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Hi! I am Michael Heath and this is the Pine Ridge Pastoral Counseling Web Page. Pine Ridge is a place for folks who are looking for the best mental health care but who are turned off by large clinics or impersonal facilities.

Since 1994, Pine Ridge has offered a distinctive and more personal alternative for mental health needs while providing a comprehensive range of psychological services to help individuals, couples and families deal with a wide range of emotional, relational, crisis related, life phase and spiritual problems.

Since I am both a state Licensed Psychotherapist and a nationally Certified Pastoral Counselor, I offer a comprehensive therapeutic approach which can relate to both the psychological and spiritual dimensions of life’s difficulties .

This web site is a great place to learn about my areas of expertise and to find answers to questions you may have concerning psychotherapy, marriage counseling, couples counseling, and other counseling related issues. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, please contact me and I’ll be glad to help.

Helping the people of Central New York since 1978 with:

  • ANXIETY / DEPRESSION / OCD
  • PTSD / SEXUAL ABUSE
  • STRESS MANAGEMENT
  • OBSESSIONS / COMPULSIONS
  • LOSS AND GRIEVING
  • SPIRITUAL CONFUSION / LOSS OF FAITH
  • SHAME / GUILT / LOW SELF-ESTEEM
  • POOR COUPLE COMMUNICATION
  • ARGUMENTS / CONFLICT
  • SEX / NO SEX
  • PORNOGRAPHY / SEX ADDICTION
  • BETRAYAL / INFIDELITY
  • SEPARATION / DIVORCE
  • MONEY / KIDS / INLAWS

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Latest Blog Articles

By Rev. Michael Heath

Leave it to Beaver

Leave it to Beaver

Recently,  FETV began airing the original Leave It to Beaver television series and I couldn’t resist watching it. Leave it to Beaver | FETV   CBS first aired the series on Friday, October 4th, 1957  at 700 pm. In 1958 it switched to ABC on Thursday night. List of Leave It to Beaver episodes – Wikipedia

LTB  was my favorite TV shows when I was growing up. I suppose that was due, in part, to the fact that Jerry Mathers, (who played Theodore Cleaver, “The Beaver”) and I were the same age. I could really relate to his weekly adventures and mishaps.

The Critics

Over the years, critics panned the show for idealizing and avoiding difficult reality.  It, along with other shows like Ozzie and Harriet and The Donna Reed Show, are often cited as prime examples of the sugar-coated programming of the 1950s .

Many critics have rightly noticed that everything in the Cleaver household was just too perfect. Indeed, serious problems were never explored.  Each episode presented a neat and tidy moral lesson and a happy ending. To be fair,  the Zeitgeist of the 50s was softer than the coarser texture of today’s culture.

One wonders how  Ward and June would have faired if they were confronted with a serious medical crisis or an alcohol or infidelity problem.  Likewise, we are curious how they would have dealt with things like social media or internet porn. The SG on SM & Kids | Pastoral Counseling Syracuse NY (revmichaelheath.com)

Those differences noted, rewatching the episodes surprised me.  Despite its age, I believe the series offers important lessons for us today but not in the traditional way.

Praise for Leave it to Beaver has centered around its wholesome moral lessons, While true, I found LTB’s greater contribution was not so much in its moralizing but in the ways it used constructive communication and empathy skills to deal with everyday problems.

Despite the dramatic changes in culture and technology, I found the fundamental ways that the Cleavers talked to and treated one another amazing.  Even though I-statement training was not around until after the series had ended, they used its insights and refrained from blaming or name-calling.

I have found the shows so helpful that I have started using LTB episodes with couples and families to show what important communication and empathy concepts look like in action. Here are some examples from an episode from 1958. 

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Smartphones & Phubbing

Smartphones & Phubbing

Every new major technology disrupts the cultural and social patterns into which it emerges.  The radio and then television changed the evening routines of many households in America.  So, it is no surprise that the smartphone impacts how we interact and relate to one another.

It is not an exaggeration to say that smartphones have revolutionized many aspects of our lives and made life more convenient.  Smartphones have freed us from being tethered to a computer and have allowed us to get information anywhere or at any time.

