Introducing Ben Hummell MFT, LPC, a licensed psychotherapist and author of Summoning Genius: A Midlife Guide to Discovering Identity, Purpose, and Meaning. Newly relocated to Ashland, Oregon, Ben has opened his counseling practice here in Ashland and is now accepting new clients. Clinically trained as a Depth Psychotherapist and having spent the past 35 years as a spiritual counselor and teacher, Ben brings a unique approach of helping clients navigate difficult life transitions, and helps his clients to summon and engage their inherent genius that resides within them. I spoke with Ben to learn more about counseling practice, his local workshops, and his book.
Ben, thanks for reaching out to the LocalsGuide as a way to engage and introduce yourself to our community.
Thank you. I chose to relocate to Ashland from Northern California for the incredible natural beauty that surrounds us here, but mostly for the inner quality of the people who live here. Since I’ve been here, I’ve developed both personal and professional relationships with deeply sincere individuals who are open-hearted and passionate about their lives and what they do. I’d like to broaden my network of new friends and associates by doing this interview, to introduce myself to the community, and to be of service to those who may benefit from what I have to offer
I am a Marriage and Family Therapist as well as a Licensed Professional Counselor, and I actually specialize in helping people navigate difficult life transitions that can happen at many stages of life. My book, Summoning Genius: A Midlife Guide to Discovering Identity, Purpose, and Meaning, uses the lens of Midlife as an example of one particular developmental stage when such a transition may happen.
What are some major shifts that can happen in midlife that individuals need help with?
- Career change
- Children leaving home
- Moving to a new location
- Religious questions
- Crisis of faith
What accompanying symptoms can indicate that a life transition may be happening?
- Grief and loss
- Identity confusion
- Physical illness that is difficult to diagnose
- Lack of direction
You have written a book all about this topic. I would love for you to share more.
My book Summoning Genius is about challenges that come up in our life that are unexpected, and about using our Genius callings to overcome them. The word Genius is actually an ancient Roman word meaning a guardian spirit that each one of us is born with which contains the blueprint of our individual life callings. The book is basically a handbook for finding our individual life purpose, which most of us have either forgotten or have never uncovered. When we are expressing our individual Genius, we are making time to find and explore those things that make our life fulfilling and enjoyable. This happens when we are literally doing what we were born to do in the world.
The word crisis comes from the Latin word krisis, meaning decision or choice. So a midlife crisis is a time period when our Genius is calling for our attention and asking us to make a choice as to who we want to be going forward. Midlife is a time of reevaluation, and a time when the ways in which we lived our younger lives don’t fit with our current situation. Midlife calls for a different approach, since all of our experiences up until this point have changed, deepened, and matured us into a different person.
Oftentimes this is a very painful experience for people.
Yes. It can be painful and confusing when the way we have lived for so long no longer serves us, and our inner selves are calling for a change or life course correction. Since we all go through these confusing periods alone, working with someone professionally as a witness and guide to this process can be extremely helpful and healing.
How do you define midlife?
Midlife transitions can occur roughly between the ages of 35-60, depending on the particular issue and the psychological development of the individual around that issue.
Tell us more about the origins of the word genius.
Again, the word Genius in Latin means guardian spirit. The Greek word for this is the Daimon, the early Christians called it our Guardian Angel. Later Greek philosophers called it the Ochema. In all of these cases, the words represent the seed of our potential uniqueness which holds the promise of our individual fulfillment in this lifetime.
You must really enjoy meeting and seeing the genius in other people.
Yes! When I work with clients and students and we uncover one of their Genius qualities, I recognize it immediately as their faces light up, their speech becomes empowered, their excitement about the particular subject or quality becomes heightened, and they suddenly have access to an abundant source of energy and innate creative resources that come from deep inside themselves. It is very inspiring to see. It is not tiring. It is not labor. It is the source of a very fulfilled life.
Where in the process of midlife are you working with your clients?
I work with people in every stage of midlife. It is always incredibly rewarding to work with my clients and students on all aspects of an identity shift that is taking place in their lives. It is a natural phenomenon which happens to every single person who lives long enough to experience it. I help to normalize the experience for people, and to learn to take advantage of the tremendous opportunities for growth and change that it presents.
Ben, in addition to your counseling services you are also offering local workshops and classes. Please tell us more.
I am teaching an OLLI course on the material from my book at SOU. It begins on Thursday, April 21, from 11AM – 12:30 PM, and will be a free 6-week course consisting of lectures, guided exercises and discussions.
I am also developing Genius workshops for individuals who would like to gather in groups to receive and give support in a cohort setting for bringing out their unique Genius qualities.
Individual Genius coaching is another facet of my work that I offer and explain on my website.
In the summer months, I am offering a Midlife Support Group for those who would like to work on Midlife issues in a group setting.
What impact are you seeing that your book and workshops have been having?
I have been receiving very positive feedback about my approach, and those who have read my book are reporting getting sparks of their Genius’s calling to make changes in their lives, some small and some large. My work is a call to action; those who are ready to make significant changes in their lives are responding to it with great enthusiasm!
Can you describe transformation that occurs for an individual once they summon their genius?
When an individual begins to engage with their Genius spirit deliberately and purposefully, an entire world of new possibility opens up. Personal energy – physical, emotional, and spiritual – begins to move in their awareness once more, and with this renewed movement, they enter into a more authentic expression of who they were born to be. This authenticity allows them to focus directly on expressing what truly engages them as the unique individual that they are. It automatically heals a fragmented sense of self that so many people experience.
Ben, please talk about your personal mission.
My basic philosophy is that I want to be of service to my fellow human beings. I have come to learn that that is one of my particular Genius callings. Helping others to find their life callings and to move through difficult and confusing times is the most rewarding work I can imagine doing. Instead of being exhausted at the end of a work day or at the end of a workshop, I experience being energized. That’s how I know I’m doing the work I was born to do. It always brings abundant energy along for the ride.
Ben, you enjoy going to local tea and coffee shops, and have already been able to meet and make many new friends.
Yes! I love meeting new people and have been surprised and excited time and time again at how deeply engaged and sincere Ashlanders can be about their chosen passion or cause. I love going to Dragon Gongfu teahouse and doing the tea service with Luke. It’s always an enjoyable surprise meeting whoever shows up that night to participate and engage in conversation. I have had similar experiences at Dobra Tea and Noble Coffee.
How can any of our readers wanting to learn more about what you are doing take the next step?
I invite anyone who wants to learn more about my therapy services, book, workshops, and classes to visit my website: benhummell.com, and join my mailing list so that they can receive updates on upcoming events. I offer a free 15-minute consultation for those seeking individual or couples therapy.
Finally, any last words or comments you would like to share with our readers?
It is my sincere wish for those who recognize that they are dissatisfied with how their life is going to reach out and ask for the help that they need to change what is not working anymore. No one is alone in this situation. We all share this as part of the human condition. I encourage everyone to summon their Genius for the bravery it takes to continue to grow despite their history or physical age. Amazing things are always possible as long as we can take a breath.
Ben Hummell, MFT, LPC
534 Washington St. Ashland, OR 97520