Eagles Landing Christian Counseling center counselors include, from left, Kimberly Wallace, Jennifer Teague, Executive Director Denice Colson, Jill Osborne, Amanda Walden and Sonya Snow. (Special Photo)
An affair had all but destroyed the family. Related circumstances even involved the Division of Family and Children Services. One of the older children was so troubled about the situation, there was special cause for alarm.
It seemed like everyone in the family had reached a point of no return, but then a miracle happened. The family sought help from Eagle’s Landing Christian Counseling Center.
“They allowed us to do some trauma counseling with them, then some marital counseling and finally some family counseling involving their teenager,” ELCCC Executive Director Dr. Denise Colson said.
“Their marriage and family were restored and they are active in their local church. They say that their relationships with each other and with God are better than before. It took a lot of hard work and a year of time, but the outcome is priceless.”
Colson, who helped co-found ELCCC at Eagle’s Landing First Baptist Church in McDonough, is now offering Christian counseling in Rockdale County through a branch office in Conyers. ELCCC became a separate entity from Eagle’s Landing FBC in 2006, and now in addition to its centers in McDonough and Flovilla, ELCCC has opened a center in the offices of the Stone Mountain Baptist Association on Green Street in Conyers.
Stone Mountain Baptist Association missionary Larry Cheek said ELCCC has partnered with the association to offer what he terms a community resource.
Colson said ELCCC was invited by Cheek to come to Conyers and see clients because of the reputation ELCCC has in working with area churches. ELCCC now has five counselors working out of the Conyers office specializing in trauma recovery and addiction recovery.
“We also do marital counseling, play therapy for children and work with adolescents,” she added. “We are certified by the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities to do DUI evaluations and DUI treatment.”
A licensed professional counselor and master addiction counselor, Colson is also a certified professional counselor supervisor and on the Georgia Supervisor Registry. She completed her doctorate in Christian counseling and spiritual direction through the International University for Graduate Studies.
Colson grew up in California and lived in Kansas before moving to Georgia where she graduated high school. She has an undergraduate degree in biology from Greenville College, a Christian college in Illinois.
“I was on the pre-med track, but realized that dissecting dead bodies or cutting open live human bodies was not for me,” she said. “I opted for grad school rather than medical school and started working in the counseling field straight out of college.”
In the counseling field since 1982, Colson’s first assignment was living and working at a girls’ residential treatment center in Georgia where they lived in the woods, built their own platform tents, dug out their own privy, hiked and lived outdoors with no electricity or running water most of the time.
After doing that for 18 months, Colson went to grad school at Georgia State University in Atlanta where she received her master’s degree in community counseling.
“I think my background gives me a unique perspective in the integration of psychology and physiology,” she said. “I am especially interested in the integration of Christian theology and the application of sound psychological principles in the art and science of counseling.”
After 11 years of living in Houston where she met her husband, Colson moved back to Georgia where the couple would raise their three daughters near grandparents and cousins. The girls are now 18, 16 and 13.
Colson had started a trauma recovery ministry at a church in Stockbridge in 1999. The family began attending Eagle’s Landing FBC the next year, where Colson began working with the women’s minister Nancy Anderson and Terry Hash, the pastoral care minister, who had been doing counseling at the church for 14 years.
Eagle’s Landing FBC hired Colson to be associate pastoral care minister in 2001, with the goal of building the counseling center to become self-sustaining.
“I brought the trauma specialty and began training church members and professional counselors and God brought a lot of people,” Colson said. “We outgrew the church space and ELFBC paid for us to have a space off site. They paid for an attorney to form a separate nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation and in 2006, we became separate.”
Colson and her family still attend Eagle;s Landing FBC and Hash is still on staff as the pastoral care minister, but the church and the counseling center remain separate. ELCCC has branched out into other communities, but its vision remains the same.
“We envision ourselves as partnering with local churches,” she stated. “We want to come alongside pastors, ministers and other church leaders to effectively use the modality of counseling to encourage Christians in their discipleship and demonstrate God’s goodness to those suffering from emotional pain, relationship turmoil, mental illness and addictions of all kinds.
“We see a church body unencumbered by the chains of past pain and hurt and trauma, able to reach out into the community to demonstrate the goodness of God through good works and godly lifestyles.”
Colson said the counseling service envisions “reducing divorce rates, breaking the generational cycle of abuse, reducing co-habitation, reducing drug/alcohol and pornography addiction, reducing abortion, reducing teen pregnancy and increasing active participation in the local Christian church of their choice — all through the healing of past and present experiences combined with understanding our uniqueness of personality as it is designed by God.”
She said she and the other counselors see the work of ELCCC as part of the discipleship continuum.
“Our plan is to meet people where they are and through the relationship developed in the counseling room, move them toward increased Christ-actualization rather than self-actualization, meaning to be as much like Christ as possible rather than focusing on self,” she said.
Christian counseling differs from other types of counseling, Colson said, in that “we acknowledge that God is the source of all healing, whether it’s physical, emotional, mental or spiritual.”
ELCC offers this explanation on its website: “Christian counseling is different in philosophy from secular counseling in most cases. Some counselors are Christians who work as professional counselors without mentioning God or the Bible unless the client initiates the topic. Even then, counselors may say little while listening and affirming their client’s opinions and ideas.
“Some consider themselves biblical counselors, who provide advice or counsel only from the Bible.
“Another type of Christian counselor and the type we strive to be at ELCCC is an integrated counselor. We use the Bible as the foundation of our counsel, but integrate scientifically sound psychological principles and research in relating and helping our clients, bringing together the two ways of understanding human beings and their relationships.”
“We also believe that people can be healed and that God wants to heal people,” Colson added.
“ … As Christian counselors, we don’t preach. What we do is demonstrate the love and grace of God and when asked, we share our own experiences of healing through Christ. We accept everyone where they are and with whatever view of God they have.”
While the counselors at ELCCC see people for many different reasons, Colson said they see a large number of marriage and relationship issues which involve affairs and/or addictions.
“People are all looking for ways to survive both internalized pain and current or anticipated pain,” Colson said. “People look to themselves, to others and to substances to manage their pain. This is the human experience.
“Turning to God (can be) just a simple prayer like, ‘God, I’m not sure you can really help me, but I’m willing to think about it.’ I’ve personally prayed a prayer like this in the past and experienced amazing healing through God’s help.
“It didn’t happen instantly and required me to make some difficult choices, but it happened. He healed and restored me from pain and hurt. He can do it for everyone if they will turn to Him.”
Beth Slaughter Sexton is a freelance writer based in Walton County. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.