Author Archives: Terri Speirs

Thank you to our 2018 Women Helping Women Sponsors and Donors

If you would like to discuss a Women Helping Women sponsorship opportunity — which includes tremendous marketing opportunities — please contact the Center’s director of development, Terri Speirs at or 515-251-6670.

last updated: 4/8/18                      


Presenting Sponsors  $10,000

American Enterprise Group

Mary and Doug Bruce


Leadership Sponsors  $5,000

Susan and Bill Knapp

Connie Wimer


Supporting Sponsors   $2,500

Pamela Bass-Bookey and Harry Bookey

Angela Connolly, Polk County Board of Supervisors

Carol Hallquist, Claudia Peyton, Ann Lyons in honor of their mother, Joy Corning


Wells Fargo

Amy Wimer, Carey Wimer, Annabel Wimer in honor of their mother, Connie Wimer

Kathleen and Larry Zimpleman


Contributing Sponsors  $1,500

Blond Genius

Borgen Systems

Beth and Tim Coonan

Des Moines University

Foster Group

Gateway Market

Jewish Federation of Greater Des Moines

Trudy Holman Hurd

The Iowa Clinic

Iowa Radiology

Prairie Meadows

Mary Riche, in honor of Joy Corning

Salon Spa W

Silver Fox

West Bank

Zanzibar’s Coffee Adventure


Media Sponsors            

Business Publications Corporation, Inc.

