Category Archives: Uncategorized

Church Assessment Tool (CAT)

Do you want to know essential information about your congregation to make the right decisions?

The Church Assessment Tool (CAT)® can help.

The Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center’s trained consultants, in collaboration with Holy Cow! Consulting, are ready to work with you and your leadership to administer the CAT, a process to collect, analyze and share information from your entire congregation.
The CAT is a method of organizational listening so that leaders can move forward with decisions in a way that includes everyone, not just the voices that are the loudest, and does not rely on opinions or guesses of the few.

When might your congregation benefit from a CAT process?

1. If your congregation is in transition, for example in a pastoral search or if you have just received a new pastor.
2. If your congregation is preparing for strategic planning.

3. If your congregation is launching a capital campaign.

The CAT is also an invaluable tool for reading the overall health and vitality of congregations, to:
  • measure the level of community satisfaction and energy
  • identify the critical success factors for improving organizational climate
  • envision the future
  • gauge readiness for change
  • uncover potential resources
Thousands of CATs have been administered throughout the country and the Center is ready to help you.  For a complementary initial consult or for more information, please contact Chris Waddle, the Center’s Director for Leadership and Spiritual Life, by email:

You can access high quality, low cost counseling

Your mental health matters. High quality/low cost counseling services with immediate appointments are offered through the Center’s clinical training program, working with advanced graduate interns in their last year of training for mental health counseling. These interns receive robust clinical supervision by experienced Center clinicians.

Start your journey to healing by filling out this intake form now:

Sabrina Sartori Chouinard,
Intern Counselor
Laura Meade,
Intern Counselor
Sabrina Sartori Chouinard is an intern and Master of Social Work candidate from the University of Iowa. Sabrina has over 16 years of clinical psychology experience, is a licensed psychologist in Brazil, and was educated at UNISINOS in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. Sabrina engages clients with holistic approaches, integrating the mind, body, spirit, and heart, attuning to culture, community, and relationship connections. Sabrina works with different interventions as mindfulness, stress management techniques, art therapy, CBT, ACT, DBT, and EMDR. During her internship, she is incorporating Trauma-Sensitive Practice and Spirituality Integrated approaches in her repertoire. Sabrina is bicultural and fluent in English and Portuguese. She enjoys helping adolescents and adults with eating disorders, attachment issues, anxiety, depression, grief and loss, and immigration, acculturation, and cross-cultural transitions (culture shock). Sabrina has 3 years’ experience using Telehealth before the pandemic, and in Sabrina’s spare time, she enjoys travel, the outdoors, and cooking with family and friends.Laura Meade is a student at Drake University earning her Masters degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. She joins the DMPCC team as an intern excited for the opportunity to work with clients and learn from her colleagues as she finalizes her degree. Laura is interested in providing therapy for adults of all stages, looking to resolve issues associated with anxiety, depression, life transitions, grief and trauma. Her integrative Client-Centered approach provides a flexible environment for therapy to match client needs. She believes that identifying client strengths and creating counseling partnership provides an ideal environment for growth and healing. After graduation, Laura looks forward to becoming certified in Perinatal Mental Health and specializing in the areas of grief and loss, trauma, and adjustment following sudden life changes. “We were never meant to go through life’s challenges alone and, above all, I want people to know that we don’t have to.”
Sabrina is supervised by Elaina Riley, L.I.S.W.Laura is supervised by Heidi Bowden, L.I.S.W.
read Elaina's bio here: Heidi's bio here:

Chris’ Blog

Chris Waddle, M.Div.

“I believe that the essence of spirituality is rooted in ever growing loving relationships with God, others, creation, and our best selves.  As the Director of Leadership and Spiritual Life, he helps leaders, communities, and individuals from all walks of life and religious beliefs nurture these significant relationships. Chris believes nurturing these relationships involves faith, vulnerability, wonder, and playfulness.”



No money? No insurance? No problem.  We can help! – November 2020

No money? No insurance? No problem.  We can help!

“I want you to know that right now, at the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center, there are skilled counselors who are available, even if the one you care about has no insurance and no ability to pay.”


“You Saved My Life, Pastor!”

Click image for a printer-friendly flyer.

“Kyle was just calling to reserve a space at the church for a meeting, but something in his voice seemed a little off,” my friend told me. I asked my friend how Kyle was doing and he said, “Not so good, pastor.”

As I followed up with Kyle by asking some concerned questions, I realized he was deeply hurting and that he needed the care of a skilled counselor in addition to my continued spiritual care. My friend and I worked together to find Kyle that support.

A month later Kyle greeted me with a hug and said, “Thank you. You saved my life.”

Sometimes a listening ear, a courageous and compassionate question, and the right contact can be life saving. Literally!

Faith leaders often have visits and calls from people like “Kyle”. However, they are not the only ones. Anyone who has earned our trust and thinks of us as a “safe person” may give us a hint that they are hurting.  They may just need a friend with a listening ear to notice and say that they have time to listen.  This might be enough.  However, in addition to your continued friendship, they might also benefit from the gifts of a skilled counselor.  If so, the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center is here to help.

During the COVID-19 epidemic it is understandable that people we know and love are experiencing more stress, anxiety, and depression.  It is OK to not be “OK” right now.  What is not “OK” is feeling like you have to go through it alone or that nothing can help. The good news is the DMPCC offers many ways of helping and connecting.

