Author Archives: Terri Speirs

Thank you West Bank!

Jim Hayes, Executive Director, Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center, and Geoff Gade, Vice President, Commercial and Industrial Banking, West Bank

The Center was thrilled to receive a $5,000 grant award from West Bank to support C.O.O.L. (Children Overcoming the Obstacles of Life), the Center’s specialized mental health services for children and adolescents. COOL is a unique approach to counseling, integrating play, art, music, food, music, sports, nature and fun into the therapeutic process.
The Center is a nonprofit organization and is grateful for a broad base of community support to strengthen the mission to bring understanding, hope and healing to people of all ages through counseling and education.
This generous funding is critical to assisting children in Iowa who need high quality services. The need is demonstrated by the following statistics:
In Iowa:
  • 15 percent of children (ages 0-17) live under the poverty level. (Kids Count 2018)
  • 21 percent of children ages two to 17 with a parent who has been told by a doctor their child has autism, developmental delays, depression or anxiety, ADD/ADHD, or behavioral/conduct problems. (Kids Count 2018)
  • Approximately 50 percent of children who need mental health treatment do not receive the services needed. (The National Alliance on Mental Health, NAMI)
  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death for ages 15 — 34 years. (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 2017)
  • Suicide is the third leading cause of death for ages 10-14 years. (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 2017)

The need for children’s mental health services is great. The Center’s C.O.O.L. clinic is honored to partner with West Bank to make a positive difference for children and families in Central Iowa.

A reflection on choices

by Billie Wade, guest writer

Billie Wade, writer

Choice is a freedom we all have and exercise multiple times in a typical day—how we want to spend our time, who we want to interact with, what we want to watch on television. Periodically, larger issues arise—where we want to live, what kind of career we want, this person is or is not a good mate for me.

Choice is a supreme gift that we do not always recognize. Seeking help when we do not know what else to do is a choice. Sharing our story is a choice. Greeting each day with a sense of awe and appreciation is a choice, even if our circumstances are dire.

There is much in life over which we have no control. We may be facing serious difficulties with dire implications. Where is our choice there? The answer is that we are always one hundred per cent at choice about our attitude regardless of our situation or what is happening around us. The attitude we choose dictates our feelings and actions.

December 20, 2017, I received the crushing diagnosis of breast cancer. In the statement of two words, “It’s cancer,” my world shattered. I sat in stunned silence, not hearing anything else the nurse navigator said. I wondered how it could have happened, although I knew I was a prime candidate because cancer ran in my immediate family. Despite my journaling practice, I wrote very little that day. Cancer was too big. I could not grasp it. It was huge and electrified. I entered a world where I had no control. It seemed that all I could do was follow the instructions of my burgeoning medical team and hope for the best. I felt numb and hollow. I wanted the cancer out of my body, but I did not like what I had to go through for that to happen.

In the days before surgery, I experienced crushing fear. The future no longer existed for me. I felt somehow cheated out of life by some cruel cosmic joke. I grappled for something, anything, I could control. I paid my bills on time. I balanced my checkbook. I got dressed every morning. I talked to my family, friends, and my counselor at the Center. I shared my experience on social media at significant milestones. I wrote in my journal and worked on my writing projects. I controlled my response to what was happening, after the numbness of shock wore off.

In the days immediately following the January 31 surgery, I learned that the “cell margins” and lymph nodes were clear. When I received those lab results I began to decompress. I began to believe I would be okay. I began to see possibilities for favorable outcomes. I began to breathe. But, I still did not see my choices. My movements seemed mechanical.

My surgeon’s nurse told me that I had found the tumor at the earliest possible stage and that my surgeon thought my treatment regimen would involve only radiation. A couple of weeks later, my oncologist confirmed that I did not need chemotherapy. Following thirty-three radiation treatments over a period of six and a half weeks, I looked back on the previous five months and realized how many choices were at my disposal and how many choices I had made.

As you go through a typical day, jot down in a notebook the number of choices you make and how you feel about them. They can be as broad as “went for a walk” or as detailed as “stood up from my chair, walked to the kitchen, removed a glass from the cupboard, walked to the kitchen sink, turned on the water, filled the glass, walked back to my chair, sat down, etc.” Each of those steps involved a choice. You may be surprised by how many options you have. You may feel better equipped to face choices when adversity arises. Choice contributes to feelings of well-being because we have the freedom to make important decisions about our lives. It promotes feelings of contentment, inner strength, and empowerment.

