Call or text (315) 380-1005 Rev. Heath Can Help!

For your convenience and safety, all counseling is provided via Tele-therapy.

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:

  • SEX / NO SEX

Telehealth Counseling

New York’s State of Emergency Ended as of June 24th 2021

As a result, all insurance co-pays, co-shares and deductibles for behavioral health services, which were previously suspended under the State of Emergency, will be reinstated. Please consult your insurance carrier for the details of your policy.

Despite this change, due to the increasing risk of the Delta variant, all counselling sessions will continue to be conducted via tele-therapy until further notice.

Latest Blog Articles

By Rev. Michael Heath

What ? Sex Toys ?

What ? Sex Toys ?

Sex toys ? Why would a pastoral counselor want to talk about sex toys ?  Perhaps providing some context would help.
 Being Sex Positive
An important theme throughout my career has been to allay the false guilt and shame engendered by religion and our sexist culture. My goal has been, and continues to be, to promote positive attitudes about sex.  That is, as young folks say, to be sex-positive.
Religious and Cultural Bias

First, it needs to be understood that being sex-positive flies in the face of thousands of years of religious and cultural bias.

To be sex-positive, one must feel free to have sex just for its pleasure.  While this view may seem obvious, for many, it’s not.  For many, especially older folks, enjoying sex is complicated. A cloud hangs over the notion that sex can be enjoyed just for fun.  Hedonistic enjoyment is suspect and guilt ridden.  That’s because religion has often portrayed sex in a quasi-sacred way that confusingly combines erotic experience with the spiritual mystery of procreation. 

Indeed, traditional religious beliefs have negatively influenced our culture’s attitudes toward sex.  Condemning normal practices like masturbation as sinful has created unnecessary guilt and shame for older generations. masturbation | Pastoral Counseling Syracuse NY (

Pernicious Myths Ignore Single People and Older Adults

The indisputable fact is that conservative Christianity is and always has been uncomfortable with sex. (See St. Augustine) It sees it primarily as the means for procreation. (See Thomas Acquinas) In doing so it refuses to acknowledge the legitimacy of sex simply for pleasure or outside of the bonds of marriage.

As a result, the church’s outlook toward sex ignores and fails all single folks and seniors who are beyond child-bearing years.  Further, through its silence, the church implicitly promotes false notions about sex and aging.

For example: we are led to believe that sexual interest wanes with age and becomes less and less important the older you get. In fact, barring serious medical limitations, interest and enjoyment of sex is a lifelong entitlement which actually can increase over the years.

That said, aging does change certain things about the way folks can have sex. The loss of flexibility or increased discomfort may require that some things be done differently.  Unfortunately, this general discomfort with sex prevents many couples from even talking about sex much less exploring new, more adaptive and exciting sexual possibilities.

What about Sex Toys ?

All of this brings us to sex toys and a recent article in Slate online.

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Marital Mindfulness

Marital Mindfulness

You may know that the term mindfulness is very popular among psychologists, therapists and the self-help crowd.  However, you may not have realized that marital mindfulness is important for improving initmate relations.   

Certainly, the institutions of marriage and family have undergone dramatic changes over the past decades.  And it is true that the divorce rate has consistently dropped as the average age of those marry has risen.

Indeed, being older and more mature helps couples to negotiate the challenges of a partnership. Millennials Are Causing the U.S. Divorce Rate to Plummet – Bloomberg That said, over the past 50 years, other cultural shifts have made sustaining marriage more difficult, now than in the past.  

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The horror of the Uvalde massacre has shocked our nation and left us shaking our heads in disbelief.  Sadly, the news is filled with many other disturbing stories like Ukraine and inflation not to mention the endless threat of COVID. Because of the sheer volume of news, other  important but smaller stories can go unnoticed.  One such story was a parent’s nightmare which involved a tragic teenage suicide.  Specifically,  a seventeen year old boy was the victim of on-line sextortion. To clarify, although sexting and other predatory internet practices have been around for years,  sextortion is a more dangerous scam which targets unsuspecting teenagers. ...

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Being Present

Being Present

I was recently in a seminar on polyvagal theory (Being Polyvagal: The Polyvagal Theory Explained – Windhorse Integrative Mental Health – Windhorse Integrative Mental Health ( and trauma when I was struck by how much the science which informs our understanding of psychological disorders has changed over the years.

As I look back to when I first began training in 1978, it is obvious that recent advances in neuro-biology have been extraordinary. In short, we have gone from thinking of emotional problems as originating in the brain to understanding that, in most cases, environmental trauma is the culprit.  Indeed trauma damages the brain, specifically the vagal nervous system and hippocampus.

Nonetheless, scientific progress and innovative therapeutic techniques notwithstanding, the basic goal of psychotherapy has remained the same: To help people live more rationally in the present.  Becoming Reasonable: Updating our Notions of Mental Health and Counseling. | Pastoral Counseling Syracuse NY (

Today, while the expressions of ” being present “or “living in the  present” are widely used in the media and promoted by mental health professionals, How to Live in the Moment: 35+ Tools to Be More Present ( , what it actually means to live in the present is sometimes confusing.

