A Publication of WTVP

The Antioch Group takes an old adage—“practice what you preach”—to heart.

Within the ancient city of Antioch, located in what is now Turkey, the first Christians were named and recognized as followers of Christ. It is from this ancient metropolis that a modern, nondenominational, Christian counseling practice takes its name. The Antioch Group welcomes clients from all walks of life—whether believers or not—and devotes itself to their psychological care and well-being.

Located in the Big Hollow Professional Building near War Memorial Drive in north Peoria, the Antioch Group was founded in 1996 by two veteran psychologists, Drs. Steven Hamon and Rudolf Breitmeyer. Dedicated to the ideals of Christian compassion and the preservation of the individual in the healthcare setting, Hamon and Breitmeyer chartered its beginning on a simple handshake and an agreement on how patients should be cared for. It has now flourished into a booming private practice with 22 active clinicians supporting more than 9,000 patients, all out of this one location.

A Handshake in Business
Prior to their partnership, Drs. Hamon and Breitmeyer worked together in the eighth-floor psychiatric unit at Methodist Medical Center. Breitmeyer, an early researcher of autism, earned his PhD in 1968, working in a variety of hospital settings before coming to Peoria in 1987. Hamon was a master’s-level clinician in private practice for eight years before earning his PhD, then serving as a hospital psychologist. He specializes in trauma and stress disorders, while Breitmeyer has focused his career on helping disturbed children and adolescents.

Bonding over a philosophical solidarity, the two men had grown frustrated with what they saw as the “industrialization of healthcare,” in which the individual needs of patients were lost to a cookie-cutter approach driven by financial pressures. “We grew more and more struck by what we came to call a ‘cattle mentality’ that was developing in healthcare,” recounts Hamon. “There was more and more pressure to see more and more patients in less and less time… a growing sense of pressure to get those patients squeezed through the system.” Along with their mutual faith, they found themselves committed to the idea of maintaining the person behind the patient.

And so, with some assistance on the business side from friends like Bob Schwab and Rick and Sally Cloyd, Drs. Hamon and Breitmeyer founded The Antioch Group. Like many small businesses, it struggled to find its financial footing in the early years, but a steadfast commitment to its founding ideals allowed for steady growth. And as its client base grew, so did its staff, with the addition of clinicians like Jonna Tyler, who directs the group’s Child Clinic and serves as vice president of operations, and Dr. Barbara Toohill, a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and expert in individual psychotherapy and women’s issues.

Shaped by Faith
The Antioch Group provides services for issues ranging from anxiety and depression to obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), autism, eating disorders, drug abuse and relationship counseling. It is one of just four licensed OCD outpatient facilities in the state, and its therapists work with all age groups, in both individual and group settings. Most group work incorporates Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). In addition, each therapist is trained to treat a wide variety of disorders, as well as subspecializing according to his or her own clinical interests.

Uniquely shaped by its Christian views, The Antioch Group reflects its values by committing 10 percent of its therapists’ time to pro bono work—a “tithe” of sorts to help those who are unable to pay for treatment. And the practice sees its shared faith as a unifying force, not an exclusionary one.

“Antioch colleagues are guided by our Christian beliefs, but we’re not here to force those [beliefs] on anybody else,” declares Dr. Hamon, who estimates that about two-thirds of its patients “identify with some aspect of the Christian faith.” He believes their faith provides “a basis for reaching out to people where they’re at,” and as such, services are provided to all, without regard to religion, orientation or identification.

“For a non-Christian coming in—someone who is seeking counseling but not interested in incorporating faith, our foundation in empirically based clinical skills allows us to meet their needs as well,” adds Dr. Toohill. “It looks just like another counseling practice.”

The Next Generation
From the rise of the Internet and electronic gadgetry to the striking uptick in ADD/ADHD diagnoses, the 21st century has brought a range of new issues for the human mind to grapple with. The most alarming development she has seen over the past decade, says practice co-owner Jonna Tyler, is the surge of neurological disturbances among children. “Autism is growing,” she explains. “Anxiety, depression, bipolar symptoms, mood disorder, trauma—these things are becoming really prominent.”

Meanwhile, as Dr. Breitmeyer nears retirement, Dr. Toohill will succeed him as a partner in the practice. But even as a new generation rises to the helm, the Antioch Group plans to continue its record of stable, steady growth—and its devotion to its founding ideals, including servant leadership, a pillar of the practice.

Dr. Hamon believes that, even as The Antioch Group has grown, its strength remains in exhibiting the Christian values of humility, generosity and kindness. “We see ourselves as servant leaders,” he describes. “We are here to facilitate people in their growth.” iBi

The Antioch Group is located at 6615 N. Big Hollow Road in Peoria. For more information, call (309) 692-6622 or visit