Explore the spiritual journey of aging with Dr. Christine Dietz

A new group!

  • Dates: 8 sessions, Tuesday, August 24 – Tuesday, October 12
  • Time: 11am – 12:30 pm
  • Location: The group will be a hybrid of in person and Zoom. Those participating in person must sign a release for in office services and wear a mask in waiting rooms and hallways. Depending on the course of the current surge of Covid 19, there may be changes in this plan, including wearing masks when meeting in person or moving to a totally Zoom format.
  • Cost: $240
  • Facilitator: Dr. Christine Dietz (scroll down for bio and more information)
  • Questions: email Dr. Christine Dietz at cdietz@mindspiritcenter.org
  • Group info: The group sessions will include some mini lectures, large and small group discussions and other group activities. The book, The Second Half of Life by Angeles Arrien is recommended but not required and will provide a context for the class. Other suggested readings will be provided at the first class session.

The Spiritual Journey of Aging

For more information on this 6-week group in August, please contact Dr. Christine Dietz by emailing cdietz@mindspiritcenter.org

by Dr. Christine Dietz (scroll down for bio)

(July 2021) — From birth to death, we are all on a journey of aging. But American popular culture, still adolescent in so many ways, goes to great pains to deny it. Don’t believe me? Take a walk through the greeting card section of Target and look at the messages. Aging is presented as silly, shameful and to be strenuously avoided. For example: on the cover, “Everyone gets to be young once.” Inside, “Your turn’s over.” Or, “Don’t let society tell you what people your age can and can’t do.” Inside, “That’s what your knees are for.” Conversations among aging adults sometimes sound like this: “Aging is not for sissies.” “It sure beats the alternative!” And then there is the “organ recital” – a review of all our aches, pains, symptoms, and illnesses. In my very first group for older adults, a participant, referring to commercials for prunes and adult diapers, said, “They think of us as wrinkled babies!”

The mainstream media often portrays aging as disease, decline and poverty, to be addressed by retirement plans, long term care insurance and careful financial planning. Or it sends the contradictory messages that, in order to have meaningful lives, older adults must look young, stay fit, and continue to advance in their careers; or that they should “retire” to the margins of life and leave the important issues of policy, visions and values to younger people. There is little appreciation of the wisdom of elders, the value of their years of experience, or the gifts they offer to younger generations, in or out of the workplace. There is no cultural vision or path for meaningful engagement in life and work AS older adults.

Spiritual and psychological traditions provide more wisdom on the journey of aging. Carl Jung said, “One cannot live the afternoon of life according to the program of life’s morning, for what was great in the morning will be of little importance in the evening, and what in the morning was true will at evening have become a lie” (The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche). In his book, Falling Upward, Richard Rohr uses this metaphor to explore the first journey of life, in which we discover our “script”, and what he calls the “further journey,” during which we write and live that script: “The first task is to build a strong “container” or identity, the second is to find the contents that container was meant to hold.” He continues, “None of us go into our spiritual maturity completely of our own accord, or by a totally free choice. We are led by Mystery, which religious people rightly call grace. Most of us have to be cajoled or seduced into it, or we fall into it by some kind of “transgression,” … Most get little reassurance from others, or even have full confidence that they are totally right. Setting out is always a leap of faith, a risk in the deepest sense of the term, and yet an adventure, too.”

I have been working professionally with older adults on spiritual journeys for many years. It was never part of my first half of life career plans. In 2003, life circumstances pushed me in a new direction. Now, 18 years later, I recognize that new direction as what my teachers, Rabbi Howard Avruhm Addison and Dr. Bobbie Breitman term a “call from the future” or what Rohr describes as a fall into the further journey.

At the time, I was on sabbatical from my faculty position at the University of New England School of Social Work and had also just been accepted into a training program for Jewish spiritual directors. I planned to work on a research project on lesbian mothers during my sabbatical while contemplating my new journey as a spiritual director.  Instead, I found myself struggling with illness, loss and anger at God.  I had one of a long sequence of eye surgeries, with increasing likelihood of the loss of sight in my right eye. According to my surgeons, there was nothing I could do to heal my vision. I wrote my first angry letter to God, complaining that “this is not what I signed up for!” Through prayer and conversations with my spiritual director, I discerned the need to leave the tenured Associate Professor position I had spent the previous 20 years achieving and left academia for a new job as Director of Elder Services at a local community mental health center. I never completed the research project and instead explored a newly discovered interest in aging and the second half of life.

