Ruth Barz is a counselor, wife, mom, and one of the newest members of the Lutheran Family Service mental health counseling team. With a deep love of God’s Word and His truth and master’s level training as a mental health counselor, Ruth brings vast experience and insight to her practice. Read on as we discuss navigating life transitions, the power of relationships, different types of trauma, when to seek counseling, and the healing and hope found in Christ alone.

Location:  Dubuque, Iowa

Email:  [email protected]

Office/Scheduling:  563-359-0696

How did you come to serve in the mental health field? 

I think I’ve been somebody who always wanted to help people and so in college I got a BA in social work and worked in a lot of different fields. I worked in a hospital setting, domestic violence shelter, and in an adolescent group home setting. And then I decided I wanted to do more one-on-one, so I went back and got a master’s in school counseling and I did that for four years, working in middle school and high school settings. Then I stayed home with my kids for a long time and worked in a preschool for a number of years. [Eventually], I decided I really want to go back to personal counseling. So, I recently graduated from the Townsend Institute at Concordia Irvine. And, here I am.

Why did you choose to join the Lutheran Family Service team? 

I didn’t really choose it! I feel like God chose me. It wasn’t even on my radar. Through a series of conversations that my pastor and others had, [LFS] became one of the options that I didn’t even think was possible! I really, truly didn’t. I always wanted to work in a Christian agency, wanted that to be the end goal. God plopped it into my lap, really!

It has been such an answer to prayer that I just never imagined. I love that verse about how God does immeasurably more than we can even imagine or think of. I think of myself as a person who has a pretty good imagination, and I’m like woah, God blows me away with what He does! His master planning is amazing, truly amazing.

What are your areas of specialty? 

I can work with anxiety and depression, and am really interested in marriage counseling to help walk with couples as they experience difficulties. Also trauma and changes in life. Transitions like college student to working person, having a baby, getting a divorce, or having all of your kids leave home. [There are] lots of times in life I think where we have transitions that are hard and we maybe need help.

You mentioned trauma; can you share more about that? 

Trauma can mean different things to different people. There can be huge traumas in your life– abuse, sexual assault, maybe you grew up in a home where there was a lot of fighting and horrible things happened. But it can also be things maybe we don’t normally think of as trauma. Maybe it was just an event that occurred in your life that made you unable to deal with the strong emotions or feelings you had at that time.

I define it as [not having] the resources you need at a particular time to come back from whatever you’ve experienced. And so, it’s something that, emotionally, has really left you in a tailspin. Sometimes we have more resources than other times.

Maybe it’s having a child that’s born with a disability; this is not what you were expecting or not what you thought being a mom or dad was going to be about. Maybe it’s a really bumpy time in your marriage or a partner has been unfaithful, or something else that has really rocked your world. It can be a lot of different things and sometimes, yeah, we think of trauma as this “I’ve had this big, huge horrible event that’s happened to me” but what one person’s trauma is may not be what another person’s is.

Tell us a bit about your background prior to mental health counseling.

We’ve talked some already about the professional side, but I really enjoyed being a mom, I have three wonderful kids. I’ve moved around a lot in my life and, sometimes, that was hard. But in some ways that’s been a really good experience. I’ve lived in a lot of different parts of the country and gotten to know a lot of different people and understand those transitions and coming and going and being new somewhere. I’ve been married for 33 years and I definitely understand the ups and downs of marriages, the seasons you go through in that.

How does your faith inform your therapy practice?

It informs it in every way. First of all, it informs it in that I realize I am just a human being that God has blessed with some abilities. I’ve gotten some education toward it, but really this is such humbling work because it’s not me who changes people and in the end I can’t really heal anyone. Christ really is the true healer of people’s hearts.

Healing comes through relationship.

I also think it informs it in the sense that God is a God who’s in relationship. Even before He created us, He’s in relationship with Himself as a triune God and He created us to be relational beings. I really, really believe that people are often hurt in relationship somewhere along the way, but that healing also has to come through relationship.

As a Christian, as somebody who knows that I am loved by God, then I can, in my relationship with clients, show that. I can be Christ’s love to them in the way that I treat them and talk to them and interact with them and am present with them.

We may have clients who are not Christian, so we will let them know that this is a Christian agency and that I am a Christian. But we never push our faith or anything like that onto a client if they didn’t want that. We would just open the door and say that that’s here if they ever have questions about that or if they want to talk about God. For a client who comes in and says “yes, I want this from a Christian perspective” then we may be able to pray with [them] or share truth from God’s Word that will help them in whatever it is that they’re going through.

How do you know when counseling would be a good thing for you?

I think when you’re finding that the things that maybe you can find on the internet are not working; when you’re like “okay, I’ve done x, y and z. I’ve done a lot of deep breathing, tried to think more positively about myself, or I’ve tried to communicate better with my spouse” or something and those things are not working. You don’t feel any better or you don’t see any improvement in what’s going on, then I think it’s time to seek out a counselor.

Destigmatizing mental health.

In our world, I think the stigma of going to see a mental health counselor is getting less. I hope that we do a better job of continuing to destigmatize that kind of help. There’s a lot of talk of brain health out there. In the same way that we try to be physically healthy and exercise, I think there are a lot of people who have started seeing a counselor regularly just to help their mental health.

Counselors are encouraged to be in counseling. We need to be our own healthy people, with God’s help. It doesn’t mean you’re weak or you can’t handle things if you need to talk to somebody about it. We don’t criticize people for going to a mechanic to get their car fixed or going to the doctor because they can’t cure their sinus infection.

Why is the work you do important?

Mental health counseling that is centered on God’s principles helps people to thrive in the best way, that’s not self-centered or doesn’t ask them to find hope within themselves or muster up their own kind of ‘just dig a little deeper into you and you’ll be able to find the best self of you that there is.’ There are philosophies out there that really don’t match up with the Bible. And we know that when we dig deep within we just find more sin and more despair.

All truth is God’s truth.

I love the phrase that all truth is God’s truth. And so, there are truths in secular psychology that are really God’s truths about the best way for people to thrive. It’s really awesome to be able to combine the two together. You feel like you’re really giving people true hope.

We are created for healing.

I would also say that in my training, there’s been so much research in the last few decades on the brain and how the brain operates and how it gets damaged in trauma and how it can heal. Look at what God has made in our brains, how he has made our brains, look at these neural pathways in our brains — there can be a deep rut in them, there can be ways that we’ve learned to behave for different reasons that are pretty deep.

But it’s not impossible to change those, we can make new pathways and there can be new neurons that go down that path and create a whole new way. So, to me, that’s super exciting that we see God’s creation and how he made things for our benefit, to grow. He created us for healing.

Ruth sees clients three days a week at Lutheran Family Service’s Dubuque, Iowa office, two days a week at the Bettendorf office, and throughout the state of Iowa via telehealth.

If you or someone you know is in need of Christ-centered mental health or marriage counseling, refer to or contact us today.

Not located near Dubuque or Bettendorf, Iowa? Visit our website to see if one of our other locations is near you, or, if telehealth/distance counseling is an option at:

Lutheran Family Service walks with those experiencing difficult times through mental health counseling, marriage counseling, crisis pregnancy counseling, and adoption services.



More posts about Lutheran Family Service News