Phil grew up in a Christian family in Stratford, ON. His parents found their calling working with troubled teens, and opened their family home to this call. Phil knew from a young age that he would be drawn to an occupation that would involve people-helping. He came to know Jesus with the help of a counsellor at Stayner Camp when 7 or 8. The middle child between two sisters, he found his niche playing every sport imaginable. Popularity grew and he became a good leader and was often captain of teams. This offset the fact that Phil was not a linear thinker but instead thought in pictures, a style not particularly valued in the school system. “Believe me,” says Phil, “I was not seen as particularly bright in school.”
High school ended on a high note and he entered University of Guelph to pursue a degree in Child Studies, but the adjustment didn’t go as he assumed. “I wasn’t fitting in. I went from the centre of attention to just a number.” He doggedly made it to the end of first year. He discovered that one of his childhood friends was also struggling. With an invitation to a wedding in northern British Columbia in the summer, a plan was hatched – road trip! They were gone for a month. It was at the wedding that Phil met Julie.
Back in Ontario he returned to school, but nothing had changed. He transferred to Emmanuel Bible College. He was in a long distance relationship with Julie and the next year she moved to Ontario and they were married. Still feeling his way along his educational path, he decided to go into the field of counselling. As Phil and Julie explored and prayed, they chose Providence Seminary in Manitoba. His grandparents, whom Phil loved dearly, lived there and this would be a wonderful opportunity for Julie to get to know them and his extended family.
Phil graduated from Providence with a Masters in Arts and Biblical Counselling and later a Masters in Counselling and Psychology. It was only when he reached the level of Masters education that his ‘thinking in pictures’ became an asset and it turned out he ‘was smart after all’. Two children, Ethan and Aidan were born to them while Phil was still in school.
To graduate, it was mandatory to complete supervised practical hours with another therapist. Phil asked his academic supervisor ‘Who’s the best’ and sought this therapist to supervise him. This man became an incredible support and mentor, providing a wide range of experiences and opportunities. He encouraged Phil to go into private practice in Winnipeg and promised to spill work over to him.
The years rolled by. Things were going great, Phil’s practice was growing and his family was growing in their faith in their church home. The church was growing quickly and they needed a co-senior pastor for the next phase. They wanted him.
Deciding to accept, Phil gave up his practice and entered into what he calls “the worst two years of my life.” A change in leadership, combined with differences in philosophies of ministry and mounting misunderstandings, led to a downward spiral that made much of his two years on staff baffling, discouraging and miserable. Although there were good things happening in his ministry, much of what he was able to accomplish was coloured by the turmoil swirling under the surface. When this position finally ended, badly, there he was – walking in pain, uncertainly, and darkness.
He had given away his practice, although he still did some therapy and corporate training. But now he was starting to turn down work – “I’d lost my heart,” he said.
Confused, hurt, mistrusting – a dark place. God used many people to help him begin his turnaround. A few simple words at the right time, reminders of truth, encouragement and consistency helped Phil emerge from the darkness. They moved to the Niagara region and started a small business in
St. Catharines. No way were they going back into ministry! Looking for a new church home, one Sunday they landed at Bethany Community Church. Following the service, as they made a dash for the door Pastor Larry Shantz managed to intercept them and engage them in conversation. Surprisingly, this chat ended with Pastor Larry saying, “I have a part-time position opening here, and I think you’d be great.”
Thus began Phil’s 10-year stint as Director of Support Recovery Ministries at Bethany, retiring from this in 2018. During these years Phil successfully led the 12-Step Celebrate Recovery program that focusses on not just stopping addictive behaviour, but also on transformation through healing and restoration from our hurts, habits and hang-ups. God used this program to heal many, starting with Phil first.
Phil has been in private practice for 25 years. He sees individuals and families at his office, responds weekly to critical incidents throughout Ontario and is asked to present and speak regularly.
Although it took several years to figure out how, he has learned the importance of self-care. “Work must be put in its proper place so you can enter into your next role at the end of the day.”
He sees the importance of “partnering with people who make you shine,” and he has welcomed and sought this for himself. Many have poured into his life — parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts, pastors, mentors, and he is grateful to each for their contribution to who he is today.
Passionate about helping people change, Phil is available to EMCC leaders needing help setting up or evaluating Celebrate Recovery Programs. He is also available to walk alongside leaders trying to transition through crises in their church and has ample experience in crisis intervention and traumatic events. He is an experienced workshop presenter.
You can reach Phil using the contact info on the Enrich website.