Des Moines Radio Group


Special Friends  $1,000        

Teresa Adams-Tomka

Roxanne Barton Conlin

Barbara Beatty

Patty Cownie

Teresa Danos

Paula Duncan

Kathy Fehrman

Judith Flapan

Barbara and Michael Gartner

Sharon Goldford, in honor of Connie Wimer and memory of Joy Corning

Mary Gottschalk

Jann Freed and John Fisher

Ann Flood

Elizabeth A. Goodwin

Diane Hedden

Harry and Starr Hinrichs

Charlotte Hubbell

Ellen Hubbell

Rusty Hubbell

Mary Kramer

Virginia Lauridsen

LaDonna Matthes

Brenda Mouw

D.J. Newlin

Jill Oman

Mary and John Pappajohn

Shirley Poertner

Ann Richards

Kay Riley

Kelle Rolfes, in honor of Diane McClanahan and Suzanne Stout

Janis Ruan

Jackie Saunders

Mary Seidler

Rebecca Shaw

Nanette D. Stubbs

Kathy and Ted Stuart

Marsha Ternus

Toni Urban

Susan and Carl Voss

Marti Wade

Sally Wood

Alan Zuckert


Leaders Plus $500      

Christine Bening

Ann and Tom Holme

Rosalie Gallagher

Barbara Graham

Norma J. Hirsch

Kathleen M. Hoegh

Kate Juelfs

Anne M. Kelly

Barb Nish

Lynsey Oster

Janet and Mark Rosenbury

Sarah Sullivan Bigelow

Char Vukovich

Kathy and Steve Zumbach


Leaders $250         

Robin Ahnen-Cacciatore

Linda Anderson


Stephanie Asklof

Sandy Axness

Barb Bachman

Susan M. Ballard

Mary Ann Beard

Connie Beasley

Kris Benge

Sandy Benson Johnson / Benson Family Foundation

Jan Berlin

Christie Boesen

Meredith Boesen

Nancy Bone

Mary Boote Roth

Margaret Borgen

Michele Brown

Jamie Buelt

Phyllis Cacciatore

Randi Carr

Polly Clark

Aicia Claypool

Connie Cook and Joe Jongewaard, in memory of Joy Corning

Marge Doyle

Marsha and Ellery Duke

Kevin Carroll

Joyce and Rick Chapman

LaNae Ceryanec

Polly Clark

David J. Egleston

Karen Engman

Denise Essman

Peggy Fisher

Frances S. Fleck

Allison Fleming

Mary Susan Gibson

Shawna Gisi

Deborah Gitchell

Suzie Glazer Burt

Hon. Rebecca Goodgame Ebinger

Julie Fleming

Linda Goeldner

Patricia (Patsy) L. Goetz

Gina Graham

Bonnie Green

Lori and Larry Hartsook

Sarah Hayes

Lynn Heggen

Cara Heiden

Barbara L. Hein, in memory of Joy Corning

Trudie Higgs

Dixie Hoekman

Michelle Hogan

Debbie Hubbell

Peggy Huppert

Bev Hutney

Connie Isaacson

Marian Jacobs

Marty James

Linda Johnson

Susan Judkins

Suzan Kelsey Brooks

Jennie LeGates

Caroline Levine

Chris Lewis

Kristi Lund Lozier

Maureen Keehnle

Kathi Koenig

Mary F. Kunkel

Marian Lyddon

Robbie G. Malm

Kathleen M. Massop

Claudette McDonald

Rachel McDonough

Ann Michelson

Lisa Minear

Diane H. Morain

Terri Mork Speirs

Debra J. Moyer

Pauline Niebur

Liz Neumann

Mary Nilsen

Nancy Nunn

Jeanne O’Halloran

Donna L. Paulsen

Sally Pederson

Virginia Petersen

Gail Pearl

Lynette Rasmussen

Dawn and Steve Roberts

Helen Robinson

Kathy Safris

Christine Sand

Lou Ann Sandburg

Patrice M. Sayre

Mary Kay Shanley

Pam Schoffner

Judith Sheldon

Laurie Sloterdyk

A. Joyce Smith

Jen Stanbrough

Joan Stark

Rachel Stauffer

Beth Stelle Jones

Randi Stern

Ellen Strachota

Mary H. Stuart

Gail Stubbs

Cheryl Sypal

Joyce and Harold Templeman

Karen Unrau

Susan Vujnovich McRoberts

Terri Vaughan

Marilyn Warling

Linda Weidmaier

Michele Whitty

Malinda Wiesner

Emily Williams-Bouska

Dr. Judy Winkelpleck

Jean M. Williams

Deb Wiley, in memory of Joy Corning

Christine Woods

Kyrie Wong

Roberta Yoder


Young Leaders $100          

Katie Bradshaw

Annie S. Brandt

Rachel Bruns

Rachel Dahlen

Courtney Erickson

Katherine Gamble

Alexandra Hubbell

Kelly Isaacson

Tessa Isaacson

Onnalee Kelley

Emily Kessinger

Jenna Knox, in honor of Mary Riche

Ali Makris

Melissa Poley

Anne E. Roth

Kelly Sparks

Amanda Speirs

Ann-Charlotte Wade

Dania Wilson


Table Sponsors           

Carol Bodensteiner and Diane Glass

Foster Group

Hubbell Realty

Mary Gottschalk

Jewish Federation of Greater Des Moines

Kading Properties

Robyn Mills

Thrivent Financial

West Bank

Sally Wood


Corporate Friends $250 – $1,000            

Accents + Interiors

Cultivating Compassion: The Dr. Richard Deming Foundation

Josephs Jewelers

Kemin Industries

Laden and Pearson, PC

Meredith Corporation

Stamatelos and Tollakson

UnityPoint – Des Moines

Veridian Credit Union

Willis Auto Campus


In-Kind Support      

Centerpieces by Boxwoods Fine Furnishings


If you would like to discuss a Women Helping Women sponsorship opportunity — which includes tremendous marketing opportunities — please contact the Center’s director of development, Terri Speirs at or 515-251-6670.

The Work of Play

by Grace Sherer

What is play? It is spontaneous, fun, free – a means with no end. A seemingly purposeless process from which springs joy. It is the creative expression of Self through every age and stage that says “I am alive!”

Play is about accessing that which is vital – the life spark. Play is not productive in a quantitative sense and it is not about rules. Play is not about winning and losing, but rather about presence and experience. Play is enormously significant for both children and adults.

There is growing evidence that the learning of emotional control, social competency, personal resiliency and continuing curiosity are accomplished largely through developmentally appropriate play experiences.

Play is the occupation of childhood. Play provides a space for the “greening” or development of the young Self. It is the mirror where the child first glimpses its Self as fun, beautiful, and worthy of the time and energy of another. It is where life experience is assimilated. It is where life experience is mastered. It is where life experience is communicated.

Play begins at a very young age. Babies play with their primary caregivers and vice versa. When a parent is smiling at an infant and the baby laughs spontaneously, it is the baby’s first experience of the joy found in relationship through play. These early play experiences transmit messages such as “you are very special” and “it is fun to be with you” and “it’s okay for you to change the rules or create something new.” Play is the activity that allows children to explore and master their world without fear of judgment.

