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Meet Our Newest Provider: Rod Dunlap, M.A., IMFT

RWPS is excited to welcome Rod Dunlap, M.A., IMFT to our team. He comes to us with a wealth of experience in ministry and a passion for the Catholic faith, especially Theology of the Body. He will be seeing patients at our headquarters on the West side of Cincinnati. Rod took some time to introduce himself to our community through a little get-to-know-you Q & A.

Q:  Tell us a bit about yourself. 

My name is Rod Dunlap, and I was born and raised here in Cincinnati, OH. I graduated from Moeller High School and went on to Ohio University where I earned my bachelor’s degree in Sports Science. From there, I moved to Cleveland where I worked for the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team for a season. It was during this time that I felt the Lord calling me to do something “more.” The idea of working for sports teams for a living felt like I was wasting the talents and gifts with which I had been blessed. I moved back to Cincinnati and took a job as a counselor at a group home for at-risk kids called Boys Hope, Girls Hope.

I spent almost seven years there, and it was during this time that I really encountered the Lord for the first time through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. His mercy was and continues to be so powerful to me. I told him during this time that I would spend my life serving Him and “working” for Him. Shortly after this awesome experience, I began a graduate program at the College of Mount St. Joseph in Religious Studies. After two years, I graduated with my M.A. in Religious Studies, and a week after that, I got married to my amazing wife Maria!

A year later, I got my first job in ministry as a youth minister at St. John the Baptist parish in Colerain. I spent four years there creating a junior high, high school, and young adult ministry programs. It was during my time as a youth minister that the Lord showed me so many people who were suffering and needed a path to healing. I soon began my journey to get my Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy. I was excited to begin this journey that would last 6 years. While working my way through clinical training, the Lord had more for in store for me in ministry and called me to work for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, first in Sports Ministry then as the Coordinator for the Anti-Pornography initiative.

I finally graduated in 2021 with my M.A. in Marriage and Family Therapy and shortly after became licensed in Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky. I began working for a private practice in Kentucky called Positive Pathways in Dec. 2021 up until I was invited to join the team here at Ruah Woods. I am excited about this opportunity and look forward to allowing the Lord to use me as his hands and feet to provide healing to those in need in our community.

Maria and I have been married 11 years now, and the Lord has blessed us with 8 beautiful children, one up in Heaven, and 7 at home. Our faith is the foundation for everything we do. The Lord has been at our side through all the ups and downs, and we continue to go to Him with everything, submitting ourselves daily to His plan for our lives.

Q:  What inspired you to become a therapist?

I was inspired to become a therapist through a variety of factors. First off, people have told me throughout my adult life that I was a good listener, which is a huge requirement for an effective therapist. Secondly, for a long time I had an image of sitting in an office and people coming to me for help or guidance. I believe the Lord was putting this image on my heart. It wasn’t until my wife finally told me that it was time to start doing something about it that I took steps to make it a reality. And lastly, I know our world is full of suffering and that so many people are struggling with mental health issues and the stresses and strains of everyday life. My desire is to help remove some of these “roadblocks” as I like to call them so that they can grow in true health and have the relationship with the Lord He is calling them to.

Q:  What exactly is a “Marriage and Family Therapist”?

Marriage and Family Therapists (MFT) are defined by the AAMFT as “mental health professionals trained in psychotherapy and family systems and licensed to diagnose and treat mental and emotional disorders within the context of marriage, couples and family systems.” As an MFT, I am trained to look at people’s struggles through the lens of the relationships and social structures in which the person is situated and not limit my view to merely the isolated individual. Basically, MFTs believe that the problems people bring to therapy do not emanate solely from within them but are often symptoms of the relationships they have with other people.

Q:  What types of patients and difficulties do you treat?

I provide individual, marital, and family therapy. I feel quite comfortable working with children, adolescents, and adults struggling with a wide range of issues including depression and anxiety problems, trauma and abuse, childbearing loss, OCD & scrupulosity, pornography addiction, relationship issues, marital strain, parenting challenges, family of origin wounds, attachment problems, and the like.

Q:  What role does your Catholic faith play in your work?

My faith is the foundation of all that I do including my work as a therapist. Every day before work, I ask the Lord to use me as His hands and feet and to let the Holy Spirit speak through me to the patients that I see. I pray also for my patients that their hearts will be open each session so that they can be a willing participant in the healing process. I believe that healing can happen in many ways, and therapy is one of them. I am very humbled that the Lord has called on me to help others find healing and peace.

Q:  What do you like to do for fun?

