I’m originally from Huntsville, Alabama, but moved to Orlando after college, and have called it home for 7 years now. I consider Orlando a great home because it is where I met, dated, and married my amazing wife Bri. It’s also where I completed the long and transformative journey of completing my Master of Divinity and Master of Arts in Counseling degrees (at RTS Orlando), and where I had the privilege of serving students and families with Orangewood’s student ministry for six years.
What got you interested in counseling?
When I first moved to Orlando, I saw my own need for counseling. I didn’t have many categories for counseling before that, except for what I saw in movies or T.V. But as I began my ministry here, I met with many students who were suffering through many different struggles, and I wanted to develop my skills in order to serve them well. So I signed up for some part-time counseling courses out at RTS. It was only 30 minutes into my first counseling class that I realized that even though I was there to become a help to others, I needed a lot of help in my own story as well.
And if you are like me, the thought of admitting, “I need help” is hard. That word, help can taste like soap— and so I stuffed my new realization and went on pretending I didn’t need any help for about six more months. Then I remember seeing in the bulletin that Orangewood had counselors on staff that would see members. And since I didn’t know how to set up a counseling session, or even what a counseling session looked like, this seemed like an accessible option to me.
So I reached out to Cary Smith, and during my time in counseling with him, I experienced the LORD’s kindness and the freedom that comes from being known and loved.
You’ve talked about how you’ve grown to value counseling in your own life. Why do you think Orangewood values having a counselor on staff?
Orangewood values counseling because, in short, Orangewood values discipleship. I think my predecessor Louise said it best when she said counseling is “discipleship on steroids.” It is a great space to look at our lives and struggles and see how certain issues in our lives can be connected to the Gospel.
Why do you think there is a stigma surrounding Christians seeing a counselor?
There has been a lot of progress in this area, but there is still (often) a stigma for a Christian to reach out to a counselor for help. In some circles, it might feel “less spiritual” to go to a counselor rather than praying, reading Scripture, or simply having “more faith” regarding your circumstances. I think this is unhelpful, though. There are so many other areas where we, as Christians, do not look down on others for asking for help. For example, we don’t look down on someone with diabetes for going to a doctor for treatment, nor would we judge someone who broke their foot for going to the doctor to get their bone reset and mended. We are called to care for our bodies — which also includes the hearts and minds that God has given us. Often, part of that care might include talking to a counselor.
Do you think counseling could be beneficial for anyone at Orangewood, and who (in particular) do you counsel?
I think counseling could be beneficial for many people at Orangewood! I have seen counseling be helpful in my own life, and I have had the privilege of seeing so many of the men, women, adolescents, and couples I have counseled experience greater freedom in Christ, greater satisfaction in their relationships, and a greater sense of purpose in their lives. I’m convinced that everyone can benefit from counseling during at least one season in their life.
How could someone reach out and see if counseling might be a good fit?
I can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Once you reach out, the first step I take is to set up an initial, free consultation, where we have a conversation about what is bringing you to seek counseling at this time and discuss what your hopes and goals might be for counseling. We’ll also discuss a plan for moving forward that includes meeting times and cost. The hope is you will walk out of that free consultation with greater clarity regarding your hopes and goals and a clear picture of what it looks like to pursue counseling.
A lot of us may not really have a good picture of what a counseling session looks like. Can you tell us what it’s like?
A counseling session with me looks a little different from what you generally see in shows or movies. It’s more like a collaborative conversation where we will discuss your hopes and goals and begin to support you in pursuing those goals. One great thing about counseling is that this collaborative conversation is completely confidential. This means that everything you share, with a few exceptions (regarding the safety of others and yourself), stays in the counseling room. The space is meant to be a place where you can find the support and encouragement you need in whatever season of life you may be going through.
For more information about counseling at Orangewood, click here.