Marriage and Family Therapy as Ministry

One of the unique characteristics of Marriage and Family Therapy is its dedication to diagnosing and treating people’s problems in their relational contexts.  More traditional approaches in psychotherapy tend to focus their attention upon the individual’s problems and what he or she must do.

It is important to consider both aspects of a person’s problems and to discern how that problem functions in it’s relational context.  It is this aspect that of therapy that transcends marriages and families and touches every part of our existence, including how we relate to one another in the Lord’s church.

Sometimes, the challenges churches face are very similar to those that are being confronted by their own members within their own marriages and families.  From a systems perspective, if you help one aspect of the system, you have affected other parts of the system.  In other words, when you minister to the familys of a church’s the church benefits.  When you help churches help families you create this wonderful feedback loop around the cross of Christ that helps us all.


Mission, Vision, Purpose

Southshore Counseling, LLC is about helping people overcome obstacles, work through transitions in life and reach out for their potentialities. We work with all sizes of churches: helping them grow as healing communities for families who are hurting; helping them realize their mission, vision and purpose. There are two primary targets for Southshore Counseling, LLC: 1) hurting families in transition or difficulty and 2) churches that want to minister to them in a meaningful and productive way. Combined, these two interdependent services have the potential to strategically help churches do what they do best: share the love of Jesus Christ.

How We Help Churches Help Their People

Goals and Objectives

The preferred setting for Southshore Ministries is in churches in the metropolitan Detroit area. The leaders of these churches:

  • Wish to provide their members and community with a meaningful resource to help them in times of trouble
  • Feel overwhelmed by the unique, multi-dimensional struggles of families
  • Sense the need for more information about the resources that are available
  • Are challenged by the number of people in their churches that are struggling just to make it

The goal of Southshore Counseling, LLC is to provide brief, goal-directed counseling while extending care into churches so that the Christian community can gather around and help in a meaningful way.

Church Provisions

  1. A partnership with their leadership as families allow us to work together to lay out a plan for care and follow it through to completion;
  2. Gift-assessment tools to help their members discover their spiritual gifts;
  3. Training in listening and communication skills

Managed monitoring for those requiring extended services such as physicians, other mental health professionals, hospitals and institutions.
Working together Southshore Counseling, LLC is here to help churches maximize their potential as we all work together to help individuals grow in Christ.

A Ministry For Our Times

With layoffs, out-of-control debt, and home foreclosures, families are experiencing traumatic events that can stress even strong, healthy homes to the breaking point. The more fragile a family is, the more pressure comes to bear, the greater the need for churches to offer hope and help.

Having a professional at your church’s fingertips can be priceless: for church leaders, for the church itself, and for the hurting people who call that church home.


Workshops: Spiritual gifts, talents, passion

Genesis Groups

Recovery and Support Groups for grieving people. Groups may form around specific challenges such as death of a loved one, divorce or other necessary losses. They usually meet weekly at a mutually acceptable time and location over 8 to 12 weeks. These groups can meet in churches or other public locations to be most convenient to participants. Workshops are usually one-time events that address the human grief experience across a broad range of experiences.


The key to communication is the ability to listen with the desire to understand before being understood. This workshop is designed for leaders, marriages, parenting and other relationships. Especially in the area of conflict resolution the skills learned in this workshop can be especially helpful as they generalize to the workplace and other interpersonal relationships.

Discovering Your Gifts

Through the use of various personality assessment tools this workshop helps people find their own natural and spiritual gifts so that they can be about the works of service with the abilities God has gifted them with to build up the body of Christ. Discovering your gifts helps you learn more about yourself, more about those around you and how those with different gifts and work together to bring about the synergy that makes the whole of relationships greater than the sum of its people.

Before You Tie The Knot…

We spend so much on weddings! What might happen if a percentage of those funds were spent on the preparation for marriage? Granted, some may decide that they are not compatible; but, most will find that they have a head start for addressing the challenges and opportunities that always arise early in our married lives. Usually offered in the spring, this workshop offers a battery of personality tests and exercises that are fun and challenging as you prepare to spend your lives together.

With advanced notice various speakers take the time to address such issues as What the Bible Says, Controlling Your Finances, How to Protect Yourself and Your Home, Investing For Tomorrow Today, and many more. What a wonderful wedding gift to young couples from those who know what is ahead for them.


