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www.transitions-counseling.com :

Where Your Help Begins OnlineSM                    

About My Life & My Dream

Friends and clients often ask me how I can stand to sit and listen to people's problems all day. Like the gardener who toils, cultivates and weeds in the sun for joy of experiencing the growth and the harvest, my work as a counselor brings me great joy and gratitude to have a part in facilitating the recovery, growth, and development of human beings. Over the years, this work has greatly enriched my own life and contributed to my personal growth, as it has pushed me to face my own fears and perceived limitations. And, at times, the road has been very difficult.

Having passed its 15th anniversary, TRANSITIONS represents the fulfillment of an almost lifelong dream for me. During the Fall of 1990, upon losing my counseling job after yet another round of recession-driven cutbacks closed my agency down, I made a commitment. No more bureaucracies. (Actually, after having the Hand of the Universe yank the carpet out from under me so many times, it took a long time for me to get the message.)

The Vision

One of the potential blessings of midlife is the realization that life is too short to wait for everything to happen. I have come to realize that our society, as it presently exists, will never adequately fund human service programs and that most counseling agencies — whether public or private — will continue to exist in noisy, urban, hustle-and-bustle environments sorely lacking in privacy and the serenity of the natural surroundings that are important for counseling and inner work.

Dome - Spring, 2000

The challenge was to create an agency with a holistic approach — one that is healing both in terms of environment and more meaningful use of time and resources. By emphasizing development and recovery over pathology in this setting, people would become more empowered to discover and fulfill their own potential: personally, in relation to others, and in society.

 Years of experience and observation have taught me that both public and private mental health agencies  typically are not healthy environments for those who work in them. Distressing work pressures, office costs and other overhead for those typically urban settings are out-of-sight and "professional" competition is grueling, if not downright unethical, in the healthcare delivery battle. This battle now involves insurance companies, HMOs, PPOs, EAPs and unsavory greed-driven politics that victimize both consumer (previously referred to as client or patient) and provider (previously referred to as caregiver). These are not fun places to work.

That the simple work in my field of helping others has become "big business" is made obvious by the emergence of "big business" in almost every aspect of the healthcare professions. The sense of caring and service has been replaced by the sense of greed and competition. Many caring and competent professionals, distressed by threatened livelihoods and loss of patients and clients, have allowed themselves to be caught-up in this system. The challenging and often painful life experiences I have encountered, endured and grown through over the years have taught me that this system is not a healthy environment; not for clients and not for this caregiver. For me, the only viable option has been to take the road less traveled and offer my clients a counseling facility that represents every aspect of health and wellness that I know to share.

In our increasingly complex and dysfunctional culture, the most obvious step was to make every effort to return to simplicity. The first step had already been taken. Years ago, we had moved onto just over eight, rolling and wooded, stream bounded acres. I designed and helped build a passive-solar, semi-Earth-integrated house over the course of time. The house, outbuildings and gardens were inspired by Oriental design themes.

Though I had been occasionally seeing clients, holding small retreats and teaching classes on our land since the early eighties, the culmination of many years of various influences came together to generate a powerful spiritual realization that this setting was meant to be a place for healing — on all dimensions of human experience.

Over a period of years, when I was not seeing clients, I used the construction skills I had acquired while working myself through college. Beginning with a 24' geodesic dome kit from Canterbury Domes, I built the TRANSITIONS Human Development Sanctuary: a state-of-the-art small counseling facility in a woodland garden setting. It also features a small Reception and Media Therapy Building, built on a garden house theme. It is completely separate, to optimize privacy, yet it is adjacent to the modern office-dome -- an open, circular facility capable of multiple family therapy or small scale retreat work, as well as for working with individuals or couples.

                             Reception/Media Therapy Bldg. LEFT; Dome Office RIGHT (Fall)

A short walk across the hill from the front door of our house, this counseling facility serves as a base for providing traditional and cutting-edge counseling services to local communities, while pioneering cyber-based helping services to the Internet community. Finally, I can offer clients what they need, unencumbered — putting aside government- and business-based bureaucracies to offer direct and truly confidential services to people local and world-wide!

Inside office dome, looking East.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Fall picture of office dome.