In addition to in person counseling at the Center and at our satellite location at Grace United Methodist Church, in Des Moines, we also offer telehealth sessions that allow anyone with an internet connection to meet with a counselor, face to face, online. If someone prefers a telehealth session, but needs a safe place with a computer, we can provide this, also.  If you are a faith leader or a member of a community of faith, you too might consider dedicating a safe, private space and a computer or tablet with a strong internet connection for anyone who needs a safe place for a telehealth session. 

That first decision to talk with a counselor can be frightening, that too is understandable.  One of the frightening unknowns is the cost.

As a faith leader or a friend, you too may be fearful that your recommendation of a skilled counselor could be a financial hardship for the one who has reached out to you for support.

I want you to know that right now, at the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center, there are skilled counselors who are available, even if the one you care about has no insurance and no ability to pay.  They will not be financially burdened, shamed, or judged. They will receive a skilled counselor who has the support of a whole team of care givers dedicated to hope and healing.

As a faith leader or a trusted person, I hope you will consider us an important part of your care team. Because, sometimes a listening ear, a courageous and compassionate question, and the right contact can be lifesaving.

To schedule a meeting with a counselor, please click below or call: 515-274-4006 ext. 108

Your partner in hope and healing,

Chris Waddle, M.Div.
Director of Leadership and Spiritual Life
Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center

2019 Annual Report

We gratefully acknowledge and thank all who so kindly contributed to the Center in 2019. This generosity brings hope and healing to children, teens and adults in need of high quality mental health services.

click image to launch PDF of annual report

VISIONARIES ($45,000+)
Prairie Meadows

CHAMPIONS ($25,000 – $44,999)
Fred Maytag Family Foundation

DEFENDERS ($10,000 – $24,999)
American Enterprise Group
Mary and Doug Bruce
Carlson Family Foundation
Doug A. Fick
Mary Gottschalk and Kent Zimmerman
Sally Wood
PATRONS ($5,000 – $9,999)
Hugh Gottschalk
The Grainger Foundation
Susan and Bill Knapp
Polk County Board of Supervisors
Kay and Bob Riley
The West Bancorporation Foundation, Inc.
Wells Fargo

HEALERS ($2,500 – $4,999)
Aureon Consulting
Pamela Bass-Bookey and Harry Bookey
BWA Foundation
Cultivating Compassion: The Dr. Richard Deming Foundation
Sharon Goldford
Sally and Tom Graf
Trudy Holman Hurd
Charlotte and Fred Hubbell
The IMT Group
Dianne and Roger Jones
Plymouth Congregational UCC
Mary M. Riche
Rotary Club AM
Ernest and Florence Sargent Family Foundation
Susan and Carl Voss
Marti Wade
West Bank
Whitfield and Eddy Law
Kathleen and Larry Zimpleman

NURTURERS ($1,000 – $2,499)
Linda and Bob Anderson
B & G Foods
Bank of America
Dr. Barbara Beatty
Elizabeth Burmeister
Laura Coder-Olsen and Buck Olsen
Patty and Jim Cownie
Des Moines University
Easter Family Fund
Kathy and William Fehrman
Jann Freed and John Fisher
Judith and Marshall Flapan
Ann Flood
Foster Group, Inc.
Barbara and Michael Gartner
Gateway Market
Beth and Stephen Gaul
Janet and Gary Goodhall
Elizabeth Goodwin
Jeannine and John Hayes
Sarah and Jim Hayes
Starr and Harry Hinrichs
Ann and Thomas Holme
Debbie and Michael Hubbell
Ellen and James Hubbell
Rusty Hubbell
The Iowa Clinic Women’s Center
Iowa Foundation for Education, Environment, and the Arts
Jewish Federation of Greater Des Moines
Kate and Andy Juelfs
Linda and Tom Koehn
Virginia and Nix Lauridsen
Janet Linn
Nancy Main
Steve Marquardt
LaDonna Matthes
Meredith Corporation
MidAmerican Energy Company
Karla and Mark Minear
Brenda Mouw
D.J. Newlin
William and Pauline Niebur
Jill Oman
Lynsey Oster
Mary and John Pappajohn
Stephanie Pearl
Shirley Poertner
Deb and Bob Pulver Foundation
Iowa Radiology
Kelle Rolfes
Janis Ruan
Salon Spa W
Jackie Saunders and Cecil Goettsch
David Shaw
Drs. Rebecca and Robert Shaw
Silver Fox
Rachel Stauffer
Kathy and Ted Stuart
Mary H. Stuart and David Yepsen
Nanette D. Stubbs
Marsha Ternus
The Viking Foundation of Lincoln
Rhonda and Joe Watton
Connie Wimer
Zanzibars Coffee Adventure

