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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.

Express Yourself

Self-expression is innate in every human being. Self-expression is the way we do things, whether we are conscious of it. Through self-expression we say, “This is who I am.” We share our authenticity.

We self-express in myriad ways through our hairstyle and our clothing, the way we talk and use words, body language, writing, art, music, our lifestyle, avocations and career. One person may self-express through beautiful and bountiful flower and vegetable gardens. Another person may self-express through the restoration of classic or damaged automobiles. Someone else may self-express through her or his skills as a surgeon. And yet another may self-express through her or his skills as a counselor or spiritual director. On and on the list goes. One of the many ways I self-express is through my writing, but I also use my organizational skills, my use of technology, my sense of fascination and curiosity, and my imagination.

Because self-expression reveals authenticity, it also means saying, “No,” or “Yes,” depending on our need at the time, the situation, or the people involved. Our ability to say “No” or “Yes” or to speak out is tied to our ability to self-express. Self-expression is about self-permission. We allow ourselves to say what we mean. We express our thoughts and emotions clearly with our words and actions. We let other people know they have violated our boundaries, and their actions are not okay.

Growing up and throughout most of my adult life, I did not speak up. I did not have opinions. I did not know that “No” was an option as well as a complete sentence. The same applied to “Yes.” I let other people talk me out of things I really wanted to do. Or worse, other people made decisions for me and I did not speak up in self-defense. Other people took credit for my work, sometimes with the full knowledge of those in charge. I endured the exploitation in stoic silence. When I did speak up my voice was often weak and ineffective. Very few people listened to what I had to say. Now, I am conscious of my values, my self-worth, my heart’s desires, and my freedom to speak. When I am hesitant, I search within and arrive at a decision that serves me. When I say “No” or “Yes” with conviction, I am also taking responsibility for my decisions. I take credit for my skills and accomplishments. I take ownership of things I do well. I acknowledge the Divine Presence that guides my life.

Self-expression can challenge us to be our best selves regardless of the judgment of others. Some people may deem our activities as silly or a waste of time or wrong. We may have to persevere against ridicule and criticism to let our heart’s passion express. I grew up in an alcoholic home. My father disapproved of my career choice when I earned my bachelor’s degree and became a substance abuse counselor.

Self-expression respects other people, opinions, beliefs, and ideas. Using it to hurt others also hurts the giver. Self-expression is a gift to share. We cultivate meaningful relationships. We look for solutions that benefit everyone concerned. We share our gift of individuality in ways that enrich our life and the lives of those we encounter.

Here are seven ways to self-express:

  • Saying “Thank you” is a simple form of self-expression when someone treats us with compassion, kindness, and grace.
  • Displaying a calming presence in the midst of dissention and chaos can deescalate a tense situation.
  • Making amends and apologies can become a vehicle for our self-expression.
  • Showing compassion and kindness benefits the giver as well as the receiver.
  • Asking for what we want, and need, means others are in a better position to support us.
  • Extending empathy and a generosity of spirit can lift someone’s mood for the rest of the day, fostering a sense of connection and rapport.
  • Complimenting someone can elevate her or his spirits by sharing in their self-expression.

Be conscious of the ways you self-express. Are you sending the message you want to convey about who you are and what you are about? I invite you to spend some time celebrating your unique attributes. What life changes do you need to make to express your true Self and live with authenticity?

Conscious self-expression means allowing our true Self to shine. We temper our behavior in ways that promote amicable relationships and win-win outcomes. We express our emotions in a conscious, full, and open manner. We live our lives as art. Enjoy.

Billie Wade, writer

For more of Billie’s blogs, click here.

The Wonder of Generosity

Tis the season of March, which invites me and others of Irish heritage to celebrate the memory of St. Patrick. Not the usual distortions of all things green, but literally a heritage. I’ve been known to sing a traditional ballad now and again. I often set aside time in March to read a bit of Irish history or literature. Options abound. This year I’m reading John O’Donohue, whose lively imagination has helped me and many others to pay attention to the little things each day in order to experience the joy of wonder. Here’s a quote that inspired pause:

One of the most exciting and energetic forms of thought is the question. I always think that the question is like a lantern. It illuminates new landscapes and new areas as it moves. Therefore the question always assumes that there are many different dimensions to a thought that you are either blind to or that are not available to you. So a question is really one of the forms in which wonder expresses itself. (p. 6)

John O’Donohue, Walking in Wonder: Eternal Wisdom for a Modern World. 2015.