Looking back from the vantage point of 18 years (a number signifying “life” in the Jewish tradition), I now recognize the signs of what Richard Rohr calls, “falling upward” or the Hasidic masters call “descent for the sake of ascent.” (Ironically, I wrote my final paper for my spiritual direction program on that concept!) Simply put, things have to fall apart in order for the soul to ascend to a higher place, to find what Jung called the Self, or Rohr calls the True Self. Now, several years beyond “retirement” age, as I contemplate working less to find more balance in my life, aging means something very different. In 2003, I thought of aging as something that happened to someone else, “elders” as someone other than me. For many years, I taught classes and led groups for older adults on the spiritual gifts and opportunities of the second half of life.    Well intentioned and impassioned as I have been about the positive aspects of aging, I have shied away from the darker side. I did not want to think about aging as a one-way journey leading to death, and the curricula for my groups and classes contained little about illness, death and decline. In a culture that considers older adults irrelevant and incompetent (“OK, Boomer”) we who are conscious of our aging struggle with the inevitable losses, grief, confusion, isolation, loneliness and sense of meaninglessness and helplessness that accompany us on this journey. Not to mention the fear of death, an inevitability that our culture is particularly ill-equipped to address. At the same time, we are trying to engage meaningfully with life, with little acknowledgement or support from the culture, or often even our family and friends. Spiritual traditions, ancient and modern, offer paths through those painful realities, but only if we are willing to confront the void and accept the insights and truths revealed there.

As I confront the questions of meaning that now arise, as I consider who I am if I am not working full time, if I continue to lose my sight and my ability to drive, if, God forbid, I stop working altogether, I am terrified. My terror comes from the losses I have experienced – of both my parents, of a step-daughter, of my sister’s newly diagnosed chronic illness, and the potential of losing my sight – as well as the recognition that, as I age, these losses will be compounded. I am looking into the void. I still long for meaning and purpose, and I cling to hope that my journey will continue to be blessed with creativity, generativity and service to others. But my container also needs space for grief, for uncertainty – and for silence, emptiness and presence.

This is a painful place, and we need companions to help us negotiate it, to “hold the tension of the opposites, “as Jung terms it, to acknowledge both the blessings and the pain of aging. In August, I will offer a six-week group for older adults called “The Spiritual Journey of Aging” to explore the gifts and challenges of this journey. We will explore wisdom from spiritual traditions, literature, myth and fable as well as generative insights from writers such as Richard Rohr, Rabbi Zalman Shachter-Shalomi, James Hollis, Marion Woodman, Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ram Dass and Mark Nepo. The only requirements are a willingness to courageously explore the gifts and challenges of one’s journey in the second half of life, and to laugh and cry with others. If you are interested in learning more, please contact me directly by email at cdietz@mindspiritcenter.org.


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

Dr. Christine Dietz is a licensed independent social worker, spiritual director and Reiki Master. She is the Center’s Director of Clinical Training. She received her M.S.W. from the University of Iowa and her Ph.D. in Sociology from the State University of New York at Buffalo. She is a graduate of the Lev Shomea Training Program for Spiritual Direction in the Jewish Tradition. Christine’s focus in counseling is on helping people reconnect to their innate wholeness and renew their sense of hope and possibility. She works with people experiencing anxiety, depression, OCD, trauma, life transitions, chronic illness, grief and loss, and relationship issues. She also offers individual and group spiritual direction to people from all faith traditions. She is a member of the National Association of Social Workers and Spiritual Directors International.

Chris’ blog – June 2021

Pastoral Care Specialist for The Generalist

click image for more Leadership and Spiritual LIfe information

by Chris Waddle, Director of Leadership and Spiritual Life


June 2021 – In one of his lectures, Family Systems therapist, Rabbi Edwin Friedman recites an overwhelmingly long list of all of the ways psychotherapists can specialize:

“It is possible today to become expert in thousands of emotional problems that range from: agoraphobia to xenophobia, living with preschoolers to living with aging parents, coping with single parenting to coping with stepchildren, personality disorder to schizophrenia, impotence to promiscuity, abuse of substances to child abuse, creativity to catatonia. . . “

His list keeps growing as he began to detail the various specializations and subspecialties of study. At one point the list becomes so nuanced and obscure that his audience begins laughing. His point was not to dismiss specialization, but to remind his audience of just how much there is to learn and know and how one person cannot possibly learn it all.