In addition to counseling, I am able to pursue my writing and publish direct to people; without reject slips from jaded editors who return manuscripts unread because their publishing companies decide what the people will read. Most of all, living this way provides an opportunity to "walk the walk" in a hectic, out-of-control society that is out of touch with Nature and the deeper Spiritual meaning of life. Beyond my spiritual life, my family is the first priority, and our home-based office allows us more time together: to share; to work in the garden; to hike in the mountains.

The Making of a Counselor

Another question, often asked, pertains to how and why I chose to enter the profession of counseling in the first place. In the formal counseling setting, where clients are paying for our time and attention to them, we therapists have a justifiable tradition of avoiding undue personal disclosure. Traditionally, for those of us who need it, this practice has allowed us a certain kind of professional mystique. There is a kind of irony here, as we encourage our clients to open up and "take risks" and have courage to be vulnerable in relating to others, while we hide behind our professional front. This formality, originated by Freud, is said to provide an appropriate level of professional distance and credibility. (If you believe you need this professional mystique, read no further — this is about to get real. I promise not to sing, but if personal background information may be useful to you in your choice of a counselor, I'll offer some — if you want to take the time to read it.)

Those of us who have been courageous enough to share our personal stories in our published writings have helped our readers and clients significantly. Others have felt encouraged to seek help, because they see how therapist/authors have personally faced, survived and grown from life's challenges. The challenges in my life led me to this profession, and it is in this spirit that I shall share a few details in hopes of answering the question of how I have come to embrace this work of counseling. Beyond perhaps inspiring some potential clients to seek my counseling services (and possibly chase-off a few who need professional mystique), my intention is to encourage other professional care-givers to open up and show our humanity. We are all in this (thing called life) together folks! School can only take us so far. Beyond that, we have true education: Only life can teach us wisdom. In the wonderful "children's" book, The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams, the Skin Horse told the Velveteen Rabbit, about what is real:

 

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."

"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are real you don't mind being hurt."

"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

Becoming Real

My childhood was punctuated by exciting adventures and frequent moves, as my father was an Air Force Master Sergeant who took us to exotic Eastern settings and through much of the United States. We finally settled in the South, in Florida, where I finished my growing up years walking quiet beaches at night while dreaming equally of psychology and being an airplane pilot.

In high school, I was a science prodigy and a dreamer. Frustrated teachers could not reconcile my frequent State Science Fair Awards with the so-so grades generated by what then was a misunderstood attention deficit "problem". I wrote poetry on the beach and was too scared to chase the girls who were so much on my mind. I would have been called an "egghead," then; now defined as a nerd or geek. Still, as a Civil Air Patrol Cadet, I won a flight scholarship and got my pilot's license before my driver's license.

 

During my adolescence, my mother's drinking was my secret pain. Brilliantly creative and powerfully sensitive, she was prisoner in a world that still drew its gate-keepers, guards and wardens from the male gender population. Alcohol was the key which gave her permission to feel in those days. She believed an alcoholic drank his breakfast, so she never drank before five — except for weekends. She loved us children; myself, my brother and our younger sister, with total devotion and attention. But, then, there were times her drinking turned her into a different person. Even in her affliction, she sustained me.

Since I was a first-born male in our culture, she dropped her prepackaged dreams on me like a yoke, though I never doubted her love for me — for us. There were times I had to be careful about inviting friends over late. Drinking opened the floodgates of her frustration with the world. And I listened. I didn't know it then, but I wonder if I may have been the first male to embrace what became the Women's Movement. They didn't know it at first, but my daughters share the artistic and creative dreams of my mother's youth. As my wife and I live, nothing in this world will block their path.

My father sparked my spirit for adventure. Like my mother, he was a Depression child — and born into an awesomely dysfunctional family. He swore he would be the father he never had. Considering what he started with, he did quite well; though it took years for me to see through his rage and come to that appreciation. Dad bought his first computer when he was 80. It was his way of slowing down.

During their early retirement years, my parents sold or stored everything and traveled the country in a travel trailer. They began life as childhood sweethearts and they were together at Pearl Harbor the day the bombs fell. Though Dad gave her a .45 and told her to stay in the apartment, Mom went down to the hospital to help. She volunteered as an ambulance attendant and helped to ferry the wounded and dying from the Harbor front to the hospital. Though she was shattered by the experience, she rarely talked about it unless she was drinking — and then, she didn't stop. You'd think she would have inoculated me against ever going to war, but she didn't. I did learn from her that no amount of alcohol will wash away the pain of war. It was a lesson I remembered in Vietnam.

