By Anna Robertson Ham
Refuge is defined as shelter or protection from danger or distress. Sometimes, we all need to seek refuge – even if it is from our own burdens or distress. The Refuge Center for Counseling is a place that can provide the help many need. We learned from Amy Cochran, Communications and Special Events Coordinator for The Refuge Center, the history of how it came to be in Williamson County and on how the center has impacted the community
“The name for the center was inspired by a passage in Isaiah (4:6) which says, ‘It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and a hiding place from the storm and the rain,’” explains Amy. “Beyond being a place to receive affordable and professional counseling services, The Refuge Center has also become a place where people are able to find hope and healing from the storms of their daily lives.”
The Refuge Center for Counseling opened in December 2005 as the vision of its founders and Williamson County residents Amy Alexander, LMFT and Jennifer Gillett, LMFT. Both Amy and Jennifer had a desire to serve their community by providing counseling sessions on a sliding scale based on income. “Williamson County is often recognized for its wealth, most recently named seventh wealthiest county in the country. This can overshadow those who are in need in our county. To live among great prosperity and to be in need is often to feel invisible,” says Amy. “The Refuge Center for Counseling’s mission is to offer affordable professional counseling services in order to empower, educate and support individuals, couples and families in need. The focus of The Refuge Center is to make sure every individual, family, couple, or child has the opportunity to seek therapeutic resources, regardless of income level.”
The Refuge Center’s staff currently includes thirty-one therapists, sixteen Master’s level interns, five administrative staff and one psychiatric nurse practitioner. They also have more than one hundred volunteers. “Volunteers help us by offering administrative assistance, performing maintenance projects, supporting special events, or by serving on our Partnership Council or Board of Directors. By volunteering with us, individuals can provide our community the opportunity to find hope and healing through counseling,” explains Amy.
“At some point in our lives, we will all experience conflict with someone we care about, the loss of someone we deeply love, or a stressor or anxiety that is difficult to move past,” Amy says. “To have someone walk with us during those times is extremely powerful and life changing. The Refuge Center offers affordable counseling services in the hopes that no one walks that road alone. We pair affordability with excellence and offer therapeutic resources to those who seek them – children, adults, couples and families – regardless of ability to pay.”
The Refuge Center has had more than 80,000 counseling sessions since opening their doors. “The average fee per counseling session in 2016 was $44.76. Currently, it costs the center $75 to give a counseling session. That means The Refuge Center must raise over $30 to cover every session on our sliding scale. To accomplish this, we are supported by generous grants, churches, corporations and donors. We are also a United Way of Williamson County supported agency,” Amy says. “We host two main events. In the spring, we host a ‘Live Intentionally’ Speaker Series. Our definition of what it means for us as individuals to ‘Live Intentionally’ is to live life in congruence with our values and beliefs while striving for meaningful relationships with ourselves and others.”
“Our signature fundraising dinner event is Hope Grows, held annually in the fall. Hope Grows is a celebration of the joy, hope and healing found by so many at The Refuge Center for Counseling. We also present our Hope Award to a member of the community who exhibits our mission to empower, educate, and support those in need. This year, our fifth annual Hope Grows event is October 5th from 6pm to 9pm at The Factory at Franklin in Jamison Hall. It will feature dinner sponsored by Carrabba’s Italian Grill, music by Christian recording artist Plumb and a live painting silent auction by Roy Laws Art. The Hope Award will be presented to a member of our community who exhibits our values to empower, educate and support those in need,” Amy says.
“With the need for our counseling services at an all-time high, it is imperative we build a larger, permanent home. We have big dreams for our future and we need our community’s help to help make the plans we have for this state-of-the-art counseling center in Williamson County possible. Imagine the impact this would have on our families, workplaces, schools, neighbors and community,” says Amy. “Through counseling, many are able to receive help before a family dispute turns violent, before a teen feels there is no hope for their life, before a couple gives up on their marriage, or before someone turns to drugs to escape their pain.”
If you are in need of counseling, want to volunteer, donate, learn more about the events or purchase tickets for Hope Grows, visit therefugecenter.org.