When The Psychology Professor Met The Minister

If anyone asks me what I did during my time in quarantine during the COVID pandemic, I can tell them that I co-authored a book with Reverend Patty Furino titled When The Psychology Professor Met The Minister.

Our book  describes my spiritual awakening facilitated by Pat, an interfaith minister from Long Island. My experience ultimately helped me find peace after my daughter Jeannine’s passing.

We feel that my journey which is described in our book, can help present and future generations during times of challenge.

We also include a sampling of conversations from our friendship over the past 10 years, which provide a framework for how spiritual practices can be integrated with psychological interventions, empowering individuals to navigate various life challenges. 

We are also thankful for Google Docs, which enabled us to collaborate regularly while living in two different locations and juggling the day to day demands of everyday life. We hope that we have created a book that will resonate with present and future generations for years to come.

Here is the Amazon  link  to find out more about our book and purchase it, if moved to do so.

We also have a dedicated website for our book. Please feel free to check it out if you so desire.

If you have any questions for Pat and I concerning our book, feel free to email us at: psychologyprofessorandminister@gmail.com

I hope that you choose to join Pat and I on our journey; it has been interesting and transformative .


Bootsy Reflections

I wanted to share the link to my latest piece for the Huffington Post blog.  Teachings about life, death and karma  from my soon to be 19-year-old cat Bootsy. Hope you benefit from reading it.  Please feel free to comment and share.

Wishing you all peace.


Hope, The Gift of Life and Embracing Metamorphisis


As July concludes and August approaches, these are the thoughts and observations that are coming through me:

  • I had the privilege of being a keynote speaker at the national gathering of The Bereaved Parents of the USA in Connecticut this past weekend. I ended my speech by issuing the two-part challenge of Meesha Johnson ( with her permission), which was part of a beautifully crafted and heartfelt piece for my blog titled Left Undone. The line that resonated with me the most for my speech was:

     Celebrate the life of those around you as well because the gift of life doesn’t just happen to us, the gift of life happens through us.

    I ended my speech by suggesting to  those in attendance that if we  are able to celebrate the gift of another’s life through us, then we can be one with ourselves ,one in our grief and one with each other. That is my gentle wish for all of us who are involved in the human experience.

  • I know I am not the same person that I was prior to my daughter Jeannine’s death. I am not the same person that I was five minutes ago. The process of metamorphosis is truly ongoing.
  • During this upcoming year, I am going to reflect on the adventures in my life that I am willing to experience, including the service opportunities that I choose to embrace. There are many categories in my life that need to be honored at this stage of my life.
  • There are days when I marvel at how I have lived so long , so fast.
  • As I get older , my quest for wholeness trumps my quest for happiness.
  • It isn’t the size of an organization that matters; it is the ability of its leaders to make you feel welcomed and truly a part of things that matters. Sadly, many in a position of leadership don’t get that. The ones that do get it are the ones I choose to associate with as I get older.
  • My friend John, a retired military man gave me one of the best object lessons that I have ever received. He told me that the difference between being merely mediocre and outstanding was attention to detail. Sadly, many in a position of leadership don’t get that either.
  • Courage is strength in the knowledge of what is to be feared or hoped.- Atul Gawande: Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in The End

  • I identify  with Atul Gawande’s definition of courage, because of my own life experiences and my experience working with substance users and individuals with emotional health challenges.I think one fear that inhibits the development of courage is the fear of change. Though desirable, change represents a departure from what is familiar, even if it is chaos. In situations that demand change our faith and hope must be stronger than our fear.
  • I have developed a deep respect for nature and for all forms of human life.It wasn’t always that way, but catastrophic loss tends to change ones perspective. I am also grateful to all of my spiritual teachers, mentors and friends who have been instrumental in my shift in thinking.
  • Over the years I have discovered that it is the unofficial reasons rather than the official ones that drive certain decisions. Another example of life as illusion masquerading as truth.
  • For a man to conquer himself, is the first and noblest of victories. -Plato-Found this quote on a friend’s Facebook page this morning.I continue to embrace the challenge.

