Faith-based counseling comes to Kaua’i

There is no denying that spirituality and faith play important roles in many people’s lives.

There is also no denying that even the most devout Christians (and followers of other religions) sometimes encounter problems they can’t handle alone.

Dr. Valerie J. Willman can relate. And, she can help.

Willman is a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in Christian counseling.

“I am a Christian, and I counsel from a value system I believe in, but I don’t hit people over the head with a Bible. My foundation is the Bible. People know what to expect,” she said.

“The field of psychology is still in its infancy as a science,” she said. “There have been dramatic changes in the last 10 years, including more emphasis on the spiritual dimensions, including prayer and faith. I’m so glad we have a spiritual dimension to it,” she said.

Willman and her husband Mark Willman moved to Kaua’i from Indiana earlier this year, when he secured a job as a research scientist at Pioneer Hi-Bred International in Waimea.

Valerie Willman’s office is located at the Kauai Bible Church in Lawa’i. She and her husband worship there.

Willman said she is in the process of building a referral network through her church affiliation, and by presenting seminars and talks.

“I don’t look at psychology as being in opposition to faith,” she said, likening what she does on a therapeutic level as an effort to strip away deception rather than to pronounce judgment on behavior.

“I try to get to know the person, and how they might have been deceived in the world, and are somehow unable to walk in the joy of the Lord’s work. We find out where it is they have bought into the lies of the world,” Willman said.

She uses a cognitive-behavioral framework that is grounded and integrated with her faith, she explained.

Willman has treated non-Christians. It may sound like the beginning of a strange joke, but in fact, she once had a rabbi for a patient.

The only slight problem that arose was when the rabbi filled in his premeeting intake form. One of the questions related to a patient’s relationship with Jesus. The rabbi told Willman he had none.

But then again, as Willman said of her approach, he knew what to expect.

Willman said part of her challenge is to break through the stigma of seeking psychological help, which she said exists in both the secular and religious worlds.

“When people come in, they have likely realized they can’t do it on their own,” she said, adding that clients often feel relieved rather than stigmatized once the process begins and they feel they are being treated with dignity, and being helped.

She said she is committed to treating her clients with respect, and recognizing their unique, God-given values.

Willman is not a fly-by-night therapist trying to work an angle. She is devout and empathic, committed to her faith since age 7. She also has impressive academic credentials. Willman earned a doctorate and two master’s degrees in psychology fields from Purdue University.

Willman has almost 20 years experience providing therapy to individuals, couples and families, and served as a clinical supervisor from 2000 to 2003 at the Family Concern Counseling Center in Valparaiso, Ind.

The most common problems Willman normally treats include anxiety, depression, marital and relationship difficulties, eating disorders, addictions, and developmental and identity struggles.

She said she is also interested in working with members of the military.

Willman is far from being self-righteous, or thinking she has all the answers. She conceded she has “not always walked the walk,” and admits to conflicts and struggles in her own life that have both tested and strengthened both her faith and her relationships.

“Struggle is not a bad thing,” she said. “I can relate to the struggles.”

Willman may be contacted at 645-0742.

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