Regional Mental Health Consultants

In four regional synods, RCA Disability Concerns is piloting personalized support to churches, classes, and regions wanting to grow their ministry capacity in mental health so that churches can become safe, supportive communities where everybody belongs and everybody serves. We’re doing this by creating a regionally based network of experienced mental health consultants who are available to provide education and training to RCA churches upon request.

These trained, experienced mental health professionals are RCA members who want to assist churches in eliminating the stigma associated with mental illnesses. They are available to plan and lead education and training events, consult with pastors and other church leaders seeking to start or deepen church ministries related to mental health, offer direction in improving a congregation’s culture and understanding around mental health issues, and consult with pastors about their response to parishioners facing mental health challenges.

The role of these consultants is not to provide individual counseling to people struggling with their own mental wellbeing. Rather, these consultants are available to offer education, raise awareness, and counsel churches in becoming safe, supportive places where people impacted by mental illnesses can know they will be loved and supported rather than ostracized or stigmatized.

If your church or classis wants to know more, contact Terry DeYoung by email (tdeyoung@rca.org) or phone (616-541-0855) so that he can connect you with one of the individuals listed below.


Regional Synod of Albany

 

Dr. Vicki A. Mast 

• Member of First Reformed Church of Bethlehem (Selkirk, New York)
• Retired school psychologist
• Bachelor of arts in psychology, Hope College; master of science in developmental psychology, Rutgers University; doctor of psychology, State University of New York at Albany; New York teaching certifications in special education, early childhood education, and elementary education
• Specialty: children having developmental delays and/or cognitive, physical, or genetic disabilities

“Children who act or appear different due to developmental delays often have difficulty fitting in to traditional settings such as congregational life. Yet Christ focused his ministry on those who were disenfranchised, rejected, and otherwise different from the majority. The call of the church is to welcome all people, regardless of the way they look or act. That may necessitate learning about how we can accommodate the needs of others so that they can feel included and accepted. In this way, we show God’s love to all people. My entire career has been focused on finding ways to help children participate actively in the kinds of experiences that their peers enjoyed. Being a loved and accepted member of a local congregation is one such experience. I look forward to opportunities to help congregations do a better job of including all children—and adults—in the life of the church.”


Regional Synod of the Heartland

 

Doug Smit 

• Member of First Reformed Church (Ireton, Iowa)
• Director of Mental Health and Family Services at Hope Haven, Inc., in Rock Valley, Iowa
• Bachelor of social work, Northwestern College; licensed baccalaureate social worker in Iowa

“Mental health will touch every family at some point. It has touched ours in several different ways, including depression and a suicide attempt. Working with people with mental illnesses is a passion I feel strongly about. As the church, Christ commanded us to care for the sick, which describes those with a mental illness. We need to become involved in the lives of people living with mental illnesses to assist them in reaching a measure of recovery. People with mental illnesses can recover with the correct supports, medications, and treatments. People of the church can be among those needed supports that play a huge role in reaching recovery!”

 

Dr. Heidi Vermeer-Quist

• Member of Meredith Drive Reformed Church (Des Moines, Iowa)
• Leads the clinical staff of Heartland Christian Counseling near Des Moines, Iowa
• Doctor of clinical psychology, Wheaton College; licensed clinical psychologist with 20-plus years of clinical, teaching, and consulting experience; author of a three-book, personal growth series called Gardening Your Life (ideal for small groups) that integrates the best practices of the field of psychology with solid Christian teaching
• Specialties: organizational psychology and family business governance

“I am passionate about helping people successfully use the best tools of psychology from a Christian perspective. Our faith is incredibly healing, as we seek to securely attach to our loving God and to love our neighbors as ourselves. I’ve been blessed to provide psychological assessment and psychotherapy to people struggling with depression, anxiety, relational conflicts, trauma recovery, unresolved grief and adjustment, and personality disorders. I also love assisting organizations, especially churches and family businesses, to communicate well and to put effective governance in place for their organizations to thrive! One of my core passions is to serve the church with best practices of psychology, which is why Heartland Christian Counseling is now launching a church assistance program.”