ADVOCATES ($500 – $999)
Susan and Mark Ackelson
Larry and Linda Anderson
Sandra L. and Rev. Paul R. Axness
Mollie and Britt Baker
Janet and Charles Betts
Carol Bodensteiner
Margaret and Arden Borgen
Central Presbyterian Church
Beth and Tim Coonan
Davis Brown Law Firm
Marsha and Ellery Duke
David J. Egleston
Carrie and Jeff Fleming
Fredrikson & Byron, P.A.
Rosalie Gallagher
Renee Hardman
Lori and Larry Hartsook
Jody and Thomas Herman
Trudie and Hal Higgs
Dixie Hoekman
Joanie and Dan Houston
Anne M. and E.J. Kelly
Mary Kramer
Kristen and Joseph Lee
Jennie Legates and Fritz Wehrenberg
Jennifer Lock Oman
Judy McCoy Davis
Rachel and Bill McDonough
Matt Meline
Robyn Mills
Diane Morain
Barbara and Dan Mueller
Barb and Andy Nish
Beth Nyguard
Jeanne and Jim O’Halloran
Rep. Jo Oldson and Brice Oakley
Muriel and Jim Pemble
Dr. Michael and Ann Richards
Dawn and Steve Roberts
Lita and David Sagula
Patrice Sayre
Melanie Scupham
Randal and John Stern
Hallie Still-Caris
Aundrea Suntken
The Graham Group
University Dental
Bob and Karen Unrau
Toni and Tim Urban
Teresa Van Vleet-Danos
Veridian Credit Union
Dr. Teri Wahlig
Margi Weiss
Willis Auto Campus
Dr. Judy Winkelpleck

SUPPORTERS ($250 – $499)
Judith Akre
Rep. Marti Anderson and Bob Brammer
Anonymous (2)
Becky Anthony
Stephanie Asklof
Barbara and John Bachman
Connie Beasley
Kristen Benge
Christine Bening
“Sandy Benson Johnson,
Benson Family Foundation”
Jan and Frank Berlin
Kathryn and Tom Bernau
Beth and David Bishop
Christie and Bob Boesen
Connie and Ted Boesen
Meredith and J.R. Boesen
Nancy Bone
Michelle Book and Woody Brenton
Mary Boote Roth
Katie Bradshaw
Annie and Matt Brandt
Phyllis and Richard Cacciatore
Kevin and Julie Carroll
Casey’s General Stores, Inc.
LaNae and Joe Ceryanec
Joyce Chapman
Nancy and Gordon Cheeseman
Sue Clark
David and Alicia Claypool
Renee Clippert
Margaret-Ann and Joseph Comito
Julie Ann and Michael Connolly
Cynde Cronin
Cathy Crowley
Delores Davis
Amy and Tom Donnelly
Richard and Cris Douglass
Margaret and Kevin Doyle
Michael Egel
Karen Engman
Denise Essman
Theresa and Mark Feldmann
First Christian Church
First United Methodist Church
Fran Fleck
Jim and Allison Fleming
Jessica Giesinger
Kathy and Scott Giles
Shawna and Paul Gisi
Debbie Gitchell
Diane Glass and J. Jeffrey Means
Linda Goeldner
Judith Goodwin
Barbara Graham
Bonnie Green
Malinda Wiesner Hammerstrom
Dr. William and Lynn Heggen
Cara and Kurt Heiden
Barbara and Doug Hein
Michelle Hogan
Bev and Michael Hutney
Connie and Isaacson
Andrea James
Martha James and Michael Myszewski
Linda L. Jennings
Maureen Keehnle
Onnalee Kelley
Holly Kluever
Wendy Kriegshauser
Mary F. and Charles Kunkel
Marla Lacey
Patricia and Tom Larson
Martha and Christine Lebron-Dykeman
Caroline Levine
Christine Lewis
Marian and Ivan Lyddon
Sharon and Susan Malheiro
Robbie and Rick Malm
Cyril and John Mandelbaum
Drs. Kate and Doug Massop
Diane and Arthur McClanahan
Claudette and Patrick J McDonald
Andrea and Dan McGuire
Cathy McMullen
Jan and John Mechem
Ann Michelson
The Middleton Family
Lisa Minear
Jana Montgomery
Debra Moore and Donn Stanley
Christin Murphy
Kurt Ness
Liz and Rick Neumann
Dawn Connet and Greg Nichols
Roy and Mary Nilsen
Charlotte and James Noble
Jackie and John Norris
Cynthia O’Brien
Noreen O’Shea and Thomas Benzoni
Sen. Janet Petersen and Brian Pattinson
Donna Paulsen and Tom Press
Gail Pearl
Sally Pederson and Jim Autry
Allison and Timothy Peet
Deanna Questad, M.D.
Kurt and Lynette Rasmussen
Kathy Reardon
Dennis Rhodes and Mary Kay Shanley
Maureen Roach Tobin and Terry Tobin
Susy Robinette
Helen Robinson
Janet and Mark Rosenbury
Katie Roth
Priscilla and David Ruhe
Katherine and Charles Safris
Sam Scheidler
Deb Wiley and John Schmidt
Pam Schoffner
Andrea and Adam Severson
Judy and Larry Sheldon
Marti Sivi
Laurie and Ashley Sloterdyk
Peter Sloterdyk
A. Joyce Smith
Sue and Larry Sonner
Kelly and Kurt Sparks
Terri Mork Speirs and Robert Speirs
Joan Stark
Sheila Starkovich Lingwall
Beth Stelle-Jones
Ellen Strachota
Dr. David and Gail Stubbs
Cheryl Sypal
Joyce and Harold Templeman
Amy Valdes
Sara Van WynGarden
Lisa Veach
Susan Vujnovich-McRoberts
Charlene and Mark Vukovich
Chris Waddle
Sandi and Steve Ward
Marilyn Warling
Linda Weidmaier
Tracy Wheeler
Michele and Steve Whitty
Jean and Bob Williams
Emily Williams-Bouska
Martha Willits
Rena S. Wilson
Dr. Carey Wimer and Dr. Sean Cunningham
Roberta and Reg Yoder
Friends ($100 – $249)
Amazon Smiles Foundation
Terra and Jay Amundson
Anonymous (2)
Beverly Apel
Valoree Armstrong
Doug Aupperle
Michelle Bartusek
Morgan Baumert
Glenys Bittick Lynch
Patricia Boddy and Robert Davis
La Verne and Blaine Briggs Donor Advised Fund at the Rancho Santa Fe Foundation
Kate Bruns
Rachel Bruns
Kathy Burger
Ellen and John Burnquist
Judith Burns
Paul and Nancy Burrow
Mary and Crom Campbell
Marilyn and Frank Carroll
Eva and David Christiansen
John and Holly Clark
Tari Colby
Patricia and Jay Cramer
Kay Crose
Abbe Davidson
Lori and Tim Diebel
Rachel and Zach Eubank
Ruth Foster
Sarah Frieberg
Shayla and Joel From
Mary Ann and Gene Gardner
Mary Susan and Richard Gibson
Sandra Githens
Suzie Glazer Burt
Eve and Darrell Goodhue
Phyllis Goodman
Mary Helen and David Grace
Mary and Al Gross
Kay Grother
Gary A.T. Guthrie
Happy Medium
Rachel Hardin
Sandra Heagle
Kathleen Heinzel
Jane Hemminger
Rolland Riley and Carol Hibbs
Kelli Hill
Jill Hittner
Keith and Brenda Hobson
Dale and Robert Howe
Alexandra K. Hubbell
Jody Ingersoll
Tessa and Mark Isaacson
Brooke Johnson
David King
Jenna Knox
Pam Koster
Rod Kruse
Carmen Lampe Zeitler and John Zeitler
Angela Loomis
Ali Makris
Margaret Mallgren
Joan Mannheimer
Emily Mendez
M. Ann Mendleson
Rebecca and Brian Metzger
Deb Mitchell
Ann and Alfred Moore
Polly Moore
Cindy Mumm
Dr. Deb Nanda-McCartney
Ellen and Bruce Nelson
Leigh Nelson
Janet O’Brien
Constance Ode
Linda and Gary Ordway
Judy and John Perkins
Ainni Peterson
Susan and Earl Pierce
William and Judy Poland
Donni Popejoy
Jeanette Redman
Martha A. Reno
Dixie Rhiner
Elaina Riley
Audrey and Harlan Rosenberg
Anne Roth
Annette and Randy Roth
Dr. Sandra Ruhs
Linda and Ruben Rullan
Lori Saluri
Kathryn and Mike Sankey
Dr. Craig and Kimberly Shadur
Karen Shaff
Erica Shannon Stueve
Beth Shelton
Meg and Chuck Smith
Amanda Speirs
Jan Stump
Sarah Sullivan and Nicholas Bigelow
Emily Susanin Kessinger
Martha Swanson
Jane Thebo
Mary Van Heukelom
Ann-Charlotte Wade
Cynthia and Kent Wanamaker
Whitney Warne
Emily Webb
Kimberly Weis
West Des Moines Christian Church
Kathryn Wheeler Driscoll
Christy Wilson
Dania Wilson
Andrea Woodard
Barbara and Jon Yankey
Mary Yearns