The Gifts From My Past and “The Billy Factor”

Since the first week of April, my life has been a whirlwind of events which has redefined my history , my present and perhaps my future.  These events and teachings are summarized in this piece titled : The Quest for Wholeness  that I recently submitted to the Huff Post Blog . Following is some additional thoughts that  have  come to mind since then.

  • For me ,living in the present moment is an illusion. The teachings of my past, particularly as it relates to recent discoveries about my father’s side of the family have helped me understand my present choices more fully. It has also helped me to understand the paths that I embraced to get to where I am today.
  • When we choose to learn from our past and let our history become a teacher to us in the present, a rich part of our life experience has been restored.
  • Having a context or set of conditions to understand our present day path is crucial to redefining ourselves after catastrophic loss. I have discovered that there has been a history of both child loss and sibling loss on my father’s side of the family. As I have also experienced the death of a child, I  believe  that this teaching from The Afterlife of Billy Fingers by Annie Kagan, truly applies to me:

We signed up to do this dance together before we were born

  •  Don’t leave any stone unturned in your own personal quest to redefine yourself after catastrophic loss or life altering transitions. The recent  rich teachings from my ancestors have really reinforced this point for me.
  •  Truth exists before we become evident of its existence in our own lives.
  • I am blessed to discover that I have living family on my father Austin Marion Roberts’ side .I look forward to creating new family memories with my cousin Jo Anne. Before I was simply content to be around my “soul family” or those individuals who have had a profound influence on redefining my perspective after my daughter Jeannine’s death in 2003.
  • The universe’s plan is always better than ours.
  • My father was only in my life for five years ,but I love him more now than I ever have. What he taught me can’t be measured by human law.

Scan 151510005
Me and my dad ,Austin Roberts circa 1955. I know that I was truly loved.

  • I can not overlook the influence of “The Billy Factor,” in my recent life discoveries. The Afterlife of Billy Fingers  by Annie Kagan was recommended to me by a friend who walks a very sacred path. As she is not one to make spontaneous book recommendations, my curiosity was automatically aroused. I discovered that the book was released on March 1,2013, the 10th angelversary of my daughter Jeannine’s death.Billy  danced with addiction during his lifetime. After his death(or rebirth to a new existence) ,he ascended to the status of a highly evolved and  wise spirit ,communicating divine truths to his sister on earth. The book validated all of what I believe about the afterlife, but in retrospect did much more. Understanding the context of Billy’s life path prepared me to embrace without judgment the life path that my father and his ancestors chose to walk. In fact ,I was able to fully embrace the gifts of their dysfunction and reclaim a part of my history that I thought was forever lost.  

I would rather be whole than good- Carl Jung

The Best Show of Force is No Force At All

Kids Around The World
Kids Around The World

The widespread and seemingly more frequent acts of violence around our country and the world motivated me to reflect on my thirty-year human services career to determine what contributed to me not being a target of violence.

I believe that it was my approach that kept me insulated from violence. My goal was to treat individuals with respect regardless of their background. Respect empowers individuals to choose the course of treatment that is best for them, and enables therapists to present options that might not have been considered. Respect breeds trust. It creates a safe and therapeutic atmosphere for individuals to work through their challenges.

The Importance of Working Together

My late supervisor and mentor, Don Kapes, first taught me the importance of adopting a respectful stance in our interactions with individuals. I was part of an interdisciplinary treatment team that Don supervised. We worked with individuals who had extensive criminal histories, mental health challenges and substance abuse issues. In addition, they had a deep mistrust of authority figures. The first thing that Don impressed upon us is something that I have passed down to other human service professionals: “Do treatment with someone, not to them.”

Level the therapeutic playing field by empowering individuals to have a voice in their treatment.   Don taught me that anyone whose voice is honored feels respected, and safe. Silencing the voice of another person not only disempowers them, but also sets the stage for volatile reactions.

Honoring the Teachings of Others

One of the first individuals that I worked with in the chemical dependency field was a Caucasian veteran of the Vietnam War. He was involved in combat. When he returned to the States, to cope with Post –Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), he drowned out the horrors of war with alcohol. During one of our first meetings, he requested to not have staff touch him when waking him. He explained that while in Vietnam many of his fellow soldiers were killed in their sleep.

