circumstances are difficult to experience.

Look for ways to acknowledge the beauty and grace of life and share your gratitude as often as possible. Let your gratitude illuminate the way for others, in all your interactions and relationships. Thank you for the presence of Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center in the Des Moines metro area. Thank you to the Center for allowing me to share my heart. Thank you to all of you for letting me into your life.

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: www.dmpcc.org/Billie

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 www.dmpcc.org/COOL. To start the process to schedule an appointment for your child or adolescent, please visit www.dmpcc.org 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: www.dmpcc.org/Billie

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 apeet@dmpcc.org

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 https://dmpcc.org/support-dmpcc/women-helping-women-fund/.

Sincerely,
Billie

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 pheiss@dmpcc.org

For more information about the Center, visit our website www.dmpcc.org.

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 khill@dmpcc.org.

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 www.dmpcc.org.