The power of a question to guide us to wonder.

I experience it on a regular basis when I’m working with the generous people who support our work at the Center. I often begin conversations by asking people how they became connected with the Center in the first place. I’ve reflected on answers to that question in previous posts, but suffice it to say that a relationship was established in which the Center played a role in helping someone to find their way to hope and healing.

A follow up question regularly inspires wonder: Where did you learn to be so generous with your time, or talent, or treasure/resources? The answer often involves modeling. Donors grew up in families that valued generosity. They encountered someone whose generosity benefited them and made a difference in helping that person to find a path to success and fulfillment. They engaged in the work of an organization like the Center and saw the direct connection of supporting a mission in order to help others thrive. Lanterns illumined new landscapes and possibilities.

I encourage the community of stakeholders engaged in our work to keep these questions in mind as you’re out and about in the community. “How did you become involved in mental health issues?” (It’s a great way to fight stigma). All of us are touched in some way by these issues. There are too many tragic tales, but also inspiring narratives of healing. Don’t be afraid of the follow up question of how folks learned to be generous as they engaged an issue like mental health. My guess is you’re going to hear more inspiring answers of how one learns to be generous and engaged so as to live a fulfilled life. It’s the path to leading a life that matters and there is much work to be done.

I stand in wonder each day when I see how our work is made possible through the generosity of so many  who participate in and support our mission.

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Join us for a series of three conversations

Navigating Troubled Waters – Listening to the “Other”




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“Good patriots carry on a lover’s quarrel with their country.”  —- William Sloan Coffin

Some of us feel like this: “I can’t talk to my friends, my neighbors, my family!  The tension is too much!” At a time in which our country is painfully divided, these are the struggles many in our communities are experiencing. Yet, beneath the tension there is heartbreak.  Across the board, we feel deeply about the values we want to see our country exhibit, but we realize we are more painfully divided on the substance of the “values” than we realized.

So, how do we navigate our emotions, our relationships, our conversations?  The Center would like you to join us for 3 monthly conversations centered around this question.  Rooted in a belief that understanding begins with telling our story and listening to the story of the other we invite you to take seriously what it means to navigate troubled waters with steadiness and integrity.   Please join us here at the Center for these 3 important monthly conversations.

AUDIENCE Open to the public
DATE/TIME April 25, May 16, June 13 / Thursdays  5:30 – 7 p.m.
COST $90 for the series. Refreshments provided.
LOCATION  Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center  / 8553 Urbandale Avenue / Urbandale, IA

Please register by April 18th

FACILITATORS Clinicians from the Center will facilitate the series, including:

  • Amy Spangler-Dunning, M.Div., L.M.H.C., counselor, spiritual director
  • Diane McClanahan, M.Div., B.S.N., Director of Leadership and Spiritual Life, spiritual director
  • Douglas Aupperle, Ph.D., licensed psychologist
  • Christine Dietz, Ph.D., L.I.S.W., Training Director, spiritual director
  • Andrea Severson, M.Div., L.M.H.C., counselor, spiritual director

Questions? Please contact

Amy Spangler-Dunning, by email: or telephone: 515-274-4006, x165

Both / And…Dwelling in Possibility

Last Fall, my counselor and I discussed the concept of “both/and” and how it applies to everyday life events. He suggested that I write about it. Little did I know I would live it so soon. I am working on a major project which has a lot of potential for a life-changing outcome. On the one hand, I feel energized and exhilarated. On the other, I well know that I am not in control, and I am working to accept the outcome, whatever that may be. A key to surviving this with my mental health intact is adapting to life in the tension between possibility and acceptance.

Living in possibility is a challenge. When I am in the tension, I feel anxious. I feel nervous. I feel several competing emotions. I feed myself negative messages. I sink into resignation rather than surrender to acceptance. All visions of positive possibilities evaporate.

