Welcome to Sanctuary Counseling Group

Sanctuary (n): from the Latin sanctus or holy; 1) a sacred or holy place; 2) a place of refuge or safety, a haven; 3) shelter from danger, hardship, or threat.

Sanctuary Counseling Group—formerly known as Methodist Counseling and Consultation Services—has provided mental health counseling and pastoral counseling in the greater Charlotte area and in satellite offices in cities and towns around the western piedmont of North Carolina for over 50 years. To learn more about us and the kinds of services we provide, or to find out how to make an appointment with a therapist in your geographical area, feel free to contact us. We would love to hear from you.

Staff Perspectives:

"Just Pay Attention!"

The ancient Romans called him Janus, the god of beginnings, of gates and doorways, of transitions and passages. He was often depicted with two faces—one looking forward into the future and another looking back into the past. The Greeks had no counterpart deity in their pantheon; Janus was strictly Roman. Some people believe that it was Janus who lent his name to the first month of the year, January … the transition month, the month of looking back at the old and forward into the new.

Many of us know Janus quite well, although maybe not by name.

How many of us live Janus-like lives? I know that a lot of the people that I see are certainly devotees of Janus.

It's a question worth pondering. Consider: How far into the future do you normally live? Or how far in the past? When you're not paying attention, when you're not focused on what is before you, where does your mind go? Re-living past events? Or pre-living future events?

It's what psychologists call the "default mode network." What that means is that if you're not focused on a specific task and you're like most folks, a good bit of your present moment mental real estate is taken up either by thoughts of tomorrow—plans, appointments, deadlines to meet, worries, fears—or by thoughts of yesterday—memories, regrets, replaying past conversations, longing for past joys. And not just thoughts of tomorrow or yesterday, but living now as if the events of tomorrow or yesterday were actually happening in the present. Re-living, and pre-living. That's what most of us do. Very little time and energy is devoted to the present, to what's happening right here and right now.

Let's face it. Mindful attention to the present moment doesn't come naturally for most of us. Yet mindfulness, when cultivated, can be a valuable tool for our mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. This is especially true when you consider that pre-living the future may well be one of the proximate causes of anxiety, while re-living and ruminating on the past may contribute to depression.

Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as "paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally, to the unfolding of experience moment to moment." Mindfulness means paying attention to what is happening right here and right now, not only around us but more importantly within us, paying attention to the nature of our thoughts and our attitudes and the ebb and flow of our emotions—all those things we think are "true" or "factual" (and are probably neither true nor factual). And it's about paying attention nonjudgmentally, with a curious, inquisitive, accepting mind.

Let's be honest. That's not easy to do, at least not for very long.

Our minds wander. We stay preoccupied. We form judgments. We live and act a good bit of the time on automatic pilot. The most basic tasks of daily living—taking a shower, getting dressed, eating, driving to work, washing the dishes, walking across the room—are done with little or no thought or attention. Our minds are usually elsewhere when we're doing these things, anticipating the day ahead, re-living that conversation we had, worrying about all the many "what if's" and "if only's" of our lives … hoping, dreading, wondering, planning, remembering …

When you come right down to it, however, we've really got only moments to live. We have this moment, right now. When this moment passes (as it always does) we'll still have only this moment, right now. It's sad to think that over the course of our lives so many of our "this moments" are lost or ignored while we're stuck on automatic pilot, while we're busy re-living and pre-living.

"Today's troubles," Jesus said (and, we might add, today's joys as well), "are enough for today."

But Janus is alive and well in most of us, re-living and pre-living.

Try it. Just pay attention. The next time you sit down to a meal, for instance, or step into the shower, or walk across the room, try to be fully present to what's happening in the moment—the feel of the ground beneath your feet, the taste and texture of the food on your tongue, the feel of the water on your back. When you notice your mind wandering (and believe me, it will, frequently), gently bring yourself back to the moment, to what you see and feel and hear and taste right here, right now. And notice not only what is happening around you, but more importantly notice how you're relating to what's happening, notice your attitude towards what's happening, either positive or negative. Notice with curiosity, and with acceptance. Simply pay attention.

Who knows but what doing something as simple as that might add quality to your day!

Jonathan Golden, Ph.D.

There are many degrees to being present. Just because my eyes are open doesn't mean I'm awake.
It's possible to look right at someone and still not truly see them.

~ Erik Hansen, Moving Target

Cleaning the bathroom or chopping the onions is no less important than sitting in deep meditation. Grasping this and acting on it is called waking up.

~ Janet Jiryu Abels, Participate Fully

Resources for Pastors

Sanctuary Counseling Group recognizes the unique needs and stressors of pastors working within the pastorate as well as the needs of the pastoral family. To this end we offer a number of resources specifically for clergy

Check out the Clergy Resources page, including educational and workshop opportunities, counseling and consultation, vocational assessment, and helpful readings. Feel free to contact an SCG therapist in your geographical area for further information. As persons trained in both theology and mental health counseling—and with a high standard of confidentiality—SCG therapists are in a unique position to serve the needs of parish clergy and their families.

Remember …

"Self-care is never a selfish act—it is simply
good stewardship of the only gift I have,
the gift I was put on earth to offer to others."
~Parker Palmer

Support Sanctuary Counseling Group

While much of our budget is sustained by client fees, there are also a number of individuals, churches, and organizations that join with us in our ministry. Please consider making a tax deductible contribution to the ministry of Sanctuary Counseling Group. Unless otherwise designated, donations will be used to help supplement the Samaritan Client Assistance Fund, helping to supplement fees for those who might not otherwise be able to afford counseling.

Please visit our Partners in Ministry page for more information or to make a contribution.

Mission Statement

Being dedicated to the healing of heart, mind, and soul, we provide excellent emotional, spiritual, and relational health care to all people of the Carolinas.

Sanctuary Counseling Group is an accredited service center of the American Association of Pastoral Counselors and the Samaritan Institute.