Author Archives: Terri Speirs

Thank you to our 2020 spring grantors

Thank you to our 2020 spring grantors from January – June 2020 for giving almost $40,000 of grant funds to provide critical support to children, teens and adults to access high quality mental health services. Grant funders include:

  • American Enterprise
  • BWA Foundation
  • Chrysalis
  • Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines
  • Delta Dental
  • Rotary Club of Des Moines A.M. Foundation
  • West Bank

Funding has supported innovative services including:

  • telehealth training and equipment as part of the Center’s covid-19 emergency response
  • suicide prevention and support for families who experience suicide loss
  • therapeutic supplies for C.O.O.L. (C.O.O.L. = Children Overcoming the Obstacles of Life)
  • counseling and education subsidies for clients who are uninsured or underinsured and from low-income families

With tremendous thanks to our donors, the Center is one of the only mental health providers in Central Iowa who serves people from all walks of life, including a range of income levels.






Club of Des Moines A.M. Foundation     


Congratulations Allison Peet for reaching highest level of MBSR certification

Allison Peet, Certified MBSR Instructor

We are proud to report that Allison Peet, who teaches a popular class at the Center, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) has earned her distinction as a *CERTIFIED* MBSR instructor  — one of the highest levels of training. She is the only Certified MBSR instructor in Des Moines.

Allison’s accomplishment has brought life and joy to hundreds of people in our community. Her excellence is a result of hard work and compassion. Allison’s accomplishment by the numbers:

  • 4 years of dedication and discipline
  • 32 days of silent meditation retreats
  • 600+ teaching hours
  • 20 8-week MBSR™ courses to date
  • 150 graduates of her program
  • 300 professional mindfulness training hours
  • 200 yoga teacher training hours
  • thousands of miles of travel
  • countless hours on the cushion “walking the talk” in her own personal mindfulness practice
  • infinite commitment to helping others learn this life-giving practice

Allison shares this about her milestone: “This moment marks one of my proudest (and most humbling) moments of my life. It is such a privilege to teach this authentic, vulnerable, heartful, compassionate way of living.”

Allison has taught as a qualified MBSR instructor since 2016. Her training and certification is from the Mindfulness Center at Brown University in Providence, Rhode, Island. Brown is a global leader in research and training offering a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction™ (MBSR) teacher training track towards becoming an MBSR Teacher.

For more information about MBSR classes at the Center and Allison Peet’s qualifications:

More about Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction

Mindfulness for Beginners – 4 week class

Private Mindfulness Sessions

For Immediate Release

For more information contact
Terri Speirs, Director of Community Relations
cell: 515-770-5155

A virtual Women Helping Women event raises $201,000 to provide mental health services for women, children and families in need

Mary M. Riche, 2020 Women Helping Women Honoree (high resolution image)

May 21, 2020, Des Moines, Iowa – More than 450 guests participated in the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center’s 22nd annual Women Helping Women event which raised $201,000. Funds will support mental health counseling, education, training and other services that impact women, children and families who are underinsured or from low income households. The May 15 event was transformed from a ballroom luncheon format to a live, online program for the first time in the annual event’s two-decade history, due to the covid-19 pandemic.

Mary M. Riche was the 2020 event honoree. She was recognized for her work as a mental health therapist, community leader, pragmatic executive and for her long-standing support for vulnerable women. In her live remarks, Mary laced in photos of her garden as a metaphor for how to care for one another. Her message was clear: “While I am honored to stand here today, this event is not about me. Today is about the women, the girls, the families and all the Center’s clients, regardless of their ability to pay, who need these vital, mental health services.”

Jackie Servellon, 2020 Women Helping Women keynote speaker (high resolution image)

Jackie Servellon delivered the keynote speech, Wounded Healer: My Story of Surviving Violence, Seeking Help, and Creating Beauty. As a survivor of domestic violence that started in childhood, Jackie shared her journey of hope and healing. Her remarks included wisdom she’s learned through therapy: “You can’t ‘un-do’ violence. You can’t un-do memories of violence. And you can’t un-do the sadness that comes along with it either. Therapy isn’t a tool to ‘fix’ the broken, because we are not broken.” Jackie shared how art and community helps her to heal.

