Since its launch in 2017, the Counseling Center at Nashville’s Belle Meade United Methodist Church has served more than 30 individuals and couples aged 65 and over, about 15 percent of all clients served, in 240 counseling sessions. The center was created to provide a place on the west side of Nashville—Belle Meade, West Meade, Bellevue—for professional pastoral counseling.
“Our goal was to provide services to both Belle Meade United Methodist Church members and the larger community,” said the Rev. Jim Hughes, Belle Meade’s senior pastor. “Our hope was to provide, as much as possible, services to senior adult clients who could not afford the regular fee. Initially we offered a sliding scale to church members. Over time, the center has been able to extend that option to some people in the community.”
Money used to supplement counseling fees has come, in part, from two grants from the Golden Cross Foundation. The first $2,500 grant was awarded in 2018. A second $2,500 grant was awarded this year.
“Thanks in part to the Golden Cross grants, senior adults who would not have been able to afford our services at the regular fee have been able to receive much-needed counseling,” said Rev. Chris O’Rear, counseling center director. “We are so grateful for a host congregation that sees our counseling center as a ministry to the larger community. Many who have come have expressed gratitude for the opportunity to receive counseling.”
Therapist Cara Lindell, recalls the impact and blessing the Golden Cross Foundation grant had in a client’s life.
“Donna (not her real name) came to the counseling center to deal with grief after her husband of 50 years died,” said Lindell. “She revealed that she had been struggling with memory issues and this was complicating her ability to focus in the loss of her partner.
“During the second session, Donna shared that she could no longer afford to come as she had multiple unexpected expenses. Knowing we had access to the Golden Cross grant, I was able to see her without charging a fee. Donna continued counseling for several months—all along visibly healing from her loss. We ended our time together earlier this year after Donna expressed being at a place of peace and able to see joy in her life. She said, ‘I am so grateful that I got to continue therapy. This has been so helpful.’”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the center offered creative counseling options such as HIPPAA-compliant online and phone sessions. Counselors are once again offering in-office sessions and following established protocols for disinfecting and social distancing. Clients not comfortable with in-office visits or those self-quarantining may continue online or phone sessions.
The future looks bright as counselors have room to expand their caseloads and are taking new clients. Counseling center staff are also finalizing plans to open a second office in a Nashville-area Episcopal church in August thereby adding more counselors to their network and providing more opportunities for service.
“There is no greater calling than to be hands, feet, eyes, and ears of Jesus to any client,” Hughes said. “Our counselors have the opportunity to provide a caring presence and place for senior adults to come and talk about their lives and to be heard. Anytime I hear a client who has expressed his or her gratitude for their time at our counseling center or hear how a person has benefited from their time with our counselors, I feel that our counselors and, indirectly, our congregation have participated in being Christ’s presence for them.”
If You Want to Know More
Rev. Chris O’Rear, a licensed clinical pastoral therapist in Tennessee, is the owner and director of the Counseling Center at Belle Meade United Methodist Church. He was the executive director of the Pastoral Counseling Centers of Tennessee and has more than 23 years of experience in pastoral care and counseling. The center can help provide training for Stephen’s ministers, lay care givers, and clergy as well as education on issues of mental health and wellness. It also can assist congregations with information or resources to start a counseling ministry. Contact Chris O’Rear by email at Chris @CounselingatBMUMC.com, by phone at (615) 763-3236, Ext. 701 or visit the center’s website at www.counselingatBMUMC.com.