In a leap of faith, Martino moved his family to Grand Rapids from Ohio in 2007. After a dark season in ministry, Martino says he was in danger of becoming a “nominal” Christian. It was a pastor’s conference in Grand Rapids that prompted a calling to move his family to Michigan to attend Grand Rapids Theological Seminary.
As a result of those challenging seasons—worrying about where groceries would come from, working three part-time jobs to support his family while attending graduate school, and starting a business during a recession—Martino says he’s not the same person. “I’m more stable from hearing God’s call and walking through the desert,” he said.
The biggest change he has experienced is a new perspective on hard times. “It’s calmed me. When bad things happen, when the storms come in, my stomach used to drop. Now, I have a greater sense of calm and peace through all the storms,” he said. His wife Erica fully supported him through the process, and they both believed God had called them to this new adventure.
During a marriage and family therapy class, Martino heard something that he believed could change the world. “Strong families make strong communities and strong communities make a strong world,” he recalls. This thought set Martino on a course of focusing on relationship therapy, and he declared counseling as his major.
After graduating in 2010, Martino and a classmate began Creative Solutions Counseling—an umbrella for a group of counselors to operate their own businesses under. The partnership grew to three, and the group also now has three associates with plans to grow to eight by the end of the year. Martino operates as Joe Martino Counseling and sees an average of 30 to 40 clients a week.
Martino says his favorite part of counseling is watching marriages heal. Last year, 91 percent of the marriages that walked through his door headed for divorce ended up staying together. He’s proud of that statistic, as the industry average is just 36 percent. “My belief is that the couples that came through—I didn’t just help them but also their kids,” he said. “You can tell even by the way they walk in the door that they had a good week, and you know it was because they used the tools you gave them and it worked. That brings me such joy.”
In addition to couples counseling, Martino says there aren’t many issues he doesn’t handle. He provides therapy for anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and men’s issues to name a few. “Trauma, affairs—they don’t have to be the end of your story. We offer the hope and promise that change is possible,” Martino said.
Although he doesn’t market the business as Christian therapy, Martino is able to work the principles of the Bible into everything, and often quotes Scripture in sessions. He also provides pastor discounts, free consults for church staff, and educational opportunities for youth group leaders to identify abuse and process trauma.
Martino offers business and church consulting to help organizations evaluate their culture, management, and leadership processes. He says that a gap often exists between how leadership and employees perceive their culture. He assists organizations in evaluating their processes and finding better ways to talk to each other and resolve conflict.
Looking to the future, Martino has multiple ideas in the works. This past April, he and his wife hosted a marriage conference called Hopes & Dreams. The vision for the conference is to create a space where couples can get away and learn practical tools to build their relationship. “Troubled marriages often have the same problems as healthy marriages, but they process those problems differently,” Martino said. In addition to the conference, Martino plans to offer marriage mentoring and is in process of writing his first book. One exciting development is that his wife is returning to school this fall with plans to join the practice.
In all ventures, Martino will continue to offer the hope that change is possible and that “tomorrow doesn’t have to look like today and today doesn’t have to look like yesterday.”
At a glance:
Name: Joe Martino
Family: Wife, Erica; 4 children from 10 years old to 6 months old.
Company: Joe Martino Counseling
Location: 2305 East Paris, Suite 203 Grand Rapids MI 49546
Web address: www.joemartinocounseling.com