Call 315.637.0605 Rev. Heath Can Help!
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.

Serving the people of Central New York since 1978!

Latest Blog Articles

By Rev. Michael Heath

Marital Journaling: How to Improve Communications between Emotionally Reactive Couples

Marital Journaling: How to Improve Communications between Emotionally Reactive Couples

Journaling is very big.  Everyone  from therapists to staff sergeants are  recommending it.  Likewise there are all kinds of journals.  There are  food, dieting, workout , writing , prayer , dream , travel, reading, gratitude , pregnancy and  creative writing journals,  just to name a few.

Journaling is popular for  a very good reason.  It is a very helpful and effective way to clarify , organize and focus one’s thoughts as well as to ventilate and expel intense emotion which can cloud or distort  thinking.  Best of all , this age old practice can be done by anyone no matter your age , level of education or economic status.

In addition to individual journaling,  there is another type of journaling which does not get as much attention as it deserves which can be a very important tool for couples who are having trouble with communicating with each other. It is called marital journaling (MJ).  With MJ,  partners share one journal and take turns messaging and responding to one another by writing in the diary-like volume that they share.

Writing messages is useful because, rather than speaking face-to-face,  it has been found to be a less provocative way for highly reactive couples to “talk” constructively about issues which they disagree.  MJ is an effective alternative to face- to-face talking for couples who frequently argue and are frustrated because areas of disagreement go unresolved  .  Indeed, for couples whose attempts to negotiate bog down into personal attacks, taking turns composing reasonably thought out  messages in a journal can provide immediate relief which leads to greater communication and understanding between the partners .   Here’s how it works:

Marital journaling works because there is a lag time between each volley of comments. This space has two benefits:

read more
Intimate Listening: The Key to Re-Building Marital Trust After Betrayal.

Intimate Listening: The Key to Re-Building Marital Trust After Betrayal.

Certainly one of the most important qualities in a successful marriage is trust.  However, when it is broken by dishonesty or betrayal, the emotional damage is so serious that the very survival of the union is uncertain.  As a therapist, one of the most commonly asked questions by those seeking marriage or couples counseling is , “Can trust be regained ? “ and  “ Can the injuries caused by the breach ever really  heal ? “    Often, underlying these questions is a sense of hopelessness and the belief that a broken trust can never be repaired.

While the challenge of rebuilding trust is not easy or simple, forty years of experience in dealing with issues like infidelity has taught me that there is hope and that restoring a durable trust is possible if couples are able and willing to make the effort  and to make some basic changes in their relationship.

Conceptually, what is needed for trust to be regained is emotional reassurance i.e. confidence and certainty that you can count on your partner when s/he is most needed.  Betrayals like affairs or secretive financial activities are so devastating to trust because they draw into serious or complete doubt how well one knows or understands who one’s partner is.  Doubt about one’s mate shatters the sense of emotional security on which trust is built.

While this sounds good in theory, what, specifically, can couples do to rebuild confidence in one another? Here some tips that can restore needed trust:

read more
The Coronavirus Blues and Our Obsolete Notions of Retirement.

The Coronavirus Blues and Our Obsolete Notions of Retirement.

The full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic may not be known for years but, already, one of the unexpected effects that the virus has had on those who have been forced to shelter-in-place or to work from home has been to stir up anxiety about retirement.

Retirement ? Hang on. Let me explain. More than one client has expressed similar difficulties which initially involved work restrictions necessitated by coronavirus but ultimately were rooted in a deeper anxiety caused by an outdated notion of retirement.

Unfortunately, even though major progress has been made in terms of medical care and life-expectancy, our image of what modern retirement can be like lags seriously behind what it has become.

Having realistic expectations about retirement in the 21st century is crucial both to prevent dread and to make the transition successfully.

If you have been anxious thinking about retirement, here are some important facts to consider that may change your understanding of what retirement will involve. To help, here is a summary of a case which illustrates the problem.

read more
Some Thoughts about Love , Addiction and Obsession.

Some Thoughts about Love , Addiction and Obsession.