Choice has a companion: responsibility. We have a responsibility to make choices that serve the good of everyone involved in our situation. We sometimes make a choice that does not serve us. At times, the consequences of our choices are painful and may limit future choices.

Having choices doesn’t mean we will like and embrace the options available to us. We may have to choose among two or more possibilities we would prefer to avoid. During these times, we can reach out to trusted people to be with us through the turmoil. We can talk to people we trust and engage in soothing, nurturing spiritual practices.

Sometimes, we are met with so many choices that they feel overwhelming. We need to give ourselves as much time and space as possible to weigh all the options and make an informed decision.

The right to choose is bestowed upon all human beings. We have the right to choose how we feel about what happens in our life. We have the right to choose our attitude even in adversity. We have the right to choose how we respond to the forces of life. As your days unfold, may the freedom of choice comfort and energize you. Make time in your day to appreciate the power of choice in your life.

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.

Media Release

For Immediate Release

For more information contact Terri Speirs, Director of Development and Marketing

515-251-6670 or email


The Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center is awarded $10,000 from Delta Dental of Iowa

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July 17, 2018, Des Moines, IA – The Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center (the Center) was awarded a $10,000 grant from Delta Dental of Iowa, to support the Center’s mission to bring understanding, hope and healing to people of all ages through counseling and education.

“As a health and wellness company, we know overall health is more than your physical health, it is also about taking care of your emotional health,” said Jeff Russell, president and CEO of Delta Dental of Iowa. “We are proud to support the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center with this donation of $10,000. Together we can make a broader impact on the health and wellbeing of our community.”

For more than 46 years the Center has served the community by providing high quality mental health counseling and education to people from all walks of life, including those who are underinsured or uninsured. Thirty percent of the Center’s referrals come from primary care physicians and other health care professionals.

“We are grateful to Delta Dental of Iowa for this tremendous show of community leadership so that children, adolescents and adults may access holistic approaches to health and wellness,” said Jim Hayes, executive director of the Center. “Our multidisciplinary roster of clinicians are exceptional in their respective fields, and our community is altogether stronger when everyone has access to innovative and effective services.”

The following client quotes offer a window into the importance of this gift from Delta Dental of Iowa, and the power of the counseling process:

When I come here my “scaries” go away. – 6 year old client

I finally found a place where I don’t feel like a freak. – 16 year old client

They told me I wasn’t alone. – 32 year old client

Counseling saved my life. – 67 year old client

To further demonstrate the significance of this award, a summary of the need in Iowa follows:

  • Depression is common, serious and treatable. It is the most common concern that clients bring to the Center.
  • According to the World Health Organization depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and is a major contributor to the overall burden of disease.
  • Depression is the number one cause of absenteeism and loss of productivity in the workplace, according to the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. At worst, depression can lead to suicide.
  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death for ages 15 — 34 years. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for ages 10-14 years. (Iowa Department of Public Health, 2017)
  • 21 percent of parents of children ages two to 17 have been told by a doctor their child has autism, developmental delays, depression or anxiety, ADD/ADHD, or behavioral problems. (Kids Count 2018)

For more information about the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center:

Who we are:

Founded in 1972, the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center (the Center) is a nonprofit organization with a mission to bring understanding, hope and healing to people of all ages through counseling and education. Through 28 multidisciplinary clinicians, the Center served more than 5,800 individuals in 2017, including 645 children and their families through the specialized services called C.O.O.L. (Children Overcoming the Obstacles of Life). Although known best for its 46 years of counseling, the Center also provides psychiatry, psychological testing, spiritual direction, clinical training, professional development, community education and organizational conflict transformation services. As a nonsectarian organization, the Center does not align with a specific religion or church and provides the same high quality of services to everyone who requests assistance. We deeply respect diverse ideas and beliefs, and serve people with holistic approaches. #

Media Kit

Media Release

For more information contact

Terri Speirs, Director of Development and Marketing

515 – 251-6670 or email


Women Helping Women event raises more than $200,000 to help women and girls in need of mental health counseling and education

2018 Women Helping Women Co-Chairs: Beth Coonan, Margaret Borgen and Mary Riche. Click image to access full photo album.

June 6, 2018, Des Moines, IA – More than 570 persons attended the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center’s 20th Anniversary Women Helping Women Luncheon on May 18th which raised $204,000 to provide counseling services to underserved women and girls. This is the most money raised in the event’s history, exceeding the previous year by almost $60,000. The event’s proceeds will increase access to vitally important mental health services for underserved and uninsured women and girls.

