Following World War II, the counseling-psychotherapy-mental health movement in the United States burgeoned. Not only were Americans demanding professional resources on which they could rely in assisting them in dealing with emotional crises and developmental issues, they were demanding as well that there ought to be options available in meeting these needs. Although the federal government responded to some of these expectations—particularly in establishing community mental health centers—other professional groups in the private sector attempted to meet the demands as well.
Still, the expectations regarding freedom of choice as to psychological and spiritual services available were not being met by many of the secular institutions. As has been historically the case with hospitals, colleges, universities, and social agencies, religious institutions—churches and temples—responded to such holistic needs by evolving alternative services to complement and enhance national, state, and local resources. One of the results of this call for greater freedom in the selection of mental health care came in the form of a network of pastoral counseling centers staffed by women and men with education and clinical training in both the human sciences and in the traditional theological disciplines and religious disciplines. In many respects, The Coastal Samaritan Center (formerly The Grand Strand Pastoral Counseling Service) is illustrative and typical of this growing network of faith-oriented facilities offering professional assistance in concord with federal, state, and private sectors of our democracy.
In the spring of 1980, The Reverend Tom Brittain, The Senior Pastor of The First United Methodist Church in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, contacted Dr. Kenneth Smith to consider the establishment of a pastoral counseling center to serve the Grand Strand area. At that time, Dr. Smith was serving as pastor of the Lake View Charge but already had received his doctoral degree from Vanderbilt University and was a Clinical Member of the American Association of Pastoral Counselors, the national guild responsible for certifying pastoral counseling specialists. With the permission of his Lake View parishioners and with the approval of his bishop, Dr. Smith began a part time (one day a week) counseling ministry in October of 1980. Within two months, however, the practice moved to two days per week, due primarily to the large numbers of persons seeking this particular kind of counseling and family therapy.
In those early days, the service consisted of three folding chairs in a Sunday School room of The First United Methodist Church. Thanks to the donation of some old office furniture by the South Carolina National Bank and later contributions made by the Grand Strand Sertoma Club, the Center began to acquire the physical facilities necessary to meet the growing needs of a burgeoning clientele. Soon grants from the Ocean View Foundation and the Chapin Foundation made it possible for the service to evolve in a bona fide pastoral counseling center.
As part of this expansion, in June of 1981 Dr. Smith was appointed full time director of the Service. With one secretary serving in a support role, Dr. Smith functioned as both director and pastoral counselor/psychotherapist. In less than a year, however, it became apparent that the growing demand for services made another clinical appointment necessary. In early 1983, therefore, The Reverend Frances C. Brown joined the clinical staff as a pastoral psychotherapist, later to be appointed as the associate director of the Service. Her first year’s salary was guaranteed by the Ocean View Foundation. Ms. Brown, an Air Force widow and ordained Baptist minister, had come from Columbia, Maryland, where she had been serving as a pastoral counselor for Resources for Family Growth, and agency of the Home Mission Board of the Baptist Convention of Maryland and of the Columbia Baptist Fellowship.
A year later, in 1984, Dr. Roderick Dail joined the clinical staff as a part time pastoral psychotherapist. Dr. Dail had directed a counseling center at Christ Church in New York City. He served the Center for five years, retiring in 1989. In 1986, Dr. Orlo Strunk, Jr. was invited to join the clinical staff as a part time pastoral psychotherapist. Dr. Strunk had moved south after electing early retirement from Boston University where he had taught and supervised doctoral candidates in pastoral psychology and counseling for sixteen years. In August of 1988, Joseph Johnston, a native of Myrtle Beach with advanced education and training in family therapy, joined the clinical staff and served until his resignation in the Spring of 1992 in order to enter private practice. In 1991, The Reverend Luonne Rouse came to the Service as a part time pastoral counselor while serving as the founding pastor of a cross-cultural church in Conway, South Carolina. His tenure was cut short when his bishop sent him to another appointment. In March of 1993, Dr. Kenneth Smith resigned from the Center and the associate director, The Reverend Frances Brown, was appointed interim director.
