Carla Cunningham and Donna Kitchen began Meramec Counseling as a partnership in 1985. The name was chosen because our office at the time was on South Meramec in Clayton and because Carla never liked saying that our practice was one of “psychotherapy”. She was a counselor by education and training and she just preferred the word counseling. We both thought it was more down to earth.
Carla had begun her individual private practice in 1973. She had received her Masters in Education and Counseling from St. Louis University in 1972 and worked for a year at Wohl Hospital which was a psychiatric hospital associated with what was then Cardinal Glennon Hospital. She had had an internship there and then worked there for a year before beginning her private practice. Carla was the true founder of Meramec Counseling in that her vision