California: Marriage Family, Child Counselor (# 7233)
(inactive I moved to Montana in 1976)
Montana: Marriage and Family Therapist (#147)
Montana: Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (#134)
Clinical Member of the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists
Charter Member of the American Association of Christian Counselors
The Association of Marriage Friendly Therapists
The National Association of Professional Speakers
PROFESSIONAL CERTIFICATIONS and CREDENTIALS
California Community College Teaching Credential in Psychology, Philosophy, and Religion
Montana Certified Domestic Mediator
Montana Certified Biofeedback Technician
Certified Mars and Venus Therapist through John Gray’s Mars and Venus Institute
Certified Mars and Venus Workshops Presenter
Certified Couples Therapist through the Gottman Institute: levels 1, 2 and 3
Fully Certified Gottman Therapist
Certified Level 1 Gottman Therapist Trainer
Certified Presenter of the Gottman Art and Science of Love Couples Workshop
Certified Presenter of the Gottman Seven Principles for Making Marriage is Work
Trainer for private Couples Intensive Weekend Therapy Weekends through Couples Therapy Inc.
Pres. Youth for Christ club Grossmont high school San Diego
Pres., Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship San Diego State University
Youth for Christ Club Director, San Diego, California
Youth Pastor, First Assembly of God Church, San Diego, California
Youth Pastor, Trinity Assembly of God Church, Pasadena, California
Associate Pastor, Redwood City California Peninsula Christian Center, Redwood City California
Founder and Director of The Way In Coffee House Ministry, Redwood City, California
Pastor, Bancroft Baptist Church, Spring Valley, California
Associate Pastor, Christian Life Center, Missoula, Montana
Founder of Aletheia high school Clubs in Missoula County high schools
Founder of Aletheia College Ministry and Coffee House Ministry at the University of Montana
Founder of Alethea Counseling and Stress Management
Founder of Calvary Chapel, Missoula, Montana and pastor for 30 years
Family Consultation Service, San Diego, California (three year internship in marriage and family counseling)
Family Enrichment Service, Missoula, Montana
Established Alethea Marriage Counseling in Missoula Montana 1979
PROFESSIONAL SPEAKING, WORKSHOPS AND SEMINARS
American Association of Christian Counselors National Conference Presenter
American Association of Christian Counselors World Conference Presenter
National and International Armed Services Groups, including The War College, presenting weekend Couples Marriage Workshops and Parenting Workshops
Presented Couples Weekend Workshop for officers in the San Diego Police Department
Presented Workshop Dealing With Gender Differences in the Workplace and the Home for Auto and RV Dealership employees
Featured Speaker at Montana State University for “Grandparents Parenting Grandchildren” Conference
Featured Speaker for Daycare Program Directors State Conference.
Featured Speaker for the Red Cross Heart Association
Featured Speaker for Daycare Program Directors State Conference
Speaking on Marriage and Family Issues at churches, as well as conducting Couples Retreats and conferences
Speaking at Community Service Clubs about Marriage and Family Issues
Presenting The Art and Science of Love Marriage Workshops for the Gottman Institute
Presenting The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work for the Gottman Institute
Presenting Mars/ Venus Workshops for John Gray
Presenting Smart Discipline Parenting Workshops
PERSONALLY SPEAKING (If I am going to be personally involved in the private, most important parts of your life, teaching and coaching you, I assume that you might 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 behind. 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.
MY ACCADEMIC YEARS
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. Throughout most of my career, I was bi-vocational; working simultaneously as a Professional Marriage Therapist and as a Pastor. In both capacities I have encouraged people to nurture healthy relationships and communities by demonstrating love and grace, to those around them.
I think that spending many years not only teaching and preaching the Bible, but also relating to the nitty-gritty problems of couple’s daily lives has made me a much more grounded and relationally oriented pastor.
Rather than being concerned with arguing about doctrines and proving that we are “right in our denominational belief systems, I’ve been more concerned about how we relate to each other as Christians. Jesus makes His position clear on this subject when He tells us to love God with all of our heart, soul and mind and love our neighbors as ourselves and thus fulfill The Law. Christianity focuses on us having right relationships and enabling us to do so.
