A Lived Life That Informs Counseling


CareNet is a compassionate, professional, statewide, community-based counseling organization affiliated with Wake Forest Baptist Health. Over the next few weeks, we’ll hear from a few of the counselors. Cindy Ray is the director for CareNet’s Central Piedmont Region.

What path did you take to become a counselor?

In high school, I had always been interested in biological and health sciences. My dad had been in pharmaceutical and medical sales, my stepmom a nurse. Not feeling the call to nursing, I explored dental hygiene and received my associate’s degree in 1978. I practiced dental hygiene for more than 25 years. What I loved most about dentistry was the patients—hearing their stories and educating them about overall health practices.

In 1991, our family took a huge hit when my husband lost his job. It rocked me and caused financial issues that resulted in my working more difficult hours. Also, my mom’s addiction to alcohol created havoc. I was overwhelmed. After sharing things with my minister, she recommended I see Mary, a visiting pastoral counselor. This was something I was skeptical about because I knew very little about counseling. But after seeing Mary and hearing her encouraging and affirming words, I began to feel better. My husband was working by then, and it seemed to me I needed more education for my future.

I enrolled in the local university and followed a health education track but soon learned that I was making more money as a hygienist. In 1996 while driving home from the university, the thought, rather the “whisper” of the Holy Spirit said to me: “Why don’t you do the work that Mary does?” Within a couple of weeks, I learned about an open house at Loyola for its pastoral counseling program. After finishing my bachelor’s degree, I began classes at Loyola in the spring of 2000 to become a counselor.

How have you used your past in your work as a counselor?

I graduated in May 2004, and by then, I was a transformed person. The process of pastoral counseling changed my life forever. It is indeed an honor to sit with people who are struggling as I had been in 1991. My early education and many years as a dental hygienist have been so useful because I have some understanding of pharmacology and overall diseases and major health issues.

In 2010, I returned to graduate school and attended seminary to gain more theological understanding to be more equipped to minister to those in ministry. The dictum of Loyola Pastoral Counseling from Francis deSales is: “There is nothing so strong as gentleness, and nothing so gentle as real strength.” There is great compassion and strength in spiritually integrated psychotherapy.

What do you enjoy most about counseling?

Pastoral counseling is a front-row seat to see and experience God at work in other people’s lives. The gentleness to hold and contain other’s pain and suffering is holy. It is my honor and pleasure to do this work.

Cindy Ray, MS, LPC, is director of CareNet’s Central Piedmont regional center. She can be reached at cmray@wakehealth.edu. 


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