The Samaritan Counseling Center, 218 N. College Ave., along with its satellite offices in Lindale, Henderson and Jacksonville, provides about 10,000 hours of counseling to East Texans each year.

Sponsoring the upcoming Peace of Mind mental health conference in Tyler is one of numerous services that the Samaritan Counseling Center of East Texas provides in 35 counties in the region.

The annual conference, scheduled from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 4 at Green Acres Baptist Church CrossWalk Conference Center, is the center’s largest event. But throughout the year, it provides counseling, classes, workshops and other services with a focus on connecting body, mind, spirit and community.

Mirroring the immense need for mental health services in the region, the Samaritan Counseling Center has approximately 2,000 clients across East Texas.

The center’s primary facility is at 218 N. College Ave. in Tyler, but it also has satellite offices in Lindale, Henderson and Jacksonville. The main center in Tyler is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, but evening and Saturday appointments are available.

The move to develop such a center was begun by the late George Richardson, an East Texas chaplain who saw the need for counseling in East Texas that would embrace a person’s spirituality and be interfaith. He began meeting with men and women from various backgrounds about the need for a center.

Seeking to fulfill his dream, the late C.C. Baker called them together after Richardson’s death and they formed the Samaritan Counseling Center of Tyler in 2011.

It started operating in 2012 with one therapist providing a few hours of counseling.

The next year the nonprofit mental health center began growing. Now it has about 20 licensed therapists and interns from universities, who conduct about 10,000 counseling hours every year, providing therapy with specialized techniques.

As its clientele and service area grew, the center changed its name to the Samaritan Counseling Center of East Texas.

Christopher Taylor, executive director, said the center is unique in that “We believe that body, mind and spirit have to work together for a person to get better. Just like you have to check your blood sugar if you are diabetic, you have to take time for self-care in the mental health realm, and those things you believe spiritually impact your overall health.”

He added, “We try to look at all of those things together when we are working with someone. We are the only one in the area that does it the way we do it.”

The other approach that is unique to the counseling center, Taylor said, is that the center tries to be affordable by having a sliding fee scale for clients, couples and families that need help with anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder or other conditions.

It is not a free counseling center, but under the sliding fee scale some clients who qualify do not pay as much as some others. The center accepts insurance.

Although clients are charged a fee, the center is heavily supported by donors, with more than 70% of its revenue coming from philanthropical sources.

Clients come in for therapy an average of eight to 10 sessions. Some are long-term and have come to the center since it started, while others come in for a short term and get their needs met.

Besides individual or family therapy, the center conducts classes and group sessions, such as a divorce recovery workshop, chronic pain management class and social emotions classes for adolescents and children.

Also, Samaritan Counseling Center recently launched e-counseling, a video-based therapy program accessed by smartphone, tablet or computer that allows clients to have a session with their therapist remotely instead of coming into the center.

For an appointment, call 903-593-9141.

TWITTER: @Tylerpaper

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