In addition to keeping us informed, smartphones also connect us in ways unimaginable even forty years ago. Through mobile communication and social media, people stay in touch by sharing their thoughts, photos and videos,

This increased information and social interaction has created new problems for our society.  Aside from the oft-reported problems of increased misinformation, poor adolescent self-esteem and overall anxiety,  the addictive nature of smartphone use produces new problems for couples.  Smart Phones, Social Media and our Psyche: Three things to know about the technical marvel in your pocket. | Pastoral Counseling Syracuse NY (revmichaelheath.com)

The amount of time spent on smartphones has created a serious problem for many marriages. Recent studies reveal that 70% of couples complain that their partner’s smartphone use interferes with their relationship.  The term used to describe these issues is phubbing (phone/snubbing).

Phubbing is defined as the act of ignoring someone you are with and giving attention to your cell phone instead. ‘Parallel Scrolling’ In Bed With Your Partner Could Be Killing Your Relationship | HuffPost Life

Sound familiar ? Here are some questions and things to think about concerning the consequences of spending too much time on your smartphone.:

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First-Aid for Anxiety

First-Aid for Anxiety

With the stressors of inflation, cultural polarization and wars, more and more people are feeling anxious.  It seems that every day new reports are showing how anxiety levels are climbing throughout the world. The social and economic consequences of COVID-19 have resulted in more people seeking professional help to cope. In many places, the demand for counseling exceeds the availability.  Waiting times to get an appointment have grown into the months in some places. Fortunately, over the past decades, neuroscience has increased not only our understanding of how anxiety arises but also provided effective techniques for dealing with it.  I recently took a seminar on an anxiety-reducing approach, TIPP, that greatly increased my understanding of these new techniques. ** It is important to understand that these techniques are not just for therapists. They can be used to help anyone who is...

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Psychology and Easter

Psychology and Easter

Happy Easter, Everyone !

Having said that, I realize that  Easter means different things to different people.  As a child, Easter meant Easter Baskets and brightly colored eggs.  For others, it’s a celebration of Nature and the return of Spring after a long and cold winter.

For many Christians, Easter is all about the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead after dying on the cross.  It’s the cornerstone of Christianity’s belief in salvation and eternal life.

For some Christians, however, a literal interpretation of the story is a stumbling block. They believe in many of the teachings of Jesus but feel that the supernatural narrative simply defies science and logic.

In addition to supernaturalism, another the emphasis that conservative Christianity places on suffering and the necessary death of Christ creqtes a problem for many.  The notion that humans are inherently evil and deserving of eternal damnation unless a blood sacrifice is offered for their redemption is incomprehensible and does not fit with the belief in a loving God.

Blessings for those who find meaning in the traditional story. But for those who see it as an obstacle to their faith, I suggest that a literal understanding is not the only way the Easter story can inspire or have meaning. So I offer these thoughts today.

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Myth of Needing Counseling

Myth of Needing Counseling

This week marked the fourth anniversary of switching my counseling practice from in-person to tele-therapy.  This change was due to the threat posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.  Beyond changing the way counseling is delivered, COVID-19 affected mental health in a variety of ways.

Multiple studies agree that COVID raised anxiety and depression levels in America and around the world.  COVID-19 pandemic triggers a 25% increase in the prevalence of anxiety and depression worldwide (who. int)

Much of the mental distress came from supply shortages and emergency measures instituted to protect public health. As a consequence, these changes resulted in the loss of jobs and increased social isolation.

While working and learning remotely from home was necessary, the isolation created unexpected emotional and relational problems. Getting help to deal with these issues is further complicated by persistent myths about mental health counseling:

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Guilt: True and False

Guilt: True and False

Over the past few years, healthcare professionals have consistently pointed to the lack of individual self-care as a serious mental health concern.  Indeed,  many Americans suffer from a self-care deficiency. Lack of self-care reduces our resiliency and ability to cope with stress and makes us vulnerable to increased anxiety and depression. In my practice, I find that the lack of self-care is directly related to a person's experience of personal shame and guilt.  In other words, many folks feel that, because of this blight on their self-esteem, they are not deserving of or entitled to take care of themselves. Given this connection, it is important to clarify some of the common misconceptions concerning guilt and shame. Legitimate guilt The term guilt can be associated with a legal process. A defendant in a court of law is found guilty or not guilty of breaking the law. In that sense,...

