Sara Lynema, Psy.D
Dr. Sara Lynema is a Clinical Psychologist who is passionate about sharing God's design for individual and relational wholeness.
She holds a BA from the University of Michigan and a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology from Wheaton College and has specialized training and continuing education in Christian faith integration, trauma healing and Integrative Marital Intensive Therapy
For nearly eight years she served couples and adults with a history of trauma or abuse in an outpatient therapy practice. From 2018 until 2022, she joined Focus on the Family as the Clinical Director of their Michigan Retreat Center and Hope Restored program. She currently provides therapy services as a Lead Intensive Therapist and Trainer at Hope Restored and works as an event speaker through Rooted Integrity Therapy and Consultation Services.
Getting to Know Dr. Sara Lynema
Can you tell us a little about who you are?
Something that drives what I do is that I am in love with understanding God as an artist who designed us with amazing intentionality. In school as a kid, I really fell in love with the of science nerdiness of really loving to understand how God designed us. I loved science and biology, anatomy. I loved understanding how a cell works; the intricacy of His design at that kind of micro level. And then, the first time I took a psychology class, it was like, God saying “Oh, and there's this.” There's this other piece, outside of the physical and logical data we can see, this piece of how God designed our hearts. I started to understand this part of our instrument panel that I didn't really have a great frame for, for how to know what to do with emotional and relational information. And the thing about knowing something about God and His design, is that once you have it, it is so much fun to give it away to others. So, I love working as a therapist and as a speaker. I enjoy helping people be less disoriented in, what can be, a very disorienting emotional and relational world. It doesn’t take the pains or struggles away, it just helps us know how to walk with them better.
It sounds like you really love to learn. What is your educational and training background?
With that love of learning from all the angles that God has built in me, my first training came from the University of Michigan. I had come from a Christian school upbringing, which I am really grateful for, but I wanted to see what was being taught outside of that frame. It was amazing training, but my personal faith experiences and relationship with the Lord really highlighted how that piece of the puzzle was being ignored, or even pathologized, in the field of psychology. So, after earning a BA and an MA at secular schools, I transferred to Wheaton College for my doctorate in Clinical Psychology, which is a program that integrates theological training with a clinical degree.
Because of the timing of my transfer, I could not start right in the psychology degree program, I actually got to spend a year studying theology first. That year changed how I filtered the rest of my psychology training and, really, all of my continuing education since. I really got to soak in the truth of who God is and His plan for us, which allowed me to sort of zoom out, and see the broader picture. I would get so lost in the details and minutia of how to fix problems, but that year really let me hold a different frame and understand more about not just what I believed and experienced with the Lord, but why. It let me relax into my position as helper and fellow journeyer rather than savior or healer, which is much healthier when working with people who are in pain and struggling. That combination of training frames how I see, hear, and adapt scientific and psychological truths that I see coming out of research and writing.
Two main pieces of my training following graduate school are in marriage therapy and trauma healing. I trained with Focus on the Family in their Integrative Marital Intensive Therapy Model. This is the model used in their marriage intensive program called Hope Restored. It highlights our value and design as individuals and also how we are called to work together in relationship, specifically focusing on marriage. I learned their model while working on my dissertation with them and utilized it in private practice. I found that when I was working with individuals, and my focus was on individuals with trauma history, their tools for understanding emotional conflict and for doing emotional self-care were really effective even outside a marriage context.
At a certain point, I hit a wall where I could tell there was a piece I was missing with some of my trauma clients. I sought out training based on research being published out of the Trauma Center in Boston, and gained some valuable insight into how identity is impacted by traumatic events. The work I do now integrates those two models with an eye towards defining and refining what is healthy based on a Biblical and wholistic view of how God designed us and calls us to live with Him and others in this broken world.
How did this event for equipping pastors with the knowledge and skills you’ve gained through your career come about?
I was speaking to a small group of women who were training to support women healing from domestic violence or abuse experiences. Pastor Jeff DeBoer of Redeemer OPC and his wife, Karen, also attended that presentation which focused on God’s design for caring about others and resourcing people in their healing without becoming overwhelmed by their need. After the presentation, we started talking about the impact they were seeing in the Church of pastors being overwhelmed, personally and professionally, and we started talking about how to provide some of the information I have to resource pastors and their spouses. In the intensive marriage program at Focus on the Family, I am used to having these conversations with pastors and their spouses. There often is not anywhere they feel they can go in their own community for respite, for refreshing and equipping. That’s just part of the nature of the job, so Focus would be a place where they would reach out and come for help with their relationships. While the focus of that program is marriage healing, we often have conversations about how recognizing God's design for emotional and relational health will impact their ministry work and their ability to better walk with their congregations. After hearing Pastor Jeff’s heart for pastors who are hurting or overwhelmed, especially with the past few years of increased emotional and relational reactivity we’ve been seeing, we started conversations that led to recording a podcast episode and building this event.
What is the purpose of the event and who should come?
The purpose is to provide information and practical tools for understanding and managing emotional and relational information. We are going to look at God’s design for personal responsibility and care, understanding the heart of conflict, resourcing others through the stages of healing and discerning timing and pacing for that care. I am really hoping to shed some light on what may look like crazy-making experiences that have been amplified in the past few years, and take some time to equip and serve those of you who serve us.
Pastors, in particular, are on the front-lines of hearing about and navigating emotional and relational ups and downs with their congregants. I’ve done a lot of work with military service members, and I think about how they have to hold steady in their battle and in their leadership through the mission. But, then they need a place to return back to for debriefing and to have attention to their care and wounding before they return to the field for the next round of mission. Pastors are managing a spiritual, emotional and relational battle, often with very little formal training in how to manage the emotional and relational aspects of walking with people, and often with few places to take the armor off and be refreshed. If I can provide knowledge and tools that will help them navigate that aspect of their call, that is a win.
We were also intentional about including the spouses. While this is not a marriage event, having a team at home who shares language and vision about what is healthy can be so powerful and freeing for both spouses. It gives an opportunity for both to reflect and communicate on how to walk out their individual calls, while also supporting the call of their spouse. I’m hoping this is a day of rest and reorientation in God's design for both of you that makes the next leg of walking out that call feel more doable.
While we are excited to hold this event in person, there are a number of pastors who will not be able to join due to distance. So, we also decided to hold a livestream option for the event so that pastors and spouses unable to join in person can still gain the information.