Updated: Feb 11
Dr. Mike Courtney
Dr. Mike Courtney of Murfreesboro TN is a Certified Pastoral Member of the Sarasota Academy of Christian Counseling and has been an International Representative since August, 2019.
He is also a member of the National Christian Counselors Association (NCCA). As an NCCA member, he is a Licensed Clinical Pastoral Counselor-Advanced Certified, Professional Clinical Member, and Clinical Supervisor. Dr. Mike Courtney holds a Doctorate in Clinical Christian Counseling from Cornerstone university.
The summer after high school graduation I was travelling with an itinerant youth choir in South Carolina. We would go from community to community, do some kind of light mission work like paint a garage or clean up trash from a local park, and then do a concert at a local church that evening. One night we were in Goose Creek, SC, (yes, there is a Goose Creek) and before the concert our assignment was to scatter out in the church and pray. I was doing just that, praying as earnestly and as eloquently as a 17-year-old can pray. I was asking God about my future, what I was supposed to do, if He had a plan for my life. I paused from my prayer and looked up. Right in front of my face was a piece of colored construction paper with a note, on plain white paper, taped to the center. It was written in crayon in what looked to be an elementary school kid handwriting. I’m sure it was there before I began praying but I had not noticed it. The note said, “Go into all the world and make disciples,” a part of the verses in Matthew 28 that we call The Great Commission. I took that as a call from God, and most of my adult life has been an attempt to follow those words.
I began that journey, after college and seminary, as a minister; youth pastor, associate minister, and finally the lead pastor of a very large, very fast-growing church. After nearly 25 years, the direction of that call drastically changed as I felt God’s plan for me was to become a counselor. I had watched counseling in my own family of origin, sometimes effective, sometimes not (my parents divorced while I was in college), and my wife and I had benefitted tremendously from Godly counsel in our marriage. It seemed to me that God was saying, “Go thou and do likewise,” to take a verse really out of context. A search for a place to land with this new-found call led me to Sarasota Academy for Christian Counseling and the National Association of Christian Counselors.
I had a good, solid theological background, and even a few seminary counseling courses under my belt. But I had no clue how to proceed with a counseling ministry, or even long-term counseling with a client. I found in the Sarasota training, and my relationship with the NCCA, a philosophy and a system of treatment that made sense to me and fit in my own understanding of ministry to the whole person, body, mind, and spirit. The use of temperament, and the Arno Profile System gave me a language to express what seemed to ring true in my own heart and in my experience of God’s healing, both as a pastor and as a client. Understanding my own temperament, especially as a Sanguine compulsive in affection, helped me utilize my communication strengths as a counselor and also provided me with an early warning system against some of the weaknesses like the need for affirmation and intimacy, sometimes from the wrong places.
God blessed my endeavor, and my commitment to continue growing as a pastoral counselor. I opened a one-room office with a focus on addiction and recovery. What started as a single practitioner, with a shingle out front, and a room full of drunks meeting three times a week, grew very quickly to multi-counselor center seeing several hundred people each month. We were learning from each other. We were carving out a space in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and we were helping people. God sent us wonderful Sarasota trained, gifted, Godly counselors like Chandy Powell and Debi Russell. He also added state licensed therapists that appreciated the value of temperament and bought into the vision of counseling as ministry to the whole person. But still something was missing. The little verse God had used so many years before to capture my attention said, “Go and make disciples.” The call was not just to make people well. It was to make people useful.
The Sarasota Academy and the NCCA stepped up to meet another need. We became a CAI (Certified Academic Institution) and New Life University was born. From that day until now, the vision and mission of Branches Counseling Center is to bring healing and hope to the whole person, body, mind, and spirit, AND, to make disciples, training and equipping pastoral counselors to replicate that healing in their churches, work places, and communities. Dr. Marlena Butler is the director of New Life University and under her leadership the footprint of the NCCA and Temperament Therapy has greatly increased in the Middle Tennessee Area and beyond. Over the last nine years we have trained nearly 200 students and have seen many of those go on to thriving ministry practices in several states. Personally, we have hired two of our own graduates to join our growing staff at Branches. Others serve our community in church staff positions, working in community service organizations, and even in their own private ministry practices.
Today, in no small part to the training of SACC and our relationship with the NCCA, Branches has become a highly visible, and extremely diverse ministry. We now have 4 separate locations in Tennessee. We offer, in addition to faith-based counseling, psychiatric medication management, medical weight loss, and Christian life coaching. Branches currently has 27 counselors, 7 medical staff, and 6 administrative assistants. We see nearly 1800 people each month. Out pastoral counseling training is in great demand in the community we serve.
Personally, I have been blessed with another life of ministry beyond the traditional church stationed style. I have grown, I believe, as a husband, a father (and now grandfather), a counselor, and a Christ-follower. Using the Arno Profile System and staying connected to my SACC/NCCA roots has taught me more about myself, my faith, and the world around me than I would have known without those resources. I have written several books, speak regularly across the country, have made numerous television appearances and conference stages. But by far, the most impactful ministry I have yet today, is sitting in the room with a couple in crisis and assuring them that there is hope. I am now in a transition phase, releasing the leadership of Branches to my son, I reflect back on what a wonderful, serendipitous act of God it was for me to find the Sarasota Academy and the NCCA. And I think the little kid that left the “Make Disciples” sign would be very pleased.