In early 1994, Mrs. Lee Gravely, a certified mediation counselor, was appointed to the clinical staff as a counselor and began her services and supervision leading toward her licensure as a Professional Counselor. Soon after Ms. Brown assumed the interim directorship, the Board voted to begin the process of becoming an accredited Samaritan Center, an affiliation which would link the Service to approximately five hundred similar counseling sites across the United States, including Hawaii. At this same time, the Board appointed a search committee to find a new director. And in November of 1994, the Board accepted the search committee’s recommendation that Dr. William Felder be employed as Executive Director of The Coastal Samaritan Center, Inc. Dr. Felder resigned his position as an associate director of a pastoral counseling center in Columbia, South Carolina, and assumed his responsibilities at CSC on December 1, 1994.
On April 20, 1996, The Center was awarded full accreditation by the Samaritan Institute of Denver, Colorado.
The Reverend Kathy T. Heustess joined the clinical staff in July of 2003 to serve as Clinical Director and Pastoral Psychotherapist. She had previously been with Methodist Counseling and Consultation Services in Charlotte, North Carolina, another accredited Samaritan Center. In 2004, the Center received notice of being awarded an advertising grant from the Coastal Advertising and Marketing Professionals (CAMP). At their recommendation, the Center added the word “Counseling” to its name. Photographs, newspaper ads, television commercials, brochures, and a new logo were the result of this grant. It is rare that non-profit organizations can afford such great advertising. In July of 2004, The Reverend Dr. G. Thomas Vaughn joined the clinical staff having previously been with Waccamaw Mental Health Center.
In November of 2004, the first CSCC satellite office was opened by The Reverend Kathy Heustess at Trinity United Methodist Church in Conway. In January of 2005, Kathy opened another satellite office at Christ United Methodist Church. And in July of 2005, the Reverend Dr. G. Thomas Vaughn opened the third satellite office at Little River United Methodist Church naming it the “North Strand Satellite.” All satellite offices have advisory committees to insure the success of the ministry of pastoral counseling to each supporting congregation and the surrounding communities.
In the fall of 2004, Dr. Bill Felder announced in writing that he would retire as Executive Director effective December 31, 2005. The Executive Committee of The Board of Directors, acting on their duties as a Personnel Committee, began the process of searching for a new Executive Director. And in November of 2005, the position was offered to The Reverend Kathy T. Heustess. She began her duties January 1, 2006.
Three new counselors were added in 2006 in an effort to grow the Center through its satellite offices. Gretchen Smith joined the staff to assist in the Conway satellite. Susan Bulsza joined the staff as an intern to work toward licensure and gain experience in expanding her client base in the North Strand area. And Dr. Jim Remington moved from the state of Michigan to open a Southern Coastal Satellite in Litchfield at St. Paul’s Waccamaw United Methodist Church.
In 2007, the Center experienced additional changes in the counseling staff. Dr. G. Thomas Vaughn decided to pursue another opportunity, opening the door for an additional counselor to be added to the staff. Christopher “Kit” Galton then came on board in August of 2007. A retired counselor from Waccamaw Mental Health, Kit worked one day a week at the Little River Satellite as well as in the main office in Myrtle Beach. Susan Bulsza began seeing clients at a second location on the North Strand at Ocean Drive Presbyterian Church.
In February of 2008, the Center was fortunate to employ Ed Fitzpatrick, who had recently moved to the area from Alaska. Ed began working to build the Conway satellite office, while also working at the main office. For a brief time, Ed also saw clients in Aynor. In the spring of 2008, Intern Melissa Swartz joined the staff to see children and families. A sixth satellite office was opened at the Child Development Ministry on the North Campus of First United Methodist Church. Around the same time, the Carolina Forest Satellite office was moved from Christ United Methodist Church to Celebration Presbyterian Church. Susan Bulsza began seeing clients there which was conveniently located near her home. In the fall of 2008, Jan Filipow joined the staff after moving to the North Strand area from Ohio. Jan began working to build the two North Strand offices while Kit continued seeing clients at the main office. Anna White joined the staff in December of 2008 in order to open a satellite in Georgetown. And Jim Remington was invited to see clients at Murrells Inlet Presbyterian Church. The Center was fortunate to receive grant funding from both The Sisters of Charity and The Chapin Foundation for the purpose of hiring a Development Director. Jeanette Patterson accepted the position, re-located from Spartanburg, and began development and marketing activities on behalf of the Center.