She continued: “Today, I am certain that we can raise enough funds to provide access for these families and survivors that do not have the financial support or resources so they can live a life that isn’t shattered by trauma response from abuse.”

“A very special thank you goes to our generous sponsors, donors, volunteers and event participants,” said Laurie Betts Sloterdyk, the Center’s director of development, “The community stepped up to help others, and we are grateful for the support.”

Since 1998 the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center’s Women Helping Women annual event has raised more than $1.4 million, providing access and care to thousands of women – a population who experience poverty, crime and abuse at disproportionately high levels – and children and families. The 2020 virtual program is available for replay at

The Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center is a nonprofit organization with a mission to walk with people through counseling and education to find hope and healing, and to live a fulfilling life. The Center is one of the only providers in Greater Des Moines that serves people from all walks of life including those who are uninsured or underinsured.

Blessing Practice for a Pandemic

Dr. Christine Dietz

By Dr. Christine Dietz, counselor, spiritual director, and training director at the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center

I have often thought of Jewish observance as an ancient mindfulness practice. The rituals, prayers, blessings and practices that Jews engage in offer multiple opportunities to move from mochin d’katnut (small mind, the ego) to mochin d’gadlut (expansive mind, a more universal perspective) every day. One way to understand halakhah, often translated as law or observance, is as a way of walking, as the root of the word may be translated as “to go” or “to walk.” Judaism is how we walk our walk, and blessings can be part of this walk.

I was reminded of this perspective last Friday night when Rabbi Barton reminded us that, traditionally, Jews are supposed to say 100 blessings a day. While I aspire to being able to do that, I am not there yet. At the same time, the idea of pausing and tuning in to a larger perspective multiple times a day does appeal to me, especially at this time, when we are in both a pandemic of illness and a pandemic of fear, as Rabbi Sacks observed ( As a psychotherapist and spiritual director, I witness the pandemic of fear every day. Since I don’t know all of the traditional blessings and don’t yet have the awareness or discipline to recite 100 of them every day, I decided to try saying blessings for 100 people each day during this time of self-isolation and fear. I offer some ideas about how I might do that below and invite you to think about your own ways of offering blessings to the world at this time.

First, I would like to share a Jewish version of the metta meditation, a traditional Buddhist lovingkindness meditation, that I learned from Shaye Cohen and Bahira Sugarman. It is traditional to offer the blessings first for yourself, then for others:

  • May you be blessed with shalom (peace, wholeness)
  • May you be blessed with ahavah (love)
  • May you be blessed with refuah (healing)
  • May you be blessed with simcha (joy)
  • May you be blessed with kol tov (whatever is best)

Next, you might bless those who are most affected by the virus. For me, one of the hardest things about this pandemic is the isolation that can result from shelter in place orders, or when affected people are quarantined.

I am acutely aware from personal experience of how this affects both the affected individual and their loved ones. In 2018, my 95-year-old father was quarantined after acquiring MERSA in the hospital where he went for surgery after a fall. He had been in good health prior to the infection but rapidly declined. Visitors were limited and required to take extreme protective measures. He died alone in isolation while my mother and sister were ordered to evacuate due to a flood that same day. My mother is still haunted by the thought of him dying alone and not being able to say goodbye.  As a psychotherapist, I am also aware of how many people live alone with their anxiety about themselves or their loved ones becoming ill and being unable to be together.

Bless Those Affected by The Virus


  • The sick
  • The lonely and those who are distant from loved ones
  • Children who are ill or separated from their parents
  • The poor
  • The homeless
  • Immigrants and refugees
  • Prisoners
  • Asylum seekers
  • Those who are confined at home with abusers or unsafe people
  • Those who tested positive and are in hospitals
  • Those who tested positive and are in quarantine at home
  • Those who can’t get tested
  • Those who are or may have been exposed to the virus and are waiting to see if they develop symptoms
  • Those who have lost their jobs
  • Those whose incomes have been or will be reduced
  • Those whose businesses are affected
  • Those who need mental health services and don’t have access to care
  • Those who need other kinds of health care that is being pre-empted by this virus
  • Those (all of us) who are anxious
  • Those who are depressed and in despair
  • Those who are mourning or will be mourning without the in person support of their communities
  • There are many others – please add your own


