Since its founding in 1973, Presby Psych has been governed by a volunteer Board of Directors whose members share a commitment to each of the constituencies Presby Psych serves.
Board members support accessible and inclusive counseling and psychotherapy for individuals, children, couples, and families of all races, ethnicities, faiths or no faith, genders, and sexual orientations.
Board members actively support Presby Psych’s outreach to the wider community through pro bono and financially assisted therapy and psychoeducation. They also support events that raise awareness of the importance of mental health and reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness.
Legal and Regulatory Agencies
Board members honor their fiduciary duty to ensure Presby Psych’s compliance with all legal, regulatory, and ethical requirements of a non-profit mental health organization.
Clinical and Support Staff
Our Board is dedicated to the continuing professional growth of our clinicians and to sustaining a positive work environment for our support staff.
Presby Psych Board members are committed to being good stewards of the funds that donors provide and on which the organization relies to sustain outreach efforts.
Presby Psych’s Board of Directors meets nine times a year, with the Executive Committee meeting an additional three times each year. They provide financial support, time, and expertise to support Presby Psych’s growth and the quality of its role in the community.
Sam Thompson has helped guide Presby Psych’s evolution from a Presbyterian family pastoral counselling service into a full-service, community-wide mental health counseling center that continues to treat the mind, body and spirt of our clients. First joining the board in 1981, Sam has served multiple tenures over the last 40 years, including serving as board President three times.
A graduate of UNC Chapel Hill, Sam started as an insurance underwriter and was Senior Vice President and Manager of the Charlotte branch of First Union Insurance Agency until 1989, when he joined insurance agency ECM Solutions. He retired from ECM as a Managing Partner in 2020. Sam is past President of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Independent Insurance Agents Association.
Sam is an Elder at Sardis Presbyterian Church and has served as Clerk of the Session. He and his wife Glenda have two children and three grandchildren.
Mike Smith has 41 years of accounting, auditing and management experience, including 34 years in the nonprofit sector. He served as CFO/Director of Administration of the Mint Museum of Art for 17 years.
Mike joined the board in 2017 and has served as Secretary/Treasurer since 2018. He was attracted to Presby Psych because of its nonprofit mission components of pro-bono sessions, defrayed co-payments and sliding fee scale as well as its work with other nonprofit agencies to make mental health services more readily available to those who cannot afford it.
Among his other volunteer experience, Mike is past President of Mecklenburg Kiwanis Club, past President and Treasurer of The Brothers Foundation and Taylor Home, Treasurer of Celebrate Charlotte and Arbor Way II Home Owner Association and a member of the Finance Committee of Time Out Youth.
He has served as a presenter on museum administration at UNC Charlotte, planned giving for Duke University’s Certificate in Non-Profit Management, and living through and after a cancer diagnosis to the Novant Foundation Board of Trustees.
Eric Strauss is a psychologist in private practice, specializing in couples therapy. He began his career in the Department of Psychiatry at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, MA, where he directed the family therapy training program and co-authored the book Family Evaluation. He then practiced privately in West Springfield, MA, for 30 years before moving to North Carolina in 2012.
He joined the board in 2016, bringing a clinician’s perspective to discussions. He values Presby Psych’s commitment to providing high-quality treatment to a diverse population and in-service training for its staff, as well as their expertise and focus on trauma treatment that is unique in the Charlotte area.
Eric recently published his first novel, The Right Road Lost. He and his wife Marjorie live in Matthews.
William (Bill) M. Starr practices in the litigation fields of aviation, premises liability, toxic torts, and product liability, with aviation law occupying a large share of his practice. Bill earned his J.D. at the University of North Carolina Law School and, as an attorney, served in the Resource Center of N.C. Pro Bono Honor Society. In 2022, he also was recognized by The Legal 500 for Dispute Resolution: Product liability, mass tort, and class action – defense: toxic tort. He is honored to serve on the Presby Psych Board.
Daniel Redford is a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Officer and is assigned to the Transit Unit. He served in the United States Army as a military police officer in this country and in Iraq. After completing his military service, Dan joined CMPD in 2006. He also earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice and a Master of Science in Management at ECPI University. In addition to his police responsibilities, Dan is President of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Fraternal Order of Police where he also sits on the Lodge’s Wellness Committee.
Mental health historically has not been openly discussed among law enforcement officers and support employees. That barrier is beginning to break down with Presby Psych’s partnership with CMPD and the FOP, providing much-needed psychological services to members of Charlotte’s law enforcement community and their families and has earned the trust of many officers.
Dan considers it an honor to join Presby Psych’s Board of Directors. The organization’s integrity, skill, and commitment to first responder mental health is a gift to Charlotte’s law enforcement community. He says, “I am proud to be a liaison between Presby Psych and our officers, retirees, support personnel, and families.”