SERIOUS LIFE 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.
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 in April and was hit by a truck. Debby and I had been married 46 years; she was a 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 present and the future and I don’t. Instead of focusing on my pain and becoming angry at Him, I have learned to trust His will for me and focus on what He wants me to do with my life, and to trust 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 regards her as his “favorite teacher.”
When I told him 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 take care of the negative things they can’t control.
For over 48 years, I have been devoting my life to helping people to come alive, both relationally and spiritually. 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 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 in this way for many years to come.
I especially enjoy the challenge of working with couples who have been told that their situation is extremely difficult or even impossible to help.Often, I find that 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 recognize complementary benefits of these differences to their relationship. 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 they have to prove that they are right and their spouse is wrong. Instead, it’s fun and rewarding to learn to see things from each other’s perspectives and share their deep emotions.We can continue to learn valuable lessons from each other.
I am confident, and even comfortable, in situations in which dynamics have become very 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 and 54 years of marriage, equips me to understand how these dynamics develop and how to process them.
The Gottman research has shown that 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, outside of God, no other person, thing or activity is more important to you than they are. ”This applies to both husbands and wives. Interestingly, this achievement is much easier than it sounds, when you are motivated by the Bible virtues of Faith, Hope and Love and 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.
They also often become so caught up in the pressures of secular life that they stray away from Christian teaching and Chrisiian fellowship. In this process they become less motivated by “The Cardinal Virtues” of Christianity: “Faith, Hope and Love” and become more influenced by the worldly motivations described in the Bible as “The Lust of the Flesh, The Lust of the Eyes and The Pride of Life.”Is it any wonder that their relation is experiencing negative changes?
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, emotionally 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 away from divorce, without professional help.
The root issue is that they haven’t nourished their friendship, and they have strayed away from their core values, if they had them, so they have lost their deep connections. Perhaps they lose their sense of who they are and/or who their partner is, and how they feel about them. But, despite all of this, If the couple allows me to help them restore the original friendship, rebuild their fondness and admiration system, restore or strengthen their core values and teach them how to become more relationally skillful, I know they can make amazing progress!
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 by millions of 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. John’s best known book, Men are From Mars and Women are From Venus for several decades sold more copies in the United States than any other book except The Bible. It is also printed in more than 50 languages.
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 scientists 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.
Based on his research, Gottman has developed interventions and antidotes that, when applied, can radically change relationships. He has also tested his therapeutic interventions to prove their significant success. This research provides “the gold standard” for marriage counseling today.
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.
In the area of Christian service, Chuck Smith, Rick Warren and Mr. Jones, as well as my own Grandpa McGinnis have been the key role models for me.
Pastor Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel, personally mentored me for many years. I first met him at the beginning of The Jesus People Movement when so many “Hippies” and drug addicts were being converted and baptized in the ocean. I was the h Pastor at the 1st Assembly of God Church in Alhambra and I brought our 200 plus HS kids to Calvary Chapel Friday nights for evangelistic services with Lonie Frizbie, who was Chuck’s Youth Pastor. About 10 years later Chuck helped me start Montana’s first Calvary Chapel, which I pastored for over 30 years.
Chuck Smith spent his whole life establishing and building a congregation of over 20,000 people in Costa Mesa California and created a legacy of more than 1000 congregations all over the world. Many of them are also mega churches. During a time when most churches discriminated against members of the counter culture because of their lifestyle and comportment, he welcomed everyone into his church to be accepted and loved. Lives were changed and many of these young hippy drug users are respected and successful pastors today.
Over the years, hundreds of thousands of people have been impacted by God’s Word and His love displayed through Chuck Smith. His teaching and preaching of God’s Word and God’s love displayed through Chuck has also radically affected many young ministers he trained and mentored, including me.
As a young minister, I was impressed by how, both at church and at the summer camps, Chuck always participated in doing the dirty work. He insisted on being called by his first name rather than by his title. This was the kind of man he was – completely focused on humbly helping others and teaching the Bible verse by verse. He wanted people to see the world through God’s eyes and understand His great patience and unfailing love for us.
