Friday, August 22, 1997, Vol. 111, No. 156

By SUZANNE THOMPSON Counseling for coping Area religious organizations provide counseling services to community By SUZANNE THOMPSON The Daily News Having marital problems? Depressed? Perhaps counseling might help. If so, several area religious groups provide counseling services as a service to members of the community. Carol McGarrity, office manager of the counseling center at Christ United Methodist Church, said the church provides a variety of counseling services for anyone who needs them. Membership in the church is not required. McGarrity said Christ United has 14 counselors, which includes interns, most of whom work on a part-time basis. Two of the counselors are employed on a full-time basis. Some counseling services offered at Christ United include divorce and grief counseling, financial counseling and an array of personal counseling, McGarrity said. Another aspect of Christ Uniteds counseling center is the career counseling ministry. The church has two career counselors who help people with their resumes and a resource center which has Internet access. There is also a breakfast meeting each Tuesday at 6:30 a.m. to offer participants additional career support on an ongoing basis. There is a speaker or discussion group following breakfast. Fees at the counseling center are determined on a sliding scale based on income. The minimum fee is $20. The maximum fee is $65. McGarrity said the Christ United Counseling Center saw an average of 200 clients a month last year, or about 2,400 people. Hours of the counseling center are 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Christ United Methodist Church is located at 4488 Poplar Ave. McGarrity said the counseling service, which began at Christ United in 1984, has been an important aspect of the churchs development. "Its a great outreach tool," she said, explaining that it is not uncommon for people to come to the center for counseling and then later begin worshipping at the church. Some eventually join, she said. "We feel that being able to provide Christ-centered counseling is of utmost importance," McGarrity said. Jewish Family Services also provides counseling services to the public, and participants dont have to be Jewish to get help, said Bob Silver, executive director. Jewish Family Services staffs four licensed clinical social workers and is an affiliated agency of the United Way of the Mid-South. Silver said Jewish Family Services was established in 1865, predominately as a burial service for the victims of the Yellow Fever epidemic. "Counseling has been paramount as a service since the 1940s," Silver said. Last year, Silver said Jewish Family Services saw 440 people for a total of 1,600 counseling sessions. He said fees are based on a sliding scale depending on income with a minimum charge of $25 and a maximum charge of $80. Because the agency staffs licensed clinical social workers, it is able to file for insurance reimbursement on behalf of its clients. But help is still available to those who have less means to pay. "We work under a posture and philosophy of not turning anyone away when help is needed," Silver said. "If a couple, for example, that is destitute or has extenuating circumstances or are both unemployed, were not going to turn them away. We will see them for nothing. We hope maybe they can put a dollar or two on the table when they leave their session." Silver said Jewish Family Services offers vocational and career counseling, couples and individual therapy, grief and aging counseling, and parent/child counseling. Jewish Family Services also offers support groups for family caregivers, parents and others. Silver said the service also operates a mediation service for families and businesses. A relative newcomer on the counseling scene is Lindenwood Christian Church. Rev. Rod Bussey-Spencer said its counseling service began two years ago. Bussey-Spencer and Dr. Barbara Prescott are the two counselors on hand at Lindenwood. Bussey-Spencer said fees at Lindenwood also are calculated on a sliding scale, but a truer mechanism is a persons ability to pay. "Usually, we just ask what people can afford to pay and accept that," he said. "Nobody is turned away for financial reasons." Bussey-Spencer is an ordained minister through the Presbyterian church, so although the counseling offered at Lindenwood does have a "Christian side," it is not exclusively Christian counseling, he said. Lindenwood offers marriage, individual and family counseling, Bussey-Spencer said. He said Prescott has a doctorate in counseling, and Bussey-Spencer has a masters degree in marriage and family counseling. In addition to counseling services, Lindenwood also provides a free monthly educational program called the Lifequest series. Bussey-Spencer said each month features a different social issue. Speaking about the role churches play as counseling providers, he said, "One of the biggest benefits today, because of the mental health circumstances, is that anybody who needs it can get counseling from us. Whereas, with the crisis going on with managed care, its real hard for some people to get the help they need. "Were a part of a community of people that care, so were not doing this to make money. Were not doing it for any other reason except that we are reaching out to care about people," Bussey-Spencer said.       Jewish Family Services 6560 Poplar Ave. on campus of Jewish Community Center Christ United Methodist Church Counseling Center 4488 Poplar Ave. Level One Seabrook Hall Lindenwood Christian Church Counseling Center 2400 Union Ave.