Dr. Dana Reed
Dana Reed grew up on Mount Desert Island in the small town of Tremont. Knowing that he didn’t want to take over his family’s store there and with a sense at a very young age that he was called into ministry of some kind, Reed left his home in Maine for “five years of educational exile” in Boston.
Reed, 61, holds a degree from the Berklee College of Music and worked as a music teacher before receiving his master’s in education at the University of Southern Maine. Although he planned to become a guidance counselor, Reed followed his call to seminary, where he pursued a degree in ministry at Andover Newton Theological School followed by a master’s of divinity at the Bangor Theological Seminary.
In the course of his career Reed has been a minister, a seminary, university and military chaplain, and was the founder of the nonprofit Maine Interfaith Coalition for Veterans in Transition. Through the years he has been a pastoral counselor, as well, which is where he now devotes his time. Reed opened a private practice in Windham last year. He also continues to engage in musical pursuits.
“I loved music as a kid and still do,” said Reed, who is married and has two sons. “I am teaching beginning ukulele courses at Windham adult education this fall.”
My Generation had a chance to talk with Reed about his work, his military service and why reaching out to his clients on both an intellectual and spiritual level is important to him.
Q What drew you into ministry and pastoral counseling?
A A calling. It happened for me at a young age, I was about 10. Then it became about understanding what that calling is all about. Six years of education led me to become a music teacher in a public school and then to pursue a master’s in counseling thinking that being a guidance counselor was what it (my calling) was. Finally, at 29, I trotted off to seminary to focus on figuring out what the calling was all about. In 1986 I was ordained as a minister and began serving in a church. I went back for my doctoral degree in pastoral counseling in 2002. I could have gone straight into pastoral counseling then but went into a dual career as a civilian pastor and a military chaplain after the events of Sept. 11, 2001. As a Marine reservist I mobilized in 2002 and then again in 2008 and went from civilian to active duty status. Pastoral counseling became a remote thing at that point.
Q You have been a seminary, university and military chaplain, as well as a senior minister. What was different about each type of ministry? The same?
A Setting is the biggest difference – where the ministry happens. All have been wonderful, from the University of Maine for four years hearing the intriguing stories students have, to being in the military and traveling all over the world and seeing so many places, to seminary working with professors I greatly respected. The setting of the local parish as a senior minister was a grounding experience.
The similarity between all are the people, the human experience. It didn’t matter if it was a 22-year-old Marine, an 18-year-old student or an 82-year-old parishioner who had just lost his wife. People are people no matter where you go. Being able to come to them and be a pastor or chaplain or adviser was always within the lens of faith, acting as an emissary of the holy – not Jesus but hopefully the next best thing. In time of need people need you to be that for them. It was a wonderful, overpowering, and burdensome feeling at the same time to be able to help people from a faith perspective through a difficult situation.
Q Why did you decide to start your own counseling practice?
A Finally, at 59 years of age and on my final tour with the Navy, which gave me the wonderful opportunity to live in eastern African countries, and feeling I’d done all I could in the parish setting, I thought, why not pursue pastoral counseling now. I had a lot of training and the benefit of not just local but international experience. Just made sense and was a logical progression. It also helps that Maine is one of six states that licenses pastoral counselors and allows third-party reimbursement for services. The state says, ‘you, Dana, in our eyes are on par with any other person counseling,’ whether it is an LCSW, a LCPC or anyone in private practice or working in an institution.
A pastoral counselor is defined as an ordained clergy person who has specific training in counseling. In my practice I address the problems a person or couple present within the framework of any of the number of modalities I am trained in, from situational therapy to cognitive behavioral therapy all while dealing with it as a clergy person. Pastoral counseling brings in a presence that is not part of the process with other counselors. I’m not ashamed to pray with a person or use religious themes to help. I can be there when someone wonders, “Why has God done this to me again?” I’m a professionally trained clinician who can also address a person’s faith life and hear their theological concerns.
Q Why is engaging both the mind and spirit important in your work as a counselor?
A When I was growing up heart and head were not always engaged. Faith was heart trusting without questioning. But head has got to be part of the integration of the self. Integration of the head – reason, science and intellect – with the heart – those things around you that can’t be seen, measured or quantified, the elusive part of being a human being, is important.
We (pastoral counselors use scientific techniques that God has given humans to employ but we also acknowledge and integrate aspects of the heart – that mysterious cavern – to reconcile a life of faith and a life of science. God is unknowable, unfathomable, but we’re in relationship with God, who seems to embody the best of the universe.
Q You have counseled people of all ages and backgrounds in very diverse settings. How has that exposure informed your practice?
I think it has created a broader capacity within me to embrace a much wider spectrum of belief and relate beliefs to daily life. I’ve developed more of a reverence for the beliefs that are out there. I thought I was open and understood people but these experiences have given me a much broader understanding and have helped me to be a more compassionate person. As Gandhi said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Q Do you think baby boomers face challenges, on an emotional level, that are unique to their generation?
A I do. We went from Howdy Doody and Davy Crockett to a time of change and upheaval. I often say I was a child in the ’60s, not a child of the ’60s. In terms of socialization, we have a certain set of events that tie us together to make us a cohort. The anti-establishment, anti-religious sentiment of the ’60s and a move away from the norms impacted us. Many took off from church and didn’t come back.
This generation is the most searching generation I can think of but the circumstances were unique. In third grade my teacher is telling me the president has been assassinated then we’re watching the Vietnam War in color every night on TV. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy are killed. Wait a minute – what’s happening here? The media really acted on the psyche of the boomer generation. Then the Beatles took off to India and opened a door to eastern religions. The positive side of the searching this generation has engaged in is that it has made people want to figure out ‘what’s going to help me get hold of that something inside of me that needs to be defined as my heart, soul and spirit. Boomers have a natural inclination to question and fight to find answers to those questions.
I think it becomes obvious as we age that faith becomes more important. It grows out of the experiences that made us question and drove us deeper to find a solution.
Q If you could offer just one piece of advice about being in relationship with another person what would it be?
A Stick with it. You have far more to gain in sticking with a relationship and understanding who you are in relation with another human being. There’s much more to be gained; to become a happy individual for yourself, your spouse or anyone you are in relationship with.
That’s not to say I counsel people to stay in an abusive or dangerous relationship – of course not. Work with somebody. It could be a pastor, a counselor, a rabbi, to help you navigate and work in a positive way to address the issues you are dealing with. But keeping the faith in a relationship is a fluid back and forth. It affords the opportunity to be brave enough to work through it – and not end up at the end of life with regret.