Pastoral Counseling

Take a Step Toward Health, Healing, and Hope.

John Michael Helms, D.Min., BCC

Pastoral Counselor

I have over 30 years of experience helping people find their way to a purposeful, meaningful life.  Most of the time we can manage the stress that life brings our way.  However, there are seasons in most of our lives when we feel overwhelmed!

Neither I nor members of my family have been exempted from some of life’s burdens which cause great emotional pain.  During these times, we have reached out to counselors ourselves for guidance, encouragement, and support–someone to skillfully listen to our issues and help us find our way.

I have used the same resources I am recommended to you during difficult times in my life.

Not only do I have the skills to help you because of my experience and training, but I can also empathize with you in your struggles as you seek hope, better emotional health, healing, and happier life.

Few problems are created quickly.  Few get solved quickly.  None get solved without a first step. While there may be certain things you cannot change, there is always enough you can change to become a healthier and hopeful person.

"Dr. Michael Helms is a great resource for counseling and therapy for the Northeast Georgia area. High Recommended!"

J.L.

"5-star rating. Dr. Michael Helms is an amazing person to work with. The environment is a comfortable setting that puts you at ease to share what's on your heart. He listens and responds with compassion. The connections formed helps to support my mental health journey. I would highly recommend Dr. Helms. "

S.J.

Our tendency to end up on a path to a toxic place is sometimes buried in our family of origin.  Without awareness of this and a plan to take a different path, we continue to live dysfunctional lives and we model our mistakes for the next generation to repeat.

There are other times when life throws unexpected circumstances at us and we discover that our skills for managing the stress have been overrun.  Getting to a point of admitting this and finding someone trained to listen takes some courage. However, taking this step is one of the best gifts you can ever give yourself or your family.

The path you are on may be due to uncontrollable circumstances.  You may be on a path because of choices you made, which did not turn out to be healthy. Regardless, it’s important to let someone help you find your way.

Entrust your story to me.  I will journey with you and help you.
I can meet with you in person in our beautiful office space in Gainesville.   I also have some space options in Jefferson.  Just ask me about these if you need to meet there. Zoom or phone counseling is also available and effective.

As a pastoral counselor, I use both psychological and theological resources in my assessment of a client’s issues and I listen to a client’s story using both of these disciplines to form important questions which help guide clients to think about struggles from a perspective not previously considered.

How can you find your way if you are not aware of the possible paths that are available to you?  Sometimes the answers are buried within you, but you need a guide to help you through a process of self-discovery.

Other times, you find your way by learning healthier ways to parent your children, manage stress, process grief, overcome anger, emerge from depression, resolve marital conflicts, survive divorce, admit and recover from co-dependency, tackle OCD, survive life transitions like losing a job.

Take a step toward health, healing, and hope.  Reach out and allow me to journey with you and help you find your way.

Call me at 678-326-4352 or email me at johnmichaelhelms@gmail.com.

Depression

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Most people experience days of sadness or just feeling down or blue. But these days come and go. Depression is like an 1800-pound gorilla that comes and sits on you and never seems to leave. It lingers for weeks, months, and sometimes years.

People who are depressed begin to lose hope because they cannot will themselves out of the depressed state. Nothing seems to move the needle.

Medication can help and people who are depressed should seek consultation from a physician.

Symptoms of Depression

Things that once brought pleasure no longer do. Nothing brings joy. People feel lonely and isolated. There is an expectation that the worst will happen and self-esteem plummets.

There is usually a change in appetite. Either one does not want to eat or one might eat everything in sight.

Sleep patterns may change. Sometimes a person might have trouble sleeping and other times a person might sleep all the time.

Many depressed people don’t want to be around others or engage in social functions. This contributes to their lack of attention to hygiene.

A depressed person may have trouble making decisions, concentrating, and remembering. He or she may complain about pain, headaches, and digestive issues.

In the worst of conditions, a depressed person may become suicidal.

Therapy for Depression

In addition to seeking medical attention, therapy can be helpful.

Finding someone that can listen without judgment, someone who understands the lack of motivation you are experiencing is important.

Beginning therapy and keeping appointments are important steps to healing and hope. It takes some motivation to do these things, which is not easy for a depressed person. Just keeping appointments is a positive step.

In therapy, you receive support, encouragement, empathy, and compassion. You have an advocate who skillfully listens to your struggles and your pain and helps you find your way as you slowly come out of the pit.

If you are depressed or think you might be, take the important step and call me. Taking the initiative to get starting with counseling may be the first best step you can take to finding your old self again.

Call me at 678-326-4352 or email me at johnmichaelhelms@gmail.com.

Or go to the “message me” section of this website.

