For Ken and Diana Whiteman, healing is a lifelong journey that began in a classroom. To love one another fully meant change, but they lacked the skills necessary to do it. Life Skills International has transformed the way they relate to one another. Together, as co-facilitators and instructors, they now bring renewed hope to struggling marriages and families in South Florida.
“Our baggage affects our life now whether we realize it or not,” says Diana Whiteman, a victim of childhood sexual abuse and domestic violence. “The program teaches that over 90 percent of what angers us today has its roots below the age of 13. It is very freeing to identify what has been holding me back from becoming what I know God wants me to be.”
Without genuine conscious change, childhood wounds become grown-up pain. Life Skills classes teach the tools necessary to build healthy relationships and break unhealthy generational patterns of abuse. The format differs from traditional group counseling in that it allows individuals to take responsibility for their growth through active participation and allows them to share their struggles safely and confidentially.
“Unlike some sharing/support groups, Family Life Skills has, as its major component, a large amount of content which helps us understand how we might have gotten to where we are,” says Ken Whiteman, who facilitates a men’s Life Skills class in Boca Raton. “I think we all have a desire to experience the “transformation by the renewal of our minds” that the Bible speaks of. Family Life Skills gives us information and tools to work more effectively with God in the healing and transformation processes.”
Dr. Norm Weiss, of Living Water Life Coaching in Plantation, founded one of the first Family Life Skills centers out of the now 200 locations nationwide. Weiss has been a pastoral counselor since 1972 and has worked with individuals struggling with drug addiction and marital problems.
The classes “outline a healthy way to relate to each other in marriage and families,” says Weiss.
“It helps them to understand how their past is impacting current relationships and stop destructive habits. By the grace of God [they] are able to see their homes become a lot healthier.”
“The class is psycho-educational,” says Diana Whiteman, “meaning a class that educates the participants on what healthy-normal looks like. When we grow up with any kind of dysfunction in our family of origin, we believe what we experienced was normal, when that is not the case. When I saw what the Biblical norm for my life was, I began to believe that I was not crazy. I was not dirty, damaged and different. There was a reason for the issues that were plaguing me.”
“Life Skills is 10 years of therapy in seven months,” says Family Life Skills graduate Sarah Wiggin.
“It’s deep, to the point and no thrills attached, besides the great relationships you make within your cohort. There’s something for everyone. There are concepts you’ve never thought to consider and real-life examples to relate to in yourself. It uses multi-media of communication: written, video and conversation. It’s not for the weak-hearted, and it gets to the core of your behaviors and thoughts.”
“Phase I” classes are three hours long and take 30 weeks to complete. They are taught in small groups of men or women using the “Learning to Live, Learning to Love” curriculum developed by
Dr. Paul Hedgstrom, founder of Life Skills International. Hedgstrom had lived his life not understanding the driving force that caused him to self-destruct again and again. After anger and violence led to the end of his 16-year marriage and subsequent relationships, he knew he needed help.
Hedgstrom began his journey in a pilot program through the Domestic Violence Project (DVP), a nonprofit domestic violence organization based out of Aurora, Colorado. Life Skills International was birthed from over 18,000 hours of research that had the goal of developing a curriculum that would offer hope and help to the abuser, the victim and the families involved in domestic violence.
The program is designed for any individual, and it benefits the entire family. “The program teaches that each of us is 100 percent responsible for our actions and attitudes,” says Diana Whiteman. “When I grow, I become a better wife, regardless of what my husband does.”
“We believe that if even one family member can begin the process of healing, that it can spread to others in the family unit,” adds Ken Whiteman. “Love and health begets more love and health. God has so designed the healing process with this kind of contagious quality.”
For more information about Family Life Skills classes, contact Living Water Life Coaching at 954-452-4407.