Vital Sources is a Christian therapy practice where people can be heard, make sense of things, and gain clarity about life. It is a place where hope has a real chance! When clients find safety and skill with a therapist, a greater possibility exists that life may be better than before.
The Vital Sources clinical team wants to acquaint you with who we are at this time in our practice. This issue presents us in a little different way. Together we have been thinking about important matters that come up in our work or that may be asked about therapy in our community. You, our readers, may experience curiosity about them as well. Get to know our hearts. We hope you find us human, approachable, and in relationship with our Creator, God. Listen in on a round table discussion involving all of our VS therapists.
Editor: What does Vital Sources offer?
Jim: We are a team of mental health specialists who live and work in our community. As a team we are able to offer a full spectrum of services for all ages. We also are able to go deeper in that we bring the richness of seven clinicians to all of our work. We are constantly learning with and from each other. Individual, couple, family and group are our therapy modalities along with a wide spectrum of assessment services. We strive to provide the highest quality in client care by networking with physicians, members of the clergy and other professionals.
Margie: I like to think that we give our best selves to our clients. Our own growth and healing, along with a deep calling from God to this work provides a place of connection and safety for our clients.
Aaron: I have just returned to VS after three years in sunny California. Despite the cooling fall temperatures, the climate of acceptance, caring and mutual esteem makes Frederick, Maryland seem even more warm and inviting. While I grew up and still have family out west, the shared awareness of and reliance on His continued presence in our work here also helps to make this for me feel very much like a homecoming.
Editor: So the team identifies itself as a Christian practice . . . tell me about that.
Jim: The work we do comes out of a lifelong commitment, and is absolutely sacred, meeting people in moments of pain, suffering, desperation, and deep longing.
Mary Eileen: Working in a Christian practice names and honors the foundation where I meet clients, wherever they may be on their spiritual journey. Clients have every right to expect that I am clinically trained and competent. Of equal importance is that I honor the heart of Christ in the therapy process.
Pam: It’s also acknowledging the healing power that Christ brings to our work. I’m an intern with VS from Loyola’s pastoral counseling program this year and love being in a place where I can be open about my faith as clients indicate their desire for spiritual conversations and growth.
Jeeyoung: Being trained in a secular psychological background I never had the chance to integrate psychology and faith until I came to VS. We need the theories, techniques, interventions and all, but when such knowledge is proclaimed through a spiritually tuned instrument, important ‘inner world’ things begin to happen. Here at VS I feel like I have been given the freedom to express the three way relationship I have with God and my clients.
Editor: This sounds pretty intense.
Matt: It is. We also need to make clear that we love serving folk from all faith traditions. Our roles are not pastors, biblical counselors or accountability partners, even though with some Christian clients some of those components exist. We are primarily clinical counselors and psychologists. It is not fair or ethical for any of us to adopt those other roles with those who do not follow Jesus or who have no interest in spiritual discussions. What else is really meaningful to me is that my clients, my work, and the entire office are enveloped in prayer, even by our friends in the community, like those who read our newsletter.
Jim: Well put, Matt. I think about how prayer strongly supports us in this challenge of doing therapy well. It is our spiritual protection and source of internal strength for every one of our therapists, as we sit with all our clients.
Jeeyoung: Change can’t happen without an inner connection and awareness between God and me. I pray and ask God to be present with me as the therapist and with my client.
Editor: So, how does ‘change’ happen for a client who is in therapy?
Jim: After years of practice I believe more strongly today that change happens in the context of a deep and understanding relationship. As men and women created in the image of God we are fundamentally made for relationship – with the eternal God and our earthly family. In our Creator’s image we find change and healing through relationship.
Mary-Eileen: I believe change can happen when there is a willingness to suspend judgment about ourselves in order to explore new and healthier perspectives. The process of change can be very slow for some and may move more swiftly for others. The client is always in charge of the pace of change; the therapist can be the hope for change even when the client isn’t convinced of it as a possibility.
Matt: I love what M.E. just said. Change really does only happen when we are open to new experiences in our lives. It is often not enough to simply try to move away from old ways of doing things. We need to be open to what new work God wants to do in us. Then things happen.
Jeeyoung: It’s as if God hears, aches and touches the psychologically wounded through the clinician’s ear and heart.
Margie: It looks like a desire for change and the formation of the therapeutic relationship go hand in hand.
Editor: It seems like both change and relationship issues could be very painful. How do you get through such suffering with people?
Matt: Suffering and pain are a part of life, part of what shapes us. I know I learn more about myself and how to rely on God during the tough times than I do in the easier ones. A professor once described it to me as being locked in a dark cellar. My inclination is normally to yell and fight and knock as hard and loud as I can, hoping someone will let me out. However, sometimes what we need to do is explore the darkness, find what we have hiding there and find an alternative way out.
Editor: What you’re saying then, is that you as a therapist have to confront your own areas of pain and suffering, is that right?
Margie: Yes, the pain and suffering I go through in my own life informs me how to be with my clients. It goes back to what Jim said earlier about our work being ‘life long’ and ‘sacred.’ The inner work I do in my life is crucial.
Pam: From experiencing and working through my own human brokenness, I become a deeper, stronger and healthier human being. Finding my way through the pain takes me to new, healthier life chapters.
Mary Eileen: My own inner work helps me since I need to just sit with my client, hold the pain and be with her as she needs to offload it. Containing it for her for a time; being with her without taking on the responsibility of taking it away from her.
Editor: How do you see yourselves as therapists? In other words how might you visualize your work in action? A metaphor, maybe?
Matt: I love hiking the Appalachian trail; it is filled with beautiful views, long monotonous stretches, hard uphill climbs and easy riverside strolls. Life is a lot like that, filled with pain and pleasure. Being a counselor is like being a traveling companion, especially through the tough times. Someone who can come alongside and offer encouragement, point out trail markings, and even help lighten the load at times.
Mary Eileen: I have an old lantern in my office as a symbol of my work: illumination, encounter, and encouragement. As therapy unfolds through the sacred encounter between my client and me, a life story is illuminated. Bringing light provides opportunity for choices and clarity.
Aaron: I remember my mother, an amazing cook, saying the mark of a good chef is not he who follows the recipe, but rather he who can improvise so as to make something delicious with only what’s currently in the cupboard. Therapy is like that in some ways. The ‘cookbook’ therapy approaches are rarely adequate for the complexity of real people in the real world. We don’t always have ample resources and often have to make do with what we’ve got. Lastly, what we like and don’t like, much like our sense of taste, may be quite different. So, where we start, what we do, how we proceed, and when we end very much depends on the person with whom I am working.
Margie: I like to think about conducting a symphony orchestra and helping my clients find their music by writing a new score and performing it with my direction until they can play it by themselves.
Jeeyoung: Jesus has a special place in His heart for the wounded, the socially rejected or isolated, people who are weak, weary and ill. I believe God works through me – through all of us here at VS – and he uses our eyes to see, our ears to listen, our hearts to feel, and our spirits to embrace and heal. We are a paintbrush and He is the Artist. Sometimes we even get to witness the masterpiece He has created or finished through us.
Editor: In closing, what do you hope for VS and our community?
Jim: We want to continue to be a community resource for generations to come and will work towards an ongoing standard of excellence. We’d like to be your family relationship experts. As Christian men and women who strive for a high quality in relationship and healthy personal functioning, we hope that we will serve you, your children and grandchildren as the need arises. In all, we hope you will sense the love of God through Jesus in our lives.
This article is republished from our fall 2010 newsletter.