I will begin the journey with you and help you find you.

Problems with Child/Teen

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There are no perfect parents and no perfect children. Every parent faces challenges in raising a child or more than one. Whether you are a single parent or married, eventually you will be faced with an issue that is perplexing, stressful, upsetting, and possibly outside of your expertise. After all, these gifts from God did not come with an instruction manual. None of us are supposed to be experts in how to solve every issue that arises in raising young children and teenagers.

Nevertheless, we are supposed to be the expert regarding our children, what they are like, their personalities, their likes, dislikes, dispositions, attitudes, health, friends, and school progress.

As parents, we are the major shapers in their lives, or at least we should be, not their teachers, coaches, friends, or social media.

When we notice that our children/teenagers are having behavioral, emotional, or mental health issues, we should not go into denial. We should not ignore the signs. Instead, we should seek help sooner rather than later.

Eliminate Biological Issues

A checkup with your pediatrician is a good first step. Eliminating any biological reasons for any changes you are noticing in your child’s behavior and/or emotions are important.

Ask other questions like, what’s going on in the environment? What’s changed? What stress is my child/teenager under?

What’s Going on in the Family System?

A bigger question is “What is going on in the family system that is causing your child/teenager to have issues?”

Seeking counseling for a child/teenager’s problems is an important decision.

Some parents treat these issues the same way they would treat physical maladies. They seek out professional counseling and ask the counselor to work with the child/teenager to help resolve the problem.

While this form of therapy can produce results, it’s not always the best approach. Sometimes a therapist can diagnose and prescribe a “fix” to the problem like a physician, but when the problem lies within the family system itself, that approach is very limited.

In either case, the child/teenager cannot get better apart from help from the family.

Family Systems Theory

There’s one thing we all have in common – we all have a family system. What does a family system look like?

In a typical family system, there are a father, mother, and children. If we gave these people symbols, the system would be something like the genogram below. There are children, the males represented by squares and the female represented by a circle. They have parents, who also have parents.

We all came from a family system and most move away and form a new family system.

When couples come together to form a new family and have children, they often discover many of the differences in the way they were parented, as they begin to parent their own children.

They discover they have different opinions on discipline, friends, education, church/morality/religion, clothing, sports, family, vacations, the Internet, phones, and the list goes on and on. This sometimes leads to conflict and it sometimes leaves children confused, especially when parents argue and gives conflicting signals about what is expected from them.

Also, the more complicated family systems become, the more confusing it is for the children involved.

For example, look at the drawing below of a family system where there has been a lot of change.

Think of life from the perspective of the half-sister. In a relatively short period, she moved into three different households. Think of the change and stress she would have experienced in that short period.

If a child/teenager has behavioral, emotional, or mental health issues, often the problem isn’t just a child/teenage issue. Parents should see the problem as a family system issue that needs family therapy.

When people call me and ask if I can help with the issue that their child or teenager is experiencing, I ask the parents if they are willing to commit to family counseling.

What that looks like is sometimes the child or the teenager is not even involved in the therapy session.

Here’s the reason. Typically, all the anxiety within a family system begins to be focused on one person in the family. That person begins to live out a role that others assign to him or her—the role of the problem child.

In therapy, parents learn to see how the family system has helped create the problem and what changes need to be made to give the child/teenager some room to grow and change.

When children and teenagers see and notice changes and differences in the ways they are being parented and loved, behavioral and emotional responses are the results.

Do you want me to journey with your family? I will teach you the four things every child must have to be healthy. We will take inventory to see what you are doing well and what areas you can improve.

We will look back at your family history and see what you have brought with you that has shaped your parenting style and then see what changes you might want or need to make.

Of course, we will spend time with your child/teenager and listen to him/her, praying that with renewed efforts that your love, care, and attention can shape and mold him/her into the productive, happy, well-adjusted person you hope them to be.

Call me at 678-326-4352 or email me at johnmichaelhelms@gmail.com.

Or go to the “message me” section of this website.

I will begin the journey with you and help you find your way.

Stress

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One day I was helping my son do a tree job. Among his many talents, he is a tree surgeon. We had a large limb overhanging a house so he tied it off to an all-terrain vehicle and asked me to keep the rope tight while he cut the limb. The idea was to pull the limb away from the house when the limb was cut.

What neither of us was expecting was the stress the job placed on the engine of the ATV. It was not built for that kind of strain and just as the job was completed, smoke began pouring from the engine. Fortunately, we quit before any lasting damage was done.

One boat engine company, which brags about how they get maximum performance without placing much stress on the engine, states that if you can keep the stress off the engine, it makes all the difference in its performance and durability.