There are ways to stay in the tension and use it to grow and transform. We must first recognize and acknowledge the stress. We must then identify its source. We must sort through the many disparate emotions vying for expression. We must permit ourselves to feel all of our emotions without judgment.

I would like to share an exercise that has worked for me. On a sheet of paper, make three columns with no headers. In the first column write the words acceptance, surrender, gratitude, and resignation. In the second column write the words tension, stress, patience, and peace. In the third column write the words hope, enthusiasm, perseverance, and naivete. Draw a circle around the word set in the second column. Draw arrows from the circle to each of the words in the other two columns. You now have a visual of the tension and possible peace that lie between the two poles. You can work with any of these twelve possible emotions or others that may come to mind. Choose the feeling that most appeals to you or that is tugging at you the strongest. Pray, meditate, write, or talk about it.

Dwelling in possibility means allowing yourself to see both sides of your situation and acknowledging that the outcome may surprise and please you. But unbridled enthusiasm and exuberance may cloud your ability to see the real picture. Possibilities in your favor exist but so do chances you may not get what you want. With acceptance and gratitude on the same side as resignation, slipping into resignation is easy. Your job is to do the work and have faith in the possibilities you want.

I have found that mindfulness techniques like holding tension with gentleness in your awareness allow you to acknowledge it without engaging with the discomfort. You can see the larger picture and identify your paradoxical emotions. How do you want to respond to the uneasiness? You can use any of the strategies from my blog post “23 tips to get through the holidays.” My go-to methods are journaling and talking with my counselor. Journaling will help you connect with your inner resources and gain confidence. Your counselor or spiritual director can help you identify your strengths and your options. You become more tolerant of the tension and more resilient to the effects.

A state of tolerance may not last long. How long you can stay in the tension and live with the discomfort depends on the level of the stress and your coping skills. To remain in both/and requires allowing the discordant emotions to coexist. You may find your feelings bouncing like a pinball as they emerge all at once. It is about finding balance and equilibrium and peace rather than comfort. Peace and comfort are not synonymous. The challenge is to remember, always, that peace is possible.

For me, the big key to peace is to recognize and acknowledge that you can withstand the discomfort between believing in your dream and realizing the outcome is beyond your control. You may have to do this exercise often. Peace may come in fleeting moments. Stay in peace as long as you can. Develop a mantra or ritual that helps ground you and brings you serenity. Write your disconcerting thoughts and internal messages. Counter them with words of strength and resilience. These words will give you fuel to keep going.

Remember why your dream is important to you. Reflect on how it will enhance and transform your life. What are the possibilities, wanted and unwanted? Write what success or an ideal outcome means to you and how you envision it. Make a “Dream Big” list of what you will do when your passion is successful. Review the list often and add to it as new ideas come to mind. Celebrate milestones as the situation unfolds. Enjoy the journey of bringing your vision into reality.

What is your plan if the outcome differs from what you desire? Make a list of other approaches that may bring your dream to life. Map out what it means if you do not get what you want. Make a plan for processing your disappointment. Make a Plan B, C, D, or even J or X. Brainstorm as many possibilities as you can. How can you prepare for what may be inevitable? When you are facing a dire situation, I encourage you to talk to someone you trust.

Living in the realm of both/and offers chances to stretch and exercise and strengthen emotional muscles. We can learn a lot about patience, surrender, gratitude, and perseverance. We can see multiple outcomes, wanted and unwanted. We are equipped to make better decisions. As much as you can, seek opportunities to look forward to living in potential. Living with both/and is challenging and possible.

Click here for Billie’s class:  The Healing Journal – Begins March 2019!

Billie Wade, writer

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.

To read more of Billie’s blogs:

The Precious Present

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

I’m a big fan of Anne Lamott. Her irreverent eloquence and sharp insights rendered palatable by humor have inspired me in important life moments. She helps me to understand that each moment is precious.

