Pretrip Reflection – April 19, 2016

A Walk Across Iowa on the Old Lincoln Highway: Pre-Walk Reflections

Mark Minear

Mark Minear

by Mark Minear 

This is my first experience with writing a blog… so here are a few reflections about my upcoming Walk as well as some of my thoughts about sharing more publicly. My first consideration about a blog was related to my initial desire to make this Walk in the first place. My reasons initially included the following:

(1) I simply thought that it would be a worthy goal to stay in good physical shape to do something like this at the age of 62 (and I am grateful for good health that is just sufficient enough for me to be deluded into thinking that I can do this!);

(2) I have great respect for our admired president in whose memory the LH was named;

(3) I am intrigued by the history of the first transcontinental highway, particularly the history in Iowa over the past 100 years; and

(4) It is a celebration of life… an experience of learning to appreciate each precious and present moment – one moment, one step at a time. (Actually, I got the idea from a Marshall County guy, Steve Muntz, who walked across Iowa on US Hwy 20 perhaps a decade ago.)

In other words, I was just going to have this quiet experience for my own personal reasons, but then along came our Center’s director, Ellery Duke, who rode his bicycle across the entire U.S.—over 3,000 miles in about one month and raised over $30,000 for our counseling assistance fund. And, just thinking out loud with others at the Center, I indicated that I had a bucket list wish to walk across Iowa… so my Walk became an opportunity for another effort to raise some funds to assist those who are uninsured or underinsured. I am especially focused on the needs of boys and men as the Center has had a strong history of Women Helping Women to support girls and women who need counseling services.

So… I will approach writing this blog like I approached my Walk – that I will write it primarily for the recollection of my own memories… for my own review in the days, months, and years to come. But I do hope that you will find it interesting, enjoyable, and meaningful along the way!

In the recent weeks as I prepared for this Walk, I began to realize that—above everything else—this would become, first and foremost, a spiritual retreat for me. An opportunity to live mindfully in the moment, experience the Presence of the Holy, enjoy the beauty and awesomeness of the creation, and learn something about myself and this world of which I am a part. In the words of George Fox—I hope “to walk cheerfully over the earth—answering that of God in everyone!” Among other aspects of spiritual growth, I am hoping that my transformation from the Walk will include becoming more grateful and more generous!

Before I start, I need to acknowledge that I cannot seek to accomplish this goal without the support of so many people in my life—folks that I will write about along the way. But to begin, let me mention a couple: my wife Karla has been so very supportive to help me get organized around this Walk—it has been somewhat of an obsession and she has been genuinely patient and loving; and my brother Hal will be driving his RV across the state to provide me with a warm, dry, and safe place to sleep each night… what can I say, but he is giving two weeks of his own life to help his brother realize this dream!

I will try to write this blog at the end of each day with a similar structure… and perhaps with a picture or two each day. I will review a highlight of the day’s experience… and then add some daily features: Did you know… (a fun fact about the LH)? Today, I met ____________? Today, I learned __________? Today, I am grateful for __________?

I so appreciate your interest in my pilgrimage. It is a wonderful gift to know that there are folks who have me in their hearts as I am on this journey. And, as I think of this as a spiritual retreat—and not simply a “stay-in-good-physical-shape” trek, then I do feel that I can humbly ask you to remember me in your prayers. Thank you!

Peace, Mark

Walk with Mark homepage:


What is Pastoral Counseling?

By Sara Miller

This is the first in a series of articles on pastoral counseling and spiritual direction. While this introductory article will explore the idea of “pastoral counseling,” the rest of the series will profile individual counselors and spiritual directors at the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center.

Pastoral counseling is not that different from other counseling or therapy. Counseling, including pastoral counseling, is a way of dealing with personal or relationship concerns, issues, or problems that a person encounters in their life. Adding the word pastoral to counseling adds a sense of openness to airing spiritual questions, and pastoral counselors may have a greater comfort level with dealing with those questions though all clinicians can be attuned to the spiritual. An important note to go with pastoral counseling is that there is openness to the spiritual questions being asked but the client has to ask the questions because the counselor will not automatically assume the client wants to talk about matters of faith.