I really enjoy spending time with my wife and our seven kids. Our life gets pretty hectic at times, so it is great to just hang out with them. I also enjoy swimming, hiking, camping, fishing, watching sports (live or in person), good movies, and playing golf.

To learn more or to make an appointment with Rod, please call 513-407-8878.  

Getting Unstuck in your Marriage

When is the right time for marital therapy? When is the best time to commit the appropriate resources and seek a professional for help with marital problems? These don’t seem like questions that spouses ask themselves very often, and for understandable reasons. Similar to those who might consider individual therapy, married couples want to work at and solve their own problems before they seek outside help. Realistically though, how often do ongoing marital problems get the care and attention that they need to be resolved? And how bad does the problem need to be before both members of the marriage are cued in and concerned? It seems to me that rather than being addressed, the marital relationship is actually the very thing in some marriages that go unaddressed. Ignored. Taken for granted. For whatever reason, the bond of love between the two spouses gets sacrificed for everything else. The “right time” to refocus our attention, repair lost connection, and grow in love becomes obvious when we properly prioritize our marriage.

And for many, a formal recommitment focused on rekindling the marital relationship is difficult. Complicated. Because a lot can happen to that bond over the rough and harried years of marriage. Here at Ruah Woods Psychological Services we conduct marital therapy using a model that honors this bond, tracks how it has deteriorated, and guides the couple in regrowing it. The model is called Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, or EFT for short, and was created by Dr. Susan Johnson. There’s a lot to say about how we use this model to help couples, but I’d like to highlight just a few things worth reflecting on in this post.

Call it marital atrophy, ongoing conflict, or falling out of love…  Whatever the term, the marital relationship often doesn’t feel the same as when it began years prior. Maybe it has gotten stronger in some ways, but for many, the relationship has endured consistent conflict and neglect that has wounded it and weakened the sense of closeness, security, and safety the couple shares. This automatic, repeated, injurious pattern within the couple is formally called “the cycle of conflict” in the EFT model. While this might seem like a strangely obvious insight to make, we are actually regularly surprised by how unaware couples are of their cycle of conflict (often referred to as just their “cycle”). And this is not to blame the couple! The truth is, the cycle is quite insidious! Such cycles are routinely formed in the context of both partners trying to secure the love and support they desire from each other. Though patterns vary, it often involves one partner trying to reach out to the other to reestablish a sense of security, often in a panicked or aggressive way, while the other partner tries to deescalate and withdraw from interaction in an attempt to preserve the relationship, prevent further damage, and protect a sense of safety and self-worth. This very common give-and-take sequence is called a “pursue-withdraw” pattern.

Both partners value the relationship and the other person, but their respective strategies aren’t always well understood or appreciated by the other. In both cases, there is a deeply rooted human need for safety and security that each is trying to acquire called “secure attachment” (more on attachment later). The stresses, trials, and wounds of the marriage (and past relationships) degrade a person’s trust and emotional responsiveness to their partner – in other words, they often bear wounds from current and past relationships deep in their hearts that make it hard to trust that their spouse will really be there for them when they need it. This mistrust then grows up over time like a nasty weed through many iterations of the cycle of conflict, each time pushing the spouses farther and farther apart.

So a very early task in our marital therapy is to take account of these deeper wounds (which will guide later therapeutic work), and, to become intimately knowledgeable and aware of the cycle of conflict. Not only has the cycle contributed to ongoing damage to the marital bond, but it is quickly and easily triggered in the context of marital therapy, making healing difficult. If the cycle can become acknowledged, understood, and rightfully be made the enemy of the couple, their conflict often cools off, and other productive emotions such as concern, curiosity, and compassion can be felt. “Why does he pull away just when I’m desperate to talk?” “Why is she so hard-up to talk, when we know it’s just going to lead to a fight?” Because under all the demanding criticism and thinly-veiled resentment, under the flat statement “I’m fine” and the shut-down countenance, are two wounded people that care about each other. But the cycle obscures this reality! Because of the cycle, each person grows in their conviction that their partner doesn’t care. And so the first task is to see this cycle clearly and to name it the great enemy of the couple.

The good news is, even for marital relationships that have been neglected or damaged, there is hope.  Prayerfully consider if now is the time to invest in your marital relationship – is couples therapy appropriate for you? An established, monthly date night? An hour, one night a week where you sit on a couch, look at each other, and talk about your relationship? Or maybe you could read a book together and learn more about the cycle and how to fix it? Consider Love Sense (we regularly suggest this to our couples in therapy) or Hold Me Tight, both by Dr. Sue Johnson.