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Near-death Experience Changes Therapist's Life and Work, Part I

Mary Jo Rapini
Photo of Mary Jo Rapini courtesy of Mary Jo Rapini

Today we’re taking a break from the discussing the sections contained in the treatment plan to share with you the story of the life-changing events that happened to psychotherapist Mary Jo Rapini, MeD, LPC, author of Is God Pink?

Ms. Rapini has been featured on TLC’s new series, Big Medicine. She has also appeared on CNN Prime News, CBS, The Discovery Channel, Montel, Fox National Morning News, and more. She is a contributing expert for Cosmopolitan magazine, Women’s Health, First, New York Daily News, Seventeen, Redbook, and Self. She also writes for the Houston Chronicle and Houston Family Magazine. She is the Intimacy/Sex psychotherapist for the Pelvic restorative center at Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas, and also has a private practice. Ms. Rapini is the author of Is God Pink?, the story of her near-death experience. She also authored Dying to Heal and is co-author of Start Talking: A Girl’s Guide for You and Your Mom about Health, Sex or Whatever. Keep up with Mary Jo Rapini or learn more about her at She shared her story with us over the phone.

Mary Jo Rapini, a sex therapist with a flourishing practice, lived with her husband, a physician, and their children in Houston, Texas. One day, everything changed. Her husband was offered a job in Lubbock, a conservative town in West Texas, smack in the middle of the “Bible Belt”. Here’s her story, in her own words:

“Suddenly, I was the only sex therapist in town. Maybe even in all of West Texas! Now, everyone at sometime has an intimacy issue, but I didn’t have a single patient. No one came. I was depressed I couldn’t find work and angry with my husband for moving us to Lubbock.

“Then, one day I ended up going to a party and an oncologist I met there found out I was a psychotherapist. He invited me to begin running support groups for  his patients. I’d never worked with cancer patients before but I was happy to have a job. So I started reading everything I could find about cancer patients. I think I was still depressed, but I decided to take hospice training (I have a nursing background), so I could get the background training to help my new patients.

“Everyone I knew thought working with seriously ill or even terminally ill people was a startling and unusual choice. They couldn’t imagine me doing it. But I did use my training as a sex therapist.

“I learned though that most people when they go through cancer treatment end up having some relationship concerns—breast cancer, colon cancer and other types of cancer can cause disfigurement. It also can affect your body image, whether you are a man or a woman.

“I found the work interesting, but I didn’t take my patient’s near death experiences too seriously. I thought you died, you were out of pain and lived on in other people’s memories, and that was it. I was still resentful about us moving to Lubbock. Now looking back I see this move and my career shift was an intervention by God—he was preparing me for my experience.

“One day, while working out at the gym, I had a cerebral  aneurysm. The Emergency room doctors stabilized me (all the neurosurgeons in Lubbock were at a convention in New Mexico, so only a few were in town and they were not specialists in the field of aneurysms). I was stable for a few days then three nights after the incident, I became very sick and fell on the floor. I had developed an infection and when the nurse came in to check on me—I remember this—she turned on the lights and shook me. She said, ‘Honey you’re really sick. We’re going to move you into the ICU.’

“I got to the ICU and then all of a sudden a light, not a normal light, it was like a luminescence appeared in the upper right hand corner of my vision. The doctors were still there but I remember looking at the light and thinking ‘if that’s the tunnel it isn’t very impressive’ because it was so small. Then all of a sudden it grew larger and I remember getting into the tunnel and going through it into an unbelievably beautiful room. The room was a non-human color, it had a pink tinge, and it was very illuminated and warm. And such incredible love came in through all of my senses—not just my eyes but everything sensed this love. I didn’t see God but I felt He was holding me. The love was so incredible.

“He called me by name and told me I couldn’t stay. I started to protest, telling Him, trying to convince Him why I should stay. I said, ‘But I am pretty good wife and mother, I help these cancer patients, and so on. I kept giving Him reasons I should stay.’

“He said, ‘Let me ask you one question: Have you ever loved the way you’ve been loved here?'”

“I told him, ‘NO!’ It’s impossible, I am a human.’”

“I had never felt this love, coming through me and around me.”

“And then God told me, ‘You can do better.'”

To hear Mary Jo share this is both a touching and profound experience. We’ll stop here and continue her story in another post.

Near-death Experience Changes Therapist's Life and Work, Part I

Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC & C.R. Zwolinski

Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC is the author of Therapy Revolution: Find Help, Get Better, and Move On Without Wasting Time or Money and is licensed in addiction and psychotherapy with over 25 years experience as well as a consultant to organizations and companies in the fields of mental health and addiction. He is the executive director of an outpatient behavioral health program. Learn more about Richard here.

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APA Reference
& C.R. Zwolinski, R. (2010). Near-death Experience Changes Therapist's Life and Work, Part I. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 15, 2020, from


Last updated: 5 Feb 2010
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