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The Samaritan Institute is a non-profit organization based in Denver, Colorado which manages an international network of faith-based counseling centers (Samaritan Centers). Counselors and mental health professionals in the Samaritan program receive theological training in addition to typical licensing in psychology, psychiatry and counseling, enabling an approach which combinines "mind, body, spirit and community." Services offered include outpatient counseling, wellness programs, and consultation and training for clergy and other professionals.
Founded in Elkhart, Indiana in 1972 by a physician, two parish ministers and a seminary professor, the Samaritan philosophy sought to emphasize the unity of mind, body, spirit and community in counseling through the collaboration of clergy, therapists and physicians. The program first formed as a part of First Presbyterian Church of Elkhart as part of the church's counseling center. Following the expansion of the Samaritan name and model to other churches, in 1979, the Samaritan Institute was formed as a non-profit corporation seeking to unite and develop existing and future counseling centers. In anticipation of continued growth, in 1983, the Institute relocated its headquarters to Denver, Colorado, where it could better manage its nationwide network.
Today, the Samaritan Institute and its Centers are one of the largest national providers of faith-based counseling. Nearly five hundred Samaritan Center offices exist in 389 cities throughout the United States and Japan. Samaritan Centers, which are the independently-run affiliates of the Samaritan Institute, use facilities provided by sponsor churches — about 4,000 congregations of 26 denominations support the Samaritan program. The model is cost-effective in practice and is capable of offering counseling at lower rates than many other programs. Annually, Samaritan Centers donate more than $20,000,000 in subsidized counseling to individuals in need of assistance.
The Institute is a 501(c)(3) organization, governed by a board of directors in consultation with a national council of Center executive directors. R.J. Ross, one of the original founders of the Samaritan program, serves as president.
As a faith-based program, counselors and professionals in the Samaritan program represent various disciplines, including psychology, clinical social work, marriage and family therapy, pastoral counseling and psychiatry. In addition, counselors are trained in theology and are better able to address the religious perspectives of clients, incorporating them into the therapeutic process. Declaration of any particular religious belief is not a requirement for treatment, however, and counselors do not impose personal theological beliefs upon counselees, but instead work within a spiritual context when appropriate. In addition, local physicians and ministers work in collaboration with therapists to best serve a client's varying needs. The Samaritan program has been acknowledged by the American Medical Association, the American Association of Pastoral Counselors, the President's Commission on Mental Health, and a number of major religious denominations.
The Samaritan Institute sponsored the Ethics in Business Awards program, which is conducted by Samaritan Centers worldwide. The Awards are to honor community leaders, businesses, and non-profit organizations which promote social responsibility, civic improvement, environmental concerns or ethical conduct.