Today I want to talk about a common problem which is, unfortunately, unnecessarily experienced by many folks: being “in love” with an abusive or unloving partner. A common misunderstanding present in these kind of destructive situations is a fundamental confusion about the meaning of love, i.e. where sexual thrills or emotional dependency is mistaken for a mature caring and devotion.
In working with individuals and couples for over 40 years, I have heard the word love used in many ways. Indeed, the Greeks had difference words to capture the many shades of meaning this English word can express.
When it comes to relationships, however, I have frequently observed a confusion between eros and agape or between mania and agape. You really can’t blame folks for being confused. To be honest, American notions of love and romance are a mess. They mush together a mixture of selfish and selfless personal experiences. For example, to be in love may mean feeling a powerfully exciting sexual sensation which is aroused by the person with whom one is in love or it may mean a deep and selfless concern for the wellbeing of the person that one loves. Confusing the two can be problematic. When a person thinks that s/he is in love in a mature way but in fact is primarily attracted to a thrilling sensation, or emotionally/literally is dependent on another person, good judgment is corrupted. Here is how to understand the differences.
Modern science has revealed the neurochemical components of Eros . Eros, which is sometimes falsely

read more
The Surprising Benefits of Adding More Water to your Diet !

The Surprising Benefits of Adding More Water to your Diet !

One of the fundamental assumptions of psychotherapy is that, emotionally, we often confuse one thing for another. For example, a man has problems with his boss and then comes home and takes his anger out on his dog or his wife. That phenomenon is called displacement. Another example is when a person is feeling depressed and so they drink too much to numb the pain. That is called self-medicating the symptom. To effectively resolve hidden issues like anger or depression, the underlying problem must be identified and directly addressed. In these examples, the real issues, the conflict with one’s boss or the source of the person’s depression must be recognized and treated.
Sometimes behavioral problems are assumed to have psychological causes when, in fact, they may also stem from or at least involve medical ones. Overlooking physiological dimensions is sometimes the case with “stress” eating or having difficulties sticking to a diet to lose weight. Research has found that sometimes we confuse preliminary dehydration with feelings of hunger. Sometimes over-eating is associated with stress and anxiety when, in fact, it also is a sign that the body is saying that it needs more water. https://www.health.com/weight-loss/11-reasons-youre-always-hungry . If exclusively psychologically-focused efforts to help you stop over-eating or to lose weight have failed , you may want to consider dehydration as a complicating factor. Here is my personal story:
A while back I

read more
We Need Compassion Now More Than Ever: Four Steps to Increasing Empathy

We Need Compassion Now More Than Ever: Four Steps to Increasing Empathy

Given the heightened level of tension and polarization present in today’s world, empathy is, ironically, the thing which is most needed and in the shortest supply.
Empathy is defined as the ability to understand and care about the feelings of another. It is feeling compassion for someone else. Although neuroscience estimates that 98% of people have the neural capacity for empathy , the current level of societal anger generated by both the hardships imposed by the coronavirus crisis and racial unrest toward police reveals that many folks are not feeling or expressing it. Instead of understanding and compassion, fear and mistrust are keeping us from uniting together against the common threats of Covid-19 and racism.
Apart from the larger cultural and political unrest, empathy is a key ingredient needed in everyday life to help partners , families, friends and colleagues, to get along better and reduce conflicts. The ability to put ourselves in another person’s shoes and experience and discover how another person has many of the same hopes and fears that we do goes a long way towards overcoming mistrust and hostility. Here are four simple steps to help you improve your understanding of and increase your caring about others:

read more
For more articles, visit our Blog archive.

Individual Counseling

Depression

Anxiety

Obsessions / Compulsions 

PTSD 

Grieving & Loss

Spiritual Confusion

Loss of Faith

Stress Management

Anger Management

Poor Self Esteem

Assertiveness

Anger Management

Pornography/Alcohol / Substance Abuse

Couples Counseling

Realistic Expectations

Conflict Resolution

Poor Communication

Sex

Infidelity

Recovery from Affairs

Lack of Desire

Sexless Marriage 

Pornography

Sexual Abuse

Lack of Desire

Separation / Divorce

Parenting Issues

In-law/Family Problems

Blog & Video Archives

Click here for my recent and past Mental Health postings.