Author Archives: Terri Speirs

Join us for a live, nationwide webinar and discussion

Solihten Institute and the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center present a nationwide live interactive webcast


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Program Tod Bolsinger, M.Div., Ph.D. is the Vice-President & Chief of Leadership Formation, and Assistant Professor of Practical Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary. He is a speaker and author of three books including Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory.

How do we minister—how do we lead a ministry—in such a rapidly changing world?

“Seminary didn’t prepare me for this” is the statement that Tod frequently hears from his clients. Fuller Seminary alumni echoed this lament in a 2010 survey, suggesting that even those with extensive education and preparation may need help when navigating the uncharted waters of unexpected missional challenges.

Come watch Tod speak, take questions, and hold a nationwide conversation during this interactive streaming event at the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center.

Audience Clergy
Date Monday, April 29, 2019
Time 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. Central time (live webinar followed by discussion)
Location The Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center, 8553 Urbandale Avenue, Urbandale, IA
Cost $25 – includes lunch
CEUs 3 Contact Hours (.3 CEUs)

Diane McClanahan, M.Div., Director of Leadership and Spiritual Life at the Center

Diane McClanahan, M.Div., B.N., Director of Leadership and Spiritual Life and Spiritual Director at the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center.

Carlos’ story

To demonstrate the power of counseling, we share the story of Carlos. We have changed the name and identifying details to preserve privacy.

“Sometimes it feels like my life is a roller coaster and counseling is my seat belt.” ~ Carlos

Carlos has experienced great hardship in his young life. He came to the United States five years ago at age three. He came with his mother, who migrated from Mexico to search for a job and security. But it hasn’t been easy for Carlos or his mother. Sadly, there has been much heartbreak. Carlos experienced abuse by another adult, and he witnessed violence upon his mother. Trauma has long-lasting effects on people, especially when it happens in childhood.

Carlos’ mother did not know where to turn for help. She works the nightshift at a low-wage job and has very little household resources, yet she found her way to a bilingual children’s counselor, Alicia Krpan, at the Center’s through it’s specialized services for children and adolescents, C.O.O.L. (Children Overcoming the Obstacles in Life). COOL is an experienctial approach to therapy, integrating art, play, food, sports, nature and music into the counseling process. Alicia provides services at the Center’s home facility and also at a satellite center in the Drake neighborhood. Both locations provide the a safe, welcoming place for children like Carlos to find hope and healing.

Alicia Krpan, t.L.M.H.C., bilingual counselor

“It has been such a privilege to help Carlos to know that the trauma he and his mother experienced was not his fault,” said his counselor Alicia. “He now knows that he did nothing wrong. In his counseling sessions I can remind him he is brave and beautiful and awesome.”

Alicia employed the use of a therapeutic sand table (more info here) to help Carlos communicate his concerns, and to help Carlos to understand that he can heal and become whole again.

Carlos and his counselor Alicia communicate in English, but his mother only speaks Spanish. It is scary for a parent to sign up their child for a service in a language they don’t understand. It could put the child in an awkward position of translating their own counseling sessions for their parents. However, counselor Alicia is able to speak with Carlos’ mother in Spanish and help her to understand the process. Carlos only needs to think about his own healing, and not how to explain it to his mother. Carlos can stay focused on being a child.

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

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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. #

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