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.

Why Pastoral Counseling?

With all the competent mental healthcare folk out there in our communities, why pastoral counseling?

Well, consider: Of all those seeking help with personal or interpersonal problems, fully 40% go first to their pastor; 29% consult a psychiatrist, and 21% go to their medical doctor.

In other words, clergy are often the first line response for persons seeking counseling help. There is something about issues of faith and life that is fundamental for many of us; the one must inform the other. Many persons simply want to know that the individual they go to for help will be sensitive to issues of their faith at best, or at worst won't view their faith as delusional or part and parcel of their pathology. So they turn to their pastors.

Yet the problem is that 50% to 80% of clergy surveyed felt unprepared by seminary or professional training to handle many of the personal, interpersonal, or mental health problems that persons bring to them. Pastors sincerely want to help, but often they don't know how. How does one with little or no training in mental health or counseling skills provide good care for a person in the depths of depression, or struggling with an eating disorder, or for an individual dealing with some form of post-traumatic stress? Few seminaries provide training for such issues, and few pastors know where to turn for help.

This is where pastoral counseling steps in.

Pastoral counseling isn't simply about counseling with pastors (although heaven knows some of them need it!), and it isn't simply about dealing with "religious" problems (although such problems do come up in the counseling session from time to time). Rather, pastoral counseling is an attempt to blend the best skills and resources of mental health counseling with a solid foundation in and sensitivity to issues of faith and spirituality. Pastoral counselors are those who have had extensive training in both areas, both mental health counseling and theology/spirituality.

To be sure, a person doesn't necessarily have to be dealing with religious or spiritual issues when they visit a pastoral counselor, and for many clients issues of faith may never come up in the course of therapy; yet the pastoral counselor is a person sensitive to issues of their clients' spiritual journey and how that journey might impact their mental and emotional well-being.

Jonathan Golden, Ph.D.

Getting to Sanctuary

In 1965, a Charlotte District Hospital Ministry was begun under the district leadership of the Reverend Glenn Lackey and, subsequently, The Reverend Dr. Harlan Creech. The Reverend Sidney Head was appointed chaplain for this new ministry. Offices were located in the Doctors' Building at 1012 Kings Drive.

Very shortly, The Reverend Sidney Head was doing a significant amount of counseling in addition to his responsibilities as hospital chaplain. In 1967 the name of the service was changed to the Methodist Counseling and Hospital Service, then to the Methodist Counseling and Hospital Ministry, and eventually to the Methodist Counseling Center. Changes in name reflected a shift from priority on hospital ministry to counseling and seminars for ministers.

In 1974, The Reverend Sidney Head resigned to enter private practice, and The Reverend Gary H. Brown, Ph.D., was appointed as Executive Director. The Reverend Dr. Brown, who had served as a parish minister in the Western North Carolina Conference for fifteen years, was certified in marriage and family therapy, sex therapy and clinical hypnosis. The office was relocated to the Randolph Medical Center, 1928 Randolph Road, in 1978.

In addition to providing counseling services, The Reverend Dr. Brown provided psychological evaluations for candidates for ordination, coordinated the Residency in Ordained Ministry program and administered the Pastoral Counseling program for clergy on behalf of the Board of Ordained Ministry.

By the late 1970's the hospital ministry was phased out as medical institutions began employing chaplains internally. Beth De Vane and Vicki Ison joined the staff on a part-time basis. The Albemarle, Gastonia, Salisbury, and Statesville districts became co-sponsors of the ministry, and the Reverend Joe E. Luther, Jr., was employed full-time in 1982. The Reverend Joe Luther was certified by AAMFT and AAPC. Educational opportunities for United Methodist pastors and churches were increased, and part-time satellite offices were opened in Concord and Statesville.

Over the ensuing years, Gary Brown retired, a new executive director was hired and over time the staff slowly grew, the area of service expanded to counties surrounding Mecklenburg and the greater Charlotte area, and the services offered branched out from just providing outpatient psychotherapy, and seminars for clergy to include continuing educational opportunities for all persons, consultations with clergy, congregations, and the judicatory. The psychological testing that had been lost following a transition of executive directors in 1994 was reclaimed and the organization was slowly expanding the catchment area that it served as well as the population of people who sought a safe haven from the storms of their lives in the offices of Methodist Counseling and Consultation Services.

From the humble beginnings of what was originally conceived of as a district-focused hospital chaplaincy program for pastors, MCCS had evolved into an agency serving the mental, emotional, and spiritual needs in twelve counties through the specialized ministry of pastoral counseling and psychotherapy.

We discovered that we were serving a wider demographic population than just United Methodists, although all of the satellites of this organization were and are housed in United Methodist congregations. We also discovered that many persons operated under basically two misconceptions: that we served only United Methodist persons and/or that we only counseled United Methodist pastors. For a number of years our Board of Directors had toyed with the idea of a name change to more accurately reflect who we were, but the loyalty to the denomination that spawned MCCS was strong and there was a degree of fear that this might negatively impact what had become a very meaningful ministry within the United Methodist Church in the Piedmont region of North Carolina. Changes within the membership of the Board of Directors in concert with conversations within the judicatory as to what impact a name change might have were met with favorable responses, and so in 2015, the Board of Directors embarked on a process of strategic planning that included revisiting our mission and vision statements.

With input and participation from the clinical staff, a new mission and vision statement were drafted followed by the establishment of the core values and commitments that were at the heart of this ministry. With these key pieces in place, the process of exploring a name change that more accurately reflected the diverse population of persons we work with was begun, with the end result being "Sanctuary Counseling Group." Following much discussion, this name was selected and approved by the Board of Directors in April, 2016 and it became official in May, 2016.

Our first formal acknowledgement of this transition was at the Annual Conference of the Western North Carolina Conference held at Lake Junaluska in mid-June. We felt it only fitting and proper that the organization that was such a key part of our history should be the venue where we announced our new name. The responses have been very supportive, and as we embark on a new chapter in the life of this organization, we will continue to remain faithful to our United Methodist history.

So we extend a warm welcome to you as you read about the same organization that—while our name may have changed—still provides care, compassion, and quality psychotherapy to those who are hurting, broken, and seeking healing and wholeness in a safe, loving, and accepting environment.

John Arey, DMin
Executive Director

Connections Workshop This Fall

A 12-week workshop will be offered at Harrison United Methodist Church this coming fall, beginning September 27th and running through December 12th. The workshop will be led by Sanctuary Counseling Group therapist Dr. Patricia Hawkins Wells and is based on the work of Dr. Brené Brown.

Click on the image below to learn more about this workshop and about pre-registration.

Resources for Pastors

Sanctuary Counseling Group recognizes the unique needs and stressors of pastors working within the pastorate and 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

Staff Trip to Navitat

In early June, members of the Sanctuary Counseling Group staff took a trip to Navitat Canopy Adventures in Barnardsville, NC, just north of Asheville. Visit our photo gallery for a taste of what we experienced, or click on the image.

Partners in Ministry

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 by providing financial supplements to assist clients who may not otherwise be able to afford counseling. We are now able to accept tax deductible donations through PayPal (via your PayPal account or with a credit card).

Please consider joining us in this vital counseling ministry by making a tax deductible contribution to the ongoing work of Sanctuary Counseling Group. Unless otherwise designated, donations will be used to help supplement the Samaritan Client Assistance Fund, enabling us to provided counseling services to those who might otherwise not be able to afford it.


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.