Play is a presence that does not mete out rewards and punishments contingent upon performance. What is deemed “good” is just being together and celebrating whatever happens. There is little room for cautionary statements, admonishments, or limitations. Play becomes the medium for conversation and relationship.

Sometimes the conversation is issue specific as when a child recreates a divorce scene with toy animals in a sand tray. Sometimes the “conversation” is more abstract as when a child creates a shield with pictures cut out from magazines of things about herself that “protect” her in the world. Sometimes play relates to specific coping skills (e.g., tolerating frustration) and sometimes it is just about BEING in relationship (e.g., constructing an airport out of masking tape on the office floor).

This is what play is at C.O.O.L. (Children Overcoming the Obstacles of Life), the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center’s child and adolescent program. It is the fort made from two chairs, a prayer shawl, a couple of bean bag chairs, and a construction paper sign. It is the child hiding under the bean bag chairs in the waiting room and a therapist who gingerly sits on top lamenting the “absence” of the child. It is a child stacking bean bag chairs on top of a therapist to build a volcanic mountain that erupts when the child climbs on top. It is the “Topsy Turvey Rule” that says, “If you win, you lose and if you lose, you win” that a child can invoke anytime during any game. Play in this context is not structured in a traditional sense but is free-form where rules are mutable and even able to be totally eliminated. Thus, a regular checkers game can become “give away checkers” where the goal of the game is to lose all your pieces rather than capture all the opponent’s pieces.

Many children come to C.O.O.L. fearful about being judged, fearful about being “less than,” fearful about losing and losing out. We live in a highly competitive world that tends to promote these kinds of fears. In play, children are often exposed to games that are only about winning and losing where the messages they seem to have learned are that you are only worthwhile
if you win, get an “A,” are first in line, etc. At C.O.O.L. we try to change that up. Games are over before there is a conclusion just to take out the competitive aspect.

“Rules” are changed over and over just because it might be fun or interesting to do so. What is immutable is the caring, spontaneously fun relationship between the child and therapist. At C.O.O.L. we have great belief in our kids. We believe that if we provide a safe and nurturing space for them and materials for them, that they will discover their true and beautiful Selves through creativity and play and relationship. We play structured games but play with the rules. We build forts and bridges and obstacle courses that are metaphors for self protection,  communication, and challenges in life. We foster play in relationship and we foster relationship through play.

It is not uncommon to see a therapist with a puppet in hand hiding behind the waiting room door and having the puppet greet the child.

Grace Sherer is a licensed pediatric psychologist, a former therapist at the Center, and founder of the Center’s C.O.O.L. clinical approach. Grace holds a master of arts degree in behavior analysis from Drake University. This timeless post was originally printed in the Center’s newsletter, November-December 2019 edition.

What is Trauma Sensitive Yoga?

Kathe Irvine, L.I.S.W., Certified Yoga Instructor, and Yoga Coordinator at the Center.

By Kathe Irvine, L.I.S.W., trained Trauma Sensitive Yoga provider at the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center

Trauma Sensitive Yoga (TSY) is an evidence based treatment for complex trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder. It is used with children, youth and adults in Iowa and throughout the world. Some participants engage with Trauma Sensitive Yoga as part of a holistic approach to healing from trauma, a complement to their ongoing counseling. And others participate as an extension of their yoga practice. Anyone can participate, regardless of their level of physical abilities and experience. The goal is healing.

Although Trauma Sensitive Yoga employs physical forms and movements, the emphasis is not on the external expression or appearance (i.e. doing it “right”), or receiving the approval of an external authority. Rather, the focus is on the internal experience of the participant. This shift in orientation, from the external to the internal, is a key attribute of Trauma Sensitive Yoga as a complementary treatment for complex trauma, and has been empirically validated. With this approach, the power resides within the individual, not the facilitator. (Although it is important to practice with a qualified facilitator.)

