Deeply committed to helping families and communities find healing, freedom, and wholeness through recovery from anxiety, grief, and trauma.
- Perhaps you’re a hardworking, sensible, and sensitive person. And something happened. Now you’re feeling that things don’t feel right?
- Maybe you experienced a traumatic event, a life altering illness or a death.
- Perhaps you struggle with self-doubt & anxiety?
Clients tell me they feel safe and that I’m easy to talk with. Though we may have only just met, soon you’ll feel the relief of knowing how to let go of emotional pain and isolation. You’ll feel the ease of making space for new enjoyable experiences in your life.
Our work together can help you overcome these challenges and become more confident. My unique experience and training can help you:
- Learn effective skills to manage anxiety and / or depression.
- Feel comfortable communicating by being heard and validated in our connection.
- Identify self-limiting thinking and find your higher truth
- We will focus on the present, but use the past self and the future self as anchoring points
- You’ll remember what it’s like to feel Ease, so you no longer have to struggle just to feel OK in your every day life.
You may be surprised that over time, you will believe me when I point out your strengths and progress that you’ve made!
Grief and Loss
If you’ve had a loved one die, or been abandoned by someone you love, you will be helped by my specialized training in grief and loss. You may feel at times like you’ve turned to stone.
I am intimately and personally familiar with grief.
And I have special training to help people. I am a certified thanatologist with the Association for Death Education and Counseling, member of the National Alliance for Grieving Children, and local member of NorthWest Association for Death Education and Bereavement.
What this means to you is that when grief touches your life, you may begin to question everything and everyone you once valued. It can be a life transforming process that often is ignored, dismissed, or minimized. If you find yourself feeling stuck, I know how to gently help you move through grief’s complex range of emotions:
- feeling of numbness
- feeling lost
- sense of isolation
- and in some ways, the hardest one of all, feeling good again without guilt
Because of my extensive experience over the last 10 years, we will directly address the things that are important to you. I have worked with many different types of people from all walks of life, and cultural backgrounds and I can quickly relate to your unique situation. Nothing you say will surprise me.
I have learned from my clients how to adapt to what works best for them. My therapy toolbox grows every day as I love to learn, and enjoy sharing ways that will help you get better, not just feel better. And you’ll reap the benefit of working with someone who is inspired and enlivened by helping you.
A Little About Me
I love working with people of various ages and backgrounds, from young children to those who have accumulated a number of birthdays. Having a heart and a passion for social justice, I am deeply passionate to serving disenfranchised and marginalized populations including LGBT, African American, First Nations, Asian, and Latino communities. I’m on the Oregon Health Plan panel for this very reason, so that access to high quality mental health service can help you feel confidence and ease again.
I have been working with social service and human agencies for 14 years. I made the switch to focus on grief/bereavement/end of life/ eleven years ago when I was working as intern in Head Start and two of the children I was working with experienced the deaths of their fathers. Since then, I have experienced a number of deaths in my life and have scoured the literature for the best resources and most salient research ranging from neuroscience, to expressive therapies to mindfulness.
Mental and emotional health arises when someone feels understood, seen, and heard; when their inward experience is externalized and validated. We need others to affirm our inward selves. But our inner selves are rather sensitive, fragile, and symbolic beings despite how we may come across to other people.
Sometimes we can split ourselves off from our inner self, resulting in a sense of disconnection, hollowness, and insecurity. Ultimately, I strive to help you connect with your inner experience, express it, learn from it, and to release it. I help you identify the people and the behaviors in your life that affirm that inward voice and how to express with people and with behaviors that thwart it, sometimes with good intentions.
I bring my whole self to the therapeutic relationship. When we have a live authentic encounter where we both bring our whole selves to the session, we will find truth and wisdom in every encounter.
I hope you’ll call me. I love this work. In fact I’m passionate about it. And I look forward to talking about what’s important to you and support that to manifest in your everyday life again.