Now let’s make the jump from engines to people. Most people can find their way when there is little or no stress in their lives. When the bills are paid, the marriage or your love life is strong, you have lots of friends, you and your family are healthy, you feel loved, you have a purpose, your dreams are coming true, you have no great existential questions that cause you to lose sleep at night, your pets greet you when you come home, you can afford a vacation or two, you have no enemies, you are at peace with the world—ah, that engine just purrs like a kitten.

Is there such a life?

There are seasons when our stress levels are very, very, low. There might be many of them.

When the Stress Ratchets Up

But sooner or later we hook our lives up to a problem or a problem hooks itself to us even though we didn’t go looking for it and we realize our pulling gear is more like an ATV than a three-quarter-ton pickup with a four-wheel drive.

When “smoke” starts billowing we get scared. We realize we might not be equipped to deal with the crises at hand.

What do we do?

Some people live in denial. They hope the problem will go away. Meanwhile, they continue to live with the stress. Others allow the stress to cause them to manipulate the situation. To lower the stress, some people become codependent.

A co-dependent sacrifices one’s own needs and sacrifices for another person, but in the process enables that person’s addictive behavior to continue as they attempt to control or fix it. Doing so avoids confronting the person about their addiction and is a way to cope or manage the stress.

Unfortunately, this kind of behavior slowly places more and more stress on the codependent person, the relationship, and allows the addictive person to become more addicted to the drug of choice.

Like engines, we all operate (live) under stress. To live is to encounter stress. On any given day, most of us encounter some kind of stressful situation. Most of us manage most of the stress that comes our way on most days.

But there are times, days, and seasons with the stressors life comes at us like a hailstorm and we feel as though we’ve been caught out in the open with no protection.

How Stress Affects the Body

When this happens, stress affects us physically. Stress can make us physically sick. People feel stress in different parts of their bodies. Some get headaches. Many have issues with the intestinal tract and suffer from diarrhea, constipation, or nausea.

Stress can cause panic attacks and lead to chest pains and even heart issues.

Stress lowers the immune system which makes it easier for us to catch colds and infections.

Couples under stress have less sexual intimacy because there is less desire and ability in some cases.

High amounts of stress can lead to insomnia, which leads to low energy. A lack of sleep is a gateway to other health-related issues.

People under high amounts of stress have problems concentration. They worry. They have problems focusing and their judgment is not as sharp. People that are under a lot of stress don’t always perform at their best.

How Stress Affects Our Emotions

Emotionally, people under high amounts of stress can be edgy. They can easily develop a negative attitude about the future. They find it difficult to relax. Sometimes high amounts of stress affect how we see ourselves and our future. It can lead to depressions. and begin to

Because it’s not always easy to see how things might change, people with high stress sometimes look for ways to cope or escape the stress, even when the choices may not be good ones.

How Stress Affects Our Choices

These temporary escapes are often detrimental to a person’s health or their relationships with family or friends. The escapes have to be repeated over and over to continue to escape the stress which is the way addictive behavior is born. Drugs, porn, food, shopping, and sex, have been used as unhealthy ways people deal with stress.

If you have read this far, you might be a person who has a lot of stress in your life. You may or may not be able to do anything about the stressors, but to find your way, there may be things you can learn and do that will help you manage the stress you have.

As a Pastoral Counselor, I can journey with you to identify the stress you have. I can help you take inventory of the ways you have been trying to manage your stress to this point that has not worked and help you choose more healthy paths that will. Eventually, you will find your way to paths that will be lighter and freer.

The goal is to become like that engine company that bragged about getting maximum performance without placing much stress on the engine.

You can learn how to reduce some of your stress and learn how to change how you manage the stress that you now have. This can begin a difference in our lives.

Call me at 678-326-4352 or email me at johnmichaelhelms@gmail.com.

Or go to the “message me” section of this website.

I will begin the journey with you and help you find your way.

Relationships

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Premarital Counseling

I am certified in Prepare/Enrich which is a premarital inventory that allows couples to independently answer questions about their relationships. The base score is not designed to predict the success rate of the marriage but to give couples an idea of where they have agreement or disagreement on these ten topics: financial management, partner style and habits, affection and sexuality, religion, family and friends, leisure activities, parenting, communication, conflict resolution, and relationship roles.

The four-session is designed to help couples talk about issues they might not have discussed and take a deeper dive into areas of their relationship that need attention while also affirming the strengths of the relationship and the reasons they were drawn to each other in the beginning.

Many times, premarital counseling is the first time either person has ever been introduced to a counseling setting. It gives the couple the understanding that counseling is a positive experience, one designed to help people find their way. After couples emerge stronger and happier, they should be encouraged to seek counseling in the future if needed.

