Psychology has opened doors to Dr. Arthur Jongsma, Jr. '63 that few people enter. He often accompanies people on journeys to help them resolve pain, turmoil, and despair in their lives.
"It is my privilege to meet people at crisis points and walk with them down paths that they don't normally share with others," he said. "People are willing to trust me with their private struggles, so it is most important to respect and listen to them. Then I can offer compassion and techniques to resolve some of their issues.
"My Christian faith is reflected in my work, but I'm careful not to proselytize my patients. I'm always open to praying with them or discussing issues of faith if they choose, but I want to be sensitive to their psychological needs first and foremost."
Since beginning his career in psychology in 1970 at Pine Rest Christian Hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Jongsma has offered compassionate insight and counsel to hundreds of patients. For that and other contributions he has made to his field, the College's alumni board named him the Alumnus of the Year for 2005.
"I decided to pursue a career in psychology after taking an Introduction to Psychology class," he recalled. "I wanted to learn what made man do what he does, and after 30 years as a psychologist, I am still trying to help people understand why they do what they do."
In 1979, Jongsma started Psychological Consultants, a private practice that provides counseling to children, adolescents, and adults struggling with emotional, behavioral, relational, or addiction problems. In 1995, he began writing treatment-planning books for mental health and chemical dependence counselors. He also developed TheraScribe, a computerized database that helps clinicians customize treatment plans for their patients. It has become the most widely used clinical tool in the field. Jongsma closed Psychological Consultants in 2004 and continues writing more content for TheraScribe. Its fifth edition will launch in 2005.
"Writing planning books and developing TheraScribe have given me opportunities to widen my career and contribute to psychotherapy," he said. "They allow me to come alongside many people at once and be a 'helper to the helpers.' I can tap into the wealth of expertise of my colleagues who write with me and share methods of improving people's lives. I've found this venture to be very rewarding."
Trinity was a two-year institution when he attended the College, but Jongsma said his time back then set the stage for him to be the Christian servant he is today. Some of the lessons he learned four decades ago remain fresh in his mind.
"Those years were extremely valuable in the impressionable stages of my growth," he said. "From being spiritually challenged in the intimate and intellectually stimulating chapel services to just being in a place where everybody knows your name and cares about you - Trinity made its indelible mark of Christ on my heart, mind, and soul.
"I learned the necessity of continuously evaluating how my faith integrates with my work. I'm a Christian and a psychologist, and my faith keeps me grounded and brings balance to my work. Whether I am in my role as a psychotherapist with a patient or an author writing a treatment-planning book, I pray that the Holy Spirit will help me help other children of the King. I recognize that I am saved to serve joyfully."
Jongsma works half-time at Life Guidance Services in Grand Rapids, where he lives with his wife, Judy. They have been married for more than 40 years and have two daughters, Kendra '93 and Michelle, and four grandchildren.