A Little of This and That

April 4th, 2012 | 69 comments

Noteworthy tidbits on certain alumni in the mental health field

Abraham M. Hostetter

Abraham M. Hostetter, class of '51, is credited with breakthrough research.

Attentive readers of Crossroads over the last few years may recall that psychiatrist Abram M. Hostetter, class of ’51, was featured on a half page of the summer 2008 issue. Hostetter and seven colleagues wrote an article published in Nature on Feb. 26, 1987, “Bipolar Affective Disorders Linked to DNA Markers on Chromosome 11.” Their findings, the first to draw a clear link between genetics and mental illness, have been cited 726 times. Hostetter was the bridge builder for this extremely sensitive study, which began in 1976. The researchers needed a “genetically isolated” group. In their Amish study population, they found that 12,000 people were descended from just 30 progenitors who had emigrated from Europe in the early 18th century.

Another psychiatrist previously featured in these pages was Frank Shelp ’80, commissioner of the newly formed Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities in Georgia. In the fall of 2011, a Crossroads supplement traced Shelp’s trajectory from dropping out of college in Kansas (and returning to college via EMU) to being chosen to direct a dramatic turn-around in the way the state of Georgia delivers care to 120,000 of its citizens.

Anthony R. Pratkanis ’79, a psychologist at the University of California-Santa Cruz, received considerable coverage in Crossroads as a result of his receiving EMU’s “Alumnus of the Year” award in 2009. Co-author of The Age of Propaganda: The Everyday Use and Abuse of Persuasion, Pratkanis has been a national leader in equipping consumers to recognize manipulation by marketing techniques.

Also in California are psychiatrists Ryan C. Horst ’95, who completed medical school at Penn State in 1999 – he is a forensic psychiatrist who is working with a prison population in the Los Angeles area – and J. Allen Miller ’68, in Monterey, who continues to practice child and adolescent psychiatry while “sliding into retirement.” Miller has the distinction of being the first in his family to graduate from high school, let alone college and graduate school. His parents were raised Amish and thus stopped their schooling after grade 6. Miller said his first non-family mentor was EMU biology professor Daniel B. Suter ’40. “He believed in me and taught me how to believe in myself in the context of the larger purpose of using my talents for God’s work.” Miller went on to medical school at Ohio State. He has been  medical director of the Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital (1996-2002) and president of the Central California Psychiatric Society.

Psychiatrist Harold E. Kraybill ’61 began his medical career in three years of voluntary service as a general practitioner in Vietnam during the war. He and his wife, Esther Emswiker ’60, also served for years in Africa, mostly in Ethiopia. In his early 40s in the U.S., he spent three years getting board certified as a psychiatrist because Philhaven needed Christian psychiatrists and because he hoped the specialty would permit more one-on-one time. In the 1990s, he saw the field shift toward “pill-pushing,” along with minimizing the spiritual aspects of mental health. Now he thinks the field is rediscovering the importance of knowing patients as people and not as a set of symptoms. Kraybill is trying to retire, but there is still a shortage of psychiatrists so he does not refuse the frequent calls he gets to help out.

Alumni-psychologists who settled in southern California include Marcus J. Hochstetler ’75 doing family and marriage counseling in Irvine; Nevin Lantz ’69 focusing on relationship issues and life coaching in Palto Alto and Santa Cruz; and James L. Shenk ’79 in La Jolla, who specializes in cognitive-behavioral therapy to overcome panic, anxiety, depression, and other blocks to meeting personal goals.

Colten New

Colten New '10 does autism work as part of Spectrum Transformation.

The story of Cedric Moore Jr. ’99 covered a few pages earlier calls to mind the number of former collegiate athletes who have ended up working in mental health. E.J. Arrington ’06 and LeRoger Parrish ’09, case manager for a substance abuse program under the Valley Community Services Board (and now working on a master’s degree in counseling), were both star basketball players at EMU. Colten New ’10, hired by Cedric to work with autistic children, was a star volleyball player, as was Jason Axford ’98, MA’03 (counseling).

There are countless ministers who have advanced training in counseling. At least one, Doug Friesen ’91, associate pastor at Blossom Hill Mennonite Church, is a psychologist. Rose Herr Wayland ’78 is a psychotherapist at Pastoral Counseling Associates in Washington D.C. and an ordained minister who preaches at Middletown (Va.) Presbyterian Church three Sundays a month. In Winnipeg, Canada, Melissa Miller ’76 is a part-time counselor at Recovery of Hope and pastor of Springstein Mennonite Church (she has master’s degrees in psychology and divinity).