A recent read of “Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace”, stranded me in a moment. It began in the beginning, the preface, titled “Victory Lap:”

The worst possible thing you can do when you’re down in the dumps, tweaking, vaporous with victimized self-righteousness, or bored, is to take a walk with dying friends. They will ruin everything for you.
First of all, friends like this may not even think of themselves as dying, although they clearly are, according to recent scans and gentle doctors’ reports. But no, they see themselves as fully alive. They are living and doing as much as they can, as well as they can, for as long as they can.
They ruin your multitasking high, the bath of agitation, rumination, and judgment you wallow in, without the decency to come out and just say anything. They bust you by being grateful for the day, while you are obsessed with how thin your lashes have become and how wide your bottom… When you are on the knife’s edge — when nobody knows exactly what is going to happen next, only that it will be worse — you take in today.

These words guide my reflections as I continue to ponder the virtue of gratitude and generosity for 2019. I am often distracted by “multitasking, agitation, rumination and judgement.” I can get so tangled in the distractions that I miss the beauty of the moment; inattention rules the day.

Lamott’s insight into the reason terminally ill folks “ruin everything for us” is that those left with little time appreciate every time. I am sure this explains why generosity makes us feel better. When we acknowledge how precious the present, gratitude naturally follows. Even breath inspires gratitude—which I believe leads to generosity. As you have received, give.

Examples at the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center abound. Clients suffering from anxiety or depression benefit from mindfulness exercises that deepen our appreciation of the moment. Families and communities of faith torn by conflict, through intervention, come to an appreciation of letting go of little things in order to focus on the ties that bind. Trauma victims gain insight into a life of many moments rather than only the horrific. It’s all hard work, but the rewards are great.

My mindfulness exercise or “Moment of Grace” in this composition is to simply sit for a moment in the presence of all those who steward resources in such a way so as to make our work possible. People who have volunteered time, struggled to train in order to help others, or donated to help us help others. Just sit there with all those folks—many of whom I’ll never meet. Take in today.

May the generosity of all involved lead to a deep spirit of gratitude, acknowledging that we are part of a work bigger than any of us as we strive to bring understanding, hope and healing into the present moment through our mission.

Each moment along the way is precious.

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Positive Psychology Group

Positive Psychology is defined as the scientific study of the strengths that enable individuals and communities to thrive. The field is founded on the belief that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within themselves, and to enhance their experiences of love, work, and play. This group will begin with an education about the nature and science behind Positive Psychology and then we will practice various interventions within the group in session and out.


  • Explore the science of Positive Psychology and how it can be utilized to increase well-being.
  • Define and explain the difference between happiness and well being.
  • Define values and goals that can create meaning and accomplishment for participants.
  • Introduce and practice mindfulness-based techniques.

AUDIENCE  Community members that are ready to explore and grow.  Anyone over the age of 18.

DATES  Tuesdays  (March 5, 12, 26 April 2, 9, 16, 23, 30)

TIMES  5:30-7:00 PM

TUITION  $80 per person

REQUIRED READING  Participants are required to purchase the book, “Flourish” by Martin Seligman

LOCATION  Small Conference Room: Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center: 8553 Urbandale Ave, Urbandale, IA


REGISTRATION    Registration is closed.


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Ann Flood, Clinical Mental Health Therapist Intern

My passion is to bring healing and understanding to people who may be suffering from psychological pain. I help my clients learn to reframe dysfunctional thinking patterns using mindfulness to create movement towards maximum well-being. I wish for my clients to feel peaceful, complete and safe and often times will incorporate Acceptance and Commitment Therapy to reach their chosen goal. I am passionate about clients moving towards a state of well-being and will begin a group based on the science of Positive Psychology. My educational background includes a Bachelors degree in Psychology and I am currently finishing my last semester at Drake University to gain my MS in Clinical Mental Health. Email Ann with questions:

Ramona Wink, Clinical Mental Health Counselor Intern

One of my greatest joys is playing a positive role in the lives of others. A natural gift that I embrace is the ability to shine the light in dark places of brokenness and suffering, allowing people to see and discover the treasures that may have been overlooked. As a clinical mental health counselor, my work centers on assisting clients in overcoming their struggles and meeting their therapeutic goals by tapping into their positive personal experiences and their positive personal traits. It’s always amazing to witness the change that takes place when clients shift their focus in this direction. Before I graduate in May from Drake University with my MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, I am excited to co-facilitate this Positive Psychology group. I am anticipating the wonderful results that await us as we embark on this journey together.  Email Ramona with questions:

The Gazette: Prescribing Authority Moves Foward in Iowa

Scott Young, Ph.D.

