Early Beginnings - Robert Uhle served as staff and Director of the Youth Guidance Division of Central Ohio Youth For Christ from 1981 to 1992. In his work with troubled and at risk youth and families he encountered a void in ministry services. Though these young people and some of their parents might come into a relationship with Christ and even get plugged into a local church, their depth of emotional and interpersonal brokenness was beyond anything YFC staff or church people were equipped to deal with. In addition, there was no biblically-based, professionally trained counseling available that was affordable (less than $70-$100/hour), accessible (in a local neighborhood), and that had some expertise in dealing with teenage and family issues from a Christian perspective. Too many people could not access affordable Christian counseling and were falling through the cracks. As a result, Bob Uhle (admittedly a ‘reluctant Moses’) went back to school, attending Ashland Theological Seminary. In attaining his Masters degree he also obtained training and licensures with the state of Ohio to be able to offer Christ-centered, professional counseling in Central Ohio. WellSpring Counseling was formed as a ministry division of Central Ohio Youth For Christ in 1992.
WellSpring Counseling began operating out of the Youth For Christ Main offices on Sinclair road in north Columbus. Within the first year, Craig Wills joined Bob Uhle and the two of them set out to create a private counseling practice from scratch. While Craig and Bob had had difficulty obtaining internship experiences during their Masters programs, both independently linked up with a local counselor named Jim Smith who provided them with counseling supervision for their internships. After the completing internships and gaining their degrees, Bob and Craig drove to Akron for several years to meet with their first clinical supervisor, Toddy Holman. Not long after, the first satellite office was set up in Hilliard through donated office space from former Christian Armory founder, Warren Willke, and the first church satellite was set up at First Baptist Church of Circleville. In the early days, client referrals from kids and families from YFC were minimal. The practice emphasis was expanded to encompass the spectrum of mental health, interpersonal and spiritual issues of adults, families, marriages and teenagers. Linda Uhle provided bookkeeping and billing services. Tara Robinette joined the staff as a part-time counselor dealing with children’s issues.
In 1995, WellSpring took on its first Master’s interns with John Sexten and Mike Taylor. Internships represented the opportunity to train new counselors with a value for excellence and professionalism and a heart for ministry in the clinical counseling setting. In addition, they could provide low or no cost counseling for families in need. John Sexten would later become an LPCC Clinical Supervisor at WellSpring and Mike is currently the chaplain at the Franklin County Detention Center and the Youth Guidance Program director for Youth For Christ. Early along, the counseling practice struggled. Bob and Craig raised personal ministry support to enable them to provide low cost counseling to financially distressed individuals and families. Bob still raises personal support to this day. (see Donate) There was little or no marketing, and clients referrals were insufficient. Through pastor contacts, and offering low cost workshops and seminars, the practice slowly grew. Bob and Craig obtained independent licensures (LPCC) and insurances began to reimburse for their services. Psychologist, Willie Glover, Ph.D. joined the practice in 1996 providing clinical supervision. In 1998, former supervisor Jim Smith joined the staff full-time, having previously been with Pastoral Counseling Services.
As the number of Interns grew, the need for a clinical staffing arose where the Interns were provided with group as well as individual supervision. Satellite offices were added in Franklinton, New Concord, Upper Sandusky and Beverly, Ohio. The Ashland Seminary internship cohort of Tracy Whiteside, Susan Driskell, Kirk Sharrock, Sandy Dearth and Tom Whiteman (fondly referred to as the Fab Five) and several others represented the largest single internship class to date. Interns began to develop satellite offices in their local churches. Bob Uhle established an official Internship Program which mentored counselor trainees in the ‘ministry’ of professional Christian counseling. Several years later, the director position for the Internship Program was handed over to Jim Smith. The first internship class was graduated and four stayed on to join the staff as Professional Counselors (PC’s).
Tracy Whiteside, whose first supervisor had been Craig Wills, became the first intern to come up through the ranks from intern, to being on staff as clinician, and then becoming a clinical supervisor. She took over as the Internship Director in 2005, and was promoted to Associate Director in 2006.
Gary Burkle joined the staff in 2000, having previously been Director of Pastoral Counseling Services and then a therapist at Northwest Counseling. Several years later he obtained his independent licensure (PCC) and later became a clinical supervisor. Counseling interns grew in number and began to arrive from: The University of Dayton, Capital University campus; Liberty University; Methodist Theological Seminary; and Ashland Theological Seminary.
In 1981, someone stood up in a Sunday school class in the Grace Brethren church and shared that Youth For Christ had just come to Central Ohio and was looking for volunteers to work with troubled, at-risk youth and families. A 23–year old newlywed and his young bride, Linda, both stepped forward to get involved with hurting young lives. Twenty nine years later, Bob Uhle is the director of the 40 clinical and intern staff of WellSpring Counseling, a division of Central Ohio Youth For Christ.
Bob says, “Twenty years ago, there was a huge need for biblically-based, affordable Christian counselors who, at the time, knew ‘what the heck to do with a teenager!’. As a youth worker, I could find none, and I reluctantly took up the cause and went back to school. In YFC, we used fun activities and boy’s and girl’s small groups to build relationships with hurting kids and parents, and then share Christ with them. Today, in WellSpring, our counselors encounter adults, teens, marriages and families in the midst of devastating pain, broken relationships and mental health crises and we come alongside them. Once again, as we help them deal with their life issues, our desire and design is that they will have a life-changing encounter with Jesus Christ in the process. I never envisioned anything developing to this degree when we first got started. Evidently, God had something more in mind.”
Through WellSpring’s John Sexten, a satellite office was established at Grove City Church of the Nazarene. As that program’s leadership transitioned, and Clinical Counselor, Tom Butler took over leadership there, a formal affiliation was established. WellSpring provided staff, interns and billing for the church’s Restoration Counseling (now Home Improvement)ministry and WellSpring became their preferred provider for the church’s counseling needs. Psychologist Jim Fidelibus, Ph.D., joined the team part-time while also working as Clinical Director at Mount Carmel Behavioral Health.
In 2005, the WellSpring main offices moved out of their 13 year home on Sinclair Road and into the current office suite on the 1st floor of the Cornerstone Building on Bethel Road. WellSpring then began a process to broaden its identity to encompass counseling, coaching and consulting. In 2006, a Coaching Division was established and some initial consulting work with area businesses was initiated.
A vision for providing accessible, affordable professional Christian counseling was further clarified as satellite offices were developed in churches throughout Central Ohio. To date, WellSpring has nearly 30 satellite offices in Circleville, Columbus, (north, east and west), Delaware, Dublin, Circleville, Franklinton, Gahanna, Hilliard, Hilltop, Lancaster, Marysville, New Albany, Reynoldsburg, Sunbury, Westerville, Whitehall, in addition to the main office on Bethel Road in northwest Columbus.
Currently, WellSpring is a premier internship site in the state of Ohio providing training, supervision, mentoring and client case work for anywhere from 15-20 Graduate interns. In addition, WellSpring serves the Central Ohio area with a team of 30 professional staff including a Psychologist, Independent Counselors, Independent Social Workers, Independent Marriage and Family Therapists, Clinical Supervisors, Chemical Dependency Counselors and Professional Counselors. WellSpring’s budget now approaches $500,000. They will serve the Central Ohio community through over 10,000 counseling sessions and provide nearly $400,000 of scholarshipped counseling to individuals and families who could not otherwise afford it.
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