Spiritual Direction can deal with the same questions that are brought to therapy, the difference is that the issues are looked at in a different light. Spiritual directors practice the art of deep listening, to be with the directee as they explore their relationship with God. There is not a real goal in mind other than to listen and find where God is working in the midst of the life of the directee. Directees come seeking a spiritual companion who will listen deeply and journey with them through the process of exploring their relationship with God.

The following counselors at the Center contributed to the writing of this article, and will be profiled in this series:

Christine Dietz, Ph.D., L.I.S.W, Diane McClanahan, M.Div., and Kathy Reardon, R.N., M.S., are all spiritual directors. Christine is also a licensed mental health clinician.

Ellery Duke, Ph.D., M.Div., is a licensed psychologist and pastoral counselor. He also serves as the executive director of the Center. Mark Minear, Ph.D. and Amy Spangler-Dunning, L.M.H.C, M.Div., are both clinicians at the Center who also have masters degrees from seminaries.

Andrea Severson, M.Div., intern mental health counselor, is completing her mental health counselor degree from Drake University with plans to pursue licensure. Kay Riley, M.A., is a co-director of Prairie Fire along with Kathy Reardon. Sarah McElhaney, L.M.F.T., is a licensed marriage, family therapist.

Sara Miller

Sara Miller

Sara Miller served as an intern with the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center January – March 2016, during her senior year at Simpson College.

Walk with Mark, for counseling assistance

Mark Minear, Ph.D., psychologist at the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center

Mark Minear, Ph.D., psychologist at the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center

Mark Minear, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist at the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center, walked across Iowa Hwy 30, from river to river, in April and May 2016 to raise awareness and funds for mental health counseling assistance for men and boys. Why? Because men and boys are less likely to seek counseling, and more likely to complete suicide. Mark wants to change that. Read his incredible blog; see index below.

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Media Kit

Media release, itinerary, bio, photos and more information here

Photo Gallery

See the photos and join the community conversation on our Facebook page.

Mark in the news (TV, radio, print)

WHO13 TV, April 20, 2016

Iowa Public Radio, April 27, 2016 (fast forward to minute 31:30)

How to donate

Give online or contact Terri Speirs, Interim Director of Development,, 515-251-6644


Read Mark’s daily blog posts

(Check back regularly for more of Mark’s daily blog posts)

Envisioning this Journey: A Walk on the Lincoln Highway

by Mark Minear

As part of my interest and curiosity in history, I have carried a bucket list item over recent years: to walk across Iowa on the Lincoln Highway.  Living for the past decade in a town along the original path of that first transcontinental highway, I have felt the tug of history.

The Lincoln Highway (U.S. 30) was built in the early 1900s to honor perhaps our most beloved president (mine anyway!).  The road was initially proposed in 1912 and pretty much completed coast to coast by 1916 – 100 years ago and one year before my father was born!  Of course it has evolved over the years. Even across the state of Iowa from the Mississippi River at Clinton to the Missouri River just east of Blair, NE, the Lincoln Highway has undergone at least four major developments over this past century.  I am hoping to walk the original path as much as possible, even with some of it still as gravel.

Originally I was simply going to accomplish this task sort of like the chicken crossing the road –
to get to the other side.  But then Ellery Duke, our fearless leader here at Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center, pedaled his bicycle across the United States (a distance close to the entire length of U.S. 30) and he opened up his journey to be a fundraiser for the Center. When over $30,000 poured in to help our Center’s counseling assistance fund, I began to consider my bucket list item as an opportunity to also highlight the needs of those clients who require financial support to have access to emotional support and mental health care.


Mark Minear

I have a goal to raise $10,000 for the Center in our efforts to provide services for the underserved.  It is a part of our overall mission that has always excited me about the Center – one of the reasons that I wanted to be part of the meaningful work here!