Elements of Trauma Sensitive Yoga include:

  • Evidence-Based Practice: Trauma Sensitive Yoga is an empirically validated, adjunctive clinical treatment for complex trauma or chronic treatment-resistant Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. TSY has foundations in both Trauma Theory and Hatha Yoga with an emphasis on body-based yoga forms and breathing practices.
  • Sensitive Techniques: Trauma Sensitive Yoga participants are invited to notice and feel sensations within their body throughout the practice. Participants are then encouraged to make choices about what they do and how they move with their body based on what they sense. This supports participants to investigate what choice feels supportive for them, taking cues from their own individual experience.
  • Inquiry-Based Exploration: The approach applies choice and body-centered self-awareness to support a recovery process, a gentle intervention that initiates healing through people regaining a relationship with the present moment and their body. The language used throughout a yoga session is invitational and encourages curiosity to explore what one might feel in different parts of their body based on the form they are choosing to take.

The goal of Trauma Sensitive Yoga is to befriend, reconnect with and feel empowered in your body. In a safe and predictable environment, you are invited to notice sensations, experiment with movement and breathing, and practice making choices about what is right for you. Further, by focusing on the felt sense of the body to inform choice- making, Trauma Sensitive Yoga enables participants to restore their connection of mind and body and cultivate a sense of agency that is compromised as a result of trauma.

“Is Trauma Senstive Yoga right for me?” If you’re asking the question, you may be a good candidate for this treatment method. Consult with your counselor, or register for one of our classes at the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center. More information here:

Kathe Irvine, L.I.S.W., is a licensed independent social worker. She earned her undergraduate degree in sociology and women’s studies from the University of Northern Iowa and her Master of Social Work degree from the University of Iowa. Kathe provides counseling and psychotherapy to individuals as well as couples and families. She is trained trauma sensitive yoga provider. Kathe has a special interest in providing holistic care to resolve issues of grief, trauma, life transitions, divorce, anxiety and depression. Kathe is a member of  the National Association of Social Workers.

More health tips from the Center:

What is calling you in 2018?

Billie Wade, writer

special to the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center, January 2018

by Billie Wade

We’ve survived the holidays. We made it through January 1. 2018 has arrived. Each new year holds possibilities that life will be somehow different than in the past.

We now face the blank slate between New Year’s Day and Memorial Day. Most of nature is dormant. The excitement of the holidays is over, and life has resumed at a less frenetic pace. We may feel bored, unusually tired, or just a bit out of sorts. Some people made epic New Year’s resolutions that seem daunting as life or second thoughts get in the way or perhaps they’ve lost their appeal. The shine has worn off. The grand letdown happens every year. We may feel a sense of dread as we envision weather-related confinement.

Despite the long five-month stretch, each month has moments of distinction that help ease the transition. January and February are perhaps the most desolate, but the two months combined are only nine weeks, and the time passes quickly. March brings the beginning of Daylight Savings Time and the first day of Spring. Trees and plants bud in April and herald the welcome return of songbirds. May shows off huge blooms of peonies—pink, white, and deep red—and fills the air with the fragrant blossoms of lilacs. Life is stretching itself awake after a long winter snooze. When I look at the stretch and remember what each month offers, the time passes easier as I’m less restless, less anxious, and less depressed.

The transition from winter into spring is a time for refreshing, recuperating, rejuvenating and transforming. On the surface, everything is drab, brown, and gray. Underneath, however, new life is resting until the warm rains of Spring signal that it’s time to come forth. We may look out our windows and see drifts of sparkling snow and icy sidewalks. Or, we may have escaped to a warm climate. We may have plenty to do to ward off cabin fever. Or, we may wonder what we can do to occupy the time. We have a stellar opportunity to create new practices and habits that serve us, an ideal time to ask the deeper questions about what matters most and how we want our lives to unfold over the next twelve months. What is calling us?

I’ve made plans to improve two big areas of my life in 2018, my health and my writing. There is so much more I want to accomplish, but I take care not to overwhelm myself and invite shutdown.

Early in 2017, I created a list of forty-eight life questions to explore. I spend time contemplating the state of my life now, and what I want from life moving forward. I then delve into identifying the steps to turn each into a manageable goal with realistic action steps. What follows are variations of some of the questions.

What do I want my attitude to be in 2018? This is possibly the most important and the most difficult question to ask. Attitude is one area of my life where I have control. How I approach life’s drawbacks can mean the difference between peace and serenity, and hopelessness and despair. I adjust my attitude by getting as much information about my situation as possible, journaling, and talking to people I trust.