COMPANIONS (gifts up to $99)
Sophia Ahmad
Mardell and Dean Ahnen
Jodi Allan
Barbara Amend
Kirsten Anderson
Susie and Charlie Anderson
Anonymous (6)
Ed Augustine
Dodie and Wayne Bauman
Tracy Beck
Lisa Beh
Karin Beschen
Jan Blessum
Kirsten Bosch and Jennifer Davis
Heidi and Chad Bowden
Rose Breuss
Anne and Neil Broderick
Mari Bunney
Alison Cate
Deborah Cattoor
Shelley Chambers
Cindy Chicoine
Diane Child
Judith Conlin
Holly Craiger
Cheryl Critelli
Nora Crosthwaite
Jill Curry
Erin Davison-Rippey
Linda Dawe
Dave and Kristi Dawson
Elaine Dekovic
Sheryl DeMouth
Bonnie Dollen
Mary Beth Drey-Buechel
Michelle Durand-Adams
Sarah Egge
Karen Engel
Julie and Bob Fleming
Mary Fox
Mary Funk
Martha Gelhaus and Kevin Pokorny
Patricia Goetz
Patricia J. Goldberg
Betty Gordon
Mary and Randy Gordon
Kimberly Graham
Cheri Grauer
Melissa Gray
Carrie Hansen
Diana Hansen
Jan Hardin
Lois Harms
Jane Hayes Davis
Alice Helle
Barbara and Gordon Hendrickson
Highland Park Christian Church
The Reverend Martha Hill
Cheryl Honkomp
Bridgit Horvatin
Ann Hudson
Sara Hunt
Vickee J. Adams
Megan and Lance Kading
Debra Katzer
Judy Keller
Karen Kellogg
Paige Kennedy and Jason Franzluebbers
Delma Kernan
Mary Ellen and James Kimball
Wendy Knowles
Carlee Konz
Lois and Roger Kriebs
Colleen Lange
Teri Legg
Theresa Lewis
Elaine Lundstrom and David Yurdin
June Malliet
Lynn and Paul Mankins
Michael and Eileen May
Amanda McCauley
Emily McCurdy
Louise and Charles McDonald
Carol and Thomas McGarvey
Michael McNeil
Jill Means
Cheryl Morton
Donna Mueller
Marilyn Mullin
Phyllis Mumford and Kent Sovern
Jessica Nelsen
Anna Marie Nielsen
Guadalupe Nieto
Catherine Olesen
Ann Olsen Schodde and Stephen Schodde
Hannah Olson
Doris and Michael O’Malley
Cheryl and Dennis Pederson
Shelly Pentico
Barbara Reiff
Artis Reis
Grace Rempe
Gail and Gary Rhodes
Deb Richards
Jane and Doug Roul
Sheila Rouse
Barbara Royal
Megan Ruble
Donna Runge
Blair Ryan
Marilyn Sackett
Laura Sands
Barb and Mark Schmidt
Jeanne Schossow
Jill and Jack Schreiber
Bobbi Segura
Susan Seidenfeld
Craig and Kathy Shives
Patsy and John Shors
Diana and Phil Sickles
Carol Sue Smith and Michael Slyby
Chelsea Smith
Barbara and Paul Spong
Kathy Spyksma
Emily Steele
Jan Stegeman
Cynthia Steidl Bishop
Mary Gail Stilwill
Karen and Charles Stockton
JoAnne Talarico, CHM
Ellen Taylor
Reina Toledo
Jill and Derek Trobaugh
Melinda Urick
Peri L. Van Tassel
Robert Vedral
Jan Vogel
Billie Wade
James Waltrip
Marcia and Rick Wanamaker
The Wellmark Foundation
Charyl Sue and Myron White
Dee Willemsen
Katherine Sircy
Chris Wurster
Linda Zastrow
Tom Zimmerman