If you are considering marriage, the best time for premarital counseling is four to six months before the wedding. However, any time is better than no time.

Marriage Counseling

At what stage should you seek counseling for the problems in your marriage?

What if your vehicle were making some strange noises? At what stage would you seek the advice of a mechanic—sooner or later?

By the time some people come and see me, the back wheel has run off and the transmission has fallen out of the marriage. The question for me then becomes, “Will you help us end this?” It could have been, “Will you help us fix this?”

Should You Come Alone?

And what if he/she will not come with me?

It’s better if both parties are committed but there is still a lot of good that can occur if even one of you is willing to seek counseling. We cannot be happy as a couple if we do not feel peace and whole as an individual. So even if your spouse will not come with you, I encourage you to begin to find your way.

Family Relationships (Children/Parents/In-Laws/Ex-Spouse)

Some of the most intense pain people suffer is the separation and estrangement within their own family.

Grudges, secrets, favoritism, lack of forgiveness, history of taking advantage of the family’s generosity, continued abuse, lack of respect, mental illness, addictions, breach of trust, and the withholding of blessings all play a role in family members becoming estranged from one another.

These issues are highlighted during family gatherings such as the holiday, reunions, weddings, funerals, and other special gatherings.

Many people learn that living apart is the answer. Out of sight, out of mind. Even then, these unresolved conflicts remain a part of one’s family system and have a way of resurfacing in one’s own family in various ways.

For some, the continued interaction with family keeps the issues stirred and the stress levels high.

For those of you who are divorced, you have discovered that “divorced” did not end the relationship if you have children together. That means you still have to make decisions together, compromise, and do things that make you angry.

Sometimes, people learn to have a cordial relationship with the ex-spouse. Other times, it seems it’s a new battle every week.

I have helped many people navigate their way through family issues.

If you want me to listen to your pain and work with you as you find your way through yours, call me at 678-326-4352 or email me at johnmichaelhelms@gmail.com.

Other Kinds of Relationships

There are many other kinds of relationships that affect our lives, people that have the potential to add value to our lives: a boss, co-worker, someone you are dating, a group of friends you socialize with, your church family are all examples.

If any of these relationships fail to make us better people and instead, cause us great harm or stress, seeking counseling to help us find our way to healing and hope is a worthy and important decision.

Call me at 678-326-4352 or email me at johnmichaelhelms@gmail.com.

Or go to the “message me” section of this website.

Anxiety

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Everyone experiences anxiety to a certain degree because it is the body’s natural reaction to stress.

As a boy, I began speaking in front of groups in 4-H Club when I was ten years old. I entered and won a lot of speaking contests. However, in doing so I also experienced a lot of anxiety.

My hands sweated, my voice quivered, and my legs shook. I felt “butterflies” in my stomach.

The first day of school always produces some separation anxiety for several children and their parents who have not been apart from one another for long periods. Some children cry and experience stomach aches. Some parents cry, too.

Some people, although talented, have performance anxiety and have trouble showcasing their talents in front of a crowd or taking an exam. Other people feel anxious about work, making an important decision, or committing to a relationship. Anxiety rises to the point that they become immobilized.

As I mentioned, everyone experiences anxiety to some degree. We temporarily worry or fret about situations and then it goes away. Most people manage their anxiety and it does not become debilitating. But for some, anxiety builds to the point of being uncontrollable and it forces them to change how they live.

Some anxiety disorders can be helped with the proper diagnosis and treatment by a physician.

While a physician treats the symptoms, in therapy we try to deal with the root of the disorder. If we can kill the root, the anxiety can be managed.

Sometimes, in therapy, you can discover the reason you feel anxious. Discovery of what triggers the anxious thoughts and feelings is important. Eliminating the triggers is good when possible.

Therapy helps people face their fears and overcome them. When you learn that you can slay giants (what makes you anxious), they no longer have power over you.

Part of the theory behind Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is to teach people new ways to think, behave, and act toward feelings of anxiety.

Therapy is a process of helping people train their minds to think in different ways. Just like lifting weights trains the muscle to lift heavier objects, CBT trains the mind to lift heavier thoughts, different thoughts, and slowly a person can lower their anxiety and calmly live in the moment.

In my counseling practice, I teach people how to use mindfulness or brief meditative practices to redirect the mind, steady the breathing process, and bring calm to one’s self.

I have seen this work with even the most skeptical people.

Once I redirected a person having a panic attack to follow my lead through a brief five-minute meditation. In the end, she was completely calm. She opened her eyes and she smiled. She thanked me and said, “I have not smiled in a long time.”

Just the relief and the calmness from five minutes of meditation made all the difference.