Consequently, he became a light sleeper. He further disclosed that any physical touch would provoke him to attack, due to his desire for self-preservation. He had no desire to hurt any one else, or continue to fight a war. In retrospect, he was among the first people to teach me about the importance of adopting a peaceful perspective with my fellow man.

I was never a member of the military, but years later I would understand the importance of self- preservation as it played out in my early grief following my daughter Jeannine’s death in 2003.

Global Peace

While revisiting my human service career, I reflected on what needs to be done to achieve global peace. I truly believe that the respect I cultivated with individuals in my care would certainly work towards achieving this objective. Society would first need to buy-in to the belief that prevention of violence and the promotion of peace is the responsibility of everyone. We need to witness and understand each other’s challenges without judgment. The time is now to inspire different perspectives on how we view our fellow man/woman. We are all from the same human DNA; we are all one.

Authoring a Different Ending

For many who have undergone catastrophic loss or other life-altering transitions, the world is not a safe, predictable place. Any uncontrolled and senseless acts of violence reinforce this point. With that in mind, I wish to focus my attention on Eric Garner’s encounter with police that resulted in his death. In the video that I viewed online, I heard Mr. Garner saying very animatedly and demonstratively that: “I did not sell nothing” and “I am minding my business officer (twice) and please just leave me alone.” Demonstrative and loud does not necessarily equate to violence. Mr. Garner was not looking for a violent confrontation, if anything he was looking to avoid it. If one of those officers removed Mr. Garner from the situation and further explored what was going on with him, he may still have gotten arrested. He would however, still be alive. We could be viewing this event as a prototype for peace, rather than as an example of man’s inhumanity to man.

I would love to watch a video of a similar incident with the resolution that I previously described. It would reinforce to the world that solutions motivated by peace are more desirable, permanent and healing, then those solutions clouded by fear, misunderstanding, and a need to exert superiority over our fellow man. It would also illustrate that the best show of force is no force at all.

Behind Every Face: Some Thoughts For The New Year


Here are some things that I have been thinking about since before the start of the New Year:

1) The older I get, the more my past has to teach me. Because of that I don’t label a moment that I experience, as a present moment. It is simply a moment.

2) I was at dinner this past New Years Eve with some friends , when I was asked if I had any resolutions or new things I wanted to experience in 2015. I simply said no,much to everyone’s surprise. I have gotten away from trying to script any experiences for myself, because of the limitations that imposes. I simply prefer to be open to any experience that continues to be a teacher to me.

3) In the 27 years that I worked in substance abuse counseling I never came close to being a victim of physical violence. I think it was because I was respectful in all of my interactions with individuals with substance use disorder and tried to understand what motivated their actions in certain situations.

4) I was in New York earlier in December, at the time that protests were occurring over the grand jury decision in the Eric Garner case. I was walking in Rockefeller Center on Friday evening with my friend Patty Furino when we came across a black security guard with whom we immediately struck up a conversation. In the course of 15 minutes, we discovered that in the last six years of his life he had challenges resulting from homelessness and the death of his mother due to cancer. Yet he transcended those challenges through hard work, determination and an indomitable resolve. We can discover beauty and grace in the midst of challenging circumstances, all we need to do is commit to discovering it.

5) My encounter in New York reminds me of a line from a song by The Wallflowers: “Behind every face is the mask of another” and that regardless of outward appearance ,we are all cut from the same DNA. We are all truly one.

6) I had a brief dream visit from my daughter Jeannine last night. We were in the kitchen of our home. She looked beautiful and radiant, as I always remembered her . All she said to me is that : “We need to be up tomorrow by 4:00 am.” I haven’t yet searched for the meaning or symbolism of her words. If there is any meaning to her words,  it will be revealed to me in time. I was just happy that she wanted to visit.

7) There is truth and the illusion of truth. Both are crucial in shaping our life path.

8) There are individuals who disguise service to others as service to themselves, and there are individuals who are truly about the message and not ego. Learn to know the difference.