Member Involvement and Assimilation

Involving members in ministry is a powerful tool for assimilation of people into the body of Christ.  However, simply  involving people in ministry does not necessarily bring about the process of maturing or discipling.’  In the past I often oversimplified Paul’s observations in Ephesians 4 to mean matching up people’s talents with specific tasks or, as Paul terms it, “works of service” (Eph. 4:11-13).

To do this without an awareness of the context of the admonition within the book of Ephesians runs the risk of rendering a spiritual service into busy work.  Any given task may be a good thing to do and it may be something someone is gifted to do but that does not mean, automatically, that they are growing spiritually in the process of doing what they were gifted to do.  Context is everything.

In fact, when we consider the primary involvement passages of Romans 12:1-8, 1 Corinthians 12-13, Ephesians 4:1-16 and 1 Peter 4:7-11 they are set in a context that goes way beyond busywork as a path to spiritual maturity.  To the Roman community it was in a setting where Roman Jews were attempting to reconcile with their Gentile brothers and sisters who had filled the leadership vacuum when Claudius evicted the Jews from Rome.  In Corinth the tension was between classes in a stratified society populated by people from benefactors to slaves.

To the church in Ephesus Paul is writing within the context of understanding how we should behave after having been recipients of so great a gift as God has given to us through His Son, Jesus Christ.  To the church in Rome towards the end of the first century, Peter is challenging the Lord’s people to care for each other in times of intense persecution.

In other words, involvement in the body of Christ is more than simply taking on tasks for the sake of staying busy.  The task must be rooted in what the church is trying to do, the spiritually developmental task of the individual who is involved and the contribution the work of service makes to the body of Christ and the kingdom.

One of the most used tools today seems to be in the realm of small groups in churches and in the organic church movement.  Indeed, many of our people are looking for personal, human connections, intimacy, accountability and so much more.  But being a part of small groups just to be a part of a small group, once again, risks missing the point of the process of discipleship; i.e., hungering and thirsting for a righteousness that transforms us into the image of Christ.

This is not to diminish the value of gift assessments and small groups.  My intention is to stress the need for giving greater attention to the context in which those gifts and small groups make sense so that those points of involvement and assimilation into the body of Christ become more than glorified busywork.


Hoping To Move To The Next Level

Moving to the next level is one of those necessary realities of life.  For example, when our girls were young I told them to stop growing up because I liked them just the way they were. “Daddy,” they would say, “I can’t help it!”  Before long they were rolling their eyes when I would insist that they stop growing up.  By the time they were teenagers they would just ignore me.  I have to admit that I finally gave up.  It would seem that they were going to continue to grow up whether or not I approved of the process.

Who would ever take a job without hoping for advancement or looking forward to the next raise?  How could anyone envision laying the foundation for a house without any intention of moving to the next level by constructing walls, plumbing the bathrooms or wiring the lights?  Why would I insist on using a typewriter when I can use a computer?

Moving to the next level is just a part of the fabric of life.  In fact, anything in life that stays the same is probably either an inanimate object or dead.  Nonetheless, we often resist the forces of change, hoping to maintain.status quo for several reasons.  First, the quote “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” makes sense when things seem to be working. The problem is that it is not necessarily a logical extension that what works today will continue to work tomorrow.  Preventive or anticipatory perspectives that allow for the fact that things will change transforms the saying to “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” to “If it isn’t broken, fix it now!”
Second, visionary thinking allows a person or organization to strategically orchestrate change rather than to be orchestrated by it.    Holding fast to core values, why not choose to use them to guide the change process rather than to react to it?  The old saying “An ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure” make great sense from this perspective and is very wise.Churches often go through these crisis transitions in areas such as, for example, technology.  There is no doubt that our culture’s demand for technological innovation is insatiable.  To speak to the present generation a church is well-advised to seek out ways to adapt to these changes.  Yet, how many battles were fought over whether to go from the overhead projector to the video projection in churches across America?  In and of itself, technology is morally neutral, perfectly capable of being used for holy and righteous purposes or their opposite.  Churches can determine that a value they have is to maintain a measure of technological relevance in order to reach each transition that is occurring in our culture or they can choose to fight over each innovation in a serial fashion.

