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. Sanctuary Counseling Group currently has satellite offices in 15 locations in the western and central piedmont.

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

Pain is Inevitable, But …

"Pain is a given in life," my supervisor told me years ago. "Physical pain, emotional pain, sadness, grief … that's a given. Suffering, however, is optional."

It's an important distinction to keep in mind. How can we understand that distinction?

Pain is a product of our situation and circumstances and the events that occur in our lives—events over which we often have very little control. Suffering, on the other hand, is a product of our attitude and our responses to those circumstances and events, and we do have some control over that. Pain has to do with what happens to us; suffering has to do with what we think and feel about what happens to us. Pain is inevitable; suffering isn't.

Life will always involve pain in one form or another, even as it involves pleasure. There is no avoiding it. Kids will always fall off bikes and break their arms. Colleagues will always disappoint us in ways great and small, as we will disappoint them. Friends and loved ones will always grow old and die, as will we. Hot stoves will always burn our hands and mosquito and chigger bites will always itch. There is no escaping the inevitable pain of living as embodied beings in this world. Nor should we expect life to be pain-free. That expectation is, to put it simply, a delusion.

Suffering, however, is another story. Suffering is a matter of our attitude and our reaction to the pains we experience.

Suffering happens, for instance, when we take our pain and compound it by adopting an attitude of self-pity or self-defeat—"This is the worst thing in the world, I'll never overcome this! Woe is me!" Or suffering happens when our pain causes us to evaluate ourselves negatively—"I must be a terrible person for this to happen to me! What's wrong with me?" Pain happens when we stub our toes in the dark; suffering happens when we call ourselves stupid and berate and belittle ourselves for being so clumsy. (Been there, done that. It really doesn't help.)

Life brings us pain in many different forms, both physical and emotional, and that's inevitable. Suffering we do to ourselves; it's optional.

There is nothing new in all this. The ancient Greek philosopher Epictetus once wrote that "Man is troubled not by events, but by the meaning he gives those events." In other words, it's not what happens to us that matters so much as what we think about what happens to us. It's not our circumstances in life that ultimately determine our happiness or our misery; rather it's our attitude toward those circumstances and the way we approach those circumstances. The same can be heard in the words of the Buddha—a very astute 5th century BC psychologist—in his sutta about the two arrows: "When touched with pain, the uninstructed run-of-the-mill person sorrows, grieves, laments, beats his breast, becomes distraught. So he feels two pains, physical and mental. Just as if they were to shoot a man with an arrow and, right afterward, he were to shoot himself with another arrow … so he feels two pains, physical and mental." The first arrow is the inevitable pain that happens to us in life; the second arrow is the suffering we inflict upon ourselves because of it.

Many folks long for a pain-free life. They seem to think that that's how life "should" be. And indeed, a good bit of the drug business—both legal and illegal—is geared toward relieving both pain and suffering. Yet a life without pain is hardly possible. And let's face it, a good bit of our suffering comes from our clinging to the belief that life "should" be otherwise.

It is possible, however—when the pain we experience is balanced by perspective and nurtured in the soil of responsive equanimity—to live without suffering.

What might that look like? Consider Paul. "I have learned to be content," he writes, "whatever the circumstances may be. I know now how to live when things are difficult and I know how to live when things are prosperous. In general and in particular I have learned the secret of eating well or going hungry—of facing either plenty or poverty. I am ready for anything through the strength of the One who lives within me" (Phil. 4:11-13).

Jonathan Golden, Ph.D.
First UMC Hickory Office

"Pain is never permanent."
~Teresa of Avila

"They stripped me naked. They took everything—my wedding ring, watch. I stood there naked and all of a sudden realized at that moment that although they could take everything away from me—my wife, my family, my possessions—they could not take away my freedom to choose how I was going to respond." ~Victor Frankl, on his concentration camp experience

"We create our own unhappiness. The purpose of suffering is to help us understand we are the ones who cause it."
~Willie Nelson

Find a Therapist in Your Area

Sanctuary Counseling Group provides pastoral counseling and mental health counseling throughout the piedmont of North Carolina, from Shelby in the west to High Point in the east, from Pineville in the south to Hickory in the north … and in multiple locations in between—Charlotte, Monroe, Concord, Belmont, Davidson, Pineville, Salisbury, and Gastonia.

Find a therapist in your geographical area by checking our sites page.

Donating to Sanctuary Counseling Group

Sanctuary Counseling Group is a 501.C.3 non-profit. 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 donation 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.

Our Samaritan Client Assistance Fund is what makes Sanctuary Counseling Group a ministry and not just a business. By donating to Sanctuary Counseling Group's Samaritan Client Assistance Fund you can directly help those who are hurting. Our goal is to turn no one away because of lack of finances.

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

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

Updated, 30 April 2019

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 Solihten Institute.