About the Author: Mariah Fenton Gladis, MSS, QCSW

In 1981, Mariah Fenton Gladis was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. ALS is a fatal, neuro-degenerative disease that attacks nerve cells and pathways to the brain and spinal cord. When these cells die, the ability of the brain to start and control all voluntary muscle control and movement dies with them. Patients in the later stages of the disease are totally paralyzed, while in most cases, their minds remain sharp and alert. Four prominent national neurologists gave her a 10% chance of surviving two years.

Yet, three months after the diagnosis, Mariah married and proceeded to have two children; Luke, a graduate of James Madison University, and Cole, a graduate of Ithaca College. Mariah continues to be a loving wife, a doting mother to her two sons, and a professional psychotherapist. Her courage to continually go forward with grace and determination demonstrates the very nature of her condition, the amazing survival capacity of the human spirit.

On the physical level, since there is no treatment or cure for ALS, Mariah has chosen to pursue a course of active and aggressive action to maintain her health and continue to be a contributing member of society. Her regimen includes vitamins, diet, natural remedies, alternative therapies, massage therapy and exercise. She goes to the gym three times a week, using weight machines in a persistent struggle to keep her body as strong and flexible as possible. Through this process she has encourages others to join her in her course of therapy, thereby teaching others to fight/strive towards their full potential.

After 26 years, this disease has ravaged Mariah’s body. She needs help waking, walking, eating, dressing and multitudes of other personal chores. Her tongue muscles have atrophied and she speaks with what she calls her ‘ALS accent’.

Through all of this, Mariah currently has a full time psychotherapy practice and is clinical director of the Pennsylvania Gestalt Center, which she founded in 1976. She has more than 35 years experience as a psychotherapist and Gestalt Trainer, having trained hundreds of professionals and conducted workshops throughout the United States, Europe, the West Indies and South America. She currently carries a full load of individual clients and three bi-weekly psychotherapy groups. Mariah does four psychotherapy weekends a year locally, two ten-day workshops at Esalen Institute in California, and one remote workshop in Cape May, New Jersey. Last year, Mariah conducted a workshop in Machu Picchu, Peru, where 30 people from the United States attended.

In her professional work she is known as someone who shares her knowledge and love openly. She does this on a personal level as well. Besides taking the time to counsel ALS patients voluntarily, she is also a main speaker at local functions speaking about living a positive life with ALS. What interesting about Mariah is that she continues to do her healing work for others, even as she bears the anguish of her own struggles with an incurable disease.

Awards / Honors

  • 2008 Living Legacy Award—Women’s International Center
  • 2006 International Stevie Award For Women In Business
  • Hope and Courage Award from Greater Philadelphia Chapter Of The ALS Association
  • Lifetime Achievement Award – Marymount University Alumni Association
  • Social Worker of the Year in Pennsylvania - Brandywine Division, National Association Of Social Workers
  • Pennsylvania State House of Representatives and State Senate Citation for Recognition of Community Service
  • Advocacy Award from Greater Philadelphia Chapter of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Association
  • Chairman’s Choice Award for Citizenship – Great Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce
  • Annual Achievement Award from Fighting Back, a rehabilitation program dedicated to those recovering from traumatic illness

Present Professional Positions Held

  • Owner and Clinical Director Of Pennsylvania Gestalt Center for Psychotherapy and Training
  • Faculty of Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California
  • Adjunct Faculty – Gestalt Therapy Institute of Philadelphia
  • Coordinator of Youth in Action for ALS
  • Board of Advisors of Camp Dreamcatcher – a camp for children affected/infected with HIV/AIDS
  • Consultant for Academy of Community Music, a non-profit organization dedicated to engaging children and parents in shared musical activity
  • Faculty and Trainer for Center for a Healthy World, a volunteer-driven psychotherapy cooperative

Staff Trainer

  • Mirmont Drug and Alcohol Treatment Center in Pennsylvania
  • Kripalu Health Center in Massachusetts
  • Esalen Institute, Big Sur, California

Motivational Speaking

  • National ALS Association Staff Symposium on Hope
  • United Disabilities Services Annual Meeting
  • Waterloo Gardens New Patient Conference
  • Esalen Institute Scholar-in-Residence Program
  • ALS Association Annual Meeting
  • Association For Humanistic Psychology
  • Great Valley Regional Chamber Of Commerce
  • Curt Schilling Annual ALS Fundraiser
  • ALS Washington D.C. Advocacy Convention

In February 2006, Mariah established the Mariah Fenton Gladis Foundation, which supports wellness, life skills training, personal growth and educational and psychotherapeutic counseling programs for individuals interested in or needing these services. The foundation’s mission is inspired by the goal of improving the quality of life for those that are less fortunate through programs designed to develop their emotional, spiritual, intellectual and physical needs.