This reality plays out at so many levels.  You canot parent a teenager in the same way you parented them when they were in pre-school.  The needed changes can be anticipated, problems prevented and innovations introduces that will bring out the best based upon core values.  In churches, you cannot administrate a church of 2,000 in the same way you did when the church was 500.  The needed changes can be anticipated, problems prevented and innovations introduced that strengthen–as opposed to threatening–core values wisely chosen.



Between Ministers

When a church is between ministers the challenge of lining up substitute preachers every Sunday until the next minister is recruited, secured, moved and ready to go can be daunting.  The process itself can take months and even years before the right person is found for the position. Interim ministers can help churches sharpen their strategic focus to prepare the way.

In churches with a single minister this time can be very intimidating as well as rewarding as elders, deacons and members come together to fill in the blanks and cover the responsibilities of the departing minister.  Churches can thrive during these times as everyone chips in to make a difference.

Sometimes, during times of transition, it is helpful to have an experienced minister available to assist members as they cover the tasks of the previous minister and lay the groundwork for the arrival of his replacement.  Furthermore, an interim minister can address issues and points of concern that may be intimidating to the next member of the staff.  Proactive, preventive ministry by a biblical, systems-oriented marriage and family therapist can work out the transitional challenges…or at least begin the process…as the full-time minister is matched to the vision of the church.

With 30 years of continuous ministerial experience in medium-sized congregations, Steve is ready to step in and help.  To consider this as a transitional option please call Steve confidentially at 734-676-3775 or email him at



Considering Divorce

The use of the “D” word can either be a cry for help or an announcement that a decision has been made.  It either case, when the word ‘divorce’ comes up it could be time to make an appointment with a Marriage and Family Therapist who has been rigorously trained to address a broad range of problems that any marriage can face.

Marriage and family therapy may be able to help…

…if you are contemplating divorce;

…if you are in the midst of the divorce process; or

…after the divorce is over.

At any point in the process marriage and family therapy can be helpful, especially when children are involved.  From communication issues to differences in childrearing practices or the trust issues of an affair, the challenges can be serious and even deadly to a marriage.  Diagnosing the problems is only the first part of the process.  The marriage and family therapist will work with everyone involved to determine the goals of therapy and to suggest options for working through them.

The key is that there are other options…

For divorce to be the only option, one or both partners have decided that they have exhausted all possible options.  Certainly, it can seem to be that way at times; but, sometimes a fresh perspective from a professional can surface new alternatives.  Furthermore, a marriage and family therapist can guide families in the change process and help them choose to repair the damage done, renew their commitments to each other and even thrive in ways never imagined before.

One of the things that sets marriage and family therapists apart is their systems approach to interpersonal relationships.  While couples are often spending time trying to blame one another, the marriage and family therapist is looking to identify the behaviors and interpersonal patterns that perpetuate problems.  This is a key to understanding and aiding individuals and families as they try to hold together in times of conflict and dissatisfaction.  Once, when we discover what those issues are and we begin to address them in a healthy, mutually respectful way, couples often decide to give it another try.

When there are no other options…

Still, if a couple decides to go forward with a divorce a marriage and family therapist can often help them through the process in a way that is more mutually beneficial. When there are children involved, they can often work to help couples develop the skills and acquire the tools to help them work together to the benefit of their kids. If this is your present challenge, the website for the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy has some helpful advice about Divorce and Children.

Paying it forward…

Before spending thousands of dollars on lawyers and mediation, why not give it one last try and spend some time giving marriage and family therapy a try? What have you got to lose? Better yet, think of what you have to gain if you work it all out!

Speak one-on-one, confidentially, with a counselor. Contact Steve at and let’s see if we can partner together to work it out.


Reaching Potential

Coaching for success in life

Reaching out for your potential.

Navigate the path ahead.

Setting Goals and counting the cost.

Clarifying your core values.

Clarifying your passions.

Clarifying training and experience.

A counselor can help you unlock your potential from within. Next is to map out where you wish to go, what you wish to accomplish and what will be required. Then comes the most challenging part of it all…

Hitting the Road

Often the hardest part of reaching your potential is putting your plan into action. Having set your goals and counted the cost based upon your core values, passions, training and experience, how do you develop an action plan and make it happen? Persistence, resilience and flexibility will be required to face the challenges ahead.