Army Aviation School was the most exciting adventure of my adolescent life. Given a desire to serve, my having no money for college at the time and facing possible draft, it was the best option. The recruiter told me plenty of jobs would be waiting for ex-Army helicopter pilots. (What a way to work through college!) With their maneuverability, helicopters are so fun to fly! About the time I neared graduation I applied for, and was granted, Army Aeromedical Evacuation training. Now, I was a pilot/medic: called a Medevac or Dustoff Pilot.

As I played on the beach with my family the day I caught the jet for Vietnam, many carefree memories of youth came back to me. No one else shared my naiveté. It was not until 20 years later that my veteran parents confided that they seriously wondered if they would ever see me again. I remember — when that old warrior shook my hand as I boarded the jet, I was completely unaware my father's knees were about to buckle underneath him. A year later, to my great surprise by then, I returned from Vietnam — at least I thought I did. It took 15 years before I began to discover parts I left behind. Without writing a book, I could not begin to describe my Vietnam experience.

In 1969, I returned from my tour in Vietnam as a helicopter ambulance pilot. It had been a crushing experience for me. The memories of countless wounded soldiers and broken babies, nightmares of the times I was shot down, the scrambled politics, and the helpless horror of the experience of war demanded a search for meaning that eventually led to my own process of counseling. Beyond witnessing the ravages of war, my eyes had been opened to dysfunctional, demoralizing processes in our society that have come to bear on all of us in the present time. Back then, I made a commitment to play my small part in helping to bring healing to all of us, one individual or one family at a time.

It took some time for me to realize how essential personal healing is in the process of becoming a competent facilitator for the healing of others. Education was a beginning. I studied Psychology at the University of Florida, graduating with High Honors, Phi Beta Kappa. But the day after I was initially turned down from graduate school there, my first wife of three years moved out and vanished from my life. In less than 24 hours I lost what was most important and meaningful in my life. There I was, sitting penniless, in an empty campus apartment I was required to vacate immediately. The first blessing was being turned down from a graduate program then. It led to my learning a lot about the meaning of commitment.

Fortunately we had no children. The second blessing was having a professor like Sidney Jourard tell me the abandonment experience would either kill me or make me strong.

I vowed it would make me strong; though I faced a year of intense grief, depression, and conscious growth-directed activity that included counseling, spiritual disciplines, karate, self-help literature and service-oriented employment. Still wracked by the experience of Vietnam, it seemed the pain of her abandonment and the way she did it would never end for me. Now, because of the growth and meaning that came out of it, the memories of that pain-filled year are among the happiest of my life.

 At the end of that year, I applied for the Counselor Education graduate school program at the University of Florida; was accepted, and went on to complete Master and Specialist (between Master and PhD) degrees in Counseling. (Note: The University of Florida Counselor Education Program was rated as the 1997 top graduate counseling program in the Nation by U.S. News & World Report. I have always felt deeply honored to be an alumnus, largely due to the brilliant and truly noble human beings who administer and teach in that program.)

During graduate school, I met the beautiful woman who has come to share the last 30 years of my life, to include birthing and raising our own pair of magnificent children. Believe me, we have had our share of life challenges over the years — more than space here would allow. There were relationship struggles; years of financial struggles beginning with our college years and beyond (and beyond the beyond); and years of struggle in dysfunctional government-funded human service systems.

Through it all, we have learned to be survivors and to appreciate how life prepares us for the next step. From working my way through college, I developed construction skills that were used in designing and building our home and office.

My aviation background led to my being able to build and fly my ultralight airplane — an unexpectedly powerful healing process in my recovery from Vietnam.

 

 

In the 80's, when my wife could not find appropriate work with her Masters in History, our little family pulled together to support her through her completing a Master of Library Science. For years now, we have been financially challenged by my choosing not to participate in the managed care (mangled care) takeover of the healthcare delivery system. But, we have the assurance we are doing the right thing. Enduring and growing through these struggles and transitions has brought us closer — to ourselves and to each other — and to the Source behind our lives.

