The Samaritan Counseling Center in Tyler celebrates its one-year anniversary of seeing clients this January, and has reached its goal of 300 clients.
When The Samaritan Institute enlisted Gallup researchers to assess the need for faith-based counseling, the study showed that 81 percent want a counselor who can help them integrate their values and beliefs into the counseling process, and 66 percent of the population prefers a professional counselor who is religious, said former Samaritan Institute international president and CEO, the Rev. R.J. Ross, in an interview in January 2011.
“It’s important for people to be able to talk within the context of their faith,” Ross said.
Although others shy from the idea of faith-based counseling, Mrs. Latham said.
“Some people don’t really know what that means,” Mrs. Latham said. “I think people are afraid of it being faith-imposing.”
Clients have found out about the center through word of mouth, churches and media publicity, said Mrs. Latham.
Becky Henderson is a counselor there, hired full-time since the center opened.
“The direction that the center takes — of mind, body and spirit collectively integrated — really appealed to me,” Ms. Henderson said.
Mrs. Latham has also seen clients with chronic depression, as well as some with schizophrenia. The center sees individuals with mental illness, although their conditions must be medically managed before they can make appointments.
Though many of the clients don’t have a mental illness, there’s still a strong stigma attached to receiving counseling, Mrs. Latham said.
“The stigma is still very much ‘counseling is for other people. I should be strong enough, I should be bright enough, I should have enough faith,’” Mrs. Latham said. “I’ve seen that applauded. People say ‘look at what she’s been through, she’s such a strong person,’ as opposed to ‘look at what she’s been through, she’s worked her way through it.’ There are these badges people get for being ‘strong’ … You don’t get to have enough faith not to grieve. Our faith gives us peace to know we’re going to be OK eventually, even if we don’t feel like it right now.”
Fran Ayres is the certified spiritual director who works at the center. The focus of a spiritual director is different from a licensed professional counselor, she said.
“I’m here to come along on someone’s spiritual journey, along their prayer life and devotional life, for people of any faith,” she said.
This will be the first holiday season for the center, and Mrs. Latham talked about why the holidays can be a difficult time emotionally for many.
“We think of the holidays as a time of happiness and joy, and that will turn the heat up on feelings of loss,” Mrs. Latham said. “The contrast is greater of the joy of the season against someone’s pain.”