James Henslin, Ph.D.


James Henslin, Co-Founder of Pearl of the Sea Retreat, was born in a rented room in a little town on the bitterly cold Canadian border in Minnesota. His mother hadn’t completed high school, and his father hadn’t even made it beyond the seventh grade.

Jim has been a dedicated worker since childhood. One of his colder memories goes back to age 10 or 11, when he froze his nose while delivering newspapers in his little northern village. He was elated at age 16 when his parents packed up the car and moved to sunny Southern California. During the summer following high school graduation, while working as a laborer on construction projects, Jim took a correspondence course in Greek from the University of California at Berkeley. After graduating from college in Indiana, he was awarded scholarships at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, where he earned his master’s and doctorate in sociology.

After winning a competitive postdoctoral fellowship from the National Institute of Mental Health, Jim spent a year studying how people adjust to the suicide of a family member. Jim then joined the faculty at Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville, where he is Professor Emeritus of Sociology. Jim stopped teaching, but he never retired. He continues full-time sociological research and publishing.

Jim is immensely pleased that he was able to be instrumental in founding The Pearl. It is his hope that these efforts, moving from the academic theoretical to the practical, will transform lives by nurturing and restoring hope. He wants this to be an essential part of his legacy.

Irina Beyder, PhD LMFT

Chief Executive Officer

Irina Beyder, the CEO of the Pearl of the Sea Retreat, earned her Ph.D. in Family Studies and Public Health at the University of Maryland. For over 20 years, she has dedicated her career to making a difference in the lives of individuals struggling with mental and behavioral health challenges. She has both led the behavioral health organizations and developed innovative health care programs. Irina’s passion is to ensure that individuals in her care receive services that are of high quality, effective, and individual-centered. She is pleased to lead the Pearl’s team in fulfilling these goals.

Irina grew up in the Ukraine and came to the United States when she was 17 years old.  Education became the means by which she was able to explore her interests and develop her abilities in behavioral health. After earning degrees in psychology and marriage and family therapy, and family studies/public health with specializations in program management, business administration, and policy development, her professional journey has taken her from directing start-ups to leading a $300 million dollar government program.

Irina says, “I believe that everyone should have an opportunity to enjoy a healthy life and to receive the care that they may need to achieve their full potential.  I am excited that my journey in pursuing this belief has brought me to The Pearl of the Sea Retreat. I am looking forward to leading The Pearl’s team of dedicated, skilled, and highly talented professionals. We are excited to be able to provide a healing experience that allows for a life to begin anew. I am committed to transforming the Pearl into a state-of-the-art highly successful program that will give a respite and a healing place to individuals dealing with mental health, behavioral health, and trauma issues. This is my passion and a commitment to the individuals that will join our program and become a part of the Pearl family.”

Anita Henslin


Anita Henslin, The Pearl’s Co-Founder, has an amazing international background. She was born in Riga, the capital city of Latvia, while it was under Soviet control. There she learned Russian and became part of the resistance that led to Latvia becoming a free nation.

After Latvia broke its Soviet oppression, Anita, who had studied classical piano at the Darzina Muzikas Skola in Riga, studied international relations, political science, and leadership not just in Latvia but also in Austria, France, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States. Among her many accomplishments is working with the Latvian Parliament as it was being developed, running as a candidate for the Latvian Parliament, serving as the Director of Foreign Relations of a major Latvian organization, for which she flew to many countries and met with world leaders. She also directed the renovations and furnishings of The Pearl, transforming this magnificent Mediterranean style mansion from an abandoned structure into a 4 star professionally rated hotel and bed and breakfast. Anita then became The Pearl’s director, remaining until she and her husband decided to repurpose the property once again, transforming it into a healing retreat for people who have suffered from trauma and drug dependency.

Anita says, “I love the United States and The Pearl, and transforming our world class luxury bed and breakfast into a healing center is a dream come true. The Pearl’s tranquility—its welcoming palm trees and fountain in our courtyard, the smell of the ocean, the flying pelicans and playing dolphins, our majestic sunsets over the waters—they restore your soul and mind.”