top of page

CareNet: Its Heritage, Its History, and Its Hope for the Future

Updated: Sep 22, 2020

Today, the nine pastoral counseling centers which make up the CareNet system in North Carolina have offices from one side of the State to the other. In order to grasp an understanding of its work, one must first review some historical data, for without this context the significance of the care provided by those in the network might go unrecognized.

The Heritage

In 1902, Wake Forest College, which was located in the town of Wake Forest NC, established a two-year medical school. Twenty-one years later, the North Carolina Baptist Convention was instrumental in developing an 88-bed hospital in Winston Salem, NC. The medical school at Wake Forest College received a large sum of money in 1941; however the money did not come without restrictions: the condition was that the medical school be moved to Winston-Salem so that it could be affiliated with the NC Baptist Hospital. Charles Parker became the first chaplain for the hospital; this was a part-time position. In 1945, Dr. W. K. McGee was the Director of the Department of Religion and Denominational Activities for the college. He spent time visiting patients and families who desired religious counsel and also acted as a liaison with the NC Baptist State Convention.

During those days, the length of hospitalizations was much longer than they are today. Therefore, opportunities for significant pastoral care and counseling developed as the patients and their family members were frequently in crisis. Oftentimes these conversations moved into an area that required the minister to have an understanding of interpersonal psychology, not just the ability to minister to one’s spiritual needs.

Even before this, in 1885, Sigmund Freud began the process that developed into psychoanalysis. This was the first method that was well accepted by the medical community for treating an individual’s psychological struggles through conversation. Freud was born into a Jewish family and was taught the Jewish faith; however, he rejected the idea of all religion based on his assumption that religion was the expression of a childlike need for a supernatural parent. Freud had a very successful practice and he developed a tremendous influence with individuals who attempted to learn and utilize his methods. The beginnings of psychotherapy thus included a belief that religious faith is a delusion and anyone with this delusion was becoming more ill. There was a distinctive divide between the professionals in the medical or psychological community, and the proponents of faith-based counseling which is what many individuals preferred from their religious leaders. The medical community did not accept faith-based pastoral care and counseling as being scientifically sound.

In 1947, Wayne Oates graduated from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Having earned a Ph.D. in Psychology of Religion, he was invited to teach theological students at the seminary. He also taught a six-week workshop at the state mental hospital in Danville, Kentucky, followed by a ten-week workshop at North Carolina Baptist Hospital. These workshops were very influential in assisting the attendees to move toward providing pastoral care that focused more on the interpersonal relationships rather than theological exercises. The Rev. Melvin Bradshaw attended both of these seminars. Mr. Bradshaw is now 89 years of age, but still recalls these two workshops as “one of the most significant educational experiences of my whole life.” I was fortunate enough to be allowed to participate in both of these workshops and they became for me one of the defining experiences of my education and a turning point in my life. They taught me to examine my motives, which sometimes was a painful experience, but became a freeing one as I took an honest look at my faith and my religion, my beliefs, and my practice. The emphasis was not so much on learning techniques of pastoral work and counseling but to learn more about oneself so that one might be more able to cope effectively with one’s problems and deal more effectively with others in interpersonal relationships. They changed the focus of theological study from mere intellectual concerns to more personal and interpersonal concerns. Since most of the problems pastors have to deal with are not so much theological as interpersonal, I have always been glad that my interests began to turn more in this direction.

Although Dr. Oates was not the only person that was integrating the fields of psychology and theology between 1947 and his death in 1999, he was certainly one of the most respected individuals in that endeavor. Over the course of his career, He wrote 57 books that addressed the relationship between theology and psychology. He is credited with coining the phrase “workaholic” which was the first time that someone suggested that a person can be addicted to something other than a substance. He also understood the counseling process to be a “trialogue” rather than a dialogue. A trialogue is a conversation between two individuals that also seeks the insights and presence of God in that conversation. Dr. Oates viewed himself as a pastor, and his clients were the members of a congregation that never meets. Through the efforts of Dr. Oates, Howard Clinebell, and others, a new professional discipline was created. Pastoral counseling or faith-integrated counseling, as the discipline is called, seeks to integrate the scientific insights of psychology with an understanding of who we are as part of God’s creation, and as followers of Jesus Christ.