Examples of Clients’ Recovery Stories
I once worked with a young man who grew up in an emotionally abuse home. When we first met, he lived inside his head, intellectualizing everything and sometimes disconnecting from reality. We started working towards connecting with his emotions, exploring the multiple coping mechanisms he used to survive his environment, and discovering those unmet needs and longings he had since childhood. It was a freeing, terrifying, and ultimately healing experience for him.
I have also worked with number of individuals in the last months of their lives after receiving an advanced serious illness and/or terminal illness. I believe there is still living to be done, and in our time together, we explore the challenges of living within a limited time frame. I don’t set the agenda for our times together and in doing so, we talk about whatever is currently coming up. Sometimes it is focusing on the small daily routines and other times we segue way into talking about the meaning of life, the fears for the future, and the joys and pains of the past.
Doctorate of Philosophy, expected May 2017 University of Kentucky, College of Social Work 08/2010 to Present
- GPA 3.885 on a 4.0 scale, with 56 credit hours of post graduate courses completed towards the degree. Research interests include: death & dying, grief and bereavement, trauma, and childhood well-being.
- Relevant graduate courses completed include: grant writing, asset based community development, and doctoral level statistics and research courses.
- Adjunct faculty for SW 450, Social Work Research Methods.
- Graduate assistant for SW 580, Death & Dying.
Master of Arts in Art Therapy Counseling Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
- 01/2005 to 08/2007 • GPA 3.69 on a 4.0 scale, 60 credit hours, with over 1,100 hours of supervised field experience • 600 hours at the St. Joseph Head Start Center, East St. Louis, IL, population: pre-school age children. • 220 hours at Pathways Community Counseling Center, Alton IL, population: adults with mental illness. • 330 Hours at Greenville College Counseling Center, Greenville, IL, population: young adults.
Bachelor of Art, Fine Art, minor in Psychology Taylor University
- 02/1999 to 05/2002 • GPA 3.36 on a 4.0 scale, 7 Fine Art awards, 4 first place awards in their category. Emphasis was in drawing and mixed media.
- Kentucky Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor, License # 1531Oregon Licensed
- Professional Counselor, License # C3909
- Certified Thanatologist, Association for Death Education and Counseling.
Chief Program Officer The Dougy Center 08/2014 to 01/2016
- Executed management and leadership for a staff of 5 full time, 3 part time members and 200 volunteers.
- Ensured quality of service delivery to 450 children, teens, and young adults each month in 36 bereavement support groups.
- Co-developed and facilitated a new program for families experiencing an advanced serious illness.
- Coordinated four bereavement support groups for children, teens, and young adults.
- Communicated with constituents including those in crisis and with national contacts through electronic, digital, phone and in-person encounters.
- Provided leadership to program development and operations through senior management meetings.
- Engaged and educated community stakeholders including Board members, donors, and partnering agencies.
- Represented the organization at national conferences including The Association for Death Education and
- Counseling and The National Alliance for Grieving Children.
- Authored internal and external written communications, newsletters, educational material, and publications.
Academic Advisor/Academic Affairs Officer II, University of Kentucky, College of Nursing 08/2007 to 08/2014
- Created and implemented educational programming for the Inter-professional Healthcare Community.
- Annually advised and counseled 350+ students on degree completion, career direction, and personal issues.
- Developed a syllabus, facilitated course instruction, and fulfilled learning outcomes for NUR 101 for approximately 90 students each fall semester.
- Analyzed and evaluated student performance, transcripts and application materials.
- Promoted the College of Nursing academic programs to prospective students and their families ranging from individual and family consultations to large groups engagements of 75 or more.
- Represented the College of Nursing to the University by sitting on various campus wide committees.
A Little About Tony Grace LPC
Where Am I and Where Am I Going?
Tony Grace LPC
Who are you and where are you going?
Imagine if you will, two people reading aloud the same exact words, but asking two sets of different questions. Same words, yet a distinct difference in voice inflections, tones, pitches, rhythms, volumes, and perhaps emphasis, will ask two different questions.