Successful business owner, community leader and mentor to many, keynote speaker Connie Wimer shared life lessons and learnings related to Women Helping Women. Her remarks included the idea that girls need to be taught to risk, and to fail is to learn. She also highlighted her friendship with the late Joy Corning, former Lt. Governor of Iowa and event honoree in memoriam who was venerated for her many years of public service as well as her unwavering support and empowerment of women.

“History was made with this year’s 20th anniversary luncheon with record-breaking attendance and donations. This remarkable outpouring of generosity from the community will help provide up to 5,000 counseling sessions for vulnerable women and girls who would otherwise lack access to services,” said Terri Speirs, the Center’s director of development and marketing. “We are tremendously grateful to our sponsors, donors, attendees and volunteers who gave so much to make the event beautiful and meaningful.”

Since 1998 the Center’s Women Helping Women luncheon has raised nearly $1 million, providing access and care to thousands of women and girls – a population who experience poverty, crime and abuse at disproportionately high levels.

Founded in 1972, the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center is a nonprofit organization with a mission to bring hope and healing to people of all ages through counseling and education. The Center served more than 5,800 persons in 2017, including nearly 700 children and adolescents.


Thank you to our 2018 Women Helping Women Sponsors and Donors

last updated: 6/4/18                      


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
Cultivating Compassion: The Dr. Richard Deming Foundation
Des Moines University
Foster Group
Full Court Press/Iowa Taproom
Gateway Market
Sharon Goldford, in honor and memory of Connie Wimer and Joy Corning
Jewish Federation of Greater Des Moines
Trudy Holman Hurd
The IMT Group
The Iowa Clinic
Iowa Radiology
Prairie Meadows
Mary Riche, in honor of Joy Corning
Salon Spa W
Silver Fox
Susan and Carl Voss
West Bank
Sally Wood
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
Ann Flood
Jann Freed and John Fisher
Barbara and Michael Gartner
Elizabeth A. Goodwin
Mary Gottschalk
Diane Hedden
Harry and Starr Hinrichs
Linda Koehn
Charlotte Hubbell
Ellen Hubbell
Rusty Hubbell
Mary Kramer
Virginia Lauridsen
LaDonna Matthes
Brenda Mouw
D.J. Newlin
Jill Oman
Mary and John Pappajohn
Stephanie Pearl
Shirley Poertner
Ann Richards
Kay Riley
Kelle Rolfes, in honor of Diane McClanahan and Suzanne Stout
Janis Ruan
Jackie Saunders
Mary Seidler
Rebecca Shaw
Kathy and Ted Stuart
Nanette D. Stubbs
Marsha Ternus
Toni Urban
Marti Wade
Alan Zuckert

Leaders Plus $500      

Christine Bening
Bonnie Campbell
Sondra Eddings
Rosalie Gallagher
Barbara Graham
Sarah Hayes
Norma J. Hirsch
Kathleen M. Hoegh
Ann and Tom Holme
Diane and Roger Jones
Kate Juelfs
Anne M. Kelly
Barbara Nish
Lynsey Oster
Debra Pulver
Janet and Mark Rosenbury
Sarah Sullivan Bigelow
Char Vukovich
Kathy and Steve Zumbach