Gifts in Kind
Business Publications Corp.
Integrity Printing
LaMie Bakery
Connie Wilson Design

Honor Gifts
Gifts were given in honor of: Given by:
Mary Bruce Blair Ryan
Eileen Burtle Janet and Chuck Betts
Eva Christiansen Anonymous
Ellery Duke Beth and Stephen Gaul
Allison and Timothy Peet
Carol Sue Smith and Michael Slyby
Chris Waddle
Hal Higgs Kathryn and Mike Sankey
Mark Minear Anonymous
Barb Nish Ellen and John Burnquist
Kathy Reardon and Ellery Duke Beth and Stephen Gaul
Catherine Olesen
Rebecca Shaw Judith Akre
Gina Skinner Thebo Kirsten Bosch and Jennifer Davis
Susan Voss Patricia Boddy and Robert Davis
Jann Freed and John Fisher
Mary Gottschalk and Kent Zimmerman
Colleen Lange
Robbie and Rick Malm
Rep. Jo Oldson and Brice Oakley
Craig Shadur
Karen Shaff
Laurie and Ashley Sloterdyk
Memorial Gifts
Gifts were given in memory of: Given by:
Raleigh Gilbert Dean Mary Gottschalk and Kent Zimmerman
Mr. Val Gray Mardell and Dean Ahnen
Winnie Hayes John and Jeannine Hayes


A different approach to the holidays

Billie Wade, writer

November traditionally kicks off the holiday season for many people. Preparation for the Big Three holidays—Thanksgiving; Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa; and, New Year’s Eve—sometimes begins in August. The time brings together a massive celebration of hope for the new year. We breathe a collective sigh as the current year approaches extinction. This year has presented us with unique challenges for which none of us could have prepared. Sheltering-in-place has been both a bane and an opportunity. As this year progressed, we found ourselves more and more uncertain as several major occurrences converged. But life is always uncertain, always has been, always will be. Only now, it seems, the stakes are higher and the stress more intense. COVID-19 and the resultant fallout, racial tension, political stress, wildfires, floods, and hurricanes add to the strain of everyday living. Those in northern parts of the country may or may not be looking forward to this year’s snowfall and yet more time indoors. Our foray into the holidays this year may take on a different meaning, one of deeper reflection and introspection. Gratitude may be a balm to us or may be difficult to grasp.

Fall and winter are notorious for increasing our mental health symptoms. Long nights of darkness turn into short days which unfold in slow motion. The holidays have a way of magnifying loneliness, depression, anxiety, and addictions. In my October 2020 article, I discussed SAD (seasonal affective disorder) which complicates other mental health symptoms. A report by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states: Symptoms of anxiety disorder and depressive disorder increased considerably in the United States during April–June of 2020, compared with the same period in 2019. Their report includes sobering statistics of the effects of COVID-19 on these and other mental health distress—domestic violence, suicide, and alcohol and drug use. You can read the entire report here.

Gauge your situation with great care and reach out when you need to. Watch for signs and symptoms in friends and loved ones and enlist help if necessary. Click here to schedule an appointment with the Center. 

Many of you know I am an avid journaler and maintain a daily practice of written gratitude, reflection, introspection, and exploration. You may not know I am an introvert albeit a gregarious one. I can spend several hours with individuals or groups of fewer than five people. However, I can tolerate chitchatting in groups of more than five people for periods of about two hours, longer if we are focused on a topic or activity, such as a class. Then, I must return to the sanctuary of my home to recharge and reset. So, the COVID-19 restrictions have been less difficult for me than for some of my friends, and I suspect, for some of you.

