Wednesday, April 17th, 2024

Tidewater Pastoral Counseling Services Story


On the cusp of turning 50, the agency expands its staff and offers new services

by Rob Lauer

Robert Rubinow, LPC

Robert Rubinow, LPC

 "Tidewater Pastoral Counseling Services is on the cusp of turning 50 years old," Marty Phillips, the agency's executive director, says with a smile. "We were founded in 1974 by Rev. Dr. Bill Hedrick, the pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Virginia Beach, who felt called to offer counseling not only to his congregation but to the broader community. From those humble beginnings, Tidewater Pastoral Counseling Services has grown and now has counselors with offices at ten different locations across Southside Hampton Roads. We also provide telehealth counseling."

The word "pastor" comes from the Latin word for "shepherd" and is related to a Latin verb meaning "to lead to a pasture, set to grazing, causing to be fed." The ideas of leading and nurturing are central to pastoral counseling.

"Most of our counselors are trained in behavioral science and pastoral care," Marty notes. "We do not represent any particular religious denomination or espouse any specific faith. We welcome and provide services to anyone-whether they are affiliated with a religion or not. If someone comes in and says, 'I am not religious,' we say, 'Fine. Let's discuss why you're here and how we can help you.' In our sessions, faith and spirituality are only brought up if the person receiving counseling does so.

"More people today think in terms of 'being spiritual' rather than being religious.'" Marty continues. "To better meet people where they are, regardless of their spirituality, all our counselors have received training and certification in spiritually-integrated psychotherapy from the Association for Clinical Pastoral Educators. As far as I know, Tidewater Pastoral Counseling is one of only three counseling organizations in the state to offer this cutting-edge approach of integrating an individual's spirituality with their counseling if that is what they want."

In its 49 years of helping individuals, couples,
and families work through hard times,
Tidewater Pastoral Counseling
has never turned anyone away
because of their inability to pay

To meet the growing needs of the local community, Tidewater Pastoral Counseling is expanding its staff.

Rev. Martha Mitchell, MS Ed.

Rev. Martha Mitchell, MS Ed.

Rev. Martha Mitchell, MS Ed., recently completed her Master's Degree in Counseling at ODU and is bringing 20 years of experience as a pastor to the agency. She enjoys helping clients build their emotional, mental, and spiritual resilience and fully embrace life. She sees her work as a partnership in which unconditional acceptance and love lead to healing and wholeness.   

Robert Rubinow, LPC, is moving from a part-time to a full-time position at Tidewater Pastoral Counseling. With 20 years of experience providing individual family counseling, he specializes in marital therapy, particularly for couples surviving infidelity, and working with trauma survivors, especially military personnel and veterans. He also has special training in working with people from the Catholic and Orthodox faiths.

Societal attitudes about counseling have changed radically since Tidewater Pastoral Counseling was founded 49 years ago. Previous generations were hesitant to seek professional help in dealing with emotional issues. Today people are increasingly willing to seek professional help in dealing with relationships, depression, and the full range of emotional issues.
One issue that has received growing attention in recent years is suicide. To stem the tide of suicide, Tidewater Pastoral Counseling now offers one-day training sessions known as Soul Shop.

"Soul Shop equips faith community leaders to minister to those impacted by suicidal desperation," Marty explains. "This includes those who are currently considering suicide; those who are concerned that a family member or friend might be considering suicide; those who have lost a loved one to suicide; and those who have experienced suicidal thinking in the past. The training helps faith communities to increase their suicide awareness and to create soul-safe spaces in their places of worship. Our new staff member Martha Mitchell is the only trained Soul Shop trainer in Hampton Roads, and through the graciousness of the Blocker Foundation, we're offering  this training to the community. 

To stem the tide of suicide,
Tidewater Pastoral Counseling
now offers one-day training sessions
known as Soul Shop.

"Part of this training addresses the misunderstandings often found in faith communities about people who are suicidal," Marty continues. "The biggest misconception is that discussing suicide in church is taboo-even though there are always people in any given congregation who are at risk, the same as in the general population. People feel they can't admit they're feeling suicidal. I hope our faith communities can be places where people can share such feelings and that the subject of suicide will be addressed in worship services.

"After faith community leaders receive Soul Shop training, Martha continues to serve as a resource for them. We want to develop ongoing relationships and offer them continuing resources. Martha conducted her first workshop in May and will offer additional workshops in the fall, including one for youth leaders and volunteers. It's vital that they know what questions to ask young people and how to get them to places where they can receive help. Interested faith community leaders can learn more about Soul Shop by calling our office."

In its 49 years of helping individuals, couples, and families work through hard times, Tidewater Pastoral Counseling has never turned anyone away because of their inability to pay-a fact of which Marty and his associates are particularly proud.

"We can offer our services to everyone who comes to us for help because of generous donations from the Beazley Foundation, the Blocker Foundation, the Warden Family Trust, several area churches, and, of course, individuals," Marty explains. "Because we are a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, all donations to us are tax-deductible. We are also registered with United Way, so those contributing to the United Way can designate Tidewater Pastoral Counseling as the recipient of their donation. If anyone is interested in helping us, simply call our main number or check out our website."

"By expanding our staff, we now have the capacity for new referrals," Mary concludes. "The demand for counseling is great. We know a lot of folks are really hurting, but we're always here to provide hope, help, and healing to those who need it."

Tidewater Pastoral Counseling

7305 Hampton Blvd.
Norfolk, VA 23505


Offices in Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake and Suffolk