The Center is proud of our very own Dr. Scott Young, licensed psychologist, for being featured recently in The Gazette regarding one innovative way to address the shortage of psychiatry providers (medication management). Iowa is facing a dire shortage of mental health professional workforce, including a shortage of psychiatry professionals. The Center is pleased to have two on-site medication providers (psychiatrist and psychiatry physician assistant). When Scott obtains his prescribing authority, many more people in our community will be able to access the services they need. Read more here.

The Gazette writes, “Scott Young, a licensed psychologist at Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center, is one mental health professional who plans to obtain prescribing authority. He recently completed his post-doctoral master’s degree in clinical psychopharmacology — from Fairleigh Dickinson University, in Teaneck, N.J. — one of the first steps in the advanced training requirements for psychologists to write the prescriptions.

“The medication piece isn’t my specialty yet, but certainly as a psychologist with a doctoral degree, I have a lot of experience with mental health,” Young said. “I think adding the medication piece makes a great deal of sense.”

Read the full article here.

Volunteers Needed! Women Helping Women Mailing Bee

Friday, February 15, 2019 between 9:00AM – 5:00PM
Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center: 8553 Urbandale Ave., Urbandale, IA

Feel free to serve for any amount of time during the day.
All hands on deck are greatly appreciated!  We are preparing a large, customized mailing to help raise funds for mental health counseling and education for women and girls through the 2019 Women Helping Women luncheon. We are grateful for any about of time you can give!
Learn more about Women Helping Women fundraiser here:
Any questions, please email Allison Peet:

Down the Rabbit Hole: The Wonderland of Spiritual Direction

Photo Credit: Tina Tarnoff 2014

Audience:  Statewide Gathering of Spiritual Directors

Presentation Description:  We can learn a great deal about ourselves from children and from children’s literature.  Using the Lewis Carroll story Alice in Wonderland we will consider some of the qualities that can support us on the spiritual journey.

The presentation will begin with some input on what is a spiritual journey and what it means to be a spiritual director.  Then we will consider three qualities that Alice can teach us – the gift of curiosity, the willingness to be messy, and the sheer grace of courage. Our time together will include input, some quiet reflection, and sharing with one another.

Dates:  Thursday Evening April 4th-Friday April 5th, 2019

Times:  Thursday Evening:  Dinner, Film and Conversation with Lucy Abbott Tucker from 5:30-8:30PM
Friday Workshop with Lucy:  8:30AM – 5:00PM

Location:  First Christian Church, 2500 University Ave, Des Moines, IA 50311

Cost:  Thursday and Friday:  $150,  Friday only:  $100

Presenter:  Lucy Abbott Tucker

Bio: Lucy Abbott Tucker has worked in adult formation and the preparation of people for the ministry of spiritual direction for the past thirty-six years. With an initial background in mathematics and education in 1983 she moved from New York to Chicago and studied at the Institute for Spiritual Leadership and Catholic Theological Union, Chicago.  She obtained a Masters Degree in Theology.  She worked for many years at the Institute for Spiritual Leadership in Chicago including the position of Executive Director and later served as President of the Board of Directors for that organization.  Lucy has been active in the work of Spiritual Directors International, serving on the first Coordinating Council and chairing the initial committee that prepared the Guidelines for Ethical Conduct endorsed by Spiritual Directors International.  She also worked on the recent revisions of that document.  She is a frequent presenter at the annual meetings of Spiritual Directors International.  In addition to her ministry as a spiritual director and supervisor Lucy currently teaches at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago and works in training programs preparing people for the ministry of spiritual direction in the United States, Europe, Australia, and Canada.  Lucy has also published several articles on adult formation and the ministry of spiritual direction.