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:

"You Are What You Eat"

Although it has been many years ago, recently I have come to pay close attention to one of my grandmother's relationship advices in teaching me how to build a happy home: "For a man love goes through his stomach," she would say, as a code for … if you want your husband to love you feed him well.

If you laugh at that idea it's fine, that is also what I used to do. But the latest discoveries in science teaches us that there is much more to the digestion-brain connection than we have ever thought possible.

This new science deals with the study of the microbes in our gut and how they influence not just our physical but also our mental health.

First some interesting trivia about the microbes in our gut.

We have about 1000 different bacteria in our gut that weighs between four to six pounds and helps us protect against infection, provide nutrition, and convert food to energy.

In numbers think of the fact that we have about 10 trillion cells which make up our body. To get the number of bacteria in our colon multiply 10 trillion with 10—ten times more bacteria in our body than human cells—as many as the stars in the known universe. To use a body image as a scale the number of our own cells would fill up half of our leg while all the rest of the body is made out of bacteria.

In terms of DNA, our own DNA will make up the size of the big toe while all the other DNA is provided by the bacteria DNA living in our colon.

So yes, they are important and we are becoming more and more aware of how important they are in keeping us alive and healthy on a daily basis.

The microbiome (the collective name of the microbia in our gut) has been linked with an increasing number of diseases like: cancer, obesity, asthma, allergies, leaky gut syndrome, autoimmune diseases such as arthritis, diabetes, heart problems like high blood pressure and arthrosclerosis. The list could go on and on but they do not just affect our body, they also affect our brain. In fact because the gut contains lots of neurons and neuro-circuits that are also found in the brain it has come to be called the second brain.

In fact the microbes in our gut produce GABA, the neurotransmitter that gives us the relaxed at ease feeling, the same we feel when we have a cup of wine or a beer. Fifty percent of the neurotransmitter dopamine—which gives us the feelings of reward and pleasure and whose dysfunction is associated with Parkinson disease—is produce in the gut. But even more, almost all, about ninety-five percent of the neurotransmitter serotonin—which regulates sleep, appetite and mood (feeling happy or sad) and whose dysfunction is associated with depression—is produced in the gut.

The bottom line is this—my grandmother was right. Love does go through the stomach, and one other way in which we can change the way our brain function is to change our gut.

A few practical suggestion of how to take control of the gut and the brain:

1. Watch your food choices. Processed foods, sugars and artificial ingredients disturb the variety of bacteria in the gut. Prebiotics like onion, garlic, whole grains, bananas, artichoke provide good nutrition for the good bacteria in your gut. Probiotics like yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi—all natural fermented foods replenish the good bacteria in the gut.

2. Avoid microbes depleters and overzealous hygiene habits like antibiotics, antibacterial cleaners, antacids as they are detrimental to our gut flora bacteria

3. Exercise. Studies have shown that well fit athletes have a better and healthier gut than the rest of us.

4. Last but not least, stress less and enjoy more, because if our gut can influence our brain, the state of our brain also influences how we digest our foods. When we are calm and relaxed many important digestive enzymes are released which makes a healthier gut, which leads to a healthier brain which leads to a happier you.

Adriana Serban, Psy.D.

Counseling Resources

While the therapists at Sanctuary Counseling Group are trained in both clinical mental health practices as well as theology/spirituality, we work with a wide range of clients and presenting issues. Check out our frequently asked questions page to learn a little more about us. Also visit the counseling services page or the bio information of our therapists to learn more.

At SCG we strive to make a positive difference in the lives of those we serve.

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

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.