PROFESSIONAL CERTIFICATIONS and CREDENTIALS
PROFESSIONAL SPEAKING, WORKSHOPS AND SEMINARS
(If I am going to be personally involved in the private, most important part of your life, teaching and coaching you, I suspect that you want to know some personal things about me.)
MY EARLY YEARS
I have found that early hardships and challenges don’t need to negatively define the rest of our lives. When I was three years old, my father was wounded while serving overseas as a marine. After he recovered, within a year of returning home, he was killed in a motorcycle accident, leaving my mother to raise three children alone, including my youngest brother, who was born the day after my father’s death. Although my mother demonstrated remarkable strength and resilience, losing my dad at such an early age was a difficult loss for her and for me.
When I was six, my mother married a Navy officer who was 10 years her senior and had a 13-year-old son. He adopted the three of us kids and we became a blended family. As a Navy family, we moved once or twice a year, requiring me to make new friends throughout all of my elementary school years, only to have to leave them all behind. Fortunately, I focused on making friends rather than feeling like an awkward outsider. When Dad retired from the Navy, we settled in San Diego. I felt fortunate to finally have a family that was more grounded and secure. There, I was able to finish junior high through college and make lifelong friends.
EDUCATION and TRAINING
As I studied psychology at San Diego State University, I recognized in myself a growing desire to help couples develop strong, secure marriages and build happy families; regardless of the hardships and challenges they may have faced growing up. Reading case studies about the many painful relational issues faced by couples, motivated me to become a professional marriage therapist. As it turns out, It has been my joy through my lifetime to help people untangle their relationships, improve communication skills and build strong successful families. In California, I earned both a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Psychology plus a Master’s Degree in Theology.
SOME SERIOUS CHALLENGES
In 2000, I was diagnosed with stage III colon cancer and treated with surgery and nine months of chemotherapy. During this time, I learned to focus on my true identity and mission, rather than identify myself as a cancer patient and worry about treatment plans and diagnoses that might be terminal. I am very happy to say that, as of 2022, I am still Cancer free.
In 2013, I survived a devastating car accident, but lost my wife and her 92-year-old mother in that crash. I was driving the car when it lost traction in a freak snowstorm near Ronan, MT and was hit by a truck.
Debby and I had been married 46 years; she was the mother of our two boys and meant the world to me. Now, she was suddenly gone. I found myself rattling around, all alone, in the big “dream house” we had built 35 years before, looking out of the window at the motorhome we just purchased to enjoy our “golden years” together.
God helped me to endure these ordeals without getting angry at Him. I have accepted that God knows everything about the past, present and future and I don’t. So, I chose not to focus on my extremely limited perspective and focus on my pain and become angry at Him. Instead, I chose to trust His will for me and focus on what He wants me to do with my life, trusting Him with my future.
THE NEXT CHAPTER
Later that year, I attended a church to hear a friend of mine give the morning message. After the service, a number of people came up to me to offer their condolences and among them was a woman who was a friend of our family that I hadn’t seen for over 25 years. It turned out that after 42 years of marriage, her husband had a fatal heart attack that occurred 3 months before my loss. She was my youngest son’s high school German teacher for two years and at 40 years of age, he still regarded her as “his favorite teacher.” and has become a teacher himself.
When I told my son about her loss and that we were talking, He told me that, “he knew us both very well” and that “I would marry her, and when we married, he would call her Mom the very first day.” That is exactly what happened!
Diane and I have now been married for nearly 9 wonderful years. We share so many values and interests, we feel that our union is a miracle of God. Along with many other joint activities, we have led Gottman couple’s workshops together.
These experiences have blessed me with true empathy for anyone who has lost a loved one or faced life threatening situations. They’ve also taught me that life goes on and true love and happiness are still possible. These life lessons have led me to believe that I am here to serve others by helping them transform and strengthen their relationships, and get through the difficult times in their lives.
A MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION
Anyone who really gets things done could be described as having a “Magnificent Obsession.” Having devoted their lives to something that’s truly meaningful, they don’t allow themselves to be distracted by the trivialities of life. They focus on a positive vision and let God deal with the negative things they can’t control.