Many people who are transitioning from young adulthood into middle age, like me, are also asking those questions. However, when I heard my friends and colleagues asking or answering those questions, it was usually with a combination of perplexity, hope, and excitement in their voices. Yet, I often heard in my own voice-whether alone or with a friend, a somber and melancholy undulation.
For me, the set of questions being asked of me were whispery, ephemeral, and slow moving; revealing a deeper existential quandary than personal goals and aspirations.
I didn’t have answers to the deeper questions, let alone shallower questions. I often found myself stating to strangers who asked me where I was from, that I had never had any intention of living where I currently live, but that I did in fact live in Kentucky. Why couldn’t I just answer that I lived in Kentucky? Upon further reflection, I think it is because even in that simple introductory/small talk question, there was a deeper existential question being asked of me. Not so much of where I live, but How did you get here?
It was during these past ten years that I witnessed in my emerging professional life the direct effects of trauma and loss in the lives of the young children and adolescents I was working with. In each setting I worked in, whether it was in a Head Start facility (for young children), adolescent treatment facilities, or a college campus, the common theme that emerged was that there was a significant loss in each of the lives of the children, adolescents, and young adults that I was professionally invested in.
Meanwhile, it was also during this time that I had experienced my own losses. I watched the last of my grandparents die, experienced the loss of three children through miscarriages, intermixed with the death of my spouse’s grandfather who was, in many ways, like the grandfather I never had. My wife’s father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and was given a month to live. He lived 33 days.
It was during this time that I also encountered death beyond my immediate family members. A college professor died of breast cancer, a groomsman of mine died of a heart attack, a dear colleague’s partner died unexpectedly, another professor’s granddaughter died of cancer, and an acquaintance disappeared without a trace while hiking. Generationally and relationally speaking, I was surrounded by death on all sides.
So much loss had left me blindly staggering through life. I often felt like an untethered kite, being carried by the winds. I wanted to be grounded with a sense of understanding the world and how to navigate it. Yet, I often found myself wondering and wandering where I was. The world felt unfamiliar, directionless, and un-navigable. For me, there was a direct connection between encountering loss and feeling completely lost. I was in fact lost without any sense of direction to turn.
Someone told me as a young child, that if you don’t know where you are, trace your steps back to last place you knew you were. For me, the last place I knew where I was, was when I was young and hopeful.
Since I was a young boy, I longed to be a father. My mother asked me at the age of five or six what I wanted to be when I grew up. I promptly responded “a daddy!” She then asked me how many children I wanted to have, and I said 12. Curious, she asked me how I planned on feeding all those kids. To her horror, I said, “we are all just going to live with you and dad.” She then quickly said I wouldn’t be able to do that and that I would need to find another way to feed all those mouths. I then told her, “I will be a farmer.” There was no hesitation in my voice about who I wanted to be, what I wanted to be doing, and how I would fit into the world. Where did that little boy go?
Fast forward some twenty five years later and into six years of marriage, I was overjoyed to discover that we were pregnant with our first child. In just a few short weeks, my life had changed forever. My deepest childhood wish was coming true.
But that longing from childhood came crashing down with the sight of immense horror on my wife’s face one day after coming home from work. We sped to the hospital where the doctors performed an ultrasound. It was the sweetest sound I ever heard…thump, thump, thump, 119 beats per minute. Our daughter was still alive! The doctors asked us to come back tomorrow. We held each other all night. In the morning we had another ultrasound, but this time there was no heart beat-just silence, deafening silence.
My highest hopes were now replaced with the searing pain of burying our first child on Father’s Day, of all days.
Two months later, Kelly and I found ourselves traveling to Phoenix, Arizona for a conference. After the conference we drove up to the Grand Canyon, spending the night in the car, so we could see the sun rise. At some point during that early morning, we found ourselves alone, save for a single bird soaring above our heads, on the precipitous edge of the Grand Canyon. The barren terrain, the eroded cliffs, and the vast span of emptiness, felt like I was looking into my soul for the first time and it took my breath away.