On Thursday, April 21, 2016, I will embark on my 325-mile trek at the Mississippi River.  I anticipate covering about 25 miles per day for 13 days.  (I will be doing a daily marathon, which I intend to walk, not run.)  In the spirit of the Center’s Women Helping Women initiative, please join me in my efforts to help men and boys as well by contributing to the Center’s counseling assistance fund as I walk the original historical route of the Lincoln Highway across the state of Iowa… right past my own home!

And the end of our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
–T.S. Eliot



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The community gathers to learn suicide prevention techniques

By Sara Miller, intern at Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center

February 8, 2016 – Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center presented Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) on February 1st and 3rd at Aldersgate United Methodist Church, to the community. The trainers were Katie Giusto and Amy Rickelman of the Iowa Army National Guard. The training was attended by various professionals including a nurse, chaplains, and a suicide prevention specialist. Almost all of those in attendance had at least some experience with suicide, whether in their community, professional life, or personal life.

Suicide is a huge problem in the United States. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported nearly 43,000 deaths by suicide in the United States alone, according to the most recent numbers, which are from 2014. Unfortunately, according to the ASIST trainers, there is anywhere from five to 25 percent more deaths by suicide that are not reported as suicides either because of inconclusive evidence that the death was caused by suicide or for other reasons.

Attendees at the training learned how to pick up on cues that may indicate suicidal ideations and how to have a conversation with a person thinking about suicide, according to the ASIST Pathway for Assisting Life (PAL) model. These conversations begin by exploring invitations offered by the suicidal individual (invitations could include: words, emotions, actions, physical appearance/health). The full PAL model includes three tiers with two steps in each tier.

One fact highlighted at the end of day one is being able to recognize when the situation is severe enough to warrant professional intervention, as is the case when the threat of suicide is imminent. If there is immediate risk, the police should be called to handle the situation. If there is not a looming threat, then the PAL model can be put into practice. Day two of the training included conversation preparation, where participants in the training practiced using the PAL model.

For more information about the Center’s upcoming suicide prevention opportunities:

Career Opportunity: Adult, Couple and Family Therapist position

For a printer-friendly version of this posting, click here.

pcc logo_verticalFebruary 4, 2016 — The Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center is seeking a full-time licensed counselor to join our team of multi-disciplinary clinicians who are committed to a mind/body/spirit therapeutic approach. We are seeking a licensed psychologist, social worker, mental health counselor, or marriage and family counselor, experienced in working with adults, couples and families. Computer proficiency is required.

The therapist will work with a team of 26 multi-disciplinary clinicians including an in-house psychiatrist and psychiatry physician assistant. The Center offers robust opportunities for professional development including classes on trauma, substance abuse, and monthly consultation options on topics such as EMDR, case consultation, psychiatric issues and more.

Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center is a nonprofit, nonsectarian organization offering a broad range of mental health services, serving 2,450 individuals annually including 700 children. Although best known for its 43 years of quality, professional mental health therapy, the Center provides multi-faceted services, programs and classes:

  • Counseling, including specialized services for children and adolescents
  • Psychological testing and assessment
  • Psychiatric consultation and care
  • Training for clinical professionals
  • Leadership and spiritual life programming
  • Conflict transformation and strategic planning services for congregations, nonprofits and businesses

Please send a letter of interest and resume to:

Kelli Hill, Ph.D., Director of Clinical Services, Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center, 8553 Urbandale Ave., Urbandale, IA 50322, or email

For more information about the Center, visit our website


Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center staff learn current issues in street narcotics

by Sara Miller, Intern at Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center

Laura Nydam (R)  Laura Nydam, L.I.S.W., C.A.D.C., M.S.W., a therapist at the Center, teaches as class for therapists to better understand the impact of addiction, "Understanding Substance Abuse 101." Also pictured here, Andrea Severson, a graduate student conducing her practicum at the Center.

Laura Nydam (R) Laura Nydam, L.I.S.W., C.A.D.C., M.S.W., a therapist at the Center, teaches as class for therapists to better understand the impact of addiction, “Understanding Substance Abuse 101.” Also pictured here, Andrea Severson, a graduate student conducing her practicum at the Center.

