Catholic Charities of ET launches phone counseling center

A PHONE CALL AWAY Catholic Charities’ team of counselors include from left Alison Jones, Sister Mary Christine Cremin, Stacy Robertson, and Jessica Cathey. Photo by Bill Brewer

Research showing that the effectiveness of counseling via telephone equals face-to-face counseling sessions has led Catholic Charities of East Tennessee to start a phone-based counseling service.

The service, which began Aug. 1, is targeted to a large, underserved clientele, according to Sister Mary Christine Cremin, RSM, of Catholic Charities, who said many of the East Tennesseans who will benefit are residents with limited access to professional counselors.

Sister Mary Christine, who is a licensed clinical social worker, said Catholic Charities has been getting calls from East Tennesseans seeking counselors affiliated with a faith-based agency.

“I think it’s going to be a benefit to a lot of people,” she said. “The studies show that it’s equally effective — face-to-face and phone counseling. It might be easier for people who would be uncomfortable doing face-to-face counseling.”

The center, staffed by three licensed counselors and graduate students in counseling studies, is based out of Catholic Charities’ Division Street facility in Knoxville.

Sister Mary Christine has seen an increase in the number of people seeking counseling.

“At least 50 percent of our clients are non-Catholic if not more. A number of them are Christian and want a faith-based counselor,” Sister Mary Christine said. She noted that callers with substance abuse problems or who have psychological issues such as depression, suicidal tendencies or psychosis are referred to specialists in those fields and a mobile crisis unit in the community set up to respond to emergency cases.

Stacy Robertson, a licensed master social worker and director of Catholic Charities’ Counseling & Children’s Services, said East Tennessee’s large geographic area led Catholic Charities to reach out to rural areas that may not have access to professional counselors. “I think we can definitely fill an unmet need with this service,” she said. “We’re not going to turn anyone away.”

She said there is a charge for the service based on income level, a sliding fee from $5 to $90 per session. The first call is free. The counseling sessions are confidential and offered 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Callers leave a message and a counselor returns their call within 24 hours. Anyone seeking counseling or more information on the program can call 1-877-790-6369 or go to

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