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:

  • 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

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

Religious Talk in Therapy

Religious Talk in Therapy

There was a very interesting article in the Washington Post recently about how more and more therapists were opening their counseling approach to include religious beliefs and concerns. More psychotherapists are incorporating religion into their practices – The Washington Post    

As a pastoral counselor, I wish to applaud this development and make some observations that I have learned over the past forty-five years of practice. Pastoral Counseling ? | Pastoral Counseling Syracuse NY (revmichaelheath.com)

First off, it is important acknowledge and to understand why religious language has been a problem for some therapists in the past.   Even though cultural sensitivity and inclusiveness has increased toward race, gender and sexuality, spirituality has been neglected.  One reason stems from the fact that American culture is predominantly secular.  For example, in contrast to the ancient Europe,  Americans build sports stadia and skyscrapers, not cathedrals. Statistically, fewer people now worship than ever before in America (less than 50%).

Another contributing factor to psychotherapy’s awkwardness towards spirituality is psychology’s open hostility to religion. For example, Freud skeptically referred to it as “mass hysteria”. 

Not surprisingly, therapists tend to be less religious than the general population. Many openly acknowledge feeling awkward when encountering clients who espouse a faith or employ religious language when explaining their concerns.
Psychology’s antipathy to religion is not a secret. Not surprisingly, many clients report feeling self-conscious about their faith and sometimes are reluctant to speak of their spiritual concerns in therapy for fear of appearing “religious”. 

All of this notwithstanding, it is important that clients and therapists, alike, understand that neither needs to be uncomfortable when discussing matters of spiritual or religious content. It is my belief that much of the tension between psychology and religion stems from a fundamental confusion about their roles.   

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WHY DO MEN CHEAT ?

WHY DO MEN CHEAT ?

Why do men cheat ?

I suppose, to be fair, that one should ask why do people cheat. That said, statistics show that, after the age of 25, men do tend to be more unfaithful to their spouses than women.   And, as we age, the disparity increases.  After age 60, the percentage of women’s extra-marital activity begins to decline while men’s continues to increase until age 70.

Gender differences aside, the real question is: Why is it so difficult for people to be faithful to one another in marriage ?  While the question is complicated, there are some things that we do know. 

First. there is no one reason that people have affairs.  Some folks have a trauma-based sexual compulsion. Others, use sexual conquests to calm anxiety issues, similar to the way some use alcohol, drugs, gambling etc. Still others have affairs out of sheer boredom or lack of meaning in their lives or relationship.

Apart from these general distinctions, there is a myth which confuses our understanding of affairs. Many folks believe that sex is the prime reason people cheat. While the thrill of new sexual experience is a part of the attraction of affairs, research shows that that sex is not the primary motivation.  Why do People Cheat Even When in Happy Relationships? (simplepractice.com) Let me explain why:

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False Guilt and Shame

False Guilt and Shame

Psychologists write a lot about guilt and shame. Shame vs. Guilt – Brené Brown (brenebrown.com) False guilt and trauma induced shame are two of the most emotionally destructive experiences felt by clients and challenging for therapists to treat. 

Despite their notoriety, folks often confuse their meaning. Guilt-Tripping and Emotional Manipulation | Pastoral Counseling Syracuse NY (revmichaelheath.com)  For example, it is common for people to use the terms interchangeably.  In fact, their meanings are quite different. 

Today, we’ll highlight the differences between guilt and shame and suggest ways to deal with and reduce their impact.

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WHAT IS LOVE ?

WHAT IS LOVE ?

Has there ever been a word more written about than love ?  

Everyone seeks it. Most folks think they know what it is. But, ironically, couples often worry about if they are loved or if they are able to love .

Over the centuries, no one has improved on what St. Paul had to say about love in I Corinthians 13.4-7 (rsv) :

”  Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; 5 it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

St. Paul is clear about what love (agape) is in relation to a friend or neighbor. However, when love is understood in the context of marriage, it is a little more complicated.  The intimacy of a committed adult relationship adds the elements of sexual passion and desire.  Navigating and balancing concerns for one’s beloved and for oneself own can be challenging and confusing. Is It Love or Chemistry? Tips for knowing when real love comes along. | Pastoral Counseling Syracuse NY (revmichaelheath.com) To make matters even worse for couples , many of the romantic myths, found in popular literature and media, have created unrealistic expectations about relationships which distort many folks’ understanding of love. Here is an approach that can help us to sort it all out . 

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Stigma and Depression

Stigma and Depression

There is good news for those who worry about the stigma associated with mental health.

The amount of stigma surrounding counseling is much less than it used to be.  When I first started counseling in the late 70s, some men would not schedule appointments during daylight hours for fear of being seen going to a counselor’s office.

Although attitudes have improved, many people still view getting help with emotional problems as embarrassing or even shameful. In large part, this discomfort is due to certain lingering myths about mental health. Common myths created misunderstandings about psychological disorders and their treatment. Here are some common notions which are misleading and or false:

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988 IS NOW OPEN !

988 IS NOW OPEN !

Have you heard about 988 ? This national service begins today (July 16th 2022) !

In the wake of so many unsettling events, the need for increased mental health services has never been greater. To this end, access to the national mental health hot-line has been simplified to a new 988 number,

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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 (revmichaelheath.com)

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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PARENTS BEWARE: SEXTORTION

PARENTS BEWARE: SEXTORTION

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.  https://us.cnn.com/2022/05/20/us/ryan-last-suicide-sextortion-california/index.html?fbclid=IwAR04tYREBDYV-58DN7TwWvcg2mpuQYXw_1tAVdyTJzw9peSuQaCcIDlE5nI 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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For more recent and past Mental Health postings, visit our Blog archive.