In the Bible, Jesus talked about the difference between the man who builds his house, digging deeply to establish a firm foundation versus the person who builds without planning for the storms (Luke 6:47-49).  It is one thing to build something; it is quite another thing to build it correctly.  The later approach comes about by digging deeply, using the correct materials to establish a firm foundation, and laying the groundwork for a foundation that will not be moved.  Then, and only then, does it make sense to build.

Life is much the same in that the planning and design of a life is everything.  It is never too early to start and it is never too late to begin.  The point is to start….  This is what counseling is really about.  It’s not usually that we don’t know what we need to do for ourselves.  If you can’t think of what to do you are probably surrounded by well-intentioned friends who can supply the solutions because they know all of the answers.  Many times moving forward is much more challenging than knowing what to do…..

Southshore Counseling.  There is no charge for the first session.  Why not give you potential a chance!  (734) 676-3775.


Managing Transitions in Life

Transitions Come With Life

Reality confronts our beliefs, our hopes and our dreams as we move through the stages of life. At times the changes go un-noticed and we move forward seamlessly. At other times the changes derail everything. Questions evade answers. Nothing makes sense anymore. Before it was all so clear; but, now . . . .

There are Transitions For Which We Plan

You realize that it is time for a change. You want to be proactive. It is time to act. You look at all of the options and the potential consequences of your decisions. The ‘paralysis of analysis’ leaves you listing in a sea of indecision.

This is not a time to be preached at, for people to oversimplify your challenges or to have someone stand in judgment over your ideas. This is not a time to hear someone else’s claim: “I know exactly how you feel.”

There Are Transitions For Which We Do Not Plan

There are an infinite number of possible scenarios that can change the entire course of one’s life. Sometimes the changes occur at breakneck speed. At other times the change is gradual but unstoppable. Some changes can be good for us. Some changes can be devastating. Perhaps life has dealt you a hand that has left you with limited options and seemingly insurmountable challenges.

What you need is a caring person…

  • …to hear you out.
  • …with whom to think out loud.
  • …to ask questions and explore options.

It is time…

  • …to weigh out the pros and cons.
  • …to think outside the box.
  • …to challenge assumptions
  • …to set a new course and a new beginning.

It is time to plan for the change ahead and you want to minimize your risk and anticipate the hazards. Too much is at stake this time.

In Your Time…

Take time to assess the magnitude of the transitions, time to work through the feelings, time to take stock of your resources, and time to project where you wish to go now. It’s time to calculate the costs, work out a plan and put it into action.

To do this well takes time. In addition, having someone to help you assess where you are at in the process and where you need to go next can transform an intimidating process into smaller, do-able pieces that will lead to the best possible results.

Marriage and Family Therapists are trained to help individuals and families move through a broad range of personal and interpersonal challenges. In times of transition it is important to bring everyone along, whenever possible. To do this means examining life from a variety of perspectives, looking for the points of conflict and tension and helping people transition to the next level of functioning.


Overcoming Obstacles

We believe in solution-focused, brief Marriage and Family Therapy. Solution-focused because we function best with goals and objectives that clearly define when we have completed the task.  Brief because we believe that our role is to help families overcome obstacles, move past difficulties and get on with life. Typically we are able to arrive at a treatment plan within the first three sessions.

Not all obstacles and challenges can be addressed briefly, however. The key is that the therapist works out treatment plans with the full participation of the individual, couple, family or other type of interpersonal and relational system. Sometimes it is important to maintain a working relationship over a long period of time to track progress, to clarify or re-assess goals or to tackle challenges and interpersonal issues that get us off track.

Educated and trained in the tradition of Marriage and Family Therapy, Stephen emphasizes the importance of relationships that often stand behind the challenges we face. We focus upon the interpersonal factors that are at work, helping us do well, and which ones are getting in the way of helping us obtain what we desire. For many of us, we know what needs to happen and we even know what we need to do. The rub comes when we try to do it in a way that lasts longer than a few days or a few weeks; we’re looking for long-term solutions.

These relational systems can be between couples, parents and children, families and can be expanded to relationships at church or synagogue, school, work and beyond. The key is to evaluate the system as a whole and look for innovative and creative ways to emphasize the positives, always looking for the best. At the same time, it is important to identify the things that hinder our progress and to find ways transform those into learning opportunities and impetus for change.