Samaritan Interfaith—Pastor-turned-psychologist helps clients become resilient

January 2017 View more

nmag0117_neighboorhood-profile_nm-dr-scott-mitchell-3_800pxSamaritan Interfaith faces somewhat of a dichotomy as it celebrates its forty-fifth anniversary. The nonprofit that offers counselling services to all ages wants to spread the word so they can help as many people as possible. Yet behavioral health—the heart of their business—continues to carry a stigma that prevents people from finding psychological support.

President and CEO Dr. Scott Mitchell believes seeking help is actually a strength, not a weakness. “None of us are immune to the struggles of life,” he said at his Naperville office. “I have faced them myself. My father died when I was thirty of a complicated cancer.

My mother was only sixty when she died. I use these experiences to help others. I always say to people dealing with loss that you don’t get over it, you learn how to adapt to it. It’s like learning to walk through life with a pebble in your shoe. When you lose someone you love, it is natural to feel loss—it’s about learning to continue to walk through life. None of us are immune, but we can help teach you how to cope, it’s what we do.”

Although the organization is based on Christian values, clients are not required to follow a religion. Some are referred by their church, but others come via insurance or school referrals. The majority of patients suffer from anxiety and depression, but counsellors also work with children as young as two with behavioral issues. January can be a difficult time for some. Spending the holidays with family can stir up problems, plus it is a hard time for those who are lonely or dealing with loss.

Dr. Mitchell explains that the faith-based nature of its work is what makes Samaritan Interfaith unique. Knox Presbyterian Church started the organization in 1969, and was joined by
St. Raphael Catholic Church and Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in 1971. It aims to offer high-quality outpatient counselling services regardless of clients’ ability to pay.

“We treat everyone from CEOs of companies to those who cannot afford to pay at all,” he explained. “Whoever they are we want them to feel valued and respected. Those who can pay subsidize those who can’t, plus we raise around $500,000 a year in fee subsidies ourselves by fundraising with organizations like the Exchange Club and the Rotary Club of Naperville.”

Dr. Mitchell has been working at Samaritan Interfaith for twenty-eight years, the past eighteen as president and CEO. He sees it as a ministry;
Dr. Mitchell started his career as a Methodist pastor, but went on to become a licensed clinical psychologist. “I have always had a passion for helping people face struggles in their lives rather than avoid them,” he said. “Originally I was going to go to law school, but was pulled back by my faith. I thought I would be a pastor but I felt the call to help people through counselling and I kept following that path. This is a ministry for me. It has also been very fulfilling because as CEO of the organization I am able to help my staff. In a way I feel like chaplain of the Naperville community—they are all my congregation in a way. Our goal is not to ‘fix’ people or even just to make them feel better; it’s to have them grow in their ability to be more resilient.”

Samaritan Interfaith will be celebrating its anniversary at the annual Silent Samaritan Breakfast at Hotel Arista on February 16. For more information visit