Celebrating All Souls Counseling Center: Community Effort with Accessible Mental Health Care in Mind
The creation of the All Souls Counseling Center began with a community need and a community response.
Twenty two years ago, when Asheville's leading mental health facility closed and another experienced drastic budget cuts, many underinsured and uninsured children and adults were left with little to no access to psychotherapy services. Recognizing the dire need to replace these resources, two community psychologists came together and encouraged the greater community to join them, around the idea to build the foundations of a nonprofit. The question however, was where to find the space to house this new mission. Luckily, The Cathedral of All Souls opened its doors.
"Counseling sessions first started in the physical space at All Souls Cathedral," said Meredith Switzer, the Executive Director of All Souls Counseling Center. "People were so moved by the mission to provide services to the underinsured and uninsured. There was just this outpouring from the church and the community really rallied around it."
Switzer joined the team at All Souls Counseling as Interim Director in January 2022, and recently accepted the position as the new Executive Director of the organization. She shares that the energy and passion for accessible mental health care at All Souls Counseling has continued to grow over the years, especially as the world faced a mental health crisis in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As a Methodist and WNC local, Switzer describes being selected for the position as feeling like a divine intervention. She is no stranger to nonprofit work, having served as Executive Director for Asheville-based nonprofit Homeward Bound prior to her role at All Souls Counseling Center, and is also a strong advocate of mental health accessibility and education. Prior to taking her role at All Souls, Switzer shares that she had taken some time off to spend with her family following a stressful 18 months during the COVID pandemic, an experience that she shares only emphasized for her the importance of access to mental health services.
"I took five months off for mental health, just to have a reset and create greater balance in my family," Switzer said. "It was the best thing I could have done. So when I was taking the time off for self care I got the call to do work with this organization and I was just like, 'this feels divine to me.' I just felt like there was a very specific and special reason that I was being called to do this work right now. I think the work here speaks for itself and I do believe this is divine, like there is a greater purpose much bigger than me at work."
Since their establishment in 2000, All Souls Counseling Center has grown significantly. The organization quickly outgrew the original space and moved to a more central Asheville location near downtown. In 2009, they landed at their current home at 35 Arlington Street, a spacious and welcoming environment. This location makes them easily accessible for a number of people, regardless of access to transportation.
These days, the center offers a variety of services on sliding scale prices, from group sessions to individual counseling. Switzer shares that a major focus of the organization is to remove barriers to mental health care and ensure that everyone who needs it can access it.
"I think that this work demonstrates that everyone matters regardless of the language they speak, regardless of socioeconomic status, regardless of their physical presentation, simply regardless," Switzer said. "We will never turn anyone away for inability to pay. We believe it is so important that when someone needs to access mental health care that they have access to it and there isn't a barrier because they can't pay. I think it goes back to our name, to serve All Souls. We believe that everyone is worthy of not just mental health care but quality, affordable mental health care."
As part of their ongoing work to provide quality mental health care to underrepresented populations, All Souls Counseling has centered their recruiting process around seeking quality, diverse mental health professionals with a range of real-life experiences. As part of their dedication to serving marginalized populations, Switzer shares that All Souls aims to have therapists with whom clients can relate--be it through shared language, sexuality, culture, and more. At present, the center has over 20 licensed therapists and serves clients from all around Western North Carolina.
As a continuation of this work, Switzer shares that looking forward, the All Souls Counseling Center is exploring ways in which to connect with marginalized populations in their spaces, providing the information and education around the importance of mental health care without expecting folks to come to them. She notes that with many marginalized populations, there is a rightful fear and stigma surrounding mental health care, and an ongoing goal of the center is to continue to break down these walls and form authentic connections with people who are in need of care.
"I think there are a lot of opportunities for us to provide services, and I don't just mean within our physical space, I mean going and meeting people where they are," Switzer said. "I mean going into their faith communities, their after school programs, their community centers. Oftentimes, especially within minority groups, there can be a great stigma around mental health and also a lack of understanding about how to access services so we really want to explore what it looks like to make them more accessible. I think we have a responsibility to do that, so that is something we have as a part of our strategic planning over the coming months and years is to be more engaged in community education around mental health."
Formed in relationship with All Souls Cathedral, and thus with the diocese, Switzer shares that relationships are at the core of the work that the center does. From talking to frontline providers to working directly with organizations to refer potential clients, All Souls Counseling Center is poised to address the increasing needs of mental health in the community and excited to get creative in how they do it. Switzer shares that she is eager to continue building the relationship with the Diocese of WNC through meaningful conversation in our shared spaces and is currently brainstorming a potential educational series around mental health in collaboration with the diocese.
Looking forward, Switzer shares that building relationships will continue to drive the work of All Souls Counseling Center. Though conversations, education, and accessibility, we can all learn to better care for ourselves and subsequently care for the world around us.
"We want All Souls Counseling Center to be the resource for people who have found that they don't have other mental health support available to them," Switzer said. "I love what I do and I think that the mission here is so much bigger than one person. I feel like we are called to do this work, the people who are involved in it, and I'm just honored to be able to do it."
To learn more about All Souls Counseling Center, please visit https://allsoulscounseling.org/
If you or someone you know is in need of mental health assistance, you can refer them to All Souls Counseling Center by calling (828)259-3369 and speaking to the Clinical Manager, Pam Penland.