If you are suffering from anxiety disorders like panic attacks, PTSD, social anxiety, phobias like flying, heights, blood, certain animals, you know how much it affects your quality of life.

The anxiety places you in a kind of prison. Talk therapy is one of the keys that will help release you from this prison.

Call me at 678-326-4352 or email me at johnmichaelhelms@gmail.com.

Or go to the “message me” section of this website.

Let me begin the journey with you and help you find your way out of this prison.

Self-Esteem

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Sure, we can think too highly of ourselves but that is not the problem for most of us. The world we live in will tear us down if we allow it.

Body shaming is rampant. Bullying is real. People are caused to feel “less than” because of their skin color, language, economic status, where they live, or education level.

Children are adversely affected by divorce and think they might have caused the break-up of their parents in some way.

Many people either have or have had a critical voice in their lives telling them that they are not good enough, that they are not measuring up to the standard, without ever giving that any praise or any encouragement. After a while, that critical voice takes its toll, and people who hear it begin to develop low self-esteem.

Some people may be high achievers and appear to be successful to those around them, but privately they suffer from many different maladies.

To the world, Princess Diana was the essence of beauty and elegance. But privately she suffered from an eating disorder and longed to be loved and adored by her husband. Though loved by the world, her low self-esteem stemmed from the lack of love and attention by those she most desired it from, her family.

The critical voices that came from her husband and others within the royal family (according to the series “The Crown,”) contributed to her infidelity and instability.

While we are always responsible for our own actions, there are reasons we are who we are. Do you suffer from low self-esteem? Do you feel unloved or inadequate? Do you feel as though you don’t measure up and that your life and what you are doing with your life is letting others down?

Results of Negative Self-Esteem

Your negative sense of self-worth can turn inward and lead to many different mental health issues and can manifest itself in physical ways as well. Depression, anxiety, anorexia, use of tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs are just a few. Infidelity is also common as people turn to someone who will treat them differently.

In therapy, we look at the paths that carry people into the pit of low self-esteem. The path is different for each person. It’s important to understand, “How did I get here?”

Taking control of one’s life is about rerouting life to different paths, setting up roadblocks so you don’t travel the same old worn-out paths anymore that lead to the same dead-end feelings and outcomes.

In therapy, we take the time to find our way to new paths that lead to healing and hope. It is possible to leave low self-esteem behind, but it takes time and we have to retrain our minds and what we listen to.

Example from the Book of Joshua

In the Old Testament, the Book of Joshua is about a man who had the task of leading the people of Israel from the wilderness across the Jordan River into the Promised Land. They had been in the wilderness for 40 years. So why did Joshua think he could get the job done when Moses had not been able to succeed?

God said to him, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord you God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

When you are not strong and courageous and can you just be strong and courageous because God tells us to? When are afraid, how can we not be just because God tells us not to be? When are discouraged, how can we not be just because God tells us not to be?

The key is that the new paths we discover will be paths that we will not walk alone. We will discover that these paths will be paths where God will join us for the journey. As a pastoral counselor, I will help you discover these paths. I will help you emerge with healing and hope.

Call me at 678-326-4352 or email me at johnmichaelhelms@gmail.com.

Or go the “message me” section of this website.

Divorce Recovery

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Once I was speaking to a group and I made reference to a couple that had gone through a “dad divorce.” Afterward, a divorced man who was happily remarried but still dealing with issues with his ex-wife, “Is there any other kind?”

Divorce is difficult for everyone!

No one I know stands before family and friends and exchanges wedding vows thinking, “These vows are temporary. I don’t intend to grow old with you. I don’t intend to honor my vows. I will do as I please and when this relationship requires work and sacrifice on my part, I’m done.”

If you are reading this and you are recently divorced, I know you didn’t intend to end up in this deserted place. I know you feel betrayed, lonely, angry, embarrassed, less than, hurt, numb, stressed, exhausted, and perhaps depressed, abused, and/or manipulated. Now that things are finalized, perhaps somewhat relieved, but lost, bitter, tired, confused, anxious, and uncertain about your future.

After trust has been broken and you have experienced life as a couple, learning to live and understand yourself as a single individual again takes time.

Also, it comes a bit of a shock to some divorced people that just because they divorced does not mean the relationship with the ex-spouse is over.

When children are involved, the relationship with the ex-spouse continues. Learning how to communicate and navigate the relationship in a cordial friendly manner is not easy. The same problems with communication and conflict resolution that existed and contributed to the demise of the marriage will likely be present in the negotiations related to the raising of the children.

In divorce recovery, a person works on self-care, personal self-esteem, and understanding the importance of letting go of anger and beginning small steps toward forgiveness.