For over 48 years, I have been devoting my life to helping people to come alive relationally. Nothing in life is more important than relationships. Money, status, and power are insignificant in comparison to our need to love and to be loved well.
It’s amazing for me to realize that I have been a professional marriage and family therapist for over 48 years. At the age of 77, I’m in good health and still an active marriage therapist, because I enjoy helping couples regain their spark and I am inspired and rewarded by the work I do.
At this point in my career, I enjoy doing private personal Intensive Marriage Counseling Weekend Retreats at my office on Placid Lake in the Seeley/ Swan valley. I have found that this approach is far superior to any other type of marriage counseling that I’ve done during my lifetime. I hope to continue serving couples here for many years to come.
I especially enjoy the challenge of working with couples who have been told their situation is extremely difficult or even impossible to help. I find that often partners don’t know how to address what they have come to see as “irreconcilable differences.” They become mired in a negative dynamic that grows more volatile and difficult over time.
I help them to understand and value these differences, and to see the complementary benefits of these differences to their relationship. The Gottman Research has found that “unresolvable differences” don’t have to result in painful gridlock. In the Gottman research they found that the “Master Couples” didn’t struggle with gridlock.
Teaching couples how to emphasize with and support each other, even when they have differing perspectives, feelings and needs is really important. What a relief to realize that we don’t have to persuade our partner to think and act as we do!
Neither, do we have to prove that we are right and they are wrong. Instead, it’s fun and rewarding to learn to see things from each other’s perspectives and learn valuable lessons from each other.
I am confident and even comfortable in situations in which dynamics have become emotionally destructive, because I usually understand what’s going on under the surface. Couples trust that I can help them work through these types of situations. They sense that I truly understand what they’re going through and I have the necessary training and experience to help them out of those dark, discouraging times. Drawing upon extensive scientific research conducted over the past 40 years and combining it with my own 48 years of experience counseling thousands of couples, along with 54 years of marriage equips me to understand how these dynamics develop and how to process them.
The Gottman research has shown that a healthy, growing marriages are founded upon strong friendships. The most important thing a couple can learn is how to be each other’s very best friend, and to truly know and support each other. We have far more power to make our partner happy than we think we have.
THE SECRET TO A HAPPY MARRIAGE is to “show your partner every day, through your behavior, that no other person, thing or activity is more important to you than they are.” This goes for both husbands and wives! Interestingly, this achievement is much easier than it sounds when you understand and practice the skills used by the Master Couples in the Gottman Research.
Many couples begin with a strong friendship and solid connections, but things often change due to pressures that arise, especially during the early years of marriage and grow from there. Both partners may be working so hard to provide for their family’s material and logistical needs, that they forget to make time to really talk with each other, to continue developing cognitive and emotional connections. As the focus shifts away from their relationship and toward children, money and work demands, they often find that they have very little time or energy for their partner. Without realizing it, they lose their connection, becoming more like roommates and less like lovers.
The relationship gradually becomes either emotionally volatile, disengaged, or both. Over time, the relationship appears less positive, less hopeful and more negative, unhappy and discouraging. One or both spouses feel emotionally disengaged and lonely, which is one short step from divorce, without professional help.
The root issue is that they haven’t nourished their friendship, so they have lost their deep connections. Perhaps they lose their sense of who their partner is and how they feel about them. If the couple allows me to help them restore the original friendship, rebuild their fondness and admiration system, and teach them how to become more relationally skillful, I know they can make amazing progress! A great marriage involves lifelong courtship.
PEOPLE WHO HAVE INSPIRED ME
I am most inspired by those individuals who demonstrate stewardship by consistently giving, loving and sharing with others throughout their lives.
Of all those in the counseling profession who have dedicated themselves to helping people, two individuals stand out in my mind: John Gray and John Gottman.
John Gray has remarkable insight into the gender issues that impact marriages by causing many conflicts. Over his lifetime, he has written many books that have been read people all over the world and had an amazing impact on thousands, if not millions of marriages. John has the unique ability to write books that anyone can read and understand which have content that is extremely insightful and life-changing.
He is also an engaging speaker. His message is inspiring. One of my favorite John Gray quotes is, “I believe marriage can be a lifetime of “passionate monogamy.” It was a great honor to be part of his therapy team for many years, presenting his “Mars and Venus” workshops across the country, including military bases nationally and internationally.