Brady Carney, Senior Police Officer at the Des Moines Police Department came to the Center on Friday, January 15, 2016, as a guest presenter for the “Understanding Substance Abuse Class 101.” The class is part of the curriculum for the Center’s graduate student training program, and is also offered as a professional development for clinicians in the community. Laura Nydam (photo right), L.I.S.W., C.A.D.C., M.S.W., a therapist at the Center, teaches the class and arranged for Officer Carney’s visit.

Officer Carney is an investigator with the Vice Narcotics Unit and he came to give a presentation to educate the staff about current issues in his field. He discussed stimulant drugs, depressant drugs, and how the use of various substances can affect the behavior of the user. Officer Carney educated the staff about signs that indicate potential drug use and which drugs are more common than others. He also spoke briefly about the human trafficking going on in the United States and how young girls find themselves far from home in Des Moines.

Officer Carney brought with him examples of items used to conceal illicit substances. Such containers could look like a can of Arizona tea but contain a secret compartment inside. Officer Carney also brought packaging from substances that used to be sold illegally in gas stations in order to show the ways these drugs were marketed. Along with these other items he also brought some of the substances themselves so the staff could learn exactly what the drugs look like. 

This information is important for staff to know. Being able to recognize when a client has erratic behavior consistent with drug abuse could be the catalyst to helping that client change their lifestyle. Knowing how certain substances can affect a person physically and emotionally may help staff to recognize a potentially dangerous situation before it occurs. Also, being able to recognize the terminology and paraphernalia associated with drug use can help staff realize that there is a potential problem. ~

IMG_2669 IMG_2673 (1)

Ellery Duke to participate in panel discussion

Ellery Duke

Ellery Duke, Ph.D.

Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center Executive Director, Ellery Duke, will participate in a panel discussion in the Comparison Project’s 2016 spring lecture series, the Calvin Community Panels on Aging, on the topic of “Supporting our Parents.”

  • Tuesday, February 23, 2016
  • 7 p.m.
  • Drake University:  Sussman Theater, Olmstead Center

Dawn’s story, a child’s perspective of trauma


Seven-year-old Dawn lost her parents to something possibly worse than death: abandonment. She was able to process her trauma through play therapy at the Center.

Dawn is 7-years-old. When she meets with her therapist at Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center, she plays at the rice table and in the sand tray, choosing a toy baby animal as her main character. During her play, she positions the figurine as locked away and not given any food. Sometimes she postures the plaything as breaking out to get food. Other times she pretends the toy baby animal is rescued by other animals and given food.

Art and play are key to the therapy approach in the Center’s C.O.O.L. program (Children Overcoming the Obstacles in Life). At her young age, Dawn’s traumatic experiences have far surpassed her vocabulary. Dawn had been removed from her home three times before she was five years old, through no fault of her own but due to her parents’ substance abuse and chronic mental illness. She awaits her permanency hearing during which the court will terminate parental rights, enabling Dawn to be adopted by the only real family she has ever known – the guardians who brought her to the Center for counseling.

Dawn’s playtime choices help her express themes of abandonment, abuse, neglect and rescue. Her selections also help her express anger. For example sometimes Dawn assigns a figurine to portray a “mean beast” who “wrecks everything and takes all the food.”

Of the Center's 26 licensed therapists, seven specialize in serving children and adolescents. Pictured below, L-R: Shannon Welch-Groves, Psy.D., Kelli Hill, Ph.D., Doug Auperle, Ph.D., Elaina Riley, M.S.W., Sarah McElhaney, L.M.F.T. The Center also has capacity to provide medication management to children and adults through our psychiatrist and psychiatry physician assistant.

Of the Center’s 28 licensed therapists, seven specialize in serving children and adolescents. Pictured below, L-R: Shannon Welch-Groves, Psy.D., Kelli Hill, Ph.D., Doug Auperle, Ph.D., Elaina Riley, M.S.W., Sarah McElhaney, L.M.F.T. The Center also has capacity to provide medication management to children and adults through our psychiatrist and psychiatry physician assistant.

