Tullahoma resident Patricia Johnson-Laster, Ed.D., has recently released a faith-based, self-help workbook entitled, “Free to Be Me: Guided Journaling for Personal and Spiritual Growth,” published by Deep River Books, a Christian publishing company in Oregon.
She landed the royalty-based contract by winning the grand prize in the company’s annual writing contest.
In addition to her doctorate in educational psychology from Northern Illinois University, Johnson-Laster holds an M.A. in psychology from UNC Greensboro and an M.R.E. in religion from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.
Through a combination of reading, soul-searching and writing exercises, the workbook appears to seamlessly combine the author’s three fields of study into a unique self-help tool for churches, individuals and Christianity-based study groups.
“There are lots of books and self-help guides for adult children of dysfunctional families and abuse,” Johnson-Laster said, “but none involve faith.
“I feel that one’s faith in God gives hope, which can heal in ways that humans and psychotherapy alone cannot.”
Johnson-Laster said the book is written from a non-denominational Christian point of view, but only because that is the only religion in her background.
“I can’t write from a Buddhist or Muslim point of view, but I would strongly encourage psychologists from those and other religions to incorporate their own faith into their practice, or writing, as well.”
She added that regardless of one’s faith, religious families can often be very dysfunctional, despite how they may appear to the outer world.
“I come from a strong Christian background, but even in strong Christian families there can be a lot of denial and dysfunction that must be broken through for young adults to live normally.”
In addition to multiple degrees and an extensive teaching career at universities in Kentucky, Texas, Illinois, Virginia and Missouri, Johnson-Laster served as a Peace Corps volunteer teacher for two years in the Philippines, where she became fluent in the language and even wrote a guide for local English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers in that country.
What makes all these accomplishments even more remarkable is the fact that she has been 90 percent deaf since birth.
“I ‘hear’ with a combination of lip-reading and hearing aids,” she said, “so I can’t communicate well over the phone, but I do fine in person. To me, it’s really no different than wearing glasses if you’re visually impaired.
“I never pursued a clinical practice for people with diagnosed mental illnesses because I felt that my hearing disability would get in the way of that.
“If a patient were looking down or crying, for example, I might have a hard time reading their lips and understanding them.
“But as a college professor of psychology, I found that so many of my students came from dysfunctional families of one kind or another that I ended up spending more hours talking and counseling with them individually than I spent in the classroom.”
She went on to state that even without a clinical diagnosis, many students suffer from the effects of poor and dysfunctional parenting, including herself.
“My father was an alcoholic, but I found that reading, faith and prayer time went a long way toward helping me function as a young woman,” she said.
“Statistics have shown that, with or without abuse, roughly 78 percent of families are dysfunctional in some way or another.”
Johnson-Laster said while no family is perfect, “normal parenting,” is defined by an underlying cohesiveness, love and mutual respect, in which parents lead by example and encourage open, honest communication.
“Each member is valued as an individual and not forced to conform to each other’s demands,” she said.
Poor or dysfunctional parenting, on the other hand, includes emotionally unavailable or inconsistent parents; inadequate boundaries, including overly intrusive or protective behaviors; denial, or refusing to admit there is a problem; “scapegoating,” wherein the “scapegoat” is made to carry the hidden blame and shame for the family’s problems; and “reality shifting,” which contradicts what is actually happening, such as describing a family get-together as a “good time” when it was actually a disaster.
The workbook is available on Amazon.com as well as in 27 bookstores including Barnes and Noble, Books-a-million, Christian Books and the global Harbor College website.
Prices range from for $11-$14.99, but Johnson-Laster said it is cheapest through Christian Books.
“Any proceeds or profits it makes will go to Samaritans’ Purse, which is a missionary organization that helps third-world countries,” the author said.
“I’m not looking to get rich, but now that I’m retired, I just want to try and help others ‘break free’ from the unresolved issues of a dysfunctional upbringing.”
For more information, visit www.DeepRiverBooks.com.