In a world that seems to be more and more specialized, clergy are largely expected to be generalists. Clergy are expected to be competent in public speaking, fundraising, teaching, management, public relations, theology, philosophy, history, politics, comparative religion, popular culture, entrepreneurship, layout and design, communications, computers, music, marriage, family dynamics, death and dying, social justice, public policy, sound systems, air conditioning, and plumbing!

If I ever need a reminder of how unrealistic the role of clergy can feel, I just go to my own denomination’s Book of Discipline and read “Responsibilities and Duties of Elders and Local Pastors.” I always chuckle as it is clear that no one pastor can do all of these things at exceptional levels at any one time. I often imagined some parishioner, miffed at something I said or failed to do, looking at the list and gleefully exclaiming “I’ve got him now!” I also knew, that but for grace, they would be correct. At any one time, yes, I could be doing more and doing it better.

One of the duties on nearly all clergy “job descriptions” is “pastoral care.” It can feel overwhelming for clergy. There is always someone in the congregation or the community who could use support. It is nearly weekly that someone will say, “You really should call on _________. They are having a tough time.” This is often followed by, “Please don’t tell them I told you.” Any clergy in any kind of congregation, Jewish, Muslim, Protestant, Catholic, Hindu. . . any clergy, could spend 100% of their time in some form of “pastoral care” alone and still not meet all the pastoral needs in the community.

On top of this, often clergy feel ill equipped for pastoral care. Despite what most people assume, most clergy do not get a great deal of formal training in pastoral care. This became clear to me when I was in college and thinking about my own major.

I knew that after graduation, I was going to seminary to study to become a United Methodist Minister. So, I began to ask different clergy, “what is it that you did not get in seminary that you wish you knew more about now?” Nearly every one of them said “pastoral care and counseling.”

With that knowledge, I changed my major from Biblical Studies to a basic degree in counseling called Social and Rehabilitation Services. It was an excellent decision for me. While it did not make me a therapist, it did give me the basic knowledge and skills that helped me have confidence in my pastoral conversations with others. It also helped me to know when and how to refer people to others, when their needs were greater than my time or skills could meet. Many times, my understanding of the therapeutic process helped me encourage others to take their first step to talking to a trained counselor.

The good new is that if you are congregational leader, lay or clergy, and you want to grow in your pastoral care skills, you do not need to get a counseling degree. I encourage you to explore Pastoral Care Specialist program at the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center. In this two-year, three-hour-a-month course, you will learn from clinicians, educators, and partners of the Center with special knowledge and experience on the subjects of:

  • Forgiveness
  • Whole-hearted Listening
  • Memory loss and cognitive decline
  • Suicide awareness and prevention in faith communities
  • Living with illness and chronic pain
  • The spirituality of children
  • Caring for the anxious: Being a non-anxious presence in an anxious world
  • Evil in every day life
  • Ministry with LGBTQ individuals
  • Mindful ministry
  • And more!

Class size is limited, and classes begin in September, so do not delay.

If you have questions, feel free to email me at cwaddle@mindspiritcenter.org.

Your partner in hope and healing.


For more information about the Pastoral Care Specialist program see: https://dmpcc.org/our-services/leadershipspirituallife/pastoralcarespecialist/

For more blog posts by Chris: www.dmpcc.org/Chris

On the Brink: A Group for Religious Professionals Transitioning into Retirement



Retiring from active religious and spiritual leadership evokes many emotions–dread, joy, fear, anxiety, excitement…Questions arise: “How will I find meaning and purpose?” “What is my call now?”  “How do I adapt to all of the changes that aging brings?”  “How do I share my spiritual gifts while maintaining healthy boundaries?”

Utilizing Parker Palmer’s book, “On the Brink of Everything:  Grace, Gravity and Getting Old”, clergy approaching retirement, or recently retired, will gather four times to support one another by exploring the existential challenges retirement brings.

