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Samaritan Counseling Center of Western New York
By Carol S. Wolf

It is hard to believe another year has passed. It seems to me that time passes faster as we get older. January also brings thoughts of New Year Resolutions. Every magazine I’ve read recently has been full of articles mentioning ideas and things you could do in the New Year.

One of the questions I have asked myself is what did I accomplish in the past year and what is in my future? We hear and read we should make our New Year Resolutions by formulating a plan and writing our goals. However, we often forget them in a couple of weeks or months. I have been writing this column since July 2004, so almost 14 years. Lately, I have been going over the list of organizations and people I have written about. One I saw on the list was the Samaritan Counseling Center, a faith-based organization providing a wide variety of services including:

• Counseling for individuals, couples, families, children, and adolescents

• Grief counseling

• Counseling for military members and their families

• Counseling for depression, anxiety, trauma, and faith counseling

• Consultation, training, workshops, and educational programs for physicians, clergy, agencies, congregations, and groups.

Their mission is listening to people on their faith journey to offer healing and learning in a spiritual environment. Their office is located at 322 Old Falls Blvd. N. Tonawanda, NY. 14120. Of note, the Samaritan Counseling Center has fifteen satellite counseling locations in WNY.

The first person I talked to was Rev. Dr. Erwin Brese, DMin. He told me he grew up in Williamsville and went to college in Ft. Wayne, Ind. Rev. Brese got interested in Pastoral Ministry through his church pastor at Amherst Lutheran Church on Main St. in Williamsville. He went to seminary in St. Louis where he trained for it. Then, he said, “My cousin signed up to go to seminary in Ft. Wayne, so I went with him. Following that, I then took a call as a Pastor but continued my studies in Pastoral Counseling. Then I got my Doctorate in Pastoral Counseling. I began my ministry as Director of Lutheran Family and Children’s Ministry in Missouri. I accepted the call to come back to this area as Pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in Niagara Falls. At the time, the Samaritan Counseling Center was located in downtown Buffalo. Then they moved to North Tonawanda.” Rev. Brese has been involved with the Samaritan Counseling Center for many years. He has also taught Pastoral Care and Counseling at Concordia Seminary in St.Catharines, Ontario, and at the Lutheran Seminary in Nicaragua. He retired from Church Pastor duties in 1999 but is still a part of the Samaritan Counseling Center Team and frequently gives talks at local area churches.

The next person I spoke to was Dr. Frank Bartscheck, Ph.D., who is the Executive Director and has been a full time volunteer for the past seven years. Before that, he served two six-year terms on the Samaritan Counseling Center Board of Directors. He shared, “The Center has embarked on a new program this past year to deal with the Opioid Crisis in WNY. So far, we have had two workshops for clergy and are going to be offering a third workshop January 27th at Ebenezer United Church of Christ in West Seneca, one of our satellite offices. It is designed for families dealing with an opioid addicted member, providing an opportunity to talk about the problems they are encountering and how to deal with them. Also, we will talk about the 12 Steps of Addiction Recovery and offer faith-based recovery groups in which to become involved.” Dr. Bartscheck said they are unique in that the Center provides faith-based counseling for children, adolescents, individuals, and couples of all denominations, as well as clergy who may have problems. Dr. Bartscheck grew up in Buffalo, is a University at Buffalo graduate, and is a member of the UB Roman Catholic Newman Center. He is retired from UB, where he was Associate Director of Computing and Information Technology and a faculty member in the School of Management.

Rev. David Wurster, Ph.D is the Pastoral Director & Director of Student Education. Rev. Wurster grew up on a farm in Northern Indiana, got his education in Wisconsin and St. Louis, MO, and was trained by the Jesuits. He was in Parish Ministry for 40 years in Missouri and WNY, in both city and country. He said, “I have also been in Counseling Ministry. I got involved with Samaritan Center in 1987 and became the Director of Training for Pastoral Counselors.” He said he has done individual, family, and group therapy and has traveled all over the world doing training in various areas.

He was part of a group that went to Sri Lanka after the enormous tsunami and met with pastors there. Then, he went to India and taught for a month in a seminary. After, he traveled and taught in Southern India. He did that for many years. He also worked at Salem Lutheran Church in South Buffalo and retired eight years ago.

Now, he volunteers at the Center. Counselors come there on Tuesdays for education and business information. He also said their Samaritan Stephen Ministry Division provides a “buddy” system for individuals who might be facing loneliness due to loss of a loved one, illness, or other difficulties and need someone to talk to or meet with periodically. Trained Stephen Ministers are volunteers who are assigned one on one to the individual in need.

Rev. Dr. Robert Spilman is Clinical Pastoral Education Director and has been on staff since 2003. Rev. Spilman received his education in NYC and Connecticut and just retired this past summer from running the Congregation Based Pastoral Education (CPE), a training program for pastors on what to expect in their first job as pastor and how to deal with crises.

The Samaritan Center staff engages in regular consultation with professionals and assists medical doctors, psychiatrists, attorneys, nurse consultants, etc.

Samaritan Counseling offers low cost counseling to help anyone and their fees are set on a sliding scale based on income and current circumstances.

VOLUNTEERS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME! Volunteers are needed for stuffing envelopes, answering phones, marketing, writing grants, participating in workshops, etc.

If your church or organization would like someone to come and talk about the program, give them a call.

For more information, check out their website, <>, call 716-743-9117 or 1-800-660-5053, or e-mail

If you know of a successful program in your community or would like more information please let me know at

Carol S. Wolf is married to her husband Dick for 52 years. She has 2 sons and 4 grandchildren. She is a writer, speaker, storyteller and leader of workshops and retreats. She is an Associate Spiritual Director at the St. Joseph Center for Spirituality and a member of the Network of Biblical Storytellers WNY.



Carol wrote this book as part of her two year Master's program in the Academy for Biblical Storytellers. It has just been published and is available for $10.00. Carol is an author, speaker and leader of workshops meditations and conference.
"This book give you an opportunity to experience how, when we become a part of the biblical story, we often find meaning for our own life. It is an incredible resource for confirmation, baptism, and intergenerational groups." Trracy Radosevic, Dean, Academy for Biblical Storytellers.
Anyone interested in buying a book can email me The book is $10.00 + $2.00 mailing.