Executives at Cy-Fair nonprofit Shield Bearer freely admit their bias for families.
Through counseling for married couples, veterans and complex trauma victims like human trafficking survivors, the organization works to keep families in the area from ripping apart.
“We see the value of keeping families together and the difference that it makes overall in the community when you do that,” Associate Director Melissa Rotholz said.
Shield Bearer was created more than a decade ago when founder Matthew White saw a need to help marriages remain intact. White found a group of volunteers who helped him host meetings in the community.
Now Shield Bearer is a multiservice organization that, in 2015, counseled 15,000 people at its four locations in Cy-Fair, Tomball and Hempstead.
“Out of all of the things that bring satisfaction in life, relationships are so key,” Executive Director Ray Wooten said. “I’m sure you know people who are miserable in their life, yet they have a good career. What’s going on? It’s their relationships.”
Shield Bearer hosts community programs, such as its dating violence prevention program, which sends counselors into Cy-Fair ISD schools to show the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships.
The group also hosts Mother-Daughter Strong—a program that includes physical activity and conversation to build the mother-daughter bond. Strong Father, Strong Families brings dads into elementary schools for an evening with the kids.
Shield Bearer has four specialties that make it unique, Wooten said.
Its marriage-counseling program, Marriage Intensive, takes an emergency room-type approach for couples on the brink of divorce. Ninety percent of couples that entered the program are still married a year later, Wooten said.
Other specialty programs include counseling for veterans and active-duty members, complex trauma services for survivors of human trafficking and crisis prevention.
“We didn’t intend to get into everything that we’re in, but whenever the community says, ‘This is a need that we have,’ and we don’t know who to go to, we look within our skill sets and find a way to meet those needs,” Wooten said.
Prices for the counseling services are need- and income-based, Rotholz said. Interested parties take an intake assessment that determines their prices per session. Special consideration is given for human trafficking survivors, crime victims and veterans.
“There are so many in our community [who]can’t afford services and would go without them without an organization like this,” Rotholz said. “So we work on a sliding scale to make sure we can help the people [who]need it most.”
Keeping a marriage strong
Shield Bearer Executive Director Roy Wooten identified four principles that help keep relationships intact.
- People should continue to get to know their spouses. “We think we know all about our [spouse], and 10 years later, there’s a stranger in our bed. It’s rediscovering each other—dating again. It’s spending time every day having a little check-in so that they’re really conversing,” Wooten said.
- Have hard conversations in a safe way. “Be courageous in addressing the issues in the relationship. We have more pain in our marriages in how we talk about the issues than the issues themselves usually, so we just stop talking to each other. We’re living parallel lives, but we’re under the same roof,” Wooten said.
- Forgiveness and appreciation are key. “Appreciation will not work with bitterness, and forgiving our spouse is not really about our spouse. It’s about us finding peace and joy and creating some space where we can experience peace and joy again. There’s something that happens when we appreciate our spouse that changes us and helps us start to be open and have peace and joy in our relationship,” Wooten said.
- Couples should do the things they did when they first fell in love. “[Couples need to] spend time together where [they’re] not talking about home logistics and management. You don’t just plant a garden and leave it be. You have to tend to it and make sure it’s getting water. You’ve got to get the weeds out,” Wooten said.