All posts in Counselor’s Corner

The Man I Could’ve Been

The Man I Could’ve Been

I heard a wonderful testimony a while back about how God had redeemed a life from such deep brokenness, hatred, and criminal activity, that it was hard to believe the individual giving the testimony could ever have been the same person. In comparison, I’m almost embarrassed by the ‘blandness’ of my 12 year old conversion.

Have you ever experienced that? Having listened to such a powerful, life-transforming experience, you feel very shallow in comparison for not having experienced something so dramatic?

Colossians 1:13 & 14 says, “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

It’s interesting to note from Colossians that we were all enemies of God in our mind and behavior (v. 21) before being saved, but notice what it says in the above verse. “He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness…”

I don’t have a deep and tragic backstory to my own depravity. But I am reminded here that I, like every other testimony-giver, have been rescued from Darkness. I know who I am in Christ. and part of that is knowing who I would be without Christ. When I catch glimpses of my anger or pride I recognize how much more my “darkness” could have matured with me as I aged – had Christ not saved me! So my testimony is not that I am drastically different from the 12 year old sinner I was, but that I am not the man I could have been.

Be encouraged by Grace! Celebrate the testimony that you do have – and share it with others. The value of a great testimony is not necessarily in how drastic the change in us was, but in how much we grow to love and look like Jesus no matter where we come from. We have all come out of the dark! If you haven’t yet, you can, and the Center For Human Development is here to help – no matter how simple or drastic the need. There is always hope. Live in the Light Image Bearer!




It is interesting what we allow into our homes and cars by way of video games, music, movies, language and more…isn’t it? Here is a question to think about during this reading: What is God not God of in your child’s life?

I watched a PG movie with my family the other night. I would not have given the movie a PG rating. More of an upper PG-13 rating.

What does “PG” mean anyway? According to the MPAA, a “PG” rating is described as:
PG — “Parental Guidance Suggested. Some Material May Not Be Suitable For Children”: The Rating Board applies this rating when the members believe the film contains themes or content that parents may find inappropriate for younger children. The film can contain some profanity, violence or brief nudity, but only in relatively mild intensity. A PG film should not include drug use. (

Oh, and check this out…
PG-13 — “Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some Material May Be Inappropriate For Children Under 13.” The MPAA added this rating in 1984 to denote films in which violence, profanity or sexual content is intense enough that many parents would not want to expose their younger children to the film, but not so intense as to warrant an R rating. Any movie featuring drug use will get at least a PG-13 rating. A PG-13 movie can include a single use of what the board deems a “harsher, sexually derived word,” as long as it is only used as an expletive, not in a sexual context.
“PG-13” didn’t even exist until 1984! Interesting. I always thought some “PG” movies made before the 90’s were a bit off.

So Hollywood is suggesting to me from the perspective of their solid moral foundation, how to be a good parent, and how to discern whether my kids should watch something.

(It is interesting that the original rating system was developed by a Christian minister at the request of Hollywood in order to appease the masses clamoring for protection. That system has “developed’ quite differently than it’s humble beginnings.)


But…what if my kids throw a fit (like most kids) that they don’t get to watch the movie, but “mom and dad” do!? My response? Parents have the responsibility to raise those children, no matter how old they are. A key verse that would support that thought is:

Mark 8:36 “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?”
Now apply it to parents and their kids…
What does it profit a parent to gain their kid’s ______________ (affection? popularity? fill in the blank), but to lose their child’s soul?

Yikes. That gives me shivers! I compromise in this sphere sometimes. I don’t always choose the ugly battles because I want my kids to like me, or I want them to enjoy life with friends.

I once worked alongside a church leader who allowed their son to play very violent video games including the Grand Theft Auto series (extremely violent and morally deficient game that allows the player to commit acts of violent sex, battery, and other criminal behavior) because they wanted him to “fit in” with his friends. This is a dangerous, slippery slope, and personally, I find the mixed messages of that individual’s vocation and personal choices more than difficult to balance out. Imagine the adolescent trying to balance it out. It makes me wonder if others would look at any of my life/parenting decisions the same.

I wonder how much we willfully allow, even invite, into our home conforming to cultural norms in order to (ultimately) have a false sense of peace in our home. Can we play video games, watch movies, and enjoy a great fiction book? I believe we absolutely can, but the parameters we use to discern what is acceptable or not should be more about guarding hearts and souls than it is about what everyone else is doing.

How are you doing in your home?

Tony LaMouria, Counselor, Center for Human Development


Do You Believe in Easter?

Do You Believe in Easter?

Do you believe in Easter?

Maybe I should explain that question.