Jeff Matthews is a 30 year veteran of the fire service and currently serves the Charlotte Fire Department as a Battalion Chief supervising the Health and Safety Division. Jeff has served many roles in his fire service career including hazardous materials and technical rescue response. In his spare time, Jeff participates in technical product development and technical writing having published a textbook and numerous articles. Jeff and his team at Charlotte Fire have worked to improve mental health awareness and advocacy by expanding our network of mental health partners and the creation of a behavioral health office at the public safety occupational health clinic.
Away from work, Jeff enjoys spending time with his family. He is a husband of 30 years to Suzanne, father to Emily and Claire, and a grandfather to Emmett.
“Presby Psych is a long-standing community partner having provided services to many Charlotte Firefighters; the success stories are many and I look forward to taking an active role in that continued success.”
Dr. Mary Susan Esther (Banks) is a physician who is board-certified in psychiatry and sleep medicine.
She joined the Presby Psych board in 2018 and is passionate about the importance of quality mental health services in the community.
Dr. Esther trained in psychiatry and sleep medicine at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, and was a faculty member at Mayo Clinic and the University of Texas Health Sciences Center in San Antonio before moving to Charlotte.
She has served as Medical Director of Carolina Sleep Services (Atrium Health) and founded the sleep medicine program at Charlotte Eye Ear Nose and Throat Associates. Dr. Esther has served as President of the N.C. Academy of Sleep Medicine and was President of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine from 2008-2009.
Her other volunteer interests include participation in outreach programs through Sharon Presbyterian Church in SouthPark.
Catherine Carstarphen has been part of the Presby Psych family since 2005. She began her association as a student in the former Carolina Institute for Clinical Pastoral Training and in 2007 became a clinician specializing in spiritually integrative psychotherapy, a position she held until 2023. Now a Board Member, Catherine brings a wealth of clinical, business, and community service experience to her role on the Board.
Dr. Carstarphen obtained her undergraduate degree at Queens University before going on to Emory University’s Candler School of Theology and Louisville Presbyterian Seminary where she earned a Doctor of Ministry in Pastoral Counseling. As a therapist, she was appointed to the National Board of Ethics of the Association of Pastoral Counselors. Catherine also is a member of the American Psychological Association and is a certified psychotherapist with The Association of Clinical Pastoral Education. She is a North Carolina Fee Based Practicing Pastoral Counselor.
As a businesswoman, Catherine was the Director of Community Relations at Pharr Mills in McAdenville, NC and is also the Chairperson of the McAdenville Historical Society. Dr. Carstaphen’s community service includes serving as the first Chairperson of the Gaston Literacy Council. She also has been involved with the Red Cross, United Arts Council, Opera Carolina, Gaston Hospice, and Charlotte Actors Theater Boards. Currently, she is on the Board of Gaston Day Board of Visitors. Catherine is a member of First Presbyterian Church, Belmont. She has a daughter, Catherine, and a son-in-law Steve. She enjoys traveling, collecting books and art, astronomy, and acting in plays.
Gretchen Burud Bottrill is the Chief Credit Officer for Middle Market Banking at First Citizens Bank. She supports a national team of professionals who provide credit and other banking services to customers with revenues between $75MM and $1.0Bn. Prior to joining First Citizens Gretchen spent 24 years with Bank of America in a variety client-facing and risk management roles and also served as the Senior Risk Officer for the Energy portfolio at Regions Bank.
Gretchen has a special interest in increasing the accessibility of mental health services in Charlotte, as she was widowed in 2008 and could not find local grief counseling or related services. She is a member of First Presbyterian Church and joined the board of Presby Psych in 2021. She also serves on the board of directors of Veritas Community School in Charlotte.
Gretchen and her husband Mark have four children and are looking forward to grandchildren someday. Gretchen is currently working to support her four horses who enjoy a much better lifestyle than she does.
Brien Blakely is anchor and self-described “news junkie” for Queen City News (channel 46). He is passionate about mental health and has acted as master of ceremonies for Presby Psych fundraising events.
Known for his community involvement and tireless work ethic, Brien has won several Murrow and Emmy Awards for his work and always can be found at the center of Queen City News coverage of major events across the Carolinas. Brien helps lead Queen City News’ annual CMPD Toy Drive and runs ‘Find A Fugitive,’ a public safety franchise with local area Crime Stoppers.
Previously he worked at TV stations in Seattle, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Palm Springs, CA, and Bristol, VA. Brien spent a portion of his career in Hollywood where he hosted numerous TV shows including HGTV’s Weekend Warriors and he appeared on network TV shows such as The Practice, Roswell, and the X-Files. Brien went to Western Kentucky University. He’s a former baseball player who was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds and worked in the front office of the Atlanta Braves.
He and his wife Ava have one son, Wes, and dog, Kobe, a little Shih Tzu.