Author Archives: Terri Speirs

Sand Therapy

Sand therapy is a powerful therapeutic technique used by counselors at the Center to help clients process their trauma. It is especially useful to help children to find ways to communicate their experiences. Clients choose small objects that describe, say, their family or home. The skilled clinician will help the child explore their fears and experiences by asking questions about their choices of objects. The counselors helps the child to learn that healing is possible. (See last photo.)

Children learn that it is possible to heal. Sand objects in this photo represent a broken heart, a repaired heart and a patched heart.

For more information about C.O.O.L. (Children Overcoming the Obstacles of Life)

Health tip: Finding Hope after Trauma

Dr. Christine Dietz

Finding Hope after Trauma

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

Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center

(October 2018) Like Christine Blasey Ford, I have been mocked for speaking out about sexual assault. The year was 1970. My friend, Jeannette, and I were speaking to the monthly meeting of the Burlington County, New Jersey, Bar Association as part of an effort to develop a Rape Crisis Center in the area. All in attendance were men. Our presentation was scheduled after dinner, and we were asked to wait at the bar. The bartender assumed we were prostitutes. We did not understand that we were the evening’s entertainment until we began our presentation, and I was not prepared for the mockery and hostility with which we were met. I will always appreciate the elderly man who got up and walked out in disgust.

Unlike Dr. Ford, I have never personally experienced sexual assault or spousal abuse. But I have spent the last 48 years working to ensure that the voices of women like Dr. Ford will not be silenced. I worked for rape crisis programs in New Jersey and Iowa, wrote the first article in a social work journal about family dynamics of father daughter incest, offered training and psychotherapy for victims and perpetrators of domestic violence in New York State, and taught and developed curriculum in a social work program in Maine devoted to helping beginning social workers confront oppression, trauma and their own biases. I served on a statewide task force in Maine to bring awareness of trauma into every aspect of the mental health system. I wrote articles, and gave presentations. Throughout this time, I provided counseling services to male and female survivors, perpetrators and their families.

When the #MeToo movement appeared on the scene, I was concerned. We have been having this conversation for almost fifty years. Was anything changing? Could we really make a difference? But at the same time, I was hopeful. Another generation of women was speaking out, energizing allies and making the public aware of sexual harassment, assault and abuse. Perhaps our moment had come.

This past week was devastating, for me, my colleagues and my clients. Dr. Ford found the courage to speak truth to power, and was, as she had feared she would be, annihilated. She was condescended to, ignored, even mocked by the president. And yet, I have found it difficult to give up hope. She DID speak out, and many hundreds more found the courage to join her. The genie is out of the bottle, and it is hard to stuff it back in. Things are changing, and I have hope for the future.

What is the evidence for hope? According to a New York Times article[i], Fred Rogers reported that, when he was distressed about a disaster, his mother would comfort him with the words, “Look for the helpers.  You can always find people who are helping.” I know. I see them every day at my workplace, the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center, where 31 mental health professionals provide psychiatric, psychological and counseling services to numerous survivors of sexual violence and assault. In the past week, I offered counseling or spiritual direction to six women and one male survivor of sexual and physical violence, listened to a friend whose memories of her own sexual abuse were triggered by the hearing, and led a training session for mental health professionals on trauma sensitive care. This was a relatively slow week. My colleagues were just as busy as I was. Every day I am privileged to witness the heroic work survivors undertake to heal from violence and abuse. Like Dr. Ford, many of these survivors are dedicated to “giving back” and helping others heal in what Dr. Judith Herman calls a “survivor mission.”[ii] Women like Dr. Ford and the #MeToo movement have also inspired survivors to speak up about abuse many years after it happened – some into their 60s and beyond. They did not speak up before for fears of not being heard or believed at the time and they were right – but no longer!

The conversation about rape, sexual harassment, sexual assault and abuse of women is not over. Women who have been in this struggle for decades are being joined by millennials to hold those who abuse women accountable. More women than ever are running for office at every level, and they are energized. They will not be silenced. Despite the characterizations of some, this conversation is not about partisan politics, it is about human rights and human dignity.

I pray that it will not take another 50 years to make a scene such as the one we witnessed this past two weeks unthinkable. I pray that women and men will continue to struggle for a democratic vision in which ensuring physical and emotional safety, respect, a living wage, health care, education and civil rights for all is viewed as common human decency, not partisan politics.

If you or a loved one needs help to deal with memories of sexual and physical assault or abuse, help is available. For emergencies, please contact your local rape crisis shelter or domestic violence program or go to your nearest emergency room. For non-emergency counseling services, the mental health professionals at the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center would be happy to support you on your healing journey. You can call 515-274-4006 or complete an online intake form at


[ii] Judith Herman, 1992, Trauma and Recovery, NY: Basic Books.


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.


For more health tips from the Center:

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

click for printer friendly version

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