At first the idea of self-isolation excited me. I was almost giddy as I thought about how much time I would save in driving time, finding a parking space, dealing with traffic, inclement weather, gas. (Imagine gleeful emoji here.) Then, reality set in. Other activities swallowed the hours of travel time I saved. Whether I am, in fact, more productive is debatable. Somehow, I seem to be busier than before, a sentiment echoed by some of my friends. Zoom appointments consume much of my time, sometimes four meetings in one day. That recognition is not a complaint, but rather a statement of gratitude for videoconferencing that allows me to continue connecting with others. I love everything I do, and I enjoy working with an expanding circle of incredible people. Conclusion: Zoom is a good thing. The most popular platforms I know of are Zoom, Google Meet, and Facetime (Apple)—there may be more.

At first, self-quarantining offered many opportunities for getting stuff done—clean out the garage, organize the photo album, read from our growing stack of books we planned to get to someday, try new recipes. Many of us took up new hobbies or revisited activities we had laid aside as life took over. Confined to our homes with ourselves, we may have bumped into latent thoughts and feelings we had relegated to our subconscious years ago. We suddenly faced ourselves. This time is an invitation to acknowledge and honor our grief and to express gratitude during this year. We look toward January with hope for a “new and improved” upcoming year. It also is a call to commit to ourselves with intention what we want, where we want to go, who we want to be and create a plan to get there.

Our most powerful tools may be acceptance and action. We look at ourselves, our circumstances, our relationships, and the world at large and acknowledge that what we see may not be what we want but that it is, if we are honest, what we face. Having named the reality, we can move forward. Next, we ask, “What can I do now?” The answer may surprise you. It may be different than writing letters, participating in protests, posting on social media, or organizing a book club, although all are excellent endeavors. However, those actions are not suitable for everyone. Sometimes, the best we can do is self-care and that is more than enough. We look for ways to become peaceful within ourselves. Enhancing or increasing spiritual practices can be of enormous benefit to some people.

Then, we create a plan, any plan. Call it a vision. Call it a daydream. Call it wishful thinking. Call it an honest yearning of your heart. Give yourself more than a cursory, “I want to lose twenty pounds next year,” or “I want to save $x a month,” or “I promise to read a book a week.” These are great desires especially because they are specific and measurable. But, too often, we approach them without much thought. They become yet another defunct resolution. Think about what you need to transform your life into a self-celebration. Think about what brings you indescribable serenity. Think about the messages you recite when you communicate with yourself. Think of what brings you joy. Think of what nurtures and soothes you. Perhaps what you need is a bowl of oatmeal, a slice of toast, and a glass of orange juice.

Here are some tips for creating and executing a doable plan. (Please keep in mind some thoughts, beliefs, feelings, and patterns can be deep-seated messages we have carried a long time—even decades—and may require focused effort and patience  and, possible professional mental health support to accomplish or to heal.)

  1. Write what you want with crystal clear clarity. Try to avoid “walk more often” in favor of “walk twenty minutes every morning before work.”
  2. Think about why this is important to you. It may be murky at first. Record all your related thoughts.
  3. Define what do you need to make it happen. List every detail, then organize them into steps. Index cards are handy for this.
  4. Determine whether you need help
  5. For a list of activities to consider, see my posts: 23 Tips to Get Through the Holidays – November 2017, 23 Tips to Get Through the Holidays – November 2018, and 2019 Holiday Survival Guide – November 2019.
  6. This plan is flexible, making it doable for just about everyone. Do as much or as little as works for you. Revise and experiment and adapt.
  7. That’s it! Go for it! Celebrate the result!

Resolutions to current stressors are neither easy nor swift. Getting through this time is tough for all of us. We can take comfort in knowing we are not alone. Globally, the pandemic virtually every country. Nationally, we also grapple with myriad domestic issues. Regionally, we face natural disasters. From our states to our communities, additional problems arise. There are ways to reach out, to soothe ourselves and each other, to hold the Light of Hope lightly in our awareness, to breathe, just breathe.

Be well. Be safe. Be at peace. Cultivate joy. Wear your mask.


Licensed Psychologist

Career Opportunity: Licensed Psychologist

The Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center, a well-established nonprofit organization, is seeking a full-time, licensed psychologist to join our team of multi-disciplinary clinicians who are committed to a mind/body/spirit therapeutic approach and serving all ages. We are seeking a licensed psychologist with a preference to applicants experienced and interested in psychological assessment. We receive assessment referrals from psychiatric and medical providers for differential diagnosis, neuropsychological screenings, presurgical evaluations, and clergy evaluations.  We receive psychological testing requests for clients of all ages.

