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Heart of the Matter: Andrea Hampton
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If you’ve ever gone on a Gaither cruise or attended a Family Fest weekend, you probably couldn’t help but notice a beautiful redhead with kind eyes and a megawatt smile, surrounded by four energetic little stair-step boys that look exactly like Wes Hampton. That would be Andrea, Wes’ wife of 16 years, and mother to Barrett (10), Hudson (8), Carden (6) and Sutton (4). But what you may not know is that Andrea is also a licensed professional counselor, specializing in marriage and family therapy. Since 2004 she has shared a practice with her father Mark Means, who has 33 years experience as a Christian therapist.

When Andrea Hampton was 5 years old, her dad finished seminary at Indiana’s Anderson University and moved his wife Rosetta, son Darren and Andrea to Birmingham, Alabama to start a practice. Andrea was a happy child, raised in what she describes as a “pretty functional, healthy family.” She was always intrigued by what her father did, and though she didn’t understand all the nuances of his profession she knew that the loving way he interacted with hurting people helped them feel better. “I remember as a child that really touched me,” Andrea says. “I’ve always had a sensitive heart, and a really strong sense of empathy and discernment.” She smiles. “I guess the ability to read people is just in my DNA — and most of the time it’s a blessing!”

By the time Andrea headed off to Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville, she knew she wanted to follow in her father’s footsteps. In her junior year, she met a young freshman named Wes Hampton, and promptly asked him out on a date to a Gaither Homecoming Joy to the World video shoot at Christ Church. “I really loved the Gaithers, so I hooked him pretty quickly that way! We dated for the next two years, and after I graduated at the end of his sophomore year, we got married and moved to Birmingham. I found out I was pregnant with Barrett the year I finished my master’s degree, and I joined my dad’s practice in 2004.”

Andrea and Mark Means see patients individually, but sometimes work in tandem according to the family’s needs. “There might be a divorce or some type of addiction going on, so Dad will see the parents and I’ll work with the adolescents or children. Or if we work with spouses, sometimes he’ll see the husband and I’ll see the wife.” As Wes’ travel schedule has increased and the boys have entered school, Andrea has cut back on her patient load. “Right now I’m not doing a lot,” she admits. “I haven’t accepted any new patients for about two years. I do keep up with a handful of long-time clients. If they get in a little bit of a bad way and need a tune-up, they’ll holler and we may meet for several weeks. We’ve developed a relationship and they trust me, so I don’t mind tweaking my schedule to accommodate them. But these days my main roles are ‘room mom’ and ‘coffee mom.’”

Being a good therapist requires a certain level of emotional detachment, but since motherhood and marriage are the emotional equivalent of full-contact sports, I ask Andrea how she manages to find balance between those two roles. She thinks a minute before answering. “Wow, let me think about that. I know my ‘mom switch’ is never truly turned off, even when the kids are at school. If the phone rings I immediately think, ‘Is that going to be Nurse Daley? Is one of the boys hurt?’ But I don’t think the ‘therapist switch’ ever really turns off either, because when I’m in Costco and I see an elderly gentleman kind of having a hard time getting his cart, my mind immediately goes to all of the underlying things that could be going on —  he’s here by himself, has his wife just passed away?  That kind of thing is always going through my head.”

She continues, “Now as far as parenting and being a therapist goes, I think usually the ‘mom switch’ is stronger. But even then, sometimes I’ve been in the middle of dealing with a discipline issue or something and suddenly I’ll think, ‘Oh, wait. Wes has been gone for six days, and this is the child who needs Daddy-time more than any of them.’ And sometimes if I’m in a really good place, I’ll stop and we’ll forget the discipline thing for now and change the focus. He’s obviously needing a different kind of attention, and I need to figure out a way to love him differently. It doesn’t always happen, because sometimes I’m tired, I’ve got two kids’ science projects due tomorrow, you know, whatever. But thankfully, there are times when that radar kicks in and I can see the big picture maybe a little quicker than if I hadn’t had any training. So I do think it comes into play.”

When Wes was hired as a member of the Vocal Band, he and Andrea made the decision to remain in Birmingham instead of relocating to Nashville or Indiana.“Actually, Bill initially asked Wes to move,” Andrea says. “We knew that might be coming if Wes got the job, but we were absolutely crushed because this is where our support system is. Also, I had just found out I was pregnant with Hudson and my brother and sister-in-law were having a baby, too. Then about an hour later, they called back and Bill said if we wanted to, we were welcome to try to do it from Birmingham. We were so relieved — it was just as good as finding out Wes got the job in the first place!”

Keeping things running in the Hampton household requires all hands on deck. “We’re an unconventional family because of Wes’ career,” Andrea tells me, “and I can’t even imagine what we would do without my parents. I’d certainly never be able to take the boys on the cruises, or to some of the Gaither family events without them. They are the perfect balance for each other, and Wes and I actually mirror their relationship a lot. Mom’s like my clone, she holds the line and disciplines my children exactly how I would, and yet never steps on toes. She helps me contain them, and I can actually talk to people without stopping every two minutes to do a head count! And Dad’s my rock, I go to him about anything relational or instructional. I don’t know anybody who has greater spiritual wisdom, and he is also not afraid to say, ‘I don’t know the answer.’ In the list of people in my life that I totally look up to, my parents are definitely the top two, hands down.”

As our interview ends, I ask Andrea to give me a quick “personality sketch” of her husband and herself. “Let’s see,” she laughs. “Well, what you see is what you get with Wes — he’s very laid-back and easy to get along with, absolutely loves cooking, loves being with family. I’m more of an extrovert and outgoing, definitely a people-pleaser. Wes works really hard at being a good father. He’ll get in at 5 a.m. Sunday morning, sleep for three hours, get up and go to church with us, then throw the football around with the boys, cook us dinner, put them to bed and collapse! He is absolutely determined to be present for his family, which I appreciate so much.” Then she adds, “Of course, I met him when he was 18, so I say I helped raise him. His mom and I will have to share credit on how he turned out!”