Leaders $250 

Robin Ahnen-Cacciatore
Linda Anderson
Becky Anothony
Stephanie Asklof
Sandy Axness
Barb Bachman
Susan M. Ballard
Mary Ann Beard
Connie Beasley
Kris Benge
Sandy Benson Johnson / Benson Family Foundation
Jan Berg
Jan Berlin
Kathryn Bernau
Christie Boesen
Meredith Boesen
Nancy Bone
Margaret Borgen
Mary Boote Roth
Mary Brooks
Michele Brown
Jamie Buelt
Phyllis Cacciatore
Randi Carr
Polly Clark
Alicia Claypool
Margaret-Ann Comito
Connie Cook and Joe Jongewaard, in memory of Joy Corning
Julie Ann Connolly
M.J. Dolan
Marge Doyle
Marsha and Ellery Duke
Kevin Carroll
Joyce and Rick Chapman
LaNae Ceryanec
David J. Egleston
Karen Engman
Denise Essman, in honor of Eleanor Bricker
Lois and Rhonda Fingerman
Peggy Fisher
Frances S. Fleck
Allison Fleming
Mary Susan Gibson
Kathy Giles
Shawna Gisi
Deborah Gitchell
Suzie Glazer Burt
Linda Goeldner
Judy Goodwin
Patricia (Patsy) L. Goetz
Rebecca Goodgame Ebinger
Gina Graham
Bonnie Green
Jill D. Greiner
Renee Hardman
Lori and Larry Hartsook
Sarah Hayes
Lynn Heggen
Cara Heiden
Barbara L. Hein, in memory of Joy Corning
Trudie Higgs
Jill Hittner
Dixie Hoekman
Michelle Hogan
Debbie Hubbell
Peggy Huppert
Bev Hutney
Connie Isaacson
Marian Jacobs
Martha James
Karen Jeske
Linda Johnson
Susan Judkins
Suzan Kelsey Brooks
Maureen Keehnle
Sue Kenny
Kathi Koenig
Becky Knudson
Mary F. Kunkel
Jennie Legates
Caroline Levine
Chris Lewis
Jennifer Lock Oman
Kristi Lund Lozier
Marian Lyddon
Robbie G. Malm
Cyril Mandelbaum
Kathleen M. Massop
Claudette McDonald
Rachel McDonough
Andy McQuire
Ann Michelson
Lisa Minear
Jana Montgomery
Diane H. Morain
Terri Mork Speirs
Debra J. Moyer
Pauline Niebur
Liz Neumann
Nancy Nunn
Mary Nilsen
Charlotte Noble
Sandy O’Brien
Jo Oldson
Jeanne O’Halloran
Donna L. Paulsen
Gail Pearl
Sally Pederson
Rita Perea
Virginia Petersen
Judy Proksa
Lynette Rasmussen
Dixie Rhiner
Dawn and Steve Roberts
Helen Robinson
Priscilla Ruhe
Kathy Safris
Christine Sand
Lou Ann Sandburg
Patrice M. Sayre
Renee Schaaf
Pam Schoffner
Judith Sheldon
Laurie Sloterdyk
A. Joyce Smith
Mary Kay Shanley
Jen Stanbrough
Joan Stark
Rachel Stauffer
Beth Stelle Jones
Randi Stern
Ellen Strachota
Mary H. Stuart
Gail Stubbs
Cheryl Sypal
April Talbot
Joyce and Harold Templeman
Deb Tharnish
Rev. Rachel Thorson Mithelman
Ashley Tollakson
Karen Unrau
Susan Vujnovich McRoberts
Terri Vaughan
Marilyn Warling
Michele Whitty
JoEllen Whitney
Linda Weidmaier
Karrie W. Weinhardt
Malinda Wiesner
Deb Wiley, in memory of Joy Corning
Jean M. Williams
Emily Williams-Bouska
Dr. Judy Winkelpleck
Kyrie Wong
Christine Woods
Roberta Yoder

Young Leaders $100   

Katie Bradshaw
Annie S. Brandt
Rachel Bruns
Rachel Dahlen
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
Erica Shannon Stueve
Amanda Speirs
Ann-Charlotte Wade
Dania Wilson

 Table Sponsors           

Carol Bodensteiner and Diane Glass
Borgen Sytems
Consortium Breakfast Club
Hubbell Realty
Ann Flood
Davis Brown Law Firm
Deniz Franke
Kading Properties
Mary Gottschalk
Jewish Federation of Greater Des Moines
Robyn Mills
Thrivent Financial
West Bank
Willis Auto Campus
Sally Wood

Corporate Friends $250 – $1,000            

Accents + Interiors
Josephs Jewelers
Laden and Pearson, PC
Kemin Industries
Meredith Corporation
Ellen Nelson – Funding Solutions, Inc., in honor of Claudette McDonald
Stamatelos and Tollakson
UnityPoint – Des Moines
Veridian Credit Union


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.