Regional Synod of the Mid-Atlantics

 

Rev. Jim Knol

• Member of Passaic Valley Classis (RCA)
• Retired director of pastoral care (27 years) for the Christian Health Care Center in Wyckoff, New Jersey
• Master of divinity, Western Theological Seminary; master of social work, Rutgers University; licensed clinical social worker and mental health chaplain in New Jersey; certified supervisor for graduate level mental health clinicians; certified interim minister
• Specialty: integration of faith and mental health

“As a pastor in congregational settings, I became aware of the need for helping those struggling with issues such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar illness—and to do so from a faith perspective. I became especially attuned to how mental health issues impact congregational life; as a result, I also became a resource in the area of grief and loss. Since that time, I have presented to interested congregations on the topic of mental illness in congregational settings.”

 

Rev. Dr. Pamela Pater-Ennis

• Member of Clinton Avenue Reformed Church (Bergenfield, New Jersey)
• Pastoral psychotherapist and executive director of Hudson River Care and Counseling in Hoboken and Englewood, New Jersey; licensed clinical social worker in New Jersey; teacher at Fordham University School of Social Work, New York City
• Bachelor of arts, Hope College; master of social work, Rutgers University; master of divinity, New Brunswick Theological Seminary; doctor of philosophy in social work, State University of New York at Albany
• Specialties: chronic and terminal illness, bereavement, sexual trauma, LGBTQ persons, faith crises, spiritual interventions in counseling, couples and families in crisis, elderly persons, congregations in transition

“When religion is misused, it damages the faith of people, but when it is used for creating love, religion is nurturing. In this same way, when trauma-informed religion is combined with mental health treatment, amazing healing is possible.”


Regional Synod of New York

 

Rev. Dr. Shari K. Brink

• Member of New York Classis (RCA)
• President and CEO of the Blanton-Peale Institute and Counseling Center in New York, New York
• Master of divinity, Fuller Theological Seminary; doctor of ministry, McCormick Theological Seminary

“When I became the president and CEO of Blanton-Peale, I knew that there was a burgeoning mental health crisis in New York City—and, likely, across the country. I had no idea just how significant the gap in affordable services really was. In 2019, Blanton-Peale provided 36,000 sessions of affordable, holistic therapy to people representing the full diversity of New York City. I joined Blanton-Peale thinking that faith communities—churches in the RCA and beyond—can play a major role in helping people who are suffering from trauma, depression, anxiety, and thoughts of suicide. I still believe that. So, in addition to our rapidly expanding counseling center and training programs, we are partnering with and empowering faith communities to address today’s mental health crisis.”

 

Lynn Min

• Member of the Reformed Church of Bronxville (Bronxville, New York)
• Licensed mental health counselor in private practice; certified life coach in Midtown New York City
• Master of arts, Alliance Graduate School of Counseling; master of divinity, Alliance Theological Seminary; life coach certification, Light University

“Mental health and spirituality go hand-in-hand. Having grown up as a pastor’s kid and serving in different areas of church ministry for over a decade, I am convinced that salvation is lived out when we are whole—mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically, and relationally. My last seven years in private practice have been devoted to creating spaces where individuals, couples, and families can be radically honest, shed some light into their hearts, and connect with God to experience the healing and freedom they need.”

 

Rev. Terry Troia

• Pastor of the Reformed Church of Huguenot Park (Staten Island, New York)
• President and former executive director (35 years) of Project Hospitality; commissioner for human rights for the City of New York
• Bachelor of arts, Loyola College; master of arts, St. Mary’s Seminary and University; post-master’s certificate in health care management, UCLA Anderson School of Management; certificate in nonprofit management, Columbia University School of Business; national certification in Mental Health First Aid

“I am a mental health advocate and consumer. My family has been affected by suicide, long-term and serious mental illness, depression, and dementia. By learning how to tap into the emotional strength and will to survive, all of us have the capacity deep inside to tackle life’s situations that catch us off guard. Our congregation has a mental health support program for people living with dementia and their caregivers; we have lived through the overdose suicide of an active church member in 2019; we have been trained in how to do mental health peer counseling; and we have sponsored all-day trainings for other congregations with members seeking to be peer counselors. With God’s help, we can know the fullness of our lives and the fullness of life itself.”