The thing about Easter is that it’s really a combination of a memorial holiday for the single greatest event in human history – and a celebration of the promise, which that event secured for all of us who believe in it. Got it? A memorial of an event – and a celebration of a promise!

Easter is a joyful memorial of the triumphant resurrection of Jesus Christ following his redemptive and sacrificial death on the cross! Without Easter, Christians would have no faith! It’s because of this historical event that we are gifted with the opportunity to know our Creator’s love and purpose, both individually and as a Church.

But Easter is also about the fact that Jesus is coming back! We don’t celebrate Easter simply because our Savior rose. We celebrate Easter because we know what it means to truly hope. We know that all the crazy, unjust, broken, perverted, mangled, and complicated junk we deal with in this world is eventually going to be made right. This mess we have made is not the end. A literal new beginning will come one day, and the perfect King will be in charge of making All Things new! He didn’t stay dead! He’s alive and coming back!

No matter how bad life gets, how hopeless elections seem, how unsecure the global economy looks, Easter reminds us that something incomparably better, real and lasting is coming. How does that sound? Hope it’s encouraging, because that’s what Easter is meant to be. Sometimes it can be hard to remember that through all the daily living. If you need help, we’re here.

Do you believe in Easter?


The Big Three

The Big Three

By Lee Webster & Tony LaMouria

If you follow the news, you will have noticed a great number of commentaries lately regarding the school shooting in Florida last month. When tragedy like this strikes our communities, it is natural to try to find a “why” answer and someone or something to blame. In addition, we hear and see a barrage of opinions and well-intentioned responses flood the media. But often, the issues that surface with the most robust activity are issues that are peripheral to the heart of the matter. It’s like trying to deal with a continuous oil leak down-stream, but never going up-stream to stop the oil flow.

When crisis does hit, it is fascinating to see the immediate human responses that do address the proverbial “oil leak.” There are three constants that we turn to, the value of meaningful faith, the importance of family, and how precious life is!

God is concerned with the crises in our lives. His concern is evident in the provisions he has given us and which, if we look very closely, are always there – especially when we need them most. When we wonder how and why circumstances can happen; when we wonder where God is when it hurts so terribly, faith, family, and life always rise to the top of our purview. We can’t deny it, because it’s where we always turn.

Scripture tells us that faith is being sure of what we have hoped for and certain of what we cannot see. That doesn’t mean that we are blindly assuming “it will all work out”. It means that we know that the bigger picture we have been promised and are relying on – God’s sovereignty and goodness – will eventually right every wrong. It’s confidence in His goodness, perfection, creativeness, wisdom, and power to do what nobody can imagine experiencing or witnessing.

Working with people from every background, faith and demographic over the years, it is clear that family is not just blood relatives, but is the community of like-minded individuals that know they can be safe with, dependent on, and courageous with. I have known families (and I would consider my own) to be made up of individuals from different parents, races, and countries. It is amazing to see the beauty and power of God’s grace in His idea of “brothers”, “sisters”, “mothers”, “fathers”, and “family”.

Perhaps most significant is the commonly shared belief in the value of life. When it comes down to it, we all believe in the sanctity of life and we demonstrate it in the shared tears and pain of loss.

There is a good God over all of this. He does provide. While we cannot simply sweep away the pain or the questions, we can help each other find a few comforting answers that let us know we are not forgotten; we are not forsaken; we are not alone. How powerful to note right before Easter, that here is hope because there is a returning redeemer one day. In the meantime, let us persevere together in faith, family, and audacious resiliency of life.




In a small town near where I live, there is single blinking red traffic light.  There are many intersections in the town, but this light marks the only true crossroads in the community.  Depending on what you do at this stop light, you can experience some very different outcomes.

I have noticed that God allows crossroads along my journey.  As I consider those already in my rearview mirror, I note that at all true crossroads in my life, He has always provided the opportunity to stop.

God is not vindictive and spiteful.  He does not bring us to crossroads to get back at us for not driving right.  I believe the Bible shows that He allows crossroads to give us opportunity to pause and reflect; to consider and even to ask for direction.  Sometimes we need the crossroads to remind us that the journey is not some mindless wandering.  We need to be reminded that there is a purpose and that we need to consider the outcomes are not ultimately about what we want.  The way may be straight and narrow, but there is still a map to consult.  There is still a Map Maker who just happens to also be the Road Builder – and He loves to talk about both.

Are you at a crossroads?  Is there a blinking red light?  You are free to move, but maybe you are there so that you can take a little time to get refocused, re-grounded, or possible get out of the drivers seat.

Listen.  Don’t be afraid to wait.  Where do you go from here Image Bearer?