Few clients take me to places I have not already been. To have walked the path thus far — to have found my way back on higher ground and to be able to return as a guide is a sacred honor to me. Years of working in those public human service systems did provide a good foundation of clinical experience, but private practice became the only option. Life has taught me that we cannot maintain a harmonious and functional balance while playing a role in a dysfunctional system. And so, TRANSITIONS Personal & Family Counseling Services came into being.

View inside office dome, looking Northwest.

Finally, my going into counseling and eventually forming this private agency came about as a result of a culmination of powerful spiritual experiences in my personal and professional life. In all of the life experiences described above, there has been an unceasing spiritual teaching influence from earliest childhood, initially from personal experiences as well as my Celtic, Native American and Christian heritage; then through my my studies in Eastern and esoteric traditions. During the days of my childhood, it was considered inappropriate to talk about those processes of spiritual opening that, today, have come to enhance my counseling practice as well as my personal life. Even now, to even attempt to highlight such incredible experiences in a universally understandable way in this brief document would not be possible in words. My hope and prayer is that the fruition of these experiences will be evident in my work.

Working with spiritual issues and religious/spiritual trauma is one of my specialties. However, in my counseling with clients, I am ethically responsible and inspired to work with them within the domain of their own levels of faith and spiritual experience, if they choose to do that. For those who make that choice, exploration of clients' own spiritual experience and needs is one important aspect of the counseling process.

All of us develop ultimate questions — and how we answer those questions for ourselves determines how we live our whole lives. In a culture that forces so many of us into a continuum that may run the gamut from spiritual denial through religious or spiritual abuse, a good counseling setting provides an accepting atmosphere to explore and heal these issues. Because of my own growth and spiritual development, in addition to my professional training and experience, persons who come to TRANSITIONS will find respect for, and support of, their own positive personal faith and spiritual experience.

At this stage of my many years of practice, my primary specialty has come to be helping people with spiritual issues, including victims of spiritual trauma or religious abuse.  (See SoulMentors, below.) Few realize that religious (or spiritual) abuse is the last type of abuse routinely tolerated and generally accepted in our society. Indeed, many victims of this type of abuse are not even aware of their experiences as being abuse, yet their entire lives are impacted!

 

 

 

 

 

 

        Entrance to Human Development Sanctuary (Taken from 9' elevation)

What you have just read represents an overview of my personal story and the development of TRANSITIONS Personal & Family Counseling Services. For me, writing this was the most meaningful part of my web page — I guess because it covers the real essential things that make my life and my work most meaningful to me. Because we are all more alike than we are different, I hope this has connected with you on some level where we are the same. I wish you inspiration to write your own story, taking special note of how you have survived and grown from your most difficult life experiences. And, if some process in your life is blocked, or incomplete, or apparently broken altogether, I would be honored to respond to your call for help. As a counselor — as a caretaker in the garden of humanity — I have absolute faith in your ability to recover and grow and flourish in the process of Life.

And, whether or not you contact me, I hope this web page — at least in some small way — inspires you and provides hope and support.

 

With Deepest Personal Regard,

Granville Angell, Ed.S., L.P.C., N.C.C.


UPDATE – DECEMBER, 2002 - THE PRESENT

Keeping the Dream Alive

We certainly live in interesting times! The economy has affected TRANSITIONS, as it has affected the majority of us. EAP contract work disappeared with closings of local mills.  State budget cutbacks have led to the process of disbanding area mental health programs into what are called local management entities (LMEs). This involved prior mental health center staff therapists spinning off to open their own private practices in an economy that is too fragile to support them.  It's not that there is no need for counseling and other mental health services. Considering the stresses we face today, these services are needed more than ever - but less people can afford them.

Somewhere in the process of this melee, in 2004, I got the wild and crazy idea that I could be of more service and more financially solvent if I joined the staff of the local mental health center, fulltime, while doing my private practice on the side.  Well, that was a bad decision!  Remember above, where I said such agencies were not healthy or fun places to work?  What was I thinking?!!  The center divested and privatized not long after I joined, to be taken over by corporate interests more devoted to the bottom line than client care.  I left to take on the challenge of rebuilding TRANSITIONS.