The year of 2009 brought many changes to the Center as well. Kit and Ed resigned to pursue other opportunities. Ed re-located to his home state of Washington to be near extended family. Jim Remington retired and moved to Florida. Pam Kelaher Sanabria worked briefly at the Center before deciding to pursue private practice in Garden City. And Melissa Swartz decided to pursue another employment opportunity while working part time with Pam. The Center was fortunate to meet and engage with The Reverend Greg Hill, a retired Army Chaplain and ordained United Methodist minister. Having participated in a clergy support group sponsored by the Samaritan Center in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Greg began participating in the Samaritan Institute sponsored Clergy and Congregation Care (CCC) groups. It is Greg’s passion to see the Center expand its services and income stream to support the work of those engaged in ministry to the community. Hopefully, CCC services will evolve into several areas: executive coaching, People Map presentations, strategic planning for faith communities, clergy support groups, staff development retreats, and EAP services to area businesses.
Tim Underwood, a recent graduate of Liberty University, joined the staff in January of 2010 in order to re-open the Conway satellite after Ed’s departure. In May, Jane Osment joined the staff as she was completing her internship at Liberty University. In June of 2010, the Loris Satellite office was opened at Loris First United Methodist Church with Jane being there two days each week. With Susan Bulsza’s resignation to pursue private practice, Jane agree to staff the Carolina Forest office at Celebration Presbyterian Church. Toward the end of 2010, both Tim Underwood and Anna White resigned to pursue other opportunities. But the Center was fortunate to hire Bedelia Murray, LCSW. Bedelia agreed to work in several of the satellite offices in addition to the main office. The Asbury Building of the First United Methodist Church in Myrtle Beach still houses the main and administrative offices of the Center. Currently, there are also satellite offices operating in Conway, Carolina Forest, Little River, North Myrtle Beach, Loris, Murrells Inlet, and Pawleys Island.
Administratively, over the years the Center has attracted a cadre of loyal office workers with a missional spirit. Presently, (2011) the Center employs one full time office administrator (Lisa Kroneker). Additionally, Lisa has an office assistant who also serves as an evening receptionist (Melissa Romero).
In its attempt to have a broad community base and a firm ecumenical and interfaith breadth, it has formed a Board of 15-18 members representing over a dozen churches on the Grand Strand and the community at large. The Center also maintains a team of consultants from such sister disciplines as psychiatry, medicine, psychology, education, and law. The Center lost Dr. Elizabeth Newlin, who had served as a psychiatric consultant since the fall of 2006 until August of 2010. Dr. Newlin left the community to pursue a position at The Menninger Clinic in Houston, Texas.
Although it sees itself primarily as a service agency (not a research or training facility), one clinical staff member is an approved supervisor of Social Workers and therefore are qualified to educationally prepare persons seeking state licensure as a Clinical Social Worker in South Carolina, as well as to local pastors in search of ways to increase their counseling skills within a congregational structure. The Center has also been fortunate to provide field experience for those interns pursuing master’s degrees in counseling. The Center’s clinical staff also offers churches, community agencies, and business firm consultation and educational programs in such areas as parenting, marriage enrichment, stress management, and critical incident stress management.
As pastoral counseling centers have evolved in the United States, The Coastal Samaritan Center may be characterized as one of those which is small, physically housed in an ecclesiastical plant, community based with a professionally educated and licensed/certified clinical staff, heavily dependent upon client fees supplemented by contributions from churches, foundations, the United Way, and individuals, and dedicated to a philosophical and theological conviction that the complex crises and holistic health needs of contemporary living require the very best knowledge and skills of both the modern sciences and the spiritual resources and wisdom of the faith communities.
Coastal Samaritan Counseling Center is accredited by the Samaritan Institute. The goal of the process is to help ensure that affiliated Centers maintain sound organizational structures, efficient management and administration, high-quality clinical processes, careful financial and personnel practices, and professional accountability. On a four year cycle, Centers prepare an extensive self-study, undergo a two day on-site review by an Institute staff member or appointed Center director, and receive a written report on the findings. The careful review and accountability process of accreditation is identified by Center leaders as one of the most helpful aspects of Samaritan Institute affiliation.
THE SAMARITAN INSTITUTE – a nonprofit organization headquartered in Denver, is the international office for a network of counseling Centers. Coastal Samaritan Counseling Center, accredited by the Samaritan Institute, is a member of this network called The Samaritan Ministry; it is one of the largest providers of professional counseling in the United States.
Samaritan Centers provide professional mental health
services, healthcare education, and consultation in more than 380 cities and communities throughout the United States and Tokyo, Japan. Annually, over $20 million of subsidized counseling is provided for those who cannot afford the
full cost of counseling. The Samaritan Ministry’s growth has been in direct response to the needs of congregations and communities.