Victory for Today

Victory for Today

I spent several months looking forward to Christmas, and as soon as it was here, I was looking forward to New Years.  On New Year’s Eve, I was already thinking about the next big project before the ball even dropped.

The Holiday season is barely behind me and a busy Northwoods Winter is still before me.  Already, the retail stores are looking forward to Valentine’s day and in some cases, St. Patrick’s Day.

I have a tendency in my western culture to live in the moment while planning for the next.  I live on a perpetual treadmill of excited anxiousness for what’s next.  In a business sense, this is marketable wisdom; but in holistic living, it may cause anxiety as well as a plethora of other imbalances in life.

There is wisdom in planning for tomorrow, but if it keeps me from fully embracing the moment I am in – from recognizing the presence of abundant provision and grace for now – then there is something unbalanced in my enjoyment of now and my concern for tomorrow.

I wonder if we need to be reminded that life isn’t simply about preparing for, planning for, and investing in – tomorrow.  We have today.  We are not promised anything more.  Our Creator wants us to be wise about tomorrow, but not at the expense of today.

The enemy uses our insecurities and failures, the failures of others, and the circumstances of the broken world to bring us down; to cause worry and strife of all kinds.  However, the great promise of our Savior is that he is always with us.  Take a look at this promise:

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” John 14:16-17

We can be certain that the future is not going to be perfect, but as the famous minister and civil rights leader Ralph Abernathy said, “I may not know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future”.  I can live fully in this moment and focus on what I need to in this moment, allowing it to last as long as it needs to; because tomorrow is already in His hands.

Let me share one more verse with you:

Bear one anothers burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2

Sometimes, the Truth doesn’t match what we are experiencing.  That doesn’t mean the Truth isn’t real.  It means there is something wrong with our interpretation of the experience, or our application of the Truth to that experience.  That’s why we need each other.  Sometimes we need help figuring it out.  With His promise in mind and the provision of others who are able to help, we can be victorious in just living today.

Be encouraged in the reminder that you are not alone and that there are brothers and sisters in Christ all around who can help

            So, who will have victory today?  You?  Or the treadmill?




No one gets divorced because of the issue – whether it be parenting, finances, or an affair.  They get divorced because of the way they handle (or don’t handle) the issue.

The two partners heading toward divorce, might think that it is the issues they are facing that are driving them toward divorce.  In reality, it is not the issues that matter all that much, it is whether or not they are properly communicating, making necessary changes, and finding the healing necessary to move forward in a healthy relationship – in the midst of their issues and problems.

A couple dealing with those very same issues, and handling them with the proper process (communication, willingness to change, and finding healing) can strengthen their marriage and produce a closer bond after the conflict than before.

It’s not the issue that counts, it’s the process that counts.

Focus on the process.  Learn healthy conflict resolutions skills and your marriage will be “fireproof”.  You’ll be able to make it through the toughest of circumstances with the right skills.  Or stay in your old, unhealthy patterns and the lightest of breezes will blow you off course.  The choice is up to you.


What process in your life do you need to amend?

What relationship could benefit from a healthier process?

Why not start now?

Corina Helgestad imageCorina Helgestad is a professional counselor who especially likes working with teen girls in such areas as self-esteem, cutting, suicide, depression, and anxiety. She says this about her work as a counselor, “One of the best aspects of my life is helping others succeed in theirs.” To learn more about Corina, or to set up an appointment click here.


Effective Communication for Dealing with Conflict

Effective Communication for Dealing with Conflict

Before you begin, ask yourself why you feel upset – Are you truly angry because the ketchup was left on the counter? Or are you upset because you feel like you’re doing an uneven share of the housework and this is just one more piece of evidence? Take time to think about your own feelings before starting an argument.

 Discuss one issue at a time – “You shouldn’t be spending so much money without talking to me” can quickly turn into “You don’t care about our family.” Now you need to resolve two problems instead of one. Plus, when an argument starts to get off topic, it can easily become about everything a person has ever done wrong. We’ve all done a lot wrong, so this can be especially cumbersome.

Use “I” statements – When sharing a concern, begin your sentence with an “I” statement.  This technique will help you share your true feelings about the situation instead of spewing blame which will often cause defensiveness.

“I feel ____________ when you ____________ because ____________.”

Use reflective listening – Oftentimes we focus on getting our own point across rather than listening.  When reflecting, you will repeat back what someone has said to you, but in your own words.  This shows that you didn’t just hear the other person, but you are trying to understand them.  For example, you can say, “I think this is what you’re telling me, but correct me if I’m wrong.”