With 30 years experience in the field, I am confident that traditional ethical standards of offering privacy and service are paramount – even while developing innovative therapies and service models that meet the needs of clients during these times. I continuously look for ways to provide counseling services in ways that are more cost-effective for all concerned. Part of this has involved the decision to close the downtown Lincolnton office, while continuing to develop the Northbrook center. Not only was development and activity there having an impact on privacy and quiet for clients, but the reduction of overhead allows me to maintain affordable client fees.

Currently under way is the development of a sub practice specialty called SoulMentors, which represents a completely innovative approach for offering holistic, intuition-enhanced counseling and clinical hypnotherapy.

I continue to offer alternatives to paying for services within the not-so-confidential realm of managed care and health insurance.   I know for certain that - once they know the consequences - almost nobody wants the details of their private, personal lives to go outside the counselor’s office.

Shortly after the tragedies of September 11, 2001, I took Disaster Mental Health training with the Red Cross. The first two weeks of that December, I volunteered as a Red Cross disaster mental health worker at Ground Zero, the World Trade Center site. I also had the good fortune of working with the Red Cross after Hurricane Katrina, on the Mississippi gulf coast.

In response to the tragedies of September 11, and the issues of grief and loss/existential angst in general, I have written a book. A healing-oriented allegory in the genre of such books as Jonathan Livingston Seagull, The Little Prince, The Prophet, and Hope for the Flowers, my book, The God-Shaped Hole - A Story of Comfort for the Child In All of Us, both enchants and offers powerful inspiration to move beyond grief and loss.  On a path from natural loss and conflict to overwhelming tragedy, a child’s innocence and a grandmother’s wisdom bring answers to the ultimate questions of life. 

 

The God-Shaped Hole - A Story of Comfort for the Child In All of Us draws its inspirational power equally from universal spiritual themes and the psychology of inner-child oriented grief work. Sandwiched between an introduction and a self-help epilogue, it is a healing story involving characters coming to terms with the 9/11 tragedy by exploring the deeper questions of life.  It is relatively short, uncomplicated and powerful in the delivery of an inspirational message for people of all ages, all faiths (or no faith) and all times.  It is available online at Amazon. COM, and if it is not in stock at your local bookstore, it can be ordered. I also maintain a stock of books in my office so a book will be available if a client requests it.

 

May this year unfold to be a fulfilling and meaningful one for you – in a peaceful world.  Please call or e-mail me if I can be of service to you.  Also, if you read my book, I would appreciate having your feedback.

 

With Deepest Personal Regard, 

Granville Angell, Ed.S., L.P.C., N.C.C.             

 

 

 

If there is a universal source at the core of all human suffering, perhaps there is a universal solution . . .

An inspirational story for people of all ages and all faiths . . .


How Does This Dream Benefit You?

The Northbrook office of TRANSITIONS Personal and Family Counseling Services and SoulMentors is the Manifestation of my lifelong professional vision. Located on eight acres in a beautiful, secluded woodland garden setting, it offers you the perfect natural healing environment, including the privacy and peace to meet your counseling needs.

Out of the rat race for all of us, this setting allows a simple, sustainable, close-to-nature lifestyle allowing me to focus my energies on service: to my clients – in-person and online, and through my writing.  Because my costs are lower and sessions are longer, you can reap the benefits of receiving the most experienced help for the best price!

Local visitors to this web site: Does this web page inspire you to want to drive maybe 20  minutes into the country to see a counselor?

Or, if you live too far away, or don't feel ready for face-to-face counseling, to seek help through                Online Consultation ?

I invite your feedback!

Please feel free to Email me.

To schedule an office counseling session or a telephone consultation, please call: (704) 276-1164

Please Note:

 All sessions are BY APPOINTMENT ONLY to ensure privacy and convenience for all involved.

All text and pictures ©1996 through 2005 by Granville Angell. All rights reserved. Authorized excerpt was from The Velveteen Rabbit, By Margery Williams, published by Doubleday and Company, Inc. ISBN: 0-380-43257-9 … "must" reading for all of us!

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For a picture-poem, daughters' tribute, go to Day's End On Table Rock - 1997

TRANSITIONS/SoulMentors - 704-276-1164