Basically, being present means being able to be attentive to and to be aware of our own immediate experience. When our focus is on the present, we are then able to fully engage with others.  While it sounds simple, many people have a hard time being present.  With that in mind, there are two obstacles which prevent us from being emotionally  present.

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It’s no surprise that most people want to have “good sex”.  Unfortunately, many people report that they are not having it. 

Over the years, I have found that, even among highly educated folks, much is lacking with respect to their understanding of sex and intimacy. 10 Myths About Sex That Many Adults Still Believe | HuffPost Life

Indeed, our culture is saturated with misinformation and myths which have created unrealistic notions and expectations of what good sex is or what is needed to have it. Intimate Communication: Tips for Talking to your Partner about Sex | Pastoral Counseling Syracuse NY (  Indeed, unrealistic expectations about sex are the biggest obstacle to erotic bliss.

Therefore, let’s look at some of the bad ideas about good sex and debunk them with facts and accurate information:  

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Pastoral Counseling ?

Pastoral Counseling ?

Recently I was asked to do an interview to explain what pastoral counseling is. I was glad to talk to the reporter because, over the years, I have found that many people are confused by the term.

Of course, folks know what the words pastoral and counseling mean. The problem is that, when taken together to designate a therapeutic approach, the meaning isn’t clear.

For example, ministers, rabbis and imam’s provide religious counsel for their followers. Also, non-psychologically based efforts such Christian or Bible-based counseling offer services for a fee.

Perhaps the lack of understanding stems from the fact that, when compared in size with other counseling professions like social work or psychologists, the number of pastoral counselors is relatively small.   Nonetheless, I believe that pastoral counseling brings an important perspective to psychotherapy which is particularly relevant in today’s over-stressed world.

Therefore, to really understand what pastoral counseling is, two myths about it must be debunked, i.e. that it is directive/judgmental and  that it is only for “religious” clients.  Knowing what pastoral counseling is not , we can better appreciate what it is.  Specifically, pastoral counseling has two unique and distinguishing characteristics:1) its integrative world view and 2) its training requirements.

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The Slap: Why we “lose it”

The Slap: Why we “lose it”

Actor Will Smith stunned America when he slapped comedian Chris Rock during the Oscars and both the news and social media went wild.  Reactions to the incident ran the entire gamut from praise to disgust. Some saw it as a chivalrous act. Others viewed it as a disgusting example of toxic masculinity. Still others felt is was evidence of mental condition.    CNN+ | Interview Club | Interview – Why the Oscars Altercation Between Will Smith and Chris Rock Was Such a Trigger

As a therapist I help people learn to control their dysfunctional impulses,  It would be helpful to learn from this unfortunate incident and clear up some fundamental misunderstandings about anger.  This event can be an opportunity to shed light on the serious but misunderstood societal problem of poor impulse control.

With respect to Will Smith, there are no ifs, ands or buts about it. What he did was wrong and unacceptable on so many levels. In addition, the audience’s calm reaction to it all demonstrates that the problem is much greater than the act of an individual.  The whole situation is a glaring and a sad commentary about how callous and insensitive our culture has become to aggressive behavior.

To be clear, my concern, here, is neither to judge nor defend the man but to explain the psychology of impulsive behavior.  Indeed, it must  be acknowledged that. under the right circumstances, any one of us is capable of a similar reaction. Rather than seeing this as  Will Smith’s problem, it is more helpful to view it as a human problem. That is, I want to explain how impulse control issues are rooted in the fundamental structure  of our brain.  Here are a couple of basic facts which debunk some common myths about anger:

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On Feeling Overwhelmed

On Feeling Overwhelmed

Given the Ukranian situation, skyrocketing gas prices and COVID, many folks are feeling overwhelmed.  If you are one of those folks, it is important to understand that there is nothing is wrong with you for feeling over-stressed. 

Of course, feeling over-stressed is nothing new.  Indeed, human beings have always had emotional limits. Fortunately, there are many resources available online to help you cope.

To help you sort through them all, here is a summary of what you need to know about feeling overwhelmed and what to do about it:

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On Leisure & Mental Health

On Leisure & Mental Health

I try to practice what I preach.  And so, as I am currently on vacation, today’s segment is on the importance of leisure for mental health. Indeed, leisure activity does not command the respect that it deserves.

Unfortunately, for too many people, leisure’s health benefits are neither appreciated nor understood.  Too many think of vacationing time as an unnecessary luxury or, worse, as wasting time.  Think leisure is a waste? That may not bode well for your mental health — ScienceDaily

Today I want to debunk some of the myths concerning leisure and explain why leisure activity, is so essential for brain health and emotional well-being.

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