What do I want to affirm in 2018? I reflect on 2017 and think about epiphanies and insights that brought focus and clarity to my life. I’m learning to ask for help and to be vulnerable with the people in my life who love and care about me. In the process, I’m affirming that I’m worth the time and attention of other people.

How do I want to spend my time in 2018? Every year has 525,600 minutes, 1,440 minutes per day. Those minutes tick away whether I notice them, or they pass by without getting my attention. I want to engage in activities that are important to me, that bring me joy and peace and evoke a sense of awe and wonder. I want to invite experiences into my life that transform me emotionally and spiritually. I want to invite more play and recreation into my life.

Who are the people I want in my life? I look at the relationships in my life and determine whether they support or cause me pain. Relationships are complex, and I can’t always create a desirable distance between another person and me. I take care to ensure that I am safe before making drastic changes to my relationships. I consider such factors as how much the relationship means to me and how I can deal with the situation in ways that maintain dignity for everyone involved.

What do I want to do differently in 2018? I turn my attention to my intentions, goals, and dreams and choose with care activities that nurture me. I map out doable steps to help me attain my definition of success in my endeavors.

The winter months with the shortened amount of daylight can put the strongest emotional resolve to the test. Dark days and cloudy skies can contribute to a host of emotional issues. Living with emotional upheaval or pain and chronic issues can mean just getting through the day is progress. I try to remember that, back on December 21, the beginning of Winter and the shortest day of the year, meant that subsequent days would become increasingly longer and that sunlight in abundance would return. I know that the darkness and time of dormancy are temporary.

We can look forward to this time of year with a spirit of appreciating and celebrating the seasonal changes. We can welcome each change as an unfolding of the ever-flowing energy of life. We can participate in the transitions and match the rhythm of nature with our own. May 2018 be a year of renewal for you.

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.

A mighty thaw

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

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


Winter 2018 certainly struck with a sudden and wicked fury. It’s cold! We closed the Center and 2017 on the afternoon of 29 December, heading home to celebrate the New Year long holiday weekend and the great work that happened here during the year.

When we returned to the Center after the holiday, we quickly discovered that long weekends, still water and frigid temperatures don’t blend well. Our sewer pipe had frozen over the weekend and the backup into our drains was hardly a delightful way to welcome the New Year. Many on our team quickly transitioned from the mundane to crisis mode.

There must be a lesson in this, I thought to myself.

The thought rose as I was fulfilling that part of a job description that most employees dread: “Other duties as assigned.” It was midnight and I was spending some quality time with a qualified employee from a sewer service. It was hard, cold and unpleasant work—but it needed to be done. Interesting what a simple pleasure it is to hear water flowing again after a few hours of wrestling with an ice dam. I was giddy knowing that we were once again operational and ready for our highly trained staff to help others on their path to understanding, hope and healing.

What did I learn from this? I thought to myself?

Many of the clients we serve are stuck in the mundane and not recognizing blocked emotions or negative thoughts that keep them from “flow,” living a full life. Then it happens, a crisis which renders the status quo untenable. Thankfully, through the advice of loved ones or learned referral services, they find their way to the Center and our qualified staff. Then the hard work begins. It can often lead to exploration of cold and dark places. Sometimes it is so unpleasant, that they are tempted to give up. Then it happens. Through teamwork and shared responsibility in the healing process a trickle of hope leads to a mighty thaw and flowing, lively waters. Call it wellness, well-being, a full life or whatever image or words work for you.

I just know it’s inspiring work and I’m grateful to be a part of this story.

Thank you for all you do to engage in our mission. I hope your connection to this special place regularly provides life lessons for you and yours.

May your 2018 be full of joy and blessings.



More blog posts from Jim Hayes here:



It’s been a great year

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

December 2017 – A reflection by Jim Hayes, Executive Director, Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center.


It’s been a great year.

December 5, 2016 I began my tenure at the executive director of the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center (DMPCC). I had the privilege of two weeks of sitting at the feet of Ellery Duke who served this institution for forty years. He didn’t quite impart all his wisdom in that time, but had a plane ticket, so had to depart for warmer climes on December 23, 2016. The way I see it, my tenure really began once everyone returned from holiday break on January 3, 2017.

It’s been a great year.

How do I capture all that is good about this place? It’s been a whirlwind for me personally and professionally, so putting my thoughts into a tidy box of memories hardly seems fair. One construct that works for me is all that we learned undergoing a strategic planning process ably led by our consultant Sheri Vohs, thanks to a generous grant from the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines. During the process, we explored the “Value Proposition” of our work here at the Center. Let me reflect a bit on how I have witnessed one of those values lived out in the day to day lives of the many people connected to our organization.

People. It is clear to me on a daily basis that this place is special because of the people involved in our organization. It starts with our clients. They are courageous. They accept the responsibility of vulnerability in order to face whatever it takes to work on hope and healing in their lives. There are often stigmas to our work. These folks testify to the brokenness that is a part of each of us and that it’s ok to own the limitations and contingency of our lives and that by doing so in the context of a safe environment, we can all live more fully. Wow, that was a long sentence, read it again! One comment that came up during the planning process is that we meet people where they are and not as a problem that needs to be fixed–as a person who just needs someone to walk with them. We respect the people who come through our door and the values they bring with them. We love them rather than manage their issues. That’s a high bar and an important value added to our community.

People in our organization are talented. Clinicians, spiritual directors and all our staff live out our mission to bring understanding hope and healing to others each day. The quality of our staff and the diversity of our services make this place hum with activity. There is a tremendous amount of intellectual curiosity around this place. Folks are always trying to figure out how to get better. Our value of trying to serve as many people as possible regardless of ability to pay requires great sacrifice of time and resources. I am inspired by the commitment of my colleagues and have learned much from them in my first year. I thank them for grace and patience as we all grow as leaders in this field.

The value of people in our organization stretches well beyond the confines of this building. There are many stakeholders that contribute to our success: volunteers, friends, donors, foundations, politicians and anyone who recommends to a friend or family member that we can help. I have enjoyed meeting many of you and look forward to meeting many more. Thank you!

All of you contribute to other values that we had a hard time naming. Words like peaceful, holistic, and spirit came up. When pushed to the limit of words, I often resort to stories. As I head out of this place for a meeting or engagement in the community, I often hold the door for someone entering the Center and say hello. I respect their privacy and don’t make much small talk. There is still a connection, at least for me. I know that regardless of why they are here, for counseling, spiritual direction, scheduling a future appointment, addressing a question about a bill,  a class, a prescription re-fill, or any other number of reasons, I know they will encounter someone who cares. I like to think they will leave this place with a stronger sense of peace; that whatever strategy for healing is necessary, their whole story (body, mind and spirit) will be taken into account; that their spirit will be lifted up as a result of their time with us.

Knowing that I work in a place that does that kind of work brings me great joy, along with a healthy dose of humility and privilege. Thank you, all of you, for all you do to make it possible to carry on this crucial mission.

It’s been a great year.

I can’t wait for an even better 2018.



More blog posts from Jim Hayes here:


If you are still making end of year philanthropy decisions, please consider helping children, teens and adults who need access to mental health counseling and education.DonateNow

Meet board member Shirley Poertner

Shirley Poertner, a member of the Center’s Board of Directors

The Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center is grateful for our volunteer, community-based board of directors. They give generously of their time, talents and treasures to advance the mission of understanding, hope and healing. Why? One board member, Shirley Poertner, agreed to share about herself and her motivations. Thank you, Shirley!


What are your hobbies?  travel, mystery novels, gardening, walking with my dog, Cooper

What is your professional background? I worked in banking for ten years before taking corporate positions at Meredith Corporation and DuPont Pioneer. I formed a management consulting firm in 1994 and for twenty years, offered leadership development, executive coaching , and strategic planning services. The last ten years of my professional career, I was an Associate of VitalSmarts LLC in Provo, UT and marketed, sold and delivered workshops based on the New York Times bestselling book, Crucial Conversations.

Tell us about your educational background: I have a teaching degree from NE MO State University (…now Truman U) and a Master’s in adult education from Drake University.

How did you get involved with the Center’s Board of Directors? I had used the Center’s services over the last fifteen years, donated annually, and I knew a number of the Center’s staff and board members. I had always thought the Center would be a wonderful place to contribute by sharing some of my professional skills. When my name was mentioned as a potential board member and I was contacted, I immediately said, “Yes!”