In Chicago, Deborah R. Weaver ’89, LCSW, holds an MDiv from Iliff School of Theology, in addition to an MSW. “I have developed a niche working with ministry students and others who want to address religious or spiritual issues in therapy,” she writes. “I [also] spend one day each week in an inner-city primary school leading group sessions for children whose lives have been impacted by violence.”

In Virginia, the number of EMU graduates staffing the regional communities services boards is remarkable, considering EMU’s size relative to state universities. Jim Bernat, MA ’00, is an interesting example because he did not get a master’s degree in counseling from EMU, as one might expect for the man in charge of quality improvement for mental health and substance abuse services at the Rapidan-Rappahannock Community Services Board. Instead he came to EMU in his 40s for a master’s degree in conflict transformation.

Gilberto Perez Jr. ’94, a social work major, also opted for graduate studies in conflict transformation at EMU before launching an organization he named Bienvenido in 2004, to address the mental health problems of Latino immigrants across Indiana and beyond.
Almost all mental health professionals deal in some fashion with family and marriage issues, but some of our graduates have specialized in this topic. In 2007 Harvey Yoder ’64, MAL ’94, summed up more than 40 years as a licensed marriage and family counselor in a light-hearted book with serious lessons titled Lasting Marriage.

Randy Hook ’95, MSW, has co-led sessions called “Smart Marriages” at Rockingham Memorial Hospital in Harrisonburg and was executive director of the Center for Marriage and Family Counseling, an agency supported by the United Way.

Nate and Kristy Koser, both MA '09 in counseling, work at EMU.

Nate and Kristy Koser, both MA '09 in counseling, work at EMU.

 Kristy Troyer Koser ’07, MA ’09 (counseling), has worked in recent years alongside psychologist Sue Johnson, well-known for developing Emotionally Focused Therapy for couples and writing about it in books such as Hold Me Tight (2008). In 2011, for instance, Koser led a Massachusetts retreat for 50 couples with Sue Johnson.

Koser’s husband, Nate Koser ’07, MA’09 (counseling), is working toward a PhD in psychology through Saybrook University in San Francisco. He teaches in EMU’s counseling program and is a counselor for EMU students.

Pam Comer, MA’95, directs counseling services for EMU’s student life department. In addition to her MA in counseling from EMU, she holds an MEd in counseling from James Madison University. She is known for her particular skill and sensitivity in dealing with dying and grief.

Professor of psychology Kim Gingerich Brenneman ’83 wrote her doctoral dissertation on third-culture youths and maintains a strong interest in the subject. She has led three groups of EMU students to India to live and study for a semester and is fascinated by how “character strengths” are developed and how cross-cultural experiences are life-changing.

Elementary teacher Paula Slaubaugh Eigsti ’72 of Hutchison, Kan., felt a call to pursue a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy in her early 50s, finishing in 2004. “I find that the skills I have acquired in both disciplines inform and compliment my work in both worlds,” she writes. She continues to teach, while seeing clients for therapy on some evenings.

In schools in EMU’s home region, alumni are employed as social workers (e.g. Andrea Zehr Meredith ’92 in Thomas Harrison and Skyline middle schools) counselors (Sandy King ’00, MA ’04,  in Turner Ashby H.S.), and psychologists (Ethan D. Zook ’76 in the central office of Harrisonburg public schools). Erica Yutzy ’09, MA ’11 (counseling), is an employee of Crossroads Counseling Center, which supplies counselors on an as-needed basis to work individually with students in their home schools.

Janelle Bitikofer ’97, MSW, LCSW, is clinical director of Health Horizons International in the Dominican Republic. She helps train and supervises 15 Dominican and Haitian community health workers, who mostly focus on physical care, though mental health is not ignored.

Retired postal worker Wayne E. Holsinger, class of ’64, holds a master’s degree and DMin in biblical counseling from Faith Baptist College and Theological Seminary in Ankeny, Iowa. After opening a counseling center for low-income folks in southern Indiana in 2000, he came to realize that “humor, as stated in Proverbs 17:22, may indeed be one of the best medicines to promote good physical, mental and spiritual health.”

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