John Gottman is arguably the finest relational research scientist of all time, having spent over 40 years studying more than 3000 couples, to better understand the significant differences between couples’ ways of relating to each other that determine success or failure in marriage. This research provides the gold standard for marriage counseling today.
Based on his research, Gottman has developed interventions and antidotes that, when applied, can radically change relationships. He is married to renowned clinical psychologist, Julie Gottman and together they have built an organization that trains couple therapists from all over the world to apply methods based on their research. I am honored to have been an early member of the Gottman Institute team of therapists and have been a fully certified Gottman method couple’s therapists and workshop presenter for many years.
HOBBIES AND INTERESTS
My wife and I share many meaningful goals and enjoy investing our time in helping others. Our outdoor activities- hiking, camping, fishing and hunting - are all great Montana recreations. We also enjoy travel and cruises, especially all kinds of adventure trips overseas. Any recreational activity taking place in or near oceans, lakes, rivers and streams is on our list! We both lived near or on the ocean for a time when we were younger, so we both have “saltwater in our veins.” Laughter and a lot of affectionate kidding around are typical when we are together. Being real and transparent is important to us, especially with each other.
Even when our partner’s behavior appears insensitive or negative, we refuse to assume the worst and ask them “what’s going on, with them?”. We have a lot of fun together, and now that we are in our 70s, we have even more time to give to each other. We consider ourselves to be like “happily married newlyweds,” but fully in touch with reality!
I enjoy all kinds of fishing, especially flyfishing, which I learned from my grandfather. I’ve been a fishing guide in Montana and cohosted a flyfishing show on local TV. I’m happy to say that my wife is becoming a proficient fly fisher!
Having grown up in San Diego, I love to body surf, scuba dive as well as fish. Just before entering college, I had the opportunity to work on an 80 ton commercial tuna boat for the entire summer. During that time, we were in port for a grand total of three days. We caught albacore tuna with cane poles and flipped them over our shoulders onto the deck of the ship using barbless jigs and bait with barbless hooks.
As a kid I had read about this kind of tuna fishing in our Weekly Readers and dreamed of doing it someday. When I lived my dream, it was a happy time for me!
Meet Duke. He loves to hunt pheasants and ducks. Most of all he is “a water dog” and has to be in the boat whenever possible.
Welcome to my home and office location on Placid Lake in the Seeley Swan Valley of Western Montana. After living and working in Missoula for over 40 years since establishing my office there in 1979, I am now finally “semi retired” and have lived in the Seeley Lake area for about two years.
Diane and I go on a daily hikes with the dogs, off leash, on mountain trails and dirt roads along streams and around lakes. I have a fishing boat tethered to our dock, in front of our house and office that is geared for everything from downrigger trolling to flyfishing for trout or bass fishing. We love it when our families and friends come to visit us and we have boat rides and water sports to enjoy.
WELCOME TO MY OFFICE
In my waiting room, you can enjoy my library and the goodies in the little kitchenette including hot tea and coffee or cold drinks as well as various munchies, including fruits and vegetables and cookies etc. Of course, “the big attraction” is the view of Placid Lake from the large picture window in the front of my office that you get to enjoy while we’re doing our work together.
If that isn’t comfortable enough for you, we have a patio beside my office with overstuffed chairs around a fire table that we can sit on while we work together, when the weather is nice. I really enjoy meeting with couples for the Private Intensive Weekend we share together, because we get things accomplished and marriages transformed.
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!
If you are coming to see me from outlying areas of Montana or from out of state, in addition to what you do when you are with me at the lake, you can spend an additional few days or a week or more enjoying the recreational opportunities near my office and the nearby resorts, cabins or State Parks. You can enjoy all that this part of Western Montana has to offer, whatever season, including winter.
I look forward to helping you rediscover your connections and transform your relationship.
Call me at 1-406-251-7073 or contact me by email.
Jim Ramsay, M.A., M. Div.
Whether you are looking to repair a fractured relationship, or work on improving communication, Jim Ramsay is here to help. With over 40 years of experience, Jim is standing by and ready to help you create and maintain strong emotional connections with your partner.