There is nothing about the other person that you can change. In divorce recovery, the focus is not on the actions and behavior of the one you were once married to, the focus remains on you, your goals, your plans, your future, and the spirit about which you live your life.

It’s about developing a positive self-image and understanding all the redeemable qualities you have because of your relationship with God and what you have to give to others.

It’s about reimagining a future and charting a new path. While this path looks drastically different than it did on the day you said wedding vows, it is still a path where you can find health and hope.

Today deep, dark clouds may be hovering over your life. While the demise of your marriage is truly a tragic event, I am here to help you find your way.

Together, we will journey until the fog clears and you begin to feel a measure of health and hope again.

Call me at 678-326-4352 or email me at johnmichaelhelms@gmail.com.

Or go to the “message me” section of this website.

I will begin the journey with you and help you find your way.

Grief

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When you hear the word “grief,” you likely think of death. Death does bring grief and the many stages associated with grief, such as shock and denial, pain and guilt, anger and bargaining, depression, an upward turn, a period of reconstruction, and acceptance and hope.

However, many times people experience grief and do not recognize it. Any time we experience significant loss, there are likely to be symptoms of grief. Grief is the emotion we experience when we lose something or someone of great significance.

Take a family that has raised two children. It’s graduation for the oldest daughter and she’s about to leave to go to college. While her parents are very happy and proud of her, they feel sad that their daughter will be leaving their home. For weeks after leaving their daughter at college, they feel somewhat sad. They are grieving.

Joan has been working as an elementary school principal for twenty years. Before that, she was a teacher. It’s two weeks before the end of school, her last year. Her retirement has been announced. While this has been anticipated and looked forward to for a couple of years, the closer she gets to the closing of school, the more anxious she becomes about leaving her job. She had been in denial about how much she would miss her work but now she realizes all she will be losing. She is also not sure what she will do next. She also feels some anger toward her husband because she thinks he pressured her to stop working before she was ready so they could travel more. She is grieving.

Lisa and Jack had only been married five years when Jack started having dizzy spells. A CT scan revealed that he had a tumor on his brain which turned out to be malignant. Suddenly, their plans to start a family were placed on hold. Jack had to take a leave of absence from his work. Surgery was scheduled. Following the surgery, Jack had chemotherapy and radiation. After nine months, Jack went into remission but it took a full year before he started feeling like he was gaining back his strength and was able to resume work full-time.

While Jack was thankful that he survived, he was also angry that the disease took away a year of his life. He lost income and opportunities to advance in the company. He lost a chance at a promotion, which went to someone else. Jack became depressed. He was angry at God but eventually found inspiration in other cancer survivors. Their stories inspired him, gave him hope, and helped him move beyond his grief to acceptance and hope.

What have you lost lately in your life? What changes have occurred in your life have caused you to grieve?

Remember, not loss is bad. Sometimes, the circumstances are good, but we still grieve the loss.

Look at the list below? Perhaps you can identify one or more areas of grief that you have experienced or may be experiencing now.

Loss of a job
End of a relationship (Your own or someone else’s)
Death of a friend, family member, or pet
Retirement
Miscarriage
Infertility
Child leaving home
Divorce (One’s Own or Divorce in the Family)
Loss of Health
Impotence
An Arrest of Self, Family Member, or Friend
Broken Relationship with Friend, Co-Worker
Marital Difficulties
Move to a New Community
Leaving an Old Job for a New One
Pregnancy
Separation from Family
Broken Trust with Someone Very Important to You
Loss of Safety
Decrease in the Quality of Your Life
Personal Injury to Yourself or Someone Close to you
Change in Schools, Churches, Social Circles
Loss of Friendships
Being Estranged from Family
Major Financial Loss

These are a few examples of grief which is a natural reaction to loss is loss. When we grieve in healthy ways, we eventually move toward renewed health and hope.

Sometimes, we need help to find our way to renewed health and hope. That’s one reason I am a Pastoral Counselor. I will come alongside you and hear your story and journey with you as you find your way.

Call me at 678-326-4352 or email me at johnmichaelhelms@gmail.com.

Or go to the “message me” section of this website.

I will begin the journey with you and help you find your way.

Addiction

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The Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Rome, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”

This is a verse of scripture that I use to describe the addictive mind.

Through my 30 plus years of walking with people through many different problems, I have helped many people with addictions. I’ve seen some that have found their way and others that have not.

In all cases, the addicted person hated what they did. They hated themselves for doing it. They hated what their addiction was doing to their families. They could not understand why they could not break the addiction and walk away.

Like a moth circling a flame, time and time again, they would be drawn back to their drug of choice, being burned each time.

