Executive Director’s Blog: Transformational Love

Our mission is to walk with people through counseling and education to find hope and healing—and to live a fulfilling life.

All people.

Early on in my time at the Center, I had a conversation with an esteemed therapist who described the importance of how the healing process happens here. I was told that we’re not here to fix people, but to meet them where they are and then walk together–to accompany them as they navigate the challenges they are facing at that moment in time. We don’t diagnose what’s broken and needs to be fixed. The people we serve are God’s children, imbued with dignity, who need loving presence and care.

All people.

Another important part of our mission is to help as many people as possible regardless of their ability to pay. All our stakeholders wish we could help more as the needs are great and access to mental health services has been an ongoing crisis for too long.

One group we support in our mission includes clients working through issues of gender and sexual orientation/identity. I admire the courage they show as they work on questions of understanding, accepting and living their core, true selves despite how the world may view and treat them. Their stories of resilience in the face of fear, confusion and adversity are inspiring.

The struggles are real. I’m happy the Center and others in the healing profession can be there for those in need of expert companions, especially kids who have challenges in abundance these days. The reality of such struggles often leads to tragic outcomes. If you’re not aware of The Trevor Project, check out their website:

  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people aged 10 to 24 (Hedegaard, Curtin, & Warner, 2018) — and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth are at significantly increased risk.
  • LGBTQ youth are more than four times as likely to attempt suicide than their peers (Johns et al., 2019; Johns et al., 2020).
  • The Trevor Project estimates that more than 1.8 million LGBTQ youth (13-24) seriously consider suicide each year in the U.S. — and at least one attempts suicide every 45 seconds.
  • The Trevor Project’s 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that 45% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth.

It’s not an easy read. The numbers of this tragedy are stark.

It’s not a big leap to tie a culture of fear, bullying, and the need to separate and blame the “other” to what Pope Saint John Paul II called a “Culture of Death.” Against such hatred and injustice we are all called to struggle alongside those to whom the hatred is directed. Such support is especially true for those whose values and traditions mandate them to love their neighbors as themselves.

If you want to dig even deeper in research, give this a read:


I support these colleagues, mental health professional experts in training, science and research, who recognize how important affirming care is for the population. We are the professionals who deal in reality, not politics nor polls or faulty rhetoric. The hope is to keep the kids alive until they are old enough to sort out the questions of identity. Every day we offer hope and healing as we know that for many kids and adults, the culture offers despair so deep that the only option they can see to end the pain is to take their own lives tragically. The culture wars are not a playground.

I wish we all could enter the sacred space of the offices and the relationships our therapists share with their clients. That everyone,

All people,

Could listen to the raw stories of the harvest of what the seeds bullying, sectarianism and hatred produce. Could listen to the experience of the trauma resulting from being rejected by families, faith communities and civic leaders sworn to protect them. Could listen to the stories of other human beings who are struggling to understand themselves and what it means to be loved–the same struggles we all share.

All people.


Executive Director’s Blog: The Duty of Delight

One of my role models for how to live a good life is Dorothy Day, who died about this time of year in 1980. Her witness to solidarity with the poor is a prophetic voice that regularly reminds me of the importance of simplicity. A noteworthy phrase from her diaries is the “Duty of Delight,” which is also the title of one compilation of her journals. The striking and unique combination of words is a reminder that the habit of daily joy is a discipline, no matter the circumstance of our lives.

Another prophet puts it this way:

…everlasting joy will be on their faces; joy and gladness will go with them, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. (Isaiah 35:10)

Who, may I ask, among those who encounter this reflection, experiences “everlasting joy” in our imperfect world? Isaiah himself was writing to an audience in exile that had encountered unspeakable violence, persecution and loss. From whence the hope, the joy?

If we look around us as 2022 ends, we could find plenty of reasons to question the mental stability of those who sing “Joy to the World.” Where is the joy in Ukraine? Is delight one of the first words that comes to mind for parents who lost children to violence? Have sorrow and sighing fled the lives of families unable to pay their bills? Even the descendants of Isaiah in our community find the levels of anti-Semitism and hate crimes climbing steadily.

Dorothy Day touched despair almost daily as she worked among the poorest of the poor. She regularly considered giving up as the problems her community sought to solve never seemed to improve, let alone disappear. Perhaps she was talking to herself, as well as to each of us, as she reminded us all that taking delight in the present moment is a duty that requires discipline and hard work in the midst of community. In her words: “It is not always easy to be joyful, to keep in mind the duty of delight.”

The work we do at the Center is an opportunity to walk with people in order to develop habits that help us to experience true joy. Not a fleeting emotion such as when we have a good day, but as an abiding presence of peace. It is hard work. The problems people bring to us are real and often tragic. Healing comes in fits and starts.