Mister Rogers has been quoted a lot these days: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news,” Rogers said to his television neighbors, “my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping’” (Ian Bogost, The Atlantic, October 29, 2018). Mr. Bogost worries that this may be bad advice for adults if it leads to complacency or passivity. For me, “looking for the helpers” gives me hope and leads me to consider how I, too, can be a helper. I can also be mindful of who is helping and offer blessings for them. See Mr. Bogost’s article here:

Bless the Helpers

  • Health care workers in the front lines, risking exposure, working long hours without personal protective equipment, fearful of exposing family and friends to the virus: doctors, nurses, CNAs, technicians and other medical personnel.
  • People who work behind the scenes in health care institutions, including cleaners, food service workers, administrative staff and assistants, who face many of the same risks as those above.
  • Religious and spiritual care providers in hospitals and other health care facilities: clergy, chaplains and others.
  • Volunteers and any others working in health care institutions.
  • Workers in long-term care facilities and hospice, who face the same risks as those in hospitals as well as the expectation that most of those exposed to the virus will die. These include nurses, social workers, physicians, chaplains, bereavement counselors and others.
  • Workers in government agencies, including Departments of Public Health, research facilities, Departments of Mental Health, Departments of Human Services, CDC, WHO and many more, who are doing research, issuing guidelines, making decisions without adequate information, and working long hours.
  • Scientists and researchers working frantically to develop treatments and vaccines.
  • Policy makers at all levels of government.
  • School personnel, from administrators to teachers, who are trying to keep children safe, healthy, fed and educated without much to support them except their dedication and creativity.
  • Mental health workers at all levels and in all types of facilities, who are trying to provide hope and healing, either directly or from a distance, in a confused landscape of conflicting regulations, payment restrictions and limitations while trying to keep their organizations running.
  • The Boards of Directors and administrators of non-profit organizations, religious institutions and government services who are trying to offer their services at a distance and without certainty of compensation.
  • Religious and spiritual leaders and care providers: clergy, chaplains, spiritual directors, teachers of all types, who are working locally, nationally and globally to provide hope, inspiration and comfort.
  • Local emergency services whose work does not end during a pandemic: police, fire fighters, EMTs, dispatchers, etc.
  • Those who provide food and supplies despite risks to themselves and low wages: stockers, drivers, food service workers, cashiers, store managers and others.
  • Employees of necessary services who keep things running: sanitation, utilities, technology providers, repair people.
  • There are many others. Please add your own.

This is not meant to be an exhaustive list – it is just what I came up with this morning. I plan to add to it daily, creating an ever longer list of people to bless. I also hope that this practice, rather than making me complacent, will lead me to find tangible ways to support these people, whether through contact by phone or video chat, donations, letters of encouragement or other creative ways.

During Purim this year, I was particularly drawn to Mordechai’s words to Esther (Esther 4:14): “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows but that you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” I am asking myself, and I invite you to ask yourself, whether you, too, are in this time and place to offer what you, uniquely, can and how you will do it. In the words of Psalm 69:14, as translated by Rabbi Yael Levy, (Directing the Heart: Weekly Mindfulness Teachings and Practices from the Torah. (2019) Philadelphia, PA: A Way In).

“I am my prayer to you,

Aligned with the Highest Will in this very moment.

With great love and generosity,

Receive me with the truth of your presence.”

How will you be your prayer?


Christine Dietz, Ph.D., L.I.S.W., 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.

A Memorable Birthday

Tell me your most vivid birthday memory? I hope there’s a positive image that popped for you as you pondered the answer to that question.  I remember walking home with some friends after school and my mom inviting everyone in to have a slice of cake, which was in the form of an 8. I vividly remember how cool that cake looked and how good it felt to be surrounded by a loving community.

April 6, 2020 is the Center’s 48th birthday. Cue the music!