What do you find most inspiring about the Center’s mission? The most inspiring aspect of the Center for me is its spiritually integrated counseling and its focus on holistic healing and self-discovery. The Center’s services that I tapped into in the early 2000’s literally changed my life, enriching my perspective on who I am and what I have to offer the world.

What would you like others to know about the Center? I’d like others to know what a unique place the Center is, its diversity of services, its inclusiveness and accessibility. We don’t turn anyone away who is in need of healing, offering a sliding fee schedule and assistance funds.


If you are still making end of year philanthropy decisions, please consider helping children, teens and adults who need access to mental health counseling and education. DonateNow

The courage to seek intimacy

Dick Douglass, L.I.S.W.

by Dick Douglass, L.I.S.W., therapist at the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center. Dick has been practicing mental health counseling with adolescents, adults and couples for 44 years.


The men I meet in my role as a counselor these days seem to share a main concern— intimate relationships in their lives. That may not surprise you, but it opens my eyes a little when I think of the stereotype of men as avoiding emotionally intimate relationships.

Men may be grieving the loss of a significant relationship through death or divorce. They may be aware of a pervasive loneliness and seeking a partner. They may be in a relationship that is working pretty well but that they feel can be enriched. They may be in a relationship so fraught with conflict and pain that they’re not sure it can be saved.

But they are concerned enough that they will seek counseling. To do that is to risk being emotionally vulnerable which, in my mind, is a distinct act of courage and self-care.

It takes courage to share our sense of our limitations, our sense of failures in our lives, our feelings of confusion. It takes courage to more fully embrace our emotional life including our fears and shame—a feeling many of us are uncomfortable acknowledging even to ourselves. It takes discipline to shift the focus from the glaring faults of the “other” to our own feelings, thoughts and actions. In fact, why do it? What men teach me is that their exploration yields them a greater awareness of themselves, a clearer and more affirming sense of self, and a greater capacity to connect emotionally with significant people in their lives. To me, it’s a little like choosing to live life in full color rather than in gray.

Lately, I have recommended an author to everyone who is interested in improving intimate relationships. John Gottman has researched marital relationships for many years and has written several books. If you’re interested, you might look at The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.

Here are just a few highlights that may catch your interest. Gottman spots four behaviors that are toxic in intimate relationships: contempt, criticism, defensiveness, and stonewalling (withdrawing, refusing to engage.) He calls these the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse to emphasize their destructive impact on relationships and the urgent need to eliminate them.

Beyond these basics, he takes us on a journey toward relating more effectively (and affectively) to our significant other. He starts with the belief that we all seek emotional connection in our lives. He alerts us to his idea of the “bid.” Bids are gestures, sounds, expressions, words we make (positive or negative) indicating our wish to connect to a person. One key issue is how can we make effective emotional bids; another issue is how can we notice, interpret and constructively respond to bids our partner makes.

He also encourages us to nurture appreciation for our significant other and has very practical suggestions for how to do this working together.

Other “gems” are his encouraging us to be aware of different personality types So we ask, “What type am I?”

“What type is my partner?” This takes us in the direction of being mindful and constructive in dealing with differences.

We’re then invited to explore how our childhood and prior experiences affect our responses to our significant other in the present. To me, this is a gold mind of understanding that can free us from chronic patterns unconsciously carried over from the past.

There’s much more in the book; practical self-tests and exercises that help put ideas into action. When I read this book, I always feel hopeful, like someone has provided a map through and out of the proverbial woods into a place of greater freedom, light and love.

I hope you’ll experience Gottman’s work for yourself.

John Gottman, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage
Work, 2015.


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If you are still making end of year philanthropy decisions, please consider helping children, teens and adults who need access to mental health counseling and education.DonateNow

Therapist postion

Career Opportunity: 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 27 multi-disciplinary clinicians who are committed to a mind/body/spirit therapeutic approach and serving all ages. We are seeking a licensed psychologist or social worker, with preference to applicants experienced in working with trauma 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


Founded in 1972, the mission of the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center is to bring hope and healing to people of all ages through counseling and education.

