Bob Van Oosterhout

About Bob (...What about Bob?)
Support Opportunity & Service Circles - A Neigborhood Organizing Tool
About Bob (...What about Bob?)
Anger and Impulse Control
Anxiety, Depression, PTSD
Behavioral Health Integration with Primary Care
Bring Truth to Fear: We CAN Work Together
Hard Times Cafe Model of Empowerment
Links to Videos for Online Stress Management at LCC
Managing Chronic Pain and Headaches
Mental Health
Moral Philosophy
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Practical Psychology: What Works and Makes Sense
Problem Solving - Responding Effectively to Problems
Slow Down and Lighten Up
Spiritual Writing
Stress Management
What Works
Resume/Curriculum Vitae
Comments, Suggestions, Discussion

Link to Resume and Curriculum Vitae

Looking back, there were four things that shaped my work over the past forty years:

(1) As an undergraduate in 1969, Dr. Ralph Lewis challenged me to identify and fine-tune the essential core principles of what was consistently effective in my work and then learn to describe them in simple terms that lead to practical application.  This has become part of my way of thinking about issues and concerns and was particularly helpful in counseling, training, and teaching.

(2) I began and have continued a daily meditation practice since Spring, 1972.  This made it possible to develop perceptual and mental flexibility and clarity by training me to recognize where my thoughts were taking me and shift focus in order to understand a larger picture and relevant details more clearly.

These two experiences made it easier to identify core issues and concerns and develop solutions that fit the situation and the people involved. 
(3) I learned from my patients and students as well as day-to-day experiences. Viewing life as an ongoing learning process has helped me learn humility and to realize that each person has unique gifts and potential that can be realized with proper support and opportunities.  Developing a habit of regularly reflecting on what worked and how as well as what didn’t work and why forged the foundation my career.  The core principles and concepts I use are open to question and revision even though most have remained consistent over time.

(4) Learning about the effect of the body and specifically of patterns of chronic muscle tension on mental and emotional functioning in the early 1970's focused my work on simple, practical approaches that were consistently effective and could be easily learned and practiced.  Stopping the build up of tension and gradually resolving patterns of tension greatly facilitated my understanding the interaction between mind, body and emotion and made it much easier for my patients and students to understand and resolve mental and emotional concerns.

My most significant learning experiences came from working with people who had been diagnosed as profoundly and severely mentally impaired in the late 1970's and early ‘80's and with the patrons and volunteers of the Hard Times Café (HTC), an empowerment program for disadvantaged persons I facilitated from 1991 through 1999. 

Establishing relationships with people who had limited or no language taught me that we gain a deeper understanding when our learning process starts with experience.  Working with people who had problems with violence showed me the importance of a regular practice that helped me remain calm, grounded, and open.  I learned not to place knowledge before experience and that there are both wide similarities and broad differences in how each of us sees and experiences our world.  I believe that deepening understanding is an ongoing interaction between experience, study, and reflection and that certainty is a signal to stop and reassess.       

HTC patrons and volunteers showed me that potential emerges in an atmosphere of dignity and respect.  They also demonstrated the capacity to rise to the level of responsibility given to them when it was chosen and supported.  They taught me the power of community and, along with my patients and students revealed the incredibly beauty and resilience of the human heart.

I am aware that I can never be fully aware of my own blinders. I believe that truth and understanding can only flourish in interaction with others and, to the extent that I place myself above or below another person, I diminish us both. 

I retired from counseling in 2012 due to back problems and focused on a project, “Practical Psychology:  What Works and Makes Sense,” to provide a summary of what I had learned from my patients and students over the past forty years.  Sample pages from this project can be viewed at 

After the Brexit and the U.S. elections, which followed similar paths taken by Poland, Hungary, and Turkey, I was deeply concerned about the direction that democratic states appeared to be heading and put “Practical Psychology on the shelf.  I identified two factors which appeared to be influencing this shift: (1) the increasing effectiveness of the use of fear and divisiveness as a political tactics and (2) a decreasing lack of respect for truth.  My current focus is developing simple tools and resources so average citizens can identify and confront fear based thinking, restore respect for truth and work together to understand and address the problems and opportunities we face

Recognized Accomplishments

1998 - Initiated and coordinated Clare County’s successful application to become a Federal Enterprise Community (EC)

Designed a planning process, facilitated community town hall meetings, organized advisory boards and set up a steering committee that represented a wide range of community interests.  Clare County was one of 20 rural communities nationwide that received the EC designation. 

1996 - Best Paper Award at the Tina Milidrag Symposium for Human Service Innovation

For a description of the Hard Times Cafe empowerment program, which I designed and co-facilitated from its inception in 1991 until 2000.

Information and videos about the Hard Times Cafe

2001 - Proposed the Unity in the Spirit of America (USA) Act

The USA Act was introduced by Senator Debbie Stabenow in Oct. 2001, passed by Congress in Dec. 2001 and signed by President Bush in Jan. 2002.  This act authorized the Points of Light Foundation to promote and coordinate community service projects that honor victims lost in the Sept. 11 tragedy.  Over 1,275,000 volunteers worked on USA projects in the first year of the program.

Text of speech given to the U.S. Senate on the USA (United in the Spirit of America) Act


Personal Stories

Encounter with a Fawn #2