I have a feeling this is a birthday that will stand out in our memories. These are vivid times. In the last month we have made radical changes to our operations so that we can continue to live out our mission to walk with people on the path to hope and healing. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the coronavirus has caused us to change as much in a few days as we did over some decades—all perforce so that we might continue to be present to those most in need.

Examples abound…

Who knew one month ago that our Women Helping Women committee would find a way to transition an event that’s been around for over two decades from a luncheon gathering of over 600 (not recommended these days!) to an online gathering that will provide the same kind of inspiration, community, and generous support for the Center? I am so inspired by the efforts of our development team, the planning committee, our speaker, honoree and generous donors. We still have a month to go before the May 15th event, but their capacity to change radically is truly inspiring. Thank you!

Who could have imagined one month ago that we would transition our administrative services to a remote office in order to keep our workforce and those we serve safe? It has been amazing to watch the commitment and innovation required from our staff as they have not only imagined new ways to operate and support our clinicians, but literally to radically alter the way we do things in a matter of hours rather than weeks or years. It’s been hard work, but the reward of the efforts is the stuff of which a live of purpose is made.

Who, among our clients, had a sense that when they made an appointment with their counselor, spiritual director, or teacher a few weeks ago, would have considered the possibility that the encounter would be happening on a screen, rather than “live?” My admiration for clients and therapists goes well beyond words. Our services are needed more than ever in this anxious time of mitigation and neologisms. None of us had really heard of “Covid-19” until very recently. Now the mere utterance can raise blood pressure.  Thank you for all the courage it took to make those appointments possible! May the connections bear good fruit.

I must admit that as we were working on grants and asking donors to support us as we had lots of needs related to technology and getting the infrastructure in place to do telehealth and manage electronic health records, that none of us had any idea how urgent those “asks” were. Mental health stakeholders in general and our staff, board and donors in particular, positioned us to face this crisis head on. It’s been a bumpy transition at times, but we are here and we are doing our best to help as many as we can regardless of the resources one might bring to the healing process. The generosity of all who support our work has saved lives.

This is a birthday we will likely never forget. I am grateful for all those who made the first 48 years of our mission possible. I am also grateful for those of us that are a part of this current moment in the Center’s history and for the varied contributions that have made our services possible when the needs are urgent. It still feels wonderful to be surrounded by loving community.

Feel free to bring a present to the party by offering an online gift:


With a prayer for you and yours,


Care and Concern in the time of Coronavirus – Women Helping Women

COVID-19 and your safety:

2020 Women Helping Women Luncheon – a special announcement

  • For the safety of our community, the 2020 Women Helping Women luncheon will transition to an online experience.  While we will not be physically together in a ballroom, we will gather “virtually” to support women and children – and provide a balm for one another as we seek creative ways to build community during a time of social isolation. We have contracted with a professional production company to help ensure a high quality experience.
  • Sponsors and donors will continue to be recognized through 4,000 printed and electronic invitations, website, newsletter and social media. Additionally, sponsor visibility will be expanded by adding logos to all communications related to Women Helping Women.
  • The date and time remain the same:  Friday, May 15 at 11:30 a.m.  We will still be able to experience the wisdom of our speaker, Jackie Servellon, and honor community leader, Mary Riche.  And most importantly, your support will allow us to continue the event’s mission of providing hope and healing to those who experience depression, anxiety and other mental health issues.  In fact, those needs are increasing during this unprecedented time.
  • As of 3/28/20 the Center is offering mental health services exclusively through telehealth services. The building is closed to promote the safety of our clients, staff and community.
  • Thank you for your care and compassion for women, children and families who need high quality mental health services but are uninsured or underinsured.
  • For up to date information and coping resources, please visit our website often:
  • We will get through this together. Thank you.

Back to Women Helping Women home page:

Care and concern in the time of Covid-19 / Corona Virus – RESOURCES


The Center’s clinicians are vetting resources with useful information to help cope with anxiety around Covid-19 / Corona Virus .

Please check back often for updates and more resources.

Coping with corona related anxiety

C.O.O.L. Resources for Children and Families

Online Substance Use Recovery Groups

Learning about Covid-19

For more recent updates on the Center’s services: