Rev. James Ramsey is a certified Gottman Therapist, thrice ordained minister, writer & educator.
M.A. Fuller Graduate School of Clinical Psychology (Clinical Psychology) 1971.
M.A., Fuller Seminary in Theology, (Master of Divinity) 1971.
B.S. San Diego State University, (Psychology) 1967.
Montana: Marriage Family Therapist (#147)
Montana: Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (#134)
When I was three years old, my father was wounded while serving overseas as a Marine. Within a year of returning home, he was killed in a motorcycle accident and my mother was left to raise three children. The youngest was born the day after my father’s death.
My Mother demonstrated remarkable strength and resilience.
When I was six, my mother married a man with one child. My stepfather adopted us, and we became a close family for the rest of our lives. Having grown up in this functional, healthy Christian family, I knew that I wanted to help other people to have that kind of happy, close family, and enjoy better lives.
When I began to study psychology at my university, it greatly saddened me to read case studies about the relational issues faced by so many couples. I wanted to help people to untangle their lives and to build strong, happy marriages and families, so I earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in psychology and a Master’s degree in theology. Throughout most of my career, I’ve worked simultaneously as a professional marriage therapist and church pastor. In both capacities, I encourage people to nurture healthy relationships and communities by showing love, grace and mercy to those around them.
I've known challenges in my own life, as well. In 2000, I was diagnosed with Stage III colon cancer and treated with surgery and nine months of chemotherapy. In 2013, I survived a devastating car accident. I lost my wife and her mother in that crash. Deborah and I were married 46 years. She was the mother of our two sons. She meant the world to me and I couldn't believe she was gone.
God helped me to endure these ordeals without getting mad at Him. Instead of my pain, he showed me how to focus on what He wanted me to do with my life. And I listened.
Later that year, I attended a church I rarely visited. There I met a woman who was a friend of our family. She had been my son’s high school German teacher. Three months before, after forty-two years of marriage, her husband had died unexpectedly of a heart attack. My son was 40 years old at that time but still regarded her as his favorite teacher. He was delighted when he learned that I was seeing Diane and more delighted when we got married. Diane and I have been married for three years now. We also lead workshops together for couples.
These experiences have blessed me with true empathy for anyone who has lost a loved one or faced life-threatening situations. They've also taught me that life goes on and true love and happiness are still possible. My life lessons have led me to believe that I am here to serve others by helping couples to transform and strengthen their relationships.
Anyone who really gets things done could be described as having a "magnificent obsession." Having devoted their lives to something that's truly meaningful, they don't allow themselves to be distracted by anything.
I devote my life to helping people to come alive spiritually and relationally. Nothing in life is more important than relationships. Money, status, and power are insignificant in comparison to our need to love and to be loved well.
It's amazing for me to realize that I have been a professional marriage and family therapist for over forty years. At the age of seventy-two, I’m an active marriage therapist, because I enjoy it and I am inspired by the work. I lead workshops and seminars, write books, and develop e-learning tools. I am a member of the National Speakers Association and give talks on marriage research. I'm mentally and physically active and will continue to serve others for as long as I am able.
I welcome the challenge of working with couples that other therapists consider extremely difficult or even impossible to help. Partners come because they don't know how to address their irreconcilable differences. They become mired in a dynamic that grows more volatile and harder to resolve over time. I help them to understand and value these differences and to work well in the face of them. Couples come to empathize with and support each other under my counseling, even when they have differing and conflictual perspectives and needs.
I am comfortable in situations where relationship dynamics have become extremely emotionally destructive. Couples know I'll help them to work through these types of situations. They sense that I truly understand what they're going through, and that I have the necessary training and experience to help them out of those dark, dangerous woods.
I draw upon extensive scientific research conducted over the past forty years and combine it with my own years of experience to understand how these situations are created and what to do about them.
The Gottman research has shown that a healthy, growing marriage is founded upon a strong friendship. The most important thing a couple can learn is how to be each other's best friends and to truly know and support each other. We have far more power to make our partner happy than we think we have. The secret to having a happy marriage is to show your partner every day, through your behavior, that no other person, object or activity is more important to you.
Many couples begin with a strong friendship and a solid connection, but this may have changed because of the pressures that arise, especially during the early years of marriage, when both partners may be working so hard to provide for their family’s material needs that they forget to make the time to really talk with each other and to continue developing their cognitive and emotional connection.
As the focus shifts away from their relationship and towards childcare, money and work demands, they may find that they have very little time or energy for their partner. Without realizing it, they may lose their connection and become more like roommates and less like lovers. Because they’re not investing enough time in their relationship, they’re not keeping current with their knowledge of each other and cannot provide one another with emotional nourishment. The relationship becomes either emotionally volatile or disengaged. Over time, the situation becomes even less positive and hopeful, and more prone to dysfunction.
The root issue is that they haven’t nurtured their friendship, so they’ve lost that deep connection. They’ve lost their sense of who their partner is and how they feel about them. If I can help them to restore their original friendship, rebuild their fondness and admiration system, and help them to become more relationally skillful, I know they will make amazing progress.
I am most inspired by those individuals who demonstrate stewardship by consistently giving, loving and sharing throughout their lives.
My grandfather is one such source of inspiration. He traveled across the state of Montana establishing new churches. He provided for his wife and their nine children by working as a businessman and tending a garden and orchard, and raising pigs, chickens and cows and yet he always found the time to go fishing or hunting with me. His children all grew up to be remarkable ministers, missionaries, teachers, and businessmen. My grandfather has been a tremendous influence in my life and in the lives of my children.
Pastor Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel personally mentored me for many years. He helped me start Montana’s first Calvary Chapel, which I went on to pastor for thirty-five years. He spent his whole life establishing and building a congregation of 25,000 in Costa Mesa, California, and created a legacy of more than one thousand congregations all over the world. During a time when most churches discriminated against members of the counterculture because of their lifestyle and comportment, he welcomed everyone into his church to be accepted and loved. Over the years, hundreds of thousands of people have been impacted by God's love displayed through Chuck Smith and the many young ministers he trained, including me. As a young minister, I was impressed by how, both at church and at the summer camps, Chuck was always prepared to do the dirty work. He always asked to be called by his first name rather than by his title. This was the kind of man he was—completely focused on helping others and carrying out everything God planted in his heart.
The pastor of the church in which my wife was raised also did not want to be called Reverend or Pastor. Mr. Jones pastored that church for sixty-five years, teaching and sharing the Bible and helping his flock of one hundred to understand what it means to be a healthy, moral Christian person. Whenever new elders or deacons were appointed, he reminded them that stewardship rather than prestige is vested in these titles, and that they were there to serve the people.
Of all those in the counseling profession who have dedicated themselves to helping people, two individuals stand out in my mind: John Gray and John Gottman. John Gray has remarkable insight into the gender issues that impact marriages. Over four decades, he has written many books that have been read by millions of people all over the world.
John Gottman is one of the finest research scientists of all time, having spent over forty years studying more than three thousand couples, to better understand the intervening variables that determine success or failure in marriage. Based upon his research, he has developed interventions and antidotes that can radically change relationships. He is married to renowned clinical psychologist Julie Gottman, and together they have built an organization that trains couple therapists all over the world to apply methods based upon their research. I am honored to have been an early adopter and am a certified Gottman-Method Couples Therapist.
My wife and I share many meaningful goals and enjoy investing our time in helping others. We love the outdoors, especially hiking, camping, fishing and hunting. We enjoy taking cruises and all kinds of adventure trips abroad. We love water and any recreational activity taking place in or near oceans, lakes, rivers and streams. We have each lived on the ocean for a time when we were younger, so we both have saltwater in our veins.
We laugh a lot and do a lot of affectionate kidding around. We enjoy being real and transparent with each other.
Even when our partner's behavior appears negative, we try not to assume the worst. We have a lot of fun together, and now that we are in our seventies, we have even more time to give to each other. We're happily married newlyweds.
I enjoy all kinds of fishing, especially flyfishing, which I learned from my grandfather. My wife is becoming a proficient flyfisher as well.
Having grown up in San Diego, I love to body surf, scuba dive, and fish. Right before starting college, I had the opportunity to work on an 80-ton commercial tuna boat for the entire summer. During that time, we were in port for a grand total of three days. We caught albacore with cane poles and flipped them over our shoulders onto the deck of the ship using barbless jigs and baited barbless hooks.
As a kid, I had read about this kind of tuna fishing and dreamed of doing it someday. It was a happy time for me and more of a joy than work.
I worked in downtown Missoula for many years before my wife and I decided to build our counseling office on our property. The office complex covers 1,000 square feet and comprises a waiting room, a secretary’s office, a counseling office, a restroom, a workroom, a group room, and a paved parking area. The grounds are covered in mature trees, bushes and flowers, and are surrounded by a 14-foot mature arborvitae hedge.
For almost thirty years, my clients have been coming here for their appointments. I’m happy to be able to provide such a beautiful and peaceful setting for our confidential work together.
Missoula is a beautiful city located between two mountain wildernesses, with two blue-ribbon rivers running parallel through it and two other rivers nearby. The city has excellent restaurants, shops, theaters, and medical facilities, and offers quality sports and liberal arts activities.
We are very fortunate to live in Western Montana, with its grand mountains and pristine lakes, rivers and streams. The Missoula and Bitterroot Valleys are nicknamed the Banana Belt, because during winter the climate remains milder than in the rest of the state. It is a phenomenal place to live, surrounded by natural beauty.
I look forward to helping you rediscover your connection.