Courtney Overcomes Difficult Circumstances to Establish Thriving Counseling Center with Son

| Alumni

Mike and Josh Courtney pose in front of their counseling center.

When two-time Trevecca alumnus Mike Courtney founded Branches Counseling Center in 2006, he had no idea how many lives it would transform.

“People ask me, ‘Did you start Branches?’ And I say, ‘Yes, but this is not what I started,’” laughed Mike. “I had a sign out front and a room full of people struggling with addiction meeting three times a week for support. That's about as big as I ever imagined.” 

Today, Branches, based in Murfreesboro, Tenn., has four locations across the greater Nashville area and serves 1,500 clients annually. The centers specialize in behavioral health, life coaching, medical weight loss and psychiatric medication management, with the belief that holistic treatment is the best way to achieve healing and a healthy life. 

Mike started taking classes at Trevecca in 1971 but took some time off after getting married. He completed a bachelor’s in religion with a minor in English in 1980. Years later, he would also earn a Master of Arts in theology at Trevecca followed by a Ph.D. in pastoral counseling from Cornerstone University. 

After completing his undergraduate degree, he spent 20 years in ministry in various pastoral roles until a personal crisis forced him to step away from his calling. 

“I had a moral failure that caused me to leave the ministry, and my wife and I 
separated. Our family was torn apart, but God was faithful,” Mike said. “I found healing through a clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz., and God began to restore my own mental and moral health.” 

With much prayer, forgiveness and a dogged determination to not give up on one another, Mike and his wife reconciled and God planted within the couple a dream to open a counseling center that would provide the kind of support Mike had not been able to find in Tennessee. He envisioned a center that would combine spiritual health support with mental health support. 

“Branches was started with the idea that it would be a marriage between faith-based care and the expertise of excellent state-licensed therapists,” Mike said. “I also felt like God wanted me to design our payment model so that no one would ever be turned away for financial reasons.”   

During this trying time for Mike’s family, his son, Josh, was at Trevecca earning a pre-med degree. He’d always been drawn to medicine, but halfway through his degree program he began to feel a pull toward ministry. 

“I continued with the pre-med degree because I was so far into it, but I took a lot of my electives in the religion department,” Josh said. “After I graduated, I was a youth minister for a number of years.” 

Josh eventually returned to Trevecca for a master’s in theology, but continued to be conflicted about the role a career in medicine could play in his life. 

“Every time I would visit someone in the hospital or watch a television show on medicine, I would feel like I’d missed a part of my calling,” Josh said. “I was feeling that tension between medicine and vocational ministry.” 

Trevecca President Dan Boone, a professor in the theology program at the time, gave Josh wise advice that impacted the trajectory of his education. “Dr. Boone said: ‘We have lots of great Christian pastors, but not as many Christian doctors and physician assistants. That's a field where you could minister and do wonders.’” 

He took Boone’s advice to heart and decided to enroll in Trevecca’s physician assistant (PA) program. He graduated in 2013, and served in a family-care setting for two years. 

“I also began helping at Branches one day a week with psychiatric medication management to help fill a gap,” Josh said. “I fell in love with that part of medicine and saw the ministry it could be. Eventually that grew to a full-time position and I became a psychiatric PA at Branches.”   

After more than 15 years as the executive director, Mike decided to step down and the board asked Josh if he would consider taking on the role. He agreed and has been serving since the beginning of 2022. 

Mike continues to provide counseling and spiritual support and direction for clients, in addition to serving as a teaching pastor at his local church. 

Now, the father-son duo and their staff are expanding the center’s mission and reach. They’re embracing a new opportunity for Branches to serve as a place of training for those on the front lines of trauma, a mission they began putting into practice when tragedy struck Nashville last year during a school shooting that resulted in the death of six faculty members and students. 

“We don’t just want to serve hurting individuals directly, but help train the people who serve those people. That quickly became a reality when The Covenant School shooting happened,” Josh said . “We were called in to counsel the families affected by it, and also to be a support for other counselors and give on-the-job training specifically for trauma.” 

Both Mike and Josh Courtney have seen the value of their time at Trevecca in shaping their worldview, preparing them for their careers and giving them a launching pad to pursue the redemptive plan God has for their lives and family. As Branches continues to grow, they’re working to create an environment where individuals can find total healing and support. 
“What started off as just counseling has really become a mission to treat the whole person—mind, body and spirit,” Mike said .    

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