Call 315.637.0605 Rev. Heath Can Help!

Hi! I am Michael Heath and this is the Pine Ridge Pastoral Counseling Web Page. Pine Ridge is a place for folks who are looking for the best mental health care but who are turned off by large clinics or impersonal facilities.

Since 1994, Pine Ridge has offered a distinctive and more personal alternative for mental health needs while providing a comprehensive range of psychological services to help individuals, couples and families deal with a wide range of emotional, relational, crisis related, life phase and spiritual problems.

Since I am both a state Licensed Psychotherapist and a nationally Certified Pastoral Counselor, I offer a comprehensive therapeutic approach which can relate to both the psychological and spiritual dimensions of life’s difficulties .

This web site is a great place to learn about my areas of expertise and to find answers to questions you may have concerning psychotherapy, marriage counseling, couples counseling, and other counseling related issues. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, please contact me and I’ll be glad to help.

Serving the people of Central New York since 1978!

Latest Blog Articles

By Rev. Michael Heath

First Aid for Anxiety

Anxiety is a serious and complex problem for many people. In some cases, successful treatment requires a combination of psychotherapy and medication. For many, however, employing some basic first-aid can render significant and immediate relief.
Here are four steps which, if followed, can quickly and dramatically reduce the crippling effects of panic and anxiety attacks.

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Fear, Anger and the Difficulty of Being Vulnerable in Intimate Communication

Intimate communication is a major problem for many marriages. Partners often find it difficult to talk to each other or, that when they do, they feel that what they said is being misunderstood. Specifically, discussions which involve anger or fear are some of the most difficult.
Certainly, learning how to speak in ways which are respectful of one’s partner and are non-attacking is important. However, simply learning to use I-statements is often not enough to enable couples to be able to talk intimately and constructively about their true feelings and desires with one another.
Thus, a major obstacle to good communication, apart from the words we use when we talk, is our state of mind. More specifically, we have a natural fear and aversion to being vulnerable , i.e. emotionally undefended in front of another person.
Nonetheless, only by overcoming these fears can couples achieve truly emotionally intimate communication. Let me explain how this is possible.

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Recently, I have been writing about the impact of brain research on our understanding of psychology and its implications for psychotherapy.

In this segment, I wish to explain how the very old psychological concept of empathy has been validated by modern neuro-science studies and why it is so important for emotional healing and growth.
In brief, stress and a perception of imminent threat shift a person into survival mode which is controlled by the limbic system which disconnects him/her from his/her cortex.

Empathy, one the other hand, conveys a sense of safety, turns off the physiological alarm and allows neuro-pathways to the cortex to be re-connected. This science explains why empathy works to help folks who are experiencing great distress. So, let us look in more detail at how empathy functions …

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How Neuro-science Revolutionizes Biblical Notions of Sin

As a pastoral counselor , I am often asked about how my psychological training has influenced my Christian beliefs. While I believe that science does not conflict with my fundamental experience of faith or my belief in God, I believe that it can add to and make more comprehensible some of the more mysterious aspects of life and faith.
The notion of sin is an especially good example. You know the traditional Garden of Eden story and how humankind was seduced into sinning by the serpent. According to Genesis, human beings were a created perfection who were corrupted by the temptation of outside influences. Adam and Eve were driven out of Eden and paradise was lost.
There is, however, another way to understand the nature and origin of sin which does not rely on myth and is more congruent with modern science. If God is understood to be love, then any behavior which does not express love is not of God. Sin is the absence of God. Rather than simply blaming Adam and Eve and seeing the source of sin as stubborn disobedience, sin ( which involves disobedience) may be understood as a sense of fear and insecurity which stems from Adam and Eve’s inability to trust God. A basic understanding of brain physiology reveals the structural basis for human fear and insecurity which makes trusting so difficult.
n other words, unlike a traditional, volitional understanding of sin, a scientific view sees unloving behavior as the consequence of fear and panic blocking our capacity to love. We don’t chose sin. Sin ( selfish – irrational behavior) takes us over. Let me explain in more detail.

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The Secret of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

We all know the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and how a loving and compassionate doctor who, in trying to research the secrets of mental illness, unleashed a monster that dwelled deep within his own psyche. Modern neuroscience has gone a long way in explaining how such opposite demeanors could belong to the same person. And, rather than being a “strange case”, this seeming contradiction, (that persons could hold within themselves such opposite traits), is built in to the very structure of the normal human brain .. The key to understanding this mystery and what determines which persona is in control is found in the relationship between the limbic system and the cerebral cortex.
Without having to become an expert or get lost in the details , some basic knowledge about brain physiology can help everyone understand confusing, but less extreme, differences in our own behavior and in that of others.
Here are some clues to let you know when your rational brain is being hi-jacked and some tips to get rational brain back.

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Marriage Counseling for couples who are confused about whether to divorce or not.

Although there is less stigma associated with mental health counseling than there used to be, there are still areas of ignorance and misunderstanding. it is understandable that some people think of marriage counseling as tilted toward keeping a couple together and as being a relational repair shop. While true in many instances, that is not the only function that marriage counseling serves.
Sometimes, when marriages are in crisis, individuals and couples aren’t clear about what to do. They wonder (often without a clear understanding of their issues) if their relational problems are so severe that it’s better to just end it all. Many don’t realize that marriage counseling can be a helpful resource to:
— Assess the nature and severity of their problem.
— Explore options and help each individual to clarify ; and,
— Come to a reasoned and well thought out decision about what to do going forward.
More specifically, here are some crucial things that couples who are confused about the future of their marriage can clarify through marriage counseling :

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For more articles, visit our Blog archive.

If you’re having trouble with…

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  • Assertiveness
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Blog & Video Archives

Click here for my recent and past Mental Health postings.