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V’Day for the rest of us.

V’Day for the rest of us.

It’s Valentine’s Day.  Beyond the hearts and flowers, it’s important to understand that the day means different things to different people.   For those intoxicated by infatuation, Valentine’s Day is a celebration of love and sexual passion.  ( Actually, the thrills of infatuation are not love.  They are sensations caused by dopamine, phenylethylamine and norepinephrine.)

Many relationships are more sober. The initial chemical rush has run its course and the blush of new love has calmed down.  Their experience of Valentine’s Day can be different. Indeed, for many, Valentine’s Day can be awkward. Ironically, as the media raises expectations for romance,  for a lot of folks, the flames of passion have died down or even gone out.

Fortunately, even though passion may have waned, it can be reignited.  Valentine’s Day, then, can be an opportunity for couples to reflect on their love and talk about ways to add more sexual excitement to their relationship.

Unfortunately, many folks find talking about sex difficult, especially with their partner. To be clear, sexual communication is necessary to revive sexual interest and enjoyment. If your sexual communication needs some help, here are some tips: : Tips for Talking to your Partner about Sex | Pastoral Counseling Syracuse NY (revmichaelheath.com)

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Trending:Throupling?

Trending:Throupling?

With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, I wondered what to write about for my blog. Over the past 18 years, I’ve written all kinds of articles about love, marriage and sex. With them, I’ve helped couples rekindle the flames of passion. A Valentine’s Day Primer for Couples who want more Romance in their Marriage. | Pastoral Counseling Syracuse NY (revmichaelheath.com)

This year I wanted to do something different and write about a relationship topic that was trending on social media. Surprisingly, one item jumped out. TikTok recorded 34.5 million views on something that I had never heard of before: throupling . What Is A Throuple? The Three-Way Relationship, Explained (womenshealthmag.com)

To be clear, despite the current flurry of social media attention, the actual number of throuples is small. Those who are represent only a tiny percentage of the total number of folks who are in committed relationships, 5%. Polyamory is More Common Than You Think – Public Health Post

If the number of throuples is so small, why is it getting so much attention ?  My sense is that the image of a throuple taps into and expresses not only our curiosity for the unusual but also our forbidden erotic fantasies.  While fantasies are okay, my concern is that couples understand the pitfalls of actually getting involved in this kind of relationship.

To be clear, throuples encounter some major psychological, logistical and even legal problems. So, if anyone is curious about this arrangement, here are some things to know:

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The Depressive “Hole”

The Depressive “Hole”

Everyone knows what it’s like to feel depressed. Indeed, we commonly associate depression with sadness and tears, but there is so much more to this painful condition. DEPRESSION | Pastoral Counseling Syracuse NY (revmichaelheath.com)

When bad things happen to us, it is normal to feel depressed for a while. With time, most folks adjust and things return to normal. Others, however, get stuck and things don’t improve. Clinical depression is a condition that does not just go away.

Depressed moods don’t improve, in part, because depression is not just about how we feel. It’s also about how we perceive.

Depression distorts the way we see ourselves and our outlook on the world. A restricted view blocks our ability to see resources and options and, thus, the situation can look worse than it is.

Although it’s difficult to approximate what a depressed person experiences, the analogy of being in a deep hole comes close.  Among other things, being in a hole makes it impossible to see anything but the hole.  How depression and anxiety disorders affect our perception of reality (telepsychhealth.com)

Thus, depression prevents us from having a panoramic perspective on our life.  Worse, when we are in it, we don’t realize that our perspective is limited. Fortunately, there are ways to become aware.

If things haven’t felt right for more than a couple of weeks and you just can’t shake that feeling, here are some tips to help you know if you’re in a depressive hole and, if needed, how to get out of it:

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For more recent and past Mental Health postings, visit our Blog archive.