9) With the passage of every year, I am increasingly grateful that Jeannine chose me to be her father. With the passage of every year, I am increasingly grateful that my sons Dan and Matt,and Jeannine’s brothers, chose me to be their father.

10) I will end with a great quote that I discovered from a Facebook site called: Let the Wolves Run Free: ” Unless you learn to face your own shadows, you will continue to see them in others,because the world outside of you is only a reflection of the world inside of you.” I will continue to peck at my shadows.

Learning to Manage The Pain of Grief During The Holidays



Rather than reinvent the wheel , I am attaching a link to an article that I recently submitted to Expert Beacon on Managing The Pain of Grief During The Holidays. It contains some tips/strategies for dealing with the emotional pain that for many, seems to intensify during the holidays. Here is the specific link:

Learning to Manage The Pain of Grief During The Holidays

Please feel free to share with those whom you believe will benefit.

Colors of The Spirit

Embracing Sacred Law

This past weekend, I attended the 37th National Conference of The Compassionate Friends in Chicago, Illinois.I have been attending and presenting workshops for this great organization whose focus is to provide hope and support to families who have experienced the death of a child, since 2008. I always look forward to meeting old friends, making new ones ,and for the opportunity to share  teachings that I have discovered since the last conference. Since my daughter Jeannine’s death at age 18 of cancer, on 3/1/03, I have undergone a metamorphosis from an uncertain, pain wracked soul who couldn’t envision living in a world without his daughter, to a person who has found my peace in spite of the hand of cards that the universe dealt to me. In retrospect, I have found my peace by choosing to play those cards differently, and in the process have learned to embrace sacred law to facilitate transformation after loss.

Airport /Airplane Signs

Honoring sacred law to me , means , in part a willingness to discover the connections in everything, even in events that seem on the surface to be unrelated.  We then endeavor to discover the teachings associated with those connections and utilize them on the path we walk after our children die. To do this requires our commitment to walk in awareness and to view our lives and our loved ones’ death from a different perspective.

I arrived at the airport in Syracuse, New York  last Thursday(7/10) and proceeded to park in the section labeled : “North 12. I immediately focused on the numbers 1 and 2, added them and came up with 3, which is the month of my daughter’s death. On the flight to Chicago, I sat in Seat 10c. C is the third letter of the alphabet, so when I substituted the C with the number 3, I realized that my seat number contained the day and month of Jeannine’s death. These discoveries reinforced to me that Jeannine was not only signaling her presence with me, but would also be my partner in facilitating three workshops during the conference.

Nature Comes To Life

When I fly , I am always pleased to get the seat by the window. The view of  the outside world from up above the clouds is to me, simply majestic and all-encompassing. I also find that I am able to quiet my mind and focus on the moment at hand much more effectively when I commune with nature. During the trip, I saw heart shaped clouds and an image in the ground that looked like a bald eagle. This is what Ted Andrews has to say about eagle ,in his book  Animal Speaks:

Those with eagle as a totem, reflects several needs:

  • 1) There must be an involvement with creativity.
  • 2) A willingness to experience extremes in a controlled condition and thus facilitate the alchemical process within your life. Andrews uses as an example : The fire of the sun and clear water are opposite elements brought into harmony in a manner that elicits change.
  • 3) A willingness to use your passions and use your abilities even if it means being scorched a little.
  • 4) A willingness to seek out the true emotional aspects of oneself and immerse yourself within them,and by doing so rediscover the lost child and awaken a higher sense of purity,passion, creativity,healing and spirituality.

I didn’t discover the teachings of eagle until after I returned from Chicago, but while visiting them realized that I have embraced creativity,honored the yin and yang of my emotions and immersed myself in them to facilitate transformation and to speak my truth about my experience ,with passion and conviction. Eagle reminded me to continue to embrace this path and to reveal  what I continue to discover with others.

Our airplane flew over bodies of water ,the ripples of water were luminescent and had a life of its own. Nature is one of the many colors of the spirit, with a life of its own and a beauty that can not be described in words. I have developed a reverence for nature and am thankful everyday for its presence and the clarity it has allowed me to develop.