“I hear you saying that…”     

“It sounds like you feel…”    breakup-908714_1280

“You’re telling me that…”

Focus on the problem, not the person – When a disagreement turns to personal insults, raised voices, or mocking tones, the conversation is no longer productive. Be careful to focus on the problem without placing blame on the other person.  No put-downs, swearing, or name-calling.  Degrading language is an attempt to make your partner feel bad.

 Know when to take a time-out – When the conversation is becoming argumentative, insulting, aggressive, or is a repetitive pattern, it’s a clue for a time-out.  The person who called for the time-out is the person who will call for a time-in when he or she feels calm and relaxed enough to continue the conversation.  Spend some time doing something alone that you find relaxing.  Focus on how you can make this a more productive conversation.

Work toward a resolution – Disagreement is a normal part of a relationship. If it becomes clear that you and your partner will not agree, focus on a resolution instead. Attempt to find a compromise that benefits both individuals. Ask yourself if this disagreement really matters to your relationship and let yourself move on, if not.

IMG_0072_DawnDawn Schroeder is a professional counselor who enjoys helping people of all ages overcome life’s struggles.  She also has a special place in her heart for working with children and teenagers.  To learn more about Dawn, or to set up an appointment click here.


Responding to Difficult Events

Responding to Difficult Events

Traumatic experiences are in the headlines almost daily.  It’s hard to not see it.  Unfortunately, our kids see it too, and they don’t have the same reasoning abilities that adults do to understand, or not be overly scared about the things that happen.  How do we strike a balance between letting our kids know and shielding them from the realities of our country and the world? How do we do that for ourselves?  We have many skills in managing anxiety that may help.  They are in categories of distraction, management of physical symptoms and thinking properly about the situation.

aware-1207670_1920Distraction – this is more than just turning our eyes away from something and not thinking about it.  It helps us have a manageable “bite” of what is going on.  This might come in the form of putting down your phone or turning off the TV, it might be taking a few deep breaths, or it might just be focusing your thoughts on something else for a while.  We can still think and do something about upsetting events even if we don’t constantly get the news, or are constantly talking about it.

Managing Physical Symptoms– when you feel your heart starting to pick up speed, or your breaths get more shallow, it’s time for some management.  You will need to consciously take deeper breaths and exhale deeply, as well.  This will help both your heart and your breathing.  The idea is this:  in order for your brain to function well, it needs oxygen.  It needs other things too, but it needs the oxygen that we take in to be able to clearly think.  The more oxygen you give it, the better it can perform for you.  The more deeply you breathe, the better opportunity you give your brain to think of other options, be able to access things you know and commit them to memory.

beautiful-day-1374424_1920Thinking Properly About the Situation – There are awful things that have happened all over the world, and we seem to get instant and constant information about it.  If you are a “news junkie” you might consider how long you have been watching/reading and see if you have learned anything new in the last few minutes.  If not, it’s time to give it a rest.  Repetition is only going to cement it into your memory.  Take a break, remember that you are safe in your own home and in your own location.  Take some time to think about what you have seen and maybe pray about the situation.

sadness-1325507_960_720Our kids need the same kind of help.  Each parent needs to manage the amount of content their children see, the things they are thinking about them and if there are any negative symptoms after having seen or heard about terrible things.  If your child develops nightmares or fears based on hearing about an event, then maybe they need to talk about it more with you.  They might not be ready to hear about these kinds of news events.  Remind your children that they are safe, remind them that you will always protect them, and remind them what we learned from Mr. Rogers – to always look for the helpers and see the good things that people are doing to make the situation better.

You will need to be available for your kids to answer other questions they may have.  Teenagers usually have some understanding based on what they are learning about the event from school, but may need some guidance in how to proceed or integrate what they know.  Elementary kids may need to do something to feel like they helped; like write a note, or draw a picture for one of the helpers.  Middle school students probably need a mix of both.  Again, it depends on your children, their maturity and the amount of exposure they have had to the event.  Families can use these kinds of situations as a time to come together and discuss what happened. Talk about the issues that the situation brings up that relate to what they are learning.  Is it about obeying the law?  Is it about accepting someone that is different? Is it about different beliefs that people have?  Use the events to start talking to your kids about important character development and behavioral implications of the tragedy around them.  Who knows, maybe your child is the next first responder or news anchor who will be the helpers in future situations.


Stephanie HamannStephanie Hamann, BS, MA, NCC, LPC – is a seasoned therapist with a particular passion for working with children and adolescents.  She has been an anchor for the Center for Human Development staff since 2004.  She reflects that “What I enjoy most about being a therapist is to see people gain new skills or understanding and move forward in life in a positive direction.”  Read more about Stephanie on her bio page, click here.