A pioneering voyage into a postmodern world
A Fresh Cup of Tolerance
About the Author
Social Worker and Social Services Manager
Rev. Dr. Thomas L. Norris began his career forty-six years ago as a young Child Protective Services Social Worker in Dover, Delaware. Thus began his lifelong commitment to preventing violence against children and women. In 1976, he graduated with a Master's Degree of Social Work (MSW) from the Barry University School of Social Work in Miami, Florida. Beginning in 1975, he worked for the Miami-Dade County Govenment as a management intern, criminal justice and victim services planner, community organizer, management analyst, Assistant Director of the Dade County Alcohol and Drug Abuse Treatment Program, and project manager for a domestic violence and delinquency prevention program in public housing. During that time Tom helped found the Safespace Battered Women's Shelter, the State Attorney's Domestic Intervention Program, the Dade County Task Force on Child Abuse, the Alliance Against Domestic Violence, and the Governor's Victim/Witness Program. He also served on the Advisory Board for the Jackson Memorial Hospital Rape Treatment Center.
In 1984, Tom made a career-transforming decision. Disenchanted with attempting to effect change through managing intractable government social service programs, he returned to his true love, counseling. Over the next seven years, he was in private practice as an Individual and Group Therapist, Marriage and Family Therapist, and Hypnotherapist. He founded, managed, and supervised staff for three programs through his practice: the SAAV (Sexual Abuse and Assault Victims) Program, the Generations Codependency Program, and the AVERT (Alternatives to Violence through Education, Rehabilitation and Training) Program. Tom specialized in working with: victims of child abuse, child sexual abuse, rape and domestic violence; sex offenders and spouse abusers; and persons suffering from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, Multiple Personality Disorder, and trauma-based addictions. A tireless advocate for the prevention of violence against women and children, he has appeared on many television and radio shows, and spoken at a number of local and national conferences.
Tom has presented papers at the American Association for Marriage and Family (1986 and 1991), and is published in several professional journals, including the International Journal of Victimology (Summer 1977), “Services to Battered Women: Looking for a Perspective” and Resources in Education (May 1988), “Victim Therapy for Adult Victims of Child Sexual Abuse”.
Over the years, Tom was drawn more and more to transpersonal psychology, spiritual counseling and past life therapy. He found it far more effective than psychotherapy alone. In 1992, this led to a life-transforming decision to leave his psychotherapy practice and found Medicine Signs Spiritual Center, a Universalist Teaching Center. Univeralism embraces all the great spiritual traditions and teachers. Through Medicine Signs, Tom provided spiritual counseling, meditation groups, and spiritual classes ranging from "Native American Traditions" to a "Universalist Bible Study Group" to "Past Life Therapy Training for Professionals" to "Spiritual Healing Techniques", and so on. Rounding out his spiritual credentials, Tom is also a Usui and Shamballa Reiki Master. Over the past 22 years Medicine Signs has carried its message throughout Florida, the United States and the world (six continents).
In 2011, Tom created Pastoral Care Associates, a spiritual counseling practice. Since then it has evolved into Inner Life Transformations, which was launched in January 2014. It is the first international online spiritual counseling and life coaching program in the world. He and his staff will provide counseling services around the world in English, Spanish and Portuguese. Already he works with a number of people around the U.S. and in Europe and Latin America. He also publishes a weekly Inner Life Blog on spiritual and counseling issues.
With all his spiritual counseling and teaching, it was probably inevitable. In 1996, Tom received a clear call to the ministry. However, he had to find a good Christian seminary that would accept his Universalist beliefs; and he did. In 1997, he entered the Florida Center for Theoiogical Studies in Miami, graduating with a Masters Degree of Divinity (MDiv) in 2003 and a Doctor of Ministry (DMin) in 2006. While there, he was also certified as a hospital chaplain at Baptist Hospital in Miami. Considering that Medicine Signs Spiritual Center did all the work that a church does, it was also probably inevitiable that it became a legally-recognized, nonprofit church 501(c)(3) in 1997. Tom and his wife, Cathy, are the senior ministers for the church.
In addition to his years as a teacher and trainer through the government, his private practice and the church, Tom also teaches at Florida International University (1980-1981, 2005-Present) in the Relgious Studies Department. FIU is the sixth largest university in the United States. His classes range from 35 to 200 students, where he teaches: World Religions, Introduction to Reigion, and Liberation Theologies. In 2011, Tom joined 13 other professors who were voted by the student body as the best instructors at the university. In 2012, Tom moderated the On Campus Forum for the Dalai Lama's visit to the university. Since 1980, he has taught a variety of psychology, social sciences, and religous studies courses at FIU, St. Thomas University, and Miami International University of Art and Design, including: Introduction to Psychology, Human Development, Child Development, Abnormal Psychology, Personality Theory, Learning Psychology, Contemporary Moral Issues, Crisis Theory, Introduction to Sociology, Eastern Religions, Western Religions, and Comparative Religions.
With the blessings of such a long and rewarding career, and the many wonderful people Tom has beem privileged to work with, his most fulfilling role has been as the father of Dan and Alexandra, and grandfather to four beautiful grandchildren, Jacob, Alyssa, MacKenzie, and Psrker. He owes much of his sucess to his beautfiul, spiritual and talented wife, Cathy, and the foundations his Mom, Ginny, gave him throughout his life.