AUDIENCE  Religious professionals including rabbis, pastors, priests, imams and others who are considering their next stage of life
DATE / TIME  Tuesdays from 1-3:30PM

  • Sept. 7, 2021
  • Oct. 5, 2021
  • Nov. 2, 2021
  • Nov. 30, 2021
COST $200 for the full series of four sessions
LOCATION  All sessions will be held virtually by Zoom

For more information please contact Mark Minear at mminear@mindspiritcenter.org

Click here for a printable flier!


Diane McClanahan, M.Div., B.S.N.

Diane McClanahan, recently retired as Director of Leadership and Spiritual Life at the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center. Her work at the Center included program development and facilitation of services for clergy and congregations including education, spiritual direction, clergy coaching, church consultation and conflict mediation.  She holds a bachelor of science degree in nursing from Duke University and a master of divinity degree from Yale Divinity School. An ordained elder in the United Methodist Church, she has served congregations in Connecticut and Iowa. Diane is enjoying retirement in Maine where she continues to offer spiritual direction to a limited number of people.

Mark Minear, Ph.D.

Mark MinearMark Minear is a licensed psychologist. He is also a recorded minister with the Religious Society of Friends (Quaker). His education includes an M.A. in church history from the Earlham School of Religion and a Ph.D. in counseling psychology from Ball State University. Now in his 10th year at the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center, he has a therapeutic niche of working with a wide range of clergy from various faith traditions across these years. His theoretical approach includes an integration of logotherapy (meaning-making), cognitive-behavioral, family systems, and mindfulness orientations. Now in the midst of his own journey into retirement, he is currently working part-time at the Center.

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.

LGBTQAI+ Affirming Counseling Class for Clinicians and Clinical Students

This course is for clinicians and pastoral counselors who seek to more effectively assess the mental health treatment needs of and provide therapy and counseling to child, adolescent and adult clients who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, asexual, agender, intersex, and/or identify with other gender nonconforming and sexual minority identities (LGBTQAI+). It will help care providers better understand the critical concepts, current research, and key clinical issues with regard to this population. This course is offered in person at the Center (8553 Urbandale Ave, Urbandale, IA; in-person class size is limited to 20.) or online, via the Zoom platform.

This course is offered in person at the Center (8553 Urbandale Ave, Urbandale, IA. In-person class size is limited to 20.) or online, via the Zoom platform.

Objectives: Understanding key clinical issues and the most appropriate, effective assessment and counseling approaches with gender nonconforming and sexual minority clients, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, asexual, agender, and intersex (LGBTQAI+) clients.

Dates: Fridays, January 3 – March 27, 2020, twelve weeks, (No class on March 20-spring break)
Time: 8:15 – 9:45 AM
Cost: $300 ($150 for clinical students, enter discount code: STUDENT)
CEUs: 18 (Certificates of attendance provided)

Register online now  (deadline to register: January 2, 2020)

Participants in this in-depth, twelve-week, 18-hour course will:

  1. gain a better understanding of the research and evolving conceptualizations of gender identity, sexual orientation, and assigned sex to better ground their work with LGBTQAI+ populations.
  2. increase their awareness and understanding of the key factors for effective assessment and treatment planning.
  3. Learn to identify and begin to confront the common biases and assumptions that often limit understanding and effectiveness in this clinical work.
  4. learn how to create a more welcoming and safe therapeutic environment for these client populations.

Participants will also learn how to address the unique challenges LGBTQAI+ clients may be confronting, including:

  • heterosexist and cisgender bias, homphobia/transphobia, and internalized homophobia/transphobia
  • impact of minority stress and trauma
  • impact of spiritual violence
  • the coming out process
  • navigating and creating intimate relationships & supportive communities
  • risks and challenges faced at different life stages (e.g., youth, elders)
  • the integrative process of identity development for LGBTQ+ people, its challenges, and resolutions.

Click image to view a printer friendly flyer.


Douglas Aupperle, Ph.D.

Doug Aupperle is a licensed psychologist. He received his B.A. in psychology from Creighton University in Omaha, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in clinical child psychology from DePaul University in Chicago.  Doug provides psychotherapy and psychological assessment/testing to children and adolescents. He has special interests in the areas of anxiety, attention disorders, Bowen Family Systems therapy, child sexual abuse, E.M.D.R. (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing), working with LGBT youth and parents, stress and coping in children, and trauma. He is a member of the EMDR International Association