Five months later in a bitter cold January, we celebrated what would have been our daughter’s birth day by traveling to the western side of Kentucky where we live, to Mammoth Cave, the largest cave system in the world. Touring through the cave, we began to feel the paradox; the utter darkness paired with the womb-like warmth of the deep earth. It felt very much like we were in the perfect place. Later that evening we ate at a small Mexican restaurant just off the highway. As we finished our meal, the staff began to sing Happy Birthday to a table just out of my sight. It confirmed that we were exactly where we needed to be.
A short month later, one night as we were watching a film about a grieving widower, we received word that Kelly’s grandfather was dying. Kelly tearfully said goodbye as her sister held the phone up to his ear. He died the following morning. We attended his early March funeral a few days later.
In the month of April, we found out that we were pregnant again. We were nervous, as to be expected. But we were also anxious because we had planned, scrimped and saved for three years to go on a three week long study of the Land of Israel in the month of May. Should we go? Should we stay? What if something were to happen again? We didn’t know what to do.
We prepared to go, but cautiously took out travel insurance just in case we needed to cancel. Unbeknownst to us, as the time drew closer to our departure date, our developing son’s departure was also drawing near. Life can be stranger than fiction sometimes. Serendipitously, we buried him on Mother’s Day.
We still didn’t know what to do about the trip that was to begin four days later. My boss and good friend suggested that we should go; believing that three weeks to ourselves would ease some of the pain. The “Promised Land” was the very last place I wanted to be, but I thought spending three weeks out of the office sounded like it could offer respite.
I have heard of others having a mystical/spiritual experience while in Israel. I put God to the challenge; after all I was now on His turf. But that didn’t happen and even if it did, it could in no way, make up for the losses of our children. What did happen though was that as we began to understand the geology of Israel, we also began to understand its influence on the Israelite story. The land of Israel was a silent, but major character in the Judeo-Christian story. Without the unique topographical features of the Middle East, and particularly this section of the Middle East, the story would look entirely different.
Fast forward a few months later, I was now volunteering for the first time at a local children’s grief camp at the suggestion of my instructor and Hospice Social Service Director, Sherri Weisenfluh. It is there that I was introduced to the idea of seeing grief as lifelong process and in particular, a journey. Surrounded by grieving children while listening to the metaphor about the journey through grief, I knew for the first time in my adulthood that this is where I wanted to be and what I wanted to be doing for the rest of my life.
I met with the director of the camp, Whitney Clay, an art therapist, a few months later to discuss ideas about the upcoming year. There were several other people who were supposed to be there, but it ended up just being the two of us. As we talked, the idea came to me that we needed to not only use the metaphor of the journey, we needed to create a place that embodied that journey. Whitney, in all her art therapy wisdom, told me that I needed to start drawing. And so I did. I raced back to my office, and out came many of the elements you see; the volcano of anger, the forest of fear, the desert of despair. These were all places that I had both figuratively and literally traveled. The more I drew, the more I realized that this land had, and was continuing to, shape me.
The map of the Isle of Grief is both extremely personal and yet universal. I know that not everyone’s journey will look the same as mine, nor does it have to be. Perhaps this map can inspire others to create their own with your own unique features. I have found it to have been immensely helpful to myself, and to the countless number of other travelers, both young and old, who know this terrain all too well.
Whitney found a quote by C.S. Lewis which read “One who has journeyed in a strange land cannot return unchanged.” I couldn’t agree more. The Israelite’s Promised Land was nothing that they expected and they were forever changed by it. So too, I also had visions of the terrain of my adulthood being filled with gain only to be changed by the actual land of loss.
So now, when I hear the whispering questions of Where am I and where am I going?, I can answer.
I am in a land that is both relentlessly difficult and immeasurably beautiful and I am coming, home.
Tony M. Grace, MA, LPCC, CT, Social Work PhD student