Another man that has had a tremendous impact of my life is Rick Warren, who served as pastor of Saddleback Church in Southern California over 40 years. The church has grown from several couples to over 20,000 congregants. Rick is not only an outstanding preacher and teacher, but a really gifted author. He has written The Purpose Driven Church and The Purpose Driven Life among others. When he wrote The Purpose Driven Life, it turned out that this book would affect thousands and thousands of people’s lives. Currently, it’s one of the top-selling books in the world and has been published in 137 languages at last count. With the success of this book, before retiring, Rick repaid Saddleback Church for all the wages and housing allowances that he received from them during his entire 40 plus year ministry. Obviously, Rick hasn’t been involved in church ministry for the money.
Another thing that is unique about Rick is the way he has handled personal tragedies. His wife struggled for years with breast cancer and managed to survive, but his son in his early 20s hung himself because he couldn’t overcome tremendous problems with depression throughout his short lifetime.
At a pastor’s conference I once attended at Saddleback Church, Rick told us that he wouldn’t hire a staff pastor that hasn’t gone through personal tragedies and significant life struggles, because he wanted his ministerial staff to be able to grow through these kinds of experiences and relate to the needs of their people.
The third man that has had a real impact on my life was Mr. Jones, who was my wife’s only pastor before she met me. He pastored the same independent Baptist church for 65 years, a church of less than 100. He taught through the entire Bible verse by verse and then would start all over again in Genesis, after destroying his previous sermon notes and outlines. He wouldn’t let the people in the church call him Rev. or Pastor, but simply “Mr. Jones.” He taught his church deacons that they were to function as the “servants” of the church.
Finally, the man who had the most impact on my life was my grandpa, Morris McGinnis, who was my greatest role model. He and his wife raised 6 children on various farms, located across the state of Montana. He always had a very large garden, Orchard and raised chickens, hogs and cattle for beef and milk. He moved every few years because he worked to establish new churches in various locations in the state and then would pastor them a few years, until they were firmly established. The amazing thing to me was that despite holding meetings for weeks at a time to establish a church, he would always at the same time find ways to provide not only his family’s physical needs, but also their emotional and spiritual needs. On top of all that he managed to share a lot of activities with them such as fishing and hunting etc. He not only had time for his children but also his grandchildren, including me.
The greatest proof of his character and priorities was that all of his children grew up to be remarkable adults ranging from school teachers, ministers, missionaries and successful businessmen, who we devout Christians. All but one of them stayed happily married and raised happy, successful children.
In my opinion, the reason this minister was successful not only building churches but also building a strong and healthy family was that he was a genuine Christian man, who lived out Christian motivations and principles in every aspect of his life. At the same time, he was “a man’s man” who would challenge Montana cowboys and ranchers to boxing matches as part of the attraction to coming to his meetings to hear him preach.
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 choose not to assume the worst, but to try to understand “where they are coming from.” 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 baited 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 and spend as much time as possible in the water or in the boat.
Welcome to my home and office on Placid Lake in the Seeley/ Swan Valley of Western Montana. After living and working in Missoula for over 40 years and establishing my office there in 1979, I am now finally “semi retired” and have lived in the Seeley Lake area for about two years. We go on daily hikes with the dogs, off leash on mountain trails and dirt roads along streams around lakes. I have a fishing boat moored at our dock 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 kitchenette, including hot tea and coffee or cold drinks as well as various munchies, including fruits and vegetables as well as cookies etc. Of course, the big attraction is the view of Placid Lake through the large picture window of my office, that you get to look at while we’re doing our work together.
If that isn’t comfortable enough for you, I have an outside patio 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 are transformed.
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!
In addition to what you do when you are with me at the lake, you can spend the next few days or a week or more at your nearby resort or State Park enjoying the recreational opportunities near us or see what this part of Western Montana has to offer, regardless of the season!
I look forward to helping you rediscover your connections and transform your relationships.
If you are interested in this unique opportunity, give me a call.
Jim Ramsey - Christian marriage counselor in the Missoula area.