Please send a letter of interest and vita to: Kelli Hill, Ph.D., Director of Clinical Services, Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center, 8553 Urbandale Avenue, Urbandale, IA  50322, or email

Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center is a nonprofit, nonsectarian organization offering a broad range of mental health services, serving more than 4,000 individuals annually including 700 children and teens plus their families. Thanks to a broad base of community support, the Center serves people from all walks of life including those who are uninsured or underinsured. Although best known for its 48 years of quality, professional mental health therapy, the Center provides multi-faceted services, programs and classes:

  • Counseling, including specialized services for children and adolescents
  • Psychiatry (medication management)
  • Psychological testing and assessment
  • Training for graduate students, clinical professionals and the community
  • Holistic approaches such as biofeedback
  • Spiritual direction
  • Career coaching
  • Leadership and spiritual life programming
  • Conflict transformation and strategic planning services for congregations, nonprofits and businesses

For more information about the Center, visit our website

The two faces of autumn

Billie Wade, writer

Autumn is a time of change. Leaves turn vibrant colors of red, orange, gold, and brown, then float to earth to protect it from winter. The weather turns cool and brisk. Autumn is a prime season to take in the unique sights, sounds, and smells—all free for us to appreciate and celebrate. The crisp air refreshes our lungs from the summer heat and humidity and gives our skin a break from mosquitoes. Autumn asks us to slow down and relax, to consider our life over the previous nine months and where we want to go now. It is an excellent time to look inside ourselves and ask questions to which only we know the answer. A little introspection may reveal some activities we want to accomplish before winter sets in. As trees release their leaves we are challenged to let go as well—people, places, stuff, and ideas that no longer support where we are now or where we want to go. Letting go is a good thing. It is a celebration of where we have been and the wisdom we have acquired and a welcoming of something new into our lives.

While some people may dislike the brown tree branches, I find them fascinating. They provide an opportunity for me to pause and look at the skeletons of trees that survive year after year. I smile when I see a bird’s nest and I know the bird will return in the spring to sing a beautiful song and begin a new family. I live across the street from a flood-control berm with grass and trees. The transition from season to season seems to happen overnight. One spring night, I go to bed and wake up the next morning to previously bare branches now hidden by bright green leaves. Likewise, in autumn, morning greets me with bare tree limbs as high winds dislodged the loosened leaves during the night and scattered them over the earth.

2020 has been a year of changes we have not faced in our lifetime. Much of the change has meant relinquishing our grip on what we held dear, accepting, surrendering, adapting, and creating. The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a complete upheaval of virtually every facet of our lives. Stress brought on by COVID-19 cannot be underestimated. The quarantine has left many people isolated, alone, lonely, and with limited or no means of assistance. Some people find themselves quarantined with abusive partners or family members. Normally active people feel stuck indoors. Current affairs, domestic and global, may add to the tension.

I usually dread autumn because I dread what follows—winter. That attitude effectively robs me of gratitude and joy in the present moment, the only one I have. Five seconds ago are gone, five seconds from now are not yet here. When I get off track, I try to recognize what I am doing and then gently remind myself to “come back” to now. I am not always successful. Most years, I feel the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)—increased fatigue, major depression, disruptions in my sleep—beginning between early September to mid-October. There is no predictable pattern. These signs are different from the depression which usually affects me and sadness different from grief. It is not a separate disorder but is layered on top of what I already feel. The cause of SAD is unknown. The most prevalent theory is decrease in sunlight in autumn and winter may be the culprit. The shift from daylight savings time also may be a factor as we attempt to adjust to an hour more or an hour less. SAD usually lifts for me between mid-January and mid-March. I may awake one morning feeling like a different person.

Autumn and winter are often a time of increased stress, anxiety, and deeper depression, now complicated as our time with family friends, work, recreation, and travel became almost nonexistent seven months ago. The holiday season looms large, perhaps more so than in past years. There may be less money to buy gifts. Holiday festivities are limited because of COVID-19 safety protocols. Winter vacations have been cancelled. These major disappointments may bring on frustration and anger with few if any outlets for expression. Transitions from summer to autumn to winter may feel like a downhill slide as we think about cold winds, icy streets and walkways, and gray or white skies. We are bracing ourselves with trepidation as we anticipate even more isolation and time indoors. Or we may celebrate getting out of holiday expectations others have for us, relieving us of being subjected to strained relationships and dissention.

Here are some ideas for getting through autumn and winter:

  • Write your thoughts and emotions—all of them. Explore why the entry is important to you. If necessary, write goals and strategies.
  • Join groups. Seek groups that interest you and find out if they meet on videoconferencing—Zoom, Google Meets, Skype, FaceTime (for Apple users), or others. Many online meetings are “attended” by people across the United States and around the world. What you learn will amaze you. Because of videoconferencing, I now have friends in Canada, Germany, Barbados, England, Australia, and New Zealand. Videoconferencing is a lifesaver used by therapists, yoga instructors, orchestras, and an enormous number of organizations and individuals.
  • Move your body as much as possible even if you start with simple stretches. You can check out YouTube or type words into the search feature of your favorite search engine. Narrowing your search to specifics yields better results—such as “30 minute chair yoga” rather than “yoga.”
  • Spend time outdoors. Even a short walk or standing just outside your door have the potential to refresh you and clear brain fog. Breathe in and out slowly while you focus on the air moving in and out of your nostrils.
  • Nurture your body. Rest and sleep when you need to. Adequate sleep will strengthen you physically and improve your mood. If insomnia is a problem, ask your primary care provider for tips and strategies. For long-term, chronic, or severe insomnia, medication may be required. Healthy food choices may alleviate some fatigue and sluggishness.
  • Look for seasonal patterns of sadness or depression. You may want to discuss Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) with your primary care provider or mental health professional. Schedule an appointment with the Center HERE.