The Center is a nonprofit, nonsectarian organization offering a broad range of mental health services, serving more than 3,700 individuals annually including 645 children and their families. Although best known for its 45 years of quality, professional mental health counseling, 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


Heath Tip: Coping with Illness during the Holidays

Dr. Christine Dietz

By Christine A. Dietz, Ph.D., L.I.S.W., Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center


Living with cancer or a chronic illness is challenging at the best of times, but especially during the winter holidays. Although it may be a joyful time of year, when we are ill we may feel too tired, depressed or anxious to celebrate. We may also feel overwhelmed with expectations (ours or others’) to do everything we’ve always done. We may feel obligated to be happy and cheerful while feeling sad and scared inside. How can we celebrate a meaningful holiday season while dealing with illness?

Holidays are “holy” days – days of holiness and days of wholeness, days to which we bring our whole selves. The words “holiness” and “wholeness” are connected in many languages, as are the words “wholeness” and “wellness.” Holiness means bringing our whole selves to whatever we are doing, from whatever state of wellness we are in at present. If we need to receive more than give at a particular time, then wholeness means acknowledging that and making decisions and plans that reflect our needs to receive as well as give.

The winter holidays take place at the solstice, when the days have reached their shortest point and light begins to increase.  One meaning of these holidays is to celebrate light in darkness, the turn from the darkest days toward ever increasing light. This is expressed in different ways in different religious traditions – by lighting candles, celebrating the solstice or the newness of birth. These holidays bring attention to the coexistence of both light and darkness. Making room for that both/and thinking can help us celebrate meaningful holidays while dealing with illness. Maybe we can be both tired and grateful for the love of family. Maybe we can participate in a holiday celebration and also attend to needs for rest and quiet. By being mindful of our needs and experiences in each moment, we will be better able to determine how we want to participate in holiday celebrations.

As you consider how you want to celebrate this year, it is helpful to think about what these holidays mean to you. You may want to reflect on some or all of the following questions:

  1. What is special about this holiday for you?
  2. What are its most important aspects?
  3. What family or personal traditions are most meaningful to you in this holiday?
  4. What do you need from this holiday this year?
  5. What balance would you like to achieve between giving and receiving? What would you like to give? What would you like to receive?
  6. How might you bring holiness into this holiday?

Holidays can be stressful, even when they are very meaningful. This can be particularly true when you or a loved one is dealing with cancer or another chronic illness. When we are depressed or anxious, the holidays can be a time of dread, especially when we have high expectations that we feel unable to meet. Allow time for rest and reflection as well as time to be with whatever painful feelings arise during this time. Take extra care to find a supportive person with whom to share these feelings. Try to cultivate a both/and perspective: I can feel sad AND loving at the same time; I may be anxious AND I can still enjoy this holiday music/event/tradition, etc. And avoid overdoing – overspending, overexerting, over-expecting.

Here are some things to consider as the holidays approach:

  1. Focus on the most meaningful aspects and traditions of the holiday. Develop your own rituals, such as a gratitude practice or sharing meaningful stories and memories, to celebrate these moments.
  2. Don’t try to make this holiday season exactly the same in previous years – adapt your celebration to fit your current health situation.
  3. Use this opportunity to develop more meaningful and less stressful traditions.
  4. Rest even more than usual – emotional stress is exhausting.
  5. This year, learn to receive. Connect to spiritual teachings about receiving within your tradition. Allow others the joy of giving to you.
  6. Delegate some of your usual tasks and responsibilities to others.
  7. Use stress management techniques – breathing, mindfulness, relaxation, visualization, journaling, body work and exercise.

With attention to the holiness of the holidays as well as our own wholeness and wellness, we can create meaningful holiday celebrations, in spite of illness.

Christine Dietz is a licensed independent social worker, spiritual director and Reiki Master. She is the Center’s Director of Clinical Training. She received her M.S.W. from the University of Iowa and her Ph.D. in Sociology from the State University of New York at Buffalo. She is a graduate of the Lev Shomea Training Program for Spiritual Direction in the Jewish Tradition. Christine’s focus in counseling is on helping people reconnect to their innate wholeness and renew their sense of hope and possibility. She works with people experiencing anxiety, depression, OCD, trauma, life transitions, chronic illness, grief and loss, and relationship issues. She also offers individual and group spiritual direction to people from all faith traditions. She is a member of the National Association of Social Workers and Spiritual Directors International.

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