The counselor interprets Dawn’s choices and creates a therapy plan. The counselor provides Dawn with a special drawer where the child collects and keeps things safely – a jar of glitter, a small doll with a blue cape, several toy baby wild cats, a picture of Dawn with her therapist. Dawn decorates her drawer with her name so that no one else can get into her special place. Dawn is learning what it means to feel safe.

The Center serves 700 children and adolescents annually through its innovative C.O.O.L. approach, which views most youth behavior as a meaningful attempt to communicate inner life. Thanks to generous donors, we will continue to help vulnerable children and adolescents access quality mental health services.

*Note: Dawn is a composite character created from real counseling scenarios at Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center. Dawn’s photo is a stock image.

More about C.O.O.L.

C.O.O.L. (Children Overcoming the Obstacles of Life) is the Center’s innovative approach to counseling children and adolescents. C.O.O.L. counselors realize that kids have unique ways of viewing the world and expressing their emotions. We view most behavior as a meaningful attempt to communicate inner life. C.O.O.L.’s clients range in age from two to 20 years.
The Center has a separate waiting room for children and adolescents (photo left), plus a paint wall (photo above), a play room, a soft room and outdoor space to take walks and play basketball. Each therapy room is stocked  with bean bag chairs, puppets, crayons, games, paint, toy cars, wooden blocks and more. We are serious about play!
Additionally, the Center offers a full range of testing for children and adults, including assessment for IQ, learning disorders, developmental challenges, Austism Spectrum Disorders, ADHD and more.


Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy


giving tuesday facebook_abigail

to read Abigail’s story, click image

In our story about Abigail’s recovery from a head injury resulting from domestic violence, Abigail said her treatment included Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy. We’d like to explain more about this treatment approach.

EMDR is an evidence-based treatment proven to be effective for the resolution of Post Traumatic Stress.

EMDR was originally developed as a technique useful in in relieving the after-effects of military combat, sexual and physical violence, car accidents and natural disasters. Over the past 25 years, EMDR has continued to evolve as it is used by practitioners around the world.  EMDR Therapy is being found to be effective with a number of issues, including  phobias, addictions, depression, and phantom limb pain.

Unresolved disturbing life events are stored in the  brain with the original feelings and perceptions as when the event occurred. The 8 phase treatment process accesses the person’s innate healing capacity. One of the unique aspects  of EMDR Therapy is the use of eye movements or tapping. This increases a person’s  mindfulness as it jump-starts the brain’s information processing system.  The disturbing feelings and sensations are cleaned away, and the client comes to a new understanding of the event, with a new, adaptive view of themselves in present time.

Presently, of the 26 therapists on staff at Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center, 10 are trained and practicing EMDR therapy, and three are certified.

Watch this public service announcement about Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy.


The healing power of counseling

Ellery and Marsha Duke, and a few of their friends, offered a $2,000 challenge grant to match any size contribution, dollar-for-dollar on #GivingTuesday, lauching the Center’s end of the year campaign to raise awareness and funds for quality counseling. Why?

Ellery and Marsha Duke

Ellery and Marsha Duke

Both Marsha and I believe in the healing power of counseling for the many persons struggling with life’s challenges…many of them with limited financial resources.

That’s why we have invited some friends to join us in offering a $2,000 challenge grant for the #GivingTuesday campaign. We will match any size contribution you make, dollar-for-dollar, until a challenge goal of $4,000 is met.

Why are we doing this? Because the Center offers a safe and nurturing environment for healing and hope. At this time of year it is more important than ever. Grief does not take a holiday. 

Please join us today #GivingTuesday in making a donation to the Center, to ensure hope and healing to all in need. ~ Ellery Duke

The Duke’s match challenge was met beyond expectations, thanks to compassionate donors who gave $9,450 on #GivingTuesday. Your contribution is critical to support quality mental health services in our community.