The above suggestions are starters. You may find other practices and modifications that work well for you. Whatever this time of year means for you, pausing to gain perspective will ease stress and contribute to appreciation and enjoyment. Be well. Be safe. Be at peace.

Oh, by the way, to help slow the spread of COVID-19, WEAR A MASK!, and to make your voice heard, VOTE!  – Billie

Learn how Bank of America cares for their employees!

The Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center recently partnered with Bank of America to offer wellness services to BOA employees.

October 2020 – It’s called preventative maintenance, an upstream approach to health and well-being.

Corporations and organizations are very aware of the many difficulties and challenges employees are facing during the pandemic and the chronic, long-term stress it is causing. One of the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center’s generous donors, Bank of America, is taking a proactive approach.

Bank of America staff in Iowa have launched a series of physical and emotional wellness opportunities for their teammates called Get Iowa Moving.  They are running four different activities every other week from September through October. Activities include, walking outdoors, guided mindfulness meditation, chair yoga, and desk exercises. All sessions begin with a reminder of the benefits and programs the bank offers and how to take advantage of them, especially though their employee networks. Bank of America knows that members of their employee networks feel more connected and engaged at work, which is an important component of overall wellness.

Annie Brandt

“I was talking with my market president about ways we can connect with our team in this virtual world, and she reminded me of her often repeated mantra, ‘Move your body, heal your mind.’  I thought of the things Bank of America is offering teammates across the country like chair yoga and guided mindfulness meditation. I thought it could be a fun way to further engage our Iowa teammates if we made it local and special for us.”  Says, Annie Brandt, Bank of America Senior Vice President and Market Manager for Iowa.  Annie is also a long-time supporter of the Center, 2019 Women Helping Women co-chair and volunteer.

Would you like to get your team involved in preventative healthcare? Learn more about the Center’s mindfulness offerings HERE.

Allison Peet

Written by Allison Peet, certified Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction instructor.

Living, Breathing, Values

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

I hope get a chance to peruse our most recent annual report.

The Community Relations team did a great job organizing the narrative around our foundational values. As I thought about those values as expressed in the report and on our web site I had a moment: these values are the reason I chose to join in the Center’s work as an executive director. So much of who I am as a person in this world and my own values align directly with what this place is about.

First a bit of clarification about values since the word is often misrepresented in our hyper charged political environment. We can express our values as an organization, but if they aren’t enfleshed, lived out in daily behavior, they become empty rhetoric. Somewhere along the way I read this on a management website (forgive me for not tracking down the source yet):

Values shift the focus from the greater organization to the individual.  Values define who individuals need to be to achieve the organization’s vision and/or live out its mission.  Values articulate a set of desirable traits or characteristics that people can exemplify in their faithful service to the organization and its cause.            

For me this means that organizations and individuals walk the talk and the behaviors are easy to spot when you observe the day-to-day. So let’s take a look at our publicly expressed values and see if we can find evidence of how they’re lived


We strive to help as many people as we can regardless of ability to pay. One of my personal values is social justice, that all might have what they need to flourish in this life. I’m glad to know that we provide services to help as many as we can. That is not to say that we don’t also provide services to those with good insurance who can afford to go anywhere. We strive to help as many as we can. It’s good to know that people choose our exemplary services no matter where they land on the socio-economic spectrum and that we do our best to serve as many as we can.

Integration/holistic approach

We like to talk about the healing process for the whole person: body, mind and spirit. Practically, this has meant a number of things over the years. Lots of modalities use work on healing the mind, but a number of our clinicians utilize techniques that help clients and patients to get in touch with their bodies so that they can augment the healing process. Hope and healing for the spirit means different things to different people. One of my favorite quotes heard around here is that we meet people where they are, not looking to “fix” them, but to walk with them as a whole person to explore what a flourishing life might look like for them.


The annual report mentions that a large percentage of people come to us because they have been referred by someone in their circle that currently or previously used our services. What could be a better indicator of trust. We don’t take this lightly.

Respect and compassion

This hearkens back to the quote about meeting people where they are. We encounter diversity in many forms among our clients, staff and board. Lots of varied perspectives and commitments, yet we somehow find a way to hold together the notion of community so that we can carry on this important work together. At the root of compassion is the ability to empathize, something we see on display every day at all levels of the organization.

High standards/experience

It is incredibly humbling to watch colleagues carry on their craft. Our staff have great credentials and are products of high level training programs—including our own. That’s inspiring enough. It’s the witnessing of it in daily behaviors that’s even more inspiring. I wish more people could sit in on our consultations just to hear the wisdom of colleagues as they work together on sorting out what the best course of action might be for a client. Their compassion is evident, but their expertise always leaves me feeling grateful that our staff is there to help in moments that people are most in need. The people we serve are in good hands.

Let me conclude with a final value: community. Though much of our work happens in one-on-one settings, none of this mission is lived out in isolation. Other patients, staff, board members, volunteers and donors have gone before us. We stand on those shoulders as we do our work. Each member of this community—past, present and future—is necessary in order for us to be who we are and do what we do. The values we share aren’t just words, they are actions we see walking the hallways, in meetings and phone calls and broadcast on zoom screens each day.

I am grateful to be a part of it. I am also grateful for all of you who are the community that makes it all possible.

To read more of Jim’s blogs, click HERE