Learning to Witness

One of the highlights of my conference experience was having the privilege to present a workshop with my “soul brother” Kris Munsch of  The Birdhouse Project. We addressed a variety of different topics during our workshop, such as empowerment ,self discovery and tools for transformation. It was effortless presenting with Kris, I felt like we had done this together many lifetimes before. Kris and I are different, yet we are united by the passion we bring to the teachings we have discovered and our willingness to witness those perspectives with each other without judgment. All of us who have experienced loss  due to death or other life-altering transitions embrace different paths to transformation. Being a non-judgmental witness to another’s life path, facilitates understanding. If we wish to be understood, we must first understand. When we commit to understanding, we become teachable. As long as I seek to understand and remain teachable, I will be understood and able to teach others with honor and integrity. If all of us can commit to being each others witnesses, we will be able to transcend the outward differences we perceive in each other and create a world that is governed by unconditional acceptance and love, which to me are the true colors of the spirit.

Many colors of the spirit
Many lives below the sun
We are colors of the spirit
We are many, we are one

From the song, Colors of The Spirit by Journey


Memories of My Mother

An Introduction to My Mom

In the days leading up to Mother’s Day , I have been thinking a lot about my mother’s influence on my life. My mother Sadie Bridgett Roberts was born on April 4, 1916 and died on March ,11, 1994 at the age of 77, due to a massive bacterial infection that ravaged her immune system. My mom was the only parent I had ever really known, my father left us when I was five years old. My mother never  remarried; she raised me  as a single parent. I was her only child.

When she died , I felt orphaned ,even though I was (and still am) married with three children at the time of her death and rebirth into a new existence.  She was my last surviving parent and one of the biggest influences in my life. Who I am today is because of who she was; she taught me the importance of integrity, honor and treating others like you’d want to be treated. She never spoke badly to me about my father; never showed a trace of bitterness. She always told me about my father’s good points. She lived with the drama he created because of his shortcomings; she chose not to  pass it on to me.

Warrior of The Light

My mother was the model of service to others. She started working in retail at The Boston Store, in Utica, New York and eventually worked for Project Head start as a case worker . In addition to working full-time, she obtained  her associates degree from our local community college. When I went to college, she stayed up late with me, helping me study for tests and typing my papers.  In retrospect, I should have had her name inscribed next to mine on my B.A. degree. My mom had a variety of physical challenges, from high blood pressure to two hip replacement surgeries and arthritis. She never once complained and chose to see only the positives in her situation . Also when she was  18, she developed tuberculosis and was not given any hope of survival. However she dealt with the challenges of her illness head on and six years later her tuberculosis went into remission. Any resiliency that I have developed in my life is due to my mother’s influence and the way that she lived . My mom chose happiness and peace, in spite of the challenges that she faced throughout her life. She was truly what Paulo Coelho would call a Warrior of  The Light.

               “behind the mask of ice that people wear, there beats a heart of fire.”

Paulo Coelho,Warrior of the Light

Surviving Death

My mom was a person of unwavering  faith. She  believed  in the afterlife and had a  deep sense of connection to the universe.She  embraced  the readings of Sylvia Browne and Shirley MacLaine, among others. I didn’t subscribe to her  beliefs when I was younger and I, in fact, dismissed all of it. Today, however, I have embraced all of my mother’s spiritual beliefs. The event that was the catalyst for a shift in my perspective was  the death of my 18-year-old daughter Jeannine in 2003. My mom however laid the groundwork ; and I believe that today both her and Jeannine are both guiding me down the path that I am currently walking. In fact, my mother first taught me that we do in fact survive death. About a month after she died, my wife Cheri and I were cleaning out  her apartment. When we came home, I went into our bedroom and I briefly saw my mother as a 24 year old woman ,sitting in a chair and smiling at me.

My Mothers Love

Though I loved my mother more than words can express, I was many times exasperated with her overprotectiveness and anxiety that was seemingly attached to it. I never really understood that until later in my life. I discovered that she worried about  my father trying  to kidnap me .  It seemed that we changed residences a lot when I was younger; there were also times when we got a lot of hangup phone calls. I also remembered a time when I was about six or seven years old and walking down the street with my mother; I turned my head and noticed a stranger snapping a picture of me. Perhaps it was my father trying to keep tabs on me. That one event led  me to conclude that my mothers fears were likely justified. Her actions were driven by her deep unconditional love of me and her fear of losing me, not because of her need to control my every move.

