Healing and Connection in a Difficult World
By Lisa Cannon
“I’m really glad that I grew up in a safe environment where people looked out for each other.”
“You know how they say that there are six degrees of separation between people? Well, in Vandalia, you’re lucky if you get two,” that’s how Doug Carpenter describes the town where he grew up, our town.
For most of high school, Doug didn’t feel like he fit in. He was quiet, shy, more drawn to the piano than to athletics. His father wasn’t a farmer but a businessman—the family owned the Shrine Memorial Vault Company and the Old Capitol Monument Works. He didn’t see a path for himself in Vandalia so, on his last day of high school he had his car packed, took his last exam, and headed out onto I-70, eastbound.
He knew that he wanted to be in a helping profession and initially considered becoming a minister—which took him east to Delaware where he attended seminary for about eighteen months. He came to realize that he preferred relating to people individually rather than preaching to a crowd. So he switched it up and moved over to Pace University in New York City and majored in psychology. He continued on at Pace to earn a Masters degree in Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation. Doug won numerous distinctions and accolades for his academic work.
Ready to tackle a Ph.D., he headed back to the midwest to the Forest Institute of Professional Psychology in Springfield, Missouri. Upon earning his degree he was offered a teaching position and eventually moved up to become an Associate Dean. Another academic post led him to Michigan where he also saw patients part-time. In 2014, he opened a practice with his wife, Insight Counseling Services. It is a sizable clinic, with 17 therapists who treat patients of all ages with a wide variety of needs.
Dr. Carpenter specializes in helping men on a nexus of issues relating to childhood trauma: addiction, sexual addiction, sexual trauma recovery, and working through childhood sexual and physical abuse. Doug became interested in these issues while interning in the psychology department of a large county jail in Missouri. He ended up providing therapy to men in prison for sexual offenses because no one else was willing to work with them. He has seen a lot of people rehabilitated and says “some of the consolation I get in that is that if I can help someone not repeat their crime, I’m saving how many people out in the real world from also being traumatized by this person.”
Switching gears, we talk about fatherhood in Doug’s own life and how that influenced his professional choices. Doug shares the importance and challenges of his relationship with his father. As an adult, he sees that his father loved them all deeply, but as a young boy he didn’t always feel that love and connection. His father didn’t have any role models for how to be a loving and connected Dad. One of his books in progress is titled, “Healing the Father Wound.” He feels fortunate that he had that opportunity to reconnect with his Dad as an adult and was able to enjoy a good relationship for a number of years prior to his father’s recent passing.
Being a father is one of the greatest joys in Doug’s life and his is a close-knit family. His 23-year old son married his junior high school sweetheart, and is a very successful financial wealth advisor. His daughter, age 21, is headed to medical school and hopes to become a cardio-thoracic surgeon. He says, “I made an effort to have a very open, close relationship with my kids. I often tell them, ‘I really love you for the person you’ve turned out to be, who you are.” We note the beauty of Doug being able to give his children something he lacked in his own childhood and how important it is to disrupt unhelpful generational patterns.
With multiple books in the works, Doug is not slowing down any time soon. His goal is to have published five books by the time he’s 55 (he’s done two already). And for folks dealing with the complex issues he specializes in, that’s a good thing. He is using his knowledge and professional skills to help break cycles of neglect and abuse in families and individuals—helping to heal people in great need of that support and, in doing so, he is making the world a better place.
Dr. Carpenter appreciates the strong foundation growing up in a place like Vandalia gave him, from which to set out on his objectively remarkable path. He remembers being able to leave the house at nine in the morning, ride his bike all over town and not come home until dinner time. He smiles, and says: “I’m really glad that I had that freedom and that I grew up in a safe environment where people looked out for each other.” We feel the same way, Doug. Vandalia is an equally good place from which to live a life or launch a life.