Part of the healing process is found in community. The people we serve are not facing challenges alone. It might be a compassionate therapist, a staff member who helps to support the clinician in their work, a board member that seeks resources in the community to make the work possible, a donor who responds to an end-of-year solicitation to make a counseling session possible, or …

I hope we all get the point. We are in this together, doing our duty, contributing and sacrificing to make sure others know that hope and healing are possible.

I am grateful for the many duties people have taken seriously to make our mission possible, this year and for all 50 years of our history. My prayer as we conclude 2022 is that all the work inspires an enduring sense of delight.



2/11/2022 – Celebrating Black History

Jim Hayes Headshot

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

I subscribe to the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa newsletter and want to start off my thoughts by sharing a lengthy example of their recent content around Black History Month:

Black History Month is an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans. It is a time to recognize the central role of the Black community in our shared history. Also known as African American History Month, the event grew out of “Negro History Week,” created by historian Carter G. Woodson and other prominent African Americans. Every U.S. president since 1976 has recognized the month of February as Black History Month. 

Faith leaders who participate in Faithful Voices for Racial Justice, a project of Interfaith Alliance of Iowa, encourage faith communities across Iowa to explore and highlight achievements of Black Americans and Black communities. Faith communities can highlight specific examples of the successes and contributions in Iowa, our nation, faith traditions, and denominations. Ways to do that include stories in newsletters, social media, and other publications as well as sermon illustrations and readings during worship or gatherings. Also consider study options with small groups, including youth groups.

Black History Month Resources:

Becoming Beloved Community – Episcopal Diocese of Iowa

Anti-Racism Action Calendar (Disciples of Christ) 

29 ways to participate in Black History Month – United Methodist Church

African American Museum of Iowa

National Museum of African American History & Culture

African American History Month

African American Heritage – National Archives

Black History Month – History.com

Though the Center is not affiliated with any particular community of faith, I think we can participate in the Interfaith Alliance’s directive to include stories in our newsletter. I would like to celebrate a mental health colleague, Resmaa Menakem, LICSW, who authored the book, My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies (2017).

I and other colleagues here at the Center have committed to working our way through this book as one of our anti-racist Diversity, Equity and Inclusion efforts. It’s hard work as Menakem challenges the reader to go beyond theory and literally explore how racialized trauma has impacted us all. I have learned from my colleagues that trauma work often/always involves body work as the effects of trauma reside not only in our memory, but literally in our bones. It is hard work to face the pain in order to move along the path to healing. Menakem and other African American therapists and theoreticians have done groundbreaking work as they have helped others in the healing field to explore the impact of generational trauma.

Sometimes the pain of our lives is simply and scarily an inheritance.

That doesn’t mean healing is impossible, just that we need to explore the trauma of ancestors along with current behavior in order to start the hard work of healing.

I am grateful to colleagues who have taken on leadership roles in our inclusion efforts. Billie Wade volunteers her time to facilitate a book club. Dr. Kelli Hill, our clinical director, has been generous with her time as she has chaired our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee. Colleagues in that working group have helped us to organize workshops on how we can improve as an organization and in the provision of our services. A subcommittee in that group is exploring how to make our physical environment more hospitable through art and accessibility. We have become much more intentional about inviting diverse perspectives in our board recruiting and in the hiring our staff.

Our hope in these initiatives is that we will be known as a welcoming place for all people seeking high quality mental health services, especially in communities of color which have been traumatized by violence and injustice. We have much work to do.

As we commemorate Black History Month, I am grateful for the many contributions of that community who have reminded us that through hard work,  hope and healing are possible.

Jim's Signature



11/4/2021 Why Get Vaccinated?

Why Get Vaccinated?

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

Help us to help those we serve. Get vaccinated!

Covid vaccinations continue to be in the news as we work together to face the challenges of this ongoing pandemic. We understand there are many sides to this issue, but we join with other health care organizations and public health experts to enjoin all those eligible to please get vaccinated. We have been fortunate at the Center as we have been able to carry on many of our services throughout this pandemic. We have also had to endure reduced services at times when we have had to work through mitigation strategies and contact tracing when there have been positive cases in our midst. Those mitigation strategies are necessary to keep our staff and clients safe, but they also expend energy and reduce efficiency so that we’re not able to help as many people as we might otherwise. Raising vaccination numbers will help us to help those we serve.

We are joining other health care professionals in encouraging everyone eligible to get vaccinated. We thank the medical colleagues from our community for the following videos and web sites. They are universal in their encouragement to vaccinate so that we can keep people safe and get back to leading lives that flourish.