I Am My Mother’s Son

As I approach my 59th birthday and the beginning of my 60th year of life, I am proud of the fact that I am becoming more like my mother everyday. I let my mother’s overprotectiveness and my anger and resentment that was often attached to it, obscure the profound influence  that she had on my life, for a long time after her death .  Today I choose to celebrate my mother’s love for me and the influence of her teachings on my life.



The Singing Bowl

A Trip to Frankfort…….. New York

This past Sunday( 5/4), my wife Cheri and I went to a psychic fair in Frankfort, New York, which is about a 15 minute drive from our house. It was fun for me to observe all of the different vendors and talk with some about  the circumstances that contributed to them embracing a sacred path and using that knowledge to help others in times of transition. Cheri browsed the tables, bought a few items and  entered  a raffle in an attempt to win one of many health and wellness based items.

And The Winner Is

Later that evening there was a message on our phone.  A caller by the name of Toni, stated that Cheri had won an item at the raffle valued at  sixty dollars and that it would be at her place of business in Ilion, New York( a hop, jump and a skip from Frankfort) until pickup could be arranged. Cheri was going to go by herself on Monday to claim her prize, but could not because Toni’s shop was closed on Mondays. So Cheri and I drove out on Tuesday to  pick up her prize.

Earthly Matters

We met Toni at her place of business, Earthly Matters, where Cheri picked up her prize, a basket of  natural bath and body products. We  also discovered a great collection of crystals, incense, rocks and a variety of other items designed to enhance connectivity to self, others and nature.  In the process of browsing  the shop, I was drawn to this beautiful brass bowl with a wooden mallet inside,mounted on a small pillow ( pictured below)

My Singing Bowl
My Singing Bowl

Toni informed me that the item was called a singing bowl . She told me that the singing bowl is used to clear out any negativity from  a room or other sacred space. I also discovered through some online research, that singing bowls are classified as a standing bell. They sit with the bottom surface resting ;the rim of the singing bowls vibrate to produce  harmonic sounds . They are used for meditation, relaxation, music and personal well being. Cheri encouraged me to buy it and to learn to use it. So after a brief tutorial from Toni, I took my new toy home and began to see what kinds of sounds I could produce .

Joyous Noise

I was instructed to first tap the top of the bowl with my mallet ,and move the mallet around the outside of the bowl. The sounds  are produced by gently applying pressure to the outside of the bowl  . After a few clumsy attempts to produce any harmonic sounds, I began to experience success at producing sustained joyous noise. The harmonic  frequencies I produced energized and relaxed me at the same time. When I have been relaxed and energized in the past, my ability to  walk in awareness is enhanced which allows me to  better develop the clarity I need to negotiate the path that I now walk. The path that has been redefined by the death of my 18-year-old daughter Jeannine, on March 1,2003.

Finding My Music

I have disclosed in previous blog posts and articles the blissful memories  that were created by Jeannine’s and my love of music. Our shared love of music  continues to be a major piece in the ongoing development of  the pure relationship that we enjoy today.  I never played a traditional musical instrument growing up, so any memories that I have of Jeannine and the continued bonds that I have established with her , have been through music we both listened too during her time on earth. It is exciting for me to be able to further strengthen our connection and develop continued clarity and peace through musical sounds that I can produce, while holding her in my thoughts.

The Synchronicity of It All

I would have never discovered the joys and the transformative qualities of the singing bowl had Cheri not entered the raffle last Sunday at the psychic fair, won a prize and picked it up when and where she did. Had Earthly Matters been open on Monday, Cheri would have gone to pick up her prize without me due to the fact that I was teaching most of Monday. If that occurred, I wouldn’t have discovered the joys of  singing bowl. It was the synchronicity in all of these events that contributed to me not only purchasing the singing bowl,  authoring this post in this moment.

All roads ultimately lead to the same place, the present moment 

The Afterlife of Billy Fingers-a true story by Annie Kagan