I have known some that have died in the flames, whose addiction finally claimed them, despite all the efforts to save them.

The truth is, no one can save you from your addiction.

It’s the reason that the first step in a 12-Step program is to admit that you are powerless over your drug of choice and that your life has become unmanageable.

The saving power from addiction is in the surrender. You have to surrender your pride, the use of your drug, and yourself to God. Only then can you have a chance to be delivered and reconciled to others.

If you want me to journey with you to help you overcome your addictions, whatever it might be, I cannot improve on the 12-Step method. In addition to other forms of support you might need, such as a support group, and a physician, we will use the 12-Steps as a backdrop for our talk therapy. These steps have helped millions to find their way free from addiction.

The Twelve Steps
1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affair

Call me at 678-326-4352 or email me at johnmichaelhelms@gmail.com.

Or go to the “message me” section of this website.

I will begin the journey with you and help you find your way.

Anger

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Anger is a natural emotion that occurs when we feel threatened. When we feel threatened, we are going to respond in one of these ways: fight, flight, or freeze.

It is built into all of us to survive and so it is natural that when we feel threatened that our first instinct is to protect ourselves, or those we love.

The threat might not be to us physically. The threat might be to our character, property, integrity, ideas, beliefs, autonomy, safety, financial security, friends, or community.

Anger is a neutral emotion.

It’s like dynamite. Dynamite is neither good nor bad. What makes dynamite good or bad is how it’s used.

If I see injustice in my community and I’m angered enough about it to fight for change, that that’s a good thing. However, if I’m angered because I thought a cashier did not give me the correct change at Kroger and I went out and keyed her car, that’s not good at all.

If I’m a victim of road rage, that’s going to make me very angry. However, given the short-tempered violent nature of our society, just leaving (flight) might be the best course of action.

There are other times when we are threatened that we freeze. Momentarily we are just immobilized. This response is not calculated as much as it’s involuntary and we try to decide what we are going to do next.

Look at the possible scenarios.

Both people end up fighting. One wants to fight and the other is running away (flight). One wants to fight and the other just sits there and refuses to engage or say anything (freeze). One runs away (flight) while the other just refuses to engage or say anything (freeze). Both run away (flight). Both refuse to talk (freeze).

Anger Complicates Relationships

Anger complicates the relationship because, during the angry outbursts (fight), things are said that can’t be taken back. Hurtful things are said that damage the relationship.

It complicates the relationships because when one runs away, the other interprets that as “I don’t care about you or this issue.” But instead, this is just this person’s way of coping with anger.

In the same way, when a person freezes, the person that wants to fight, just gets angrier, because he/she doesn’t understand why the person will not engage in any conversation. Yet, it’s just the body’s natural response to shut down. It’s not that the person doesn’t want to resolve the issue in most cases. The person feels threatened.

What Does the Bible Say?

The Bible has a few interesting things to say about anger.

Jesus is shown to be a man who expressed anger so we know that the emotion of anger is not a sin.

One verse says this, “26 “Be angry, yet do not sin.” Do not let the sun set while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the Devil an opportunity to work.” Ephesians 4:26-27 (NIV)

The writer, the Apostle Paul, is advising us to work through our anger as soon as possible. If we don’t, it becomes an opportunity for evil to set up shop in our lives.

So, while anger can and does affect us physically, and emotionally, and relationally, ultimately unresolved anger is a spiritual issue.

Our unresolved anger may be directed toward a family member, a friend, a co-worker, an enemy, the government, the police, a group of people, an institution, a business, or even God.

When anger remains, it festers, it grows, and ultimately the one it wounds the most is the angry one.

If you are a person that is currently angry, you might have a very good reason to be angry. Your anger might be a very normal emotion given the circumstances.

Let Anger Fuel Something Positive

Can you turn your anger into something positive? Can it become fuel for righteousness?

Can you find your way to a place where the person, the event, issue no longer causes you to fight, take flight, or freeze? Instead, you choose your own emotions and you choose how you will respond to that person, event, or issue on your terms.

If anger is chronic in your life, let me walk with you and help you find your way to a better place.

Call me at 678-326-4352 or email me at johnmichaelhelms@gmail.com.

Or go to the “message me” section of this website.

I will begin the journey with you and help you find your way.

Obsessive Thoughts/Behavior

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Every day random thoughts enter our minds like traffic on a superhighway. These thoughts are private and not for anyone else to hear but us. We would all be embarrassed if we had a thought box above our heads so everyone could read the random thoughts that popped into our minds throughout the day.

Random thoughts come and go. We have little conversations with ourselves all the time. Most of us are not even conscious of it and that is what makes us normal. We can dismiss our thoughts as quickly as they come if we choose, filtering out the bad, ridiculous, and irrational ones to focus on the ones that are healthy and productive.