Video from McFarland Clinic


Here are web sites from other local clinics and providers::




If you’re wondering about whether you’re eligible for a booster, please refer to CDC and Iowa Department of Public Health web sites. Please know that mental health issues are among the reasons that people are eligible to receive their booster shot.


Help us to help those we serve. Get vaccinated!

Thank you!

Jim’s blog – February 2021

Black History Month and the Center

“Start where you are, with what you have. Make something of it and never be satisfied.” ― George Washington Carver


February 2021 – We are surrounded by reminders that February is Black History Month. It’s a wonderful opportunity to reflect on how communities of color have contributed to our understanding of what it means to be human so that we might maintain justice as a core value.

I begin my reflection with a favorite quote from George Washington Carver. Many know pieces of his inspirational story. I came to appreciate him and be inspired by his legacy through my many years working at Simpson College, which accepted him after his being rejected by other institutions because of the color of his skin. The above quote drives me and informs my understanding of leadership. My interpretation is that we have all received gifts from our maker and we have a responsibility to leave the world a little better than we found it.

On a micro level, what does that mean for the Center?

Our mission is to walk with people through counseling and education to find hope and healing, and to live a fulfilling life.

Note that we meet people where they are and that we walk alongside them through counseling and education as we explore together how one navigates the path to the fullness of life. There is an inherent mutuality in that exploration. It’s not as though our staff have it all together and we are kind enough to deign to help others. That feels like a whacky power dynamic. Instead, we walk together as we seek hope through a healing process that soothes the pain we all share. As our accrediting agency, the Solihten Institute, puts it, we do so as we “Respect, value, and affirm the sacred dignity of each person.”

Lots of big words in the above paragraphs. How does all that work as we commemorate Black History Month?

Looking at our world, nation and city, we recognize that there is much work to be done in order for all people to experience justice, hope, respect, dignity and healing. George Washington Carver understood that and made it his life’s work to go beyond the rhetoric and never be satisfied.

The tragic death of George Floyd in 2020 led to a seismic reaction that shook all levels of our culture. 8 minutes and 46 seconds became a symbol that cried out for us all to reflect on where we are with issues of race, what gifts are at our disposal for change, and to make something of it and never be satisfied.

The response of our staff was to set up a number of goals on how we might use our gifts to face the issues of diversity and inclusion which require our attention as an organization. Among the initiatives that have resulted from our efforts thus far:

  • We received an outstanding training from Kayla Bell-Consolver, LMHC. She helped us to explore the roots and history of racism from a trauma-centered perspective. Her insights inform the work of our therapists as they work with clients from communities of color who may have suffered from such systemic trauma.
  • Through some work with an outside consultant, Nate Harris, LISW, we began a process of exploration on the work we need to do in order to be more hospitable to communities of color at all levels of our organization.
  • An immediate reaction to the training and consultation was to set up a diversity, equity and inclusion committee to keep these issues in front of us well beyond the crisis caused by the death of Georg Floyd and so many others.
  • Billie Wade and Terri Speirs took the lead and set up a book club to help us explore the history of racism and how we might join in anti-racist efforts.
  • Diversity has become one of the central objectives for our strategy as we face the future. What this means on a concrete level is that the people we serve align with the demographics of Central Iowa. There are too few places like us that provide services to as many as we can regardless of their ability to pay. In order to achieve this goal, we also need to diversify our board and staff so that the voices of communities of color are represented at all levels of our organization, particularly when it comes to decision-making. Please refer good candidates who are passionate about mental health as we work to achieve these goals.

Gratefully, this is not just the work of the Center, it is work we all have to do. We’re grateful for partners like NAMI, who advocate for such change in the area of mental health. NAMI provides a number of resources that might be helpful to others should you like to pass them along: https://www.nami.org/Your-Journey/Identity-and-Cultural-Dimensions/Black-African-American.

We seek partnerships with other mental health organizations in order to achieve our lofty equity and inclusion goals. I am eager to have conversations with anyone who wants to walk with us in these efforts.

Black History Month reminds us that such work is impossible in isolation. It takes a community effort. As so many leaders in the Civil Right Movement remind us, this is also holy work dependent upon redemption that is beyond human effort. As another inspirational favorite of mine, Anne Lamott puts it in Traveling Mercies:

“I do not at all understand the mystery of grace — only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.”

My hope is that this month will remind us that we have much work yet to do as we explore the path to hope and healing together and that grace continues to move us to the place where all will be satisfied. Thank you for all you do to make our work possible!



more from Jim’s blog: www.dmpcc.org/Jim