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Counselor invites community support, accountability

Believing community ties can reduce family violence and help people suffering mental illness, Marian Beaumier has formed All Come Together (ACT) Ministries and Mental Health for All. The programs train faith community members to support people caught in abuse or isolated by mental illness.

In this individualistic culture, Marian said that people want to keep family violence or mental illness private, but the privacy can hinder healing.

Marian Beaumier
Marian Beaumier

“Experiencing community accountability and support—belonging and being cared for—promotes healing,” she said.”  At times, a person needs more than a me-and-my-therapist approach.”

Marian, who opened her counseling practice in August in Barry House at St. Joseph Family Center, 1016 N. Superior, knows individual therapy has a role in individual insight about trauma, in coping skills and in treating mental health issues.

She knows there’s more to healing than individual introspection and reflection.  People also need to realize they belong to communities of people who care about them enough to acknowledge their struggles and growth, and affirm them as they journey to greater maturity and wisdom, she said. 
 
“We need to care about each other in community, build bonds and establish healthy relationships,” said Marian.

In her counseling practice, she incorporates narrative therapy to help people build life-affirming stories for themselves, which are sometimes reflected back through the eyes of witnesses who become part of a client’s community.

Marian also invites congregations to recognize their potential as caring communities who can offer healing interpersonal ties. 

She combines her background in religious studies, social work, teaching and ministry with her counseling.

Marian came to Spokane from Garden Grove, Calif., to study at Fort Wright College.  After graduating in 1976, she was director of religious education at St. Patrick’s Parish in Hillyard.
In 1981, she earned a master’s in religious studies at Gonzaga University.  After teaching for a year, she married and returned to Spokane as a consultant at Sacred Heart Catholic Parish, working in adult education and sacramental preparation. 

She taught Catholicism at Gonzaga University for 10 years, served as a consultant for the Catholic Diocese, led catechist formation and served as the director of religious education at a Spokane Valley parish.

After completing a master’s in social work at Eastern Washington University in 2005, she worked in clinical counseling at a local mental health agency.

For several years, she has traveled to California to help care for her father, who has Alzheimer’s, and a brother who is developmentally disabled.  When her father-in-law became ill, she  and her husband supported her in-laws during his final illness.

“It takes a community to address many needs that arise for persons who face multiple or major challenges in life.  Within community, we can voice our longings, our fears and our need to give and receive support. 

“We do better when we feel we belong somewhere, to some group of people,” she said.
“Mental illness and domestic violence are isolating and stigmatizing,” she said. “For some, the language and experiences of faith can help break through the isolation.”

To help faith communities share in that process, Marian is offering several programs:
• In March, she led two sessions on “Embracing Hope: Personal Reflections of Faith and Mental Illness” sponsored by St. Aloysius Parish’s social ministry team, designed for family members and friends of people struggling with mental illness.  They shared their stories, hopes and strengths, and made commitments to self-care and mutual support.

On Friday, April 17, she is offering a “Faith Communities and Family Violence” workshop to help congregations develop ministries to families experiencing violence.  From 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., at Barry House, she will present information on the prevalence and impact of abuse—from verbal to physical assault—and ways the faith community can recognize abuse and support families who decide to step out of abuse into healthy relationships.

Staff from local agencies will discuss ways faith and faith communities can help and hinder stepping out of violence. Participants will learn how faith communities are addressing family violence.

“Simply hearing the faith community name the chaos family violence creates may help people feel less alone and realize there is help,” she said.

She cautions that when lives are at stake, the faith community needs to know its limits. For example, a pastor counseling a couple needs to know that if there is violence, it is unsafe to pursue couples’ counseling, because the victim risks injury at home because of what she might say.

Pastors and faith communities can raise general awareness, inform people of agencies that offer safety and help, invite people to become communities dedicated to non-violence, and offer training in healthy marriages, parenting and communication.

She also plans a five-week series on “Faith, Families and Mental Illness” to help participants share how they see themselves in light of their faith.

Marian is recruiting volunteers from faith communities and area universities to form intentional communities for people isolated by mental illness. 

A team may include three to six family, friends or volunteers who are trained to understand mental illness and a specific person’s needs.  They will come together around the person as companions to create a support system.

For information, call 483-0428.