The History

In the early 1970s, Wake Forest University developed a Master’s Degree in Pastoral Counseling, and Dr. Perry Crouch, of the NC Baptist State Convention, requested that outpatient-counseling centers be established across the State. This request came because many patients had established relationships with the chaplains during their hospitalizations. Once released from the healthcare facilities, these patients desired the ability to maintain relationships with the chaplains; they desired the ability to address their psychological issues and concerns with individuals who could also attend to their spiritual needs.The name of these outpatient-counseling centers is CareNet. The first center was established in 1972, and was located in Winston Salem, North Carolina. Dr. Oates was contacted again, and he consulted with the staff of CareNet to ensure that the disciplines of theology and psychology were each represented with competency. With this history and heritage, CareNet began to grow. Today, there are more than 20 CareNet Counseling Centers across North Carolina. In 2012, CareNet provided approximately 38,500 hours of care to individuals, couples, families, and groups from 88 different North Carolina counties, and from five adjoining states. The misson of CareNet is to provide high quality, faith-integrated counseling and behavioral health services to clients and be a resource to the community that enhances mental/spiritual life. Each CareNet center is governed by a local board of directors, and beyond governance, the board of directors assist in raising monies that can be used to provide services to individuals who have needs without the ability to pay. Each CareNet center is also accredited by the Samaritan Institute. This national organization is dedicated to ensuring that pastoral counseling centers maintain professional accountability in all areas. Even though CareNet continues to be affiliated with North Carolina Baptist Hospital, which is now called Wake Forest Baptist Health, CareNet seeks to assist individuals of all faiths (and does not refuse services to individuals who do not have any faith). Likewise, CareNet staff members come from a variety of Christian denominational backgrounds. Professionals who work for CareNet represent a variety of disciplines including clinical psychology, professional counselors, marriage and family therapy, clinical social workers, and substance abuse counselors. Clinical staff members are licensed in their respective disciplines and many are also ordained ministers (For a list of the CareNet Counseling Centers, visit

CareNet Counseling East

CareNet counseling centers are divided into nine regions: Fayetteville Family Life Center, CareNet Counseling East, CareNet Counseling, Robeson Family Counseling Center, CareNet Mt. Airey, CareNet of Wilkes, Inc., CareNet Counseling of Statesville, Wilmington CareNet Counseling Center, and Harnett Family Life Center. As noted earlier, one of those regions is CareNet Counseling East (CNCE). CNCE is located in Greenville, North Carolina. This office opened in May of 2000, and there are now satellite offices in Rocky Mount (2002), and Kinston (2008). The Rocky Mount office is located at Lakeside Baptist Church, and the Kinston location is at Kennedy Home. The Rocky Mount work also includes work with homeless individuals through a partnership with United Community Ministries. From 2008 until January of 2014, the Kinston location was specifically for the residents of Kennedy Home and their families. Now, counseling services are open to the public in this location. As is true of CareNet centers, the clinicians at CNCE are from various disciplines. There are two licensed marriage and family therapists, two licensed professional counselors, two licensed clinical social workers, a provisionally licensed clinical social work resident who is a student of the spirituality and psychotherapy program of Wake Forest Baptist Health, as well as an intern of the masters-level Marriage and Family Therapy program at East Carolina University. CNCE is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. Through the generosity of churches, businesses, and community members, these offices provided approximately $40,000 in free and reduced care in 2013.

The Hope for the Future

Sometimes walking the Christian life does not feel abundant. Stress from in or outside of one’s home, or inside one’s own mind can make life extremely difficult. CareNet staff and clinicians are prepared to assist children, adults, couples, families, and groups with issues like mood and anxiety problems, trauma, anger management, parent-child issues, premarital and marital counseling needs, blended- and step-family issues, substance abuse issues, and many other struggles. Following the example of Dr. Oates and other pioneers in faith-integrated counseling, CareNet will always identify and utilize the values of each client coupled with solid psychological insights to help that individual find peace.While the history of the CareNet system was blazed by individuals of faith who offered quality care to patients, the future of the system will rest upon the foundation which the early pioneers of faith-integrated care laid. The care CareNet clinicians offer are a means whereby hurting people find hope and healing.

30 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page