Sometimes there are malfunctions in our thought processes. Sometimes, instead of allowing the traffic of thoughts to pass by, we focus on one thought and begin to obsess on it. Sometimes this is triggered by a traumatic event which triggers a fearful reaction in us every time we think about it or something similar to it.

This can lead to increased anxiety, panic attacks, and/or obsessive behavior.

Example of Obsessive Thoughts

For example, during the COVID pandemic, many people have suffered and died from contracting COVID. Some people have become so fearful of contracting COVID that they have obsessed over the virus. Their obsession has led to increased anxiety and obsessive behavior.

In the beginning, the CDC believed the virus could live on surfaces and be transmitted through surface contact as well as through the air. Frequent hand-washing was encouraged.

To keep from contracting COVID, a person with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder might develop a handwashing disorder where he/she compulsively washes his/her hands 30-40 times a day.

The ritual begins with the thought of contracting COVID because they touched a surface that might be contaminated. The anxiety continues and rises until the person washes his/her hands to lower the anxiety.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is debilitating because it controls and dictates. It limits a person’s freedom. A person becomes captive to his/her thoughts and a slave to his/her behavior.

People can obsess over almost anything. There isn’t a limit to what people obsess over or the resulting behaviors that people fall captive to temporarily eliminate the anxiety.

If you suffer from compulsive thoughts or compulsive behaviors, there is a path to health and hope. You can find your way out of this fettered life.

Call me at 678-326-4352 or email me at johnmichaelhelms@gmail.com.

Or go to the “message me” section of this website.

Life Transitions

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The United States Census Bureau states that the average American will move over eleven times during his/her lifetime.

Many of these moves coincide with the transitions of life, like leaving for college, changing jobs, getting married, buying or selling a house, ending a relationship, losing a job, the loss of health, retirement, or moving to take care of family.

Look at the list below to see other examples of life’s transitions, some common to all of us.

Kinds of Transitions

Promotions to New Grades (Middle School, High School)
Puberty
Teenager Starting to Date/Drive
Teenager Leaving for College
Marriage
Arrival of Newborn
Adoption
Single Again
Retirement
Menopause
Graduation
New Job
Promotion
Start of New Business
Empty Nest
Purchase of a New House
Divorce
Mid-Life Changes
Grief/Loss
Significant Birthday/Anniversary

Transition Represents Change

While change is constant and often good, many people are averse to change because it brings its share of stress and uncertainty.

Seth Godin and former dot com business executive wrote that “Change is not a threat. It’s an opportunity. Survival is not the goal. Transformative success is.”

From where I sit as a Pastoral Counselor, I meet and talk to people every week who believe that change is a threat. That person might be you.

Inevitably change brings its share of stress. Sometimes the stress is joyful stress, like caring for a newborn. Sometimes the changes bring postpartum depression, sleepless nights, and arguments about the best way to treat colic, and whether or not grandparents are allowed to drop by unannounced to visit their new grandchild. Without good conflict resolution skills, this change can strain what was a harmonious relationship.

Change that comes from the loss of a job, a divorce, the loss of health due to the diagnosis of an illness or an accident will certainly be seen as a threat. With all due respect to Mr. Godin, many people’s first response will not be to look for the opportunity in these developments.

For many, survival does seem to be the goal.

At the Crossroads of Change and Despair

As a Pastoral Counselor, I meet people at the crossroads of change and despair. I meet people who feel that they are being overwhelmed by the decisions they are having to make. I listen to people who are struggling to manage the stress they are under from the transitions they are having to make.

As we move through our sessions together, guess what happens? What Seth Godin says does come true. There is transformation. We just get there through a different path.

Through the process, with the help of God, I watch each client find their way.

Transformation is Possible

I’m always thankful. I’m always grateful. I give God thanks that I witnessed the transformation.

Today, you might be going through one of life’s transitions. It might be a transition you chose. It might be one that was forced on you. Either way, the changes may have created more stress than you could have imagined.

If you want to turn the threat into transformation, I am here to help you find your way.

Call me at 678-326-4352 or email me at johnmichaelhelms@gmail.com.

Or go to the “message me” section of this website.

How to Make An Appointment

Make an Appointment with John Michael Helms

Send An Email

Email to johnmichaelhelms@gmail.com and request two different days and several different times that you are able to meet. I will follow up with a confirmation.

Call Me

Call 678-326-4352 and speak with me personally to schedule an appointment.  If I don’t answer leave a message requesting preferred dates and times.

Submit A Message

Use the form above to send a message from this website requesting an appointment.