A professional life devoted to helping people
A pastoral psychotherapist who serves on the adjunct faculty of the HCH Healthcare System as an instructor for clinical pastoral education, the Rev. Sam Sewell is also president of the Theological Center in Naples and a member of Mensa and the Sigma Delta Chi Honor Society. A frequent guest on my show, he also provides commentary on mental health and religious issues to several media outlets.
Sam was born in Randalia, Iowa, and was the first member of his family to be born in a hospital. The family moved to Waterloo when Sam was 7. He hated going to school until he attended college, he says, because he found it boring.
“I made life miserable for my teachers,” he says. “I would skip school to go to the library so I could learn.”
He joined the Navy after high school and began his undergraduate studies in psychology through the Navy Tuition Aid Program. He attended the United States Armed Forces Institute, the Naval Aviation Academy and the University of Puerto Rico before finally earning his bachelor’s degree in 1964 from the University of Southwest Louisiana. After his duty in the Navy, he did his graduate work at the University of Missouri-Kansas City in 1965.
During a summer in the north woods of Minnesota, Sam realized that the behavioral sciences were useful but not sufficient enough to satisfy his need to be a professional “people helper.” So he attended St. Paul’s Theological Seminary and Union Center for Ministerial and Religious Studies, where he earned a doctorate as a pastoral psychotherapist. He was ordained in 1970.
Sam moved to Naples in 1984 and is a long-time member of Moorings Presbyterian Church, where he teaches Biblical scholarship. He was also a catalyst for legally establishing properly credentialed clergy as mental health professionals in the state of Florida.
A life member of Mensa, the international high IQ society, he serves as gifted youth coordinator for the local chapter. “Working with gifted people is very rewarding,” he says. “Some individuals have a big brain, but never got a user’s manual. We provide the user’s manual.”
Sam’s hobbies include aviation and muscle cars. He’s especially proud of “Black Beauty,” his 1981 Volvo Bertone Coupe that can reach 60 mph from a full stop in 5.8 seconds.
Sam and his wife, Bunny (who is also a pastoral psychotherapist), met in 1989 when she was a guest at a wedding he was officiating in Goodland. As they prepare to celebrate their 25th anniversary, the two are partners in everything they do.
Through Best Self USA (a practice Sam opened in Kansas before moving to Naples), the Sewells and their associates provide counseling as well as executive coaching and management training.
“Not everyone needs psychotherapy,” Sam says. “Most problems can be solved by learning skills. Solution-focused education costs less money and is faster than psychotherapy.
Sometimes all people need is to learn how to do it right.” ¦
Talking points with Sam Sewell
Mentors: The people with the most significant influence on my life, apart from my wife, were mentors by proxy: Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Bertrand Russell and Abraham Maslow.
Something that’s been on your mind: We are watching the decline of Western Civilization, which could be reversed by embracing the values that originally made us great. Why can’t people see that obvious truth?
Something your mother was always right about: People are more important than ideas. And it’s more important to be loving than to be right. (Mom was also a psychotherapist.)
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? A forest ranger or a pilot.
First job: In a sheet metal shop.
What would you be doing if you weren’t doing this? Running a used car lot called Classics, Customs & Clunkers. That way I could drive all of my dream cars.
Guilty pleasure: Street racing after midnight.
One place on your bucket list: The Grand Canyon.
Skill or talent you wish you had: Singing. I lip sync at church.
Advice for your grandchildren: “I don’t know” is always a better answer than BS.
Something that makes you laugh: Stupid humor — “Blazing Saddles,” “Airplane,” “Monty Python.”
Last book read: “Miracles” by Eric Metaxas.
Something you’ll never understand: Quantum physics.
Pet peeve: 20-something drivers on cell phones.
Something people would be surprised to find out about you: I belong to the Association for Former Intelligence Officers, and had a long career in that field.
Something the Paradise Coast really needs: High-tech industry.
Favorite thing about the Paradise Coast: What else but the weather?
What I miss about the Paradise Coast when I’m away: My work. It is so gratifying.
— Bob Harden is the producer and host of “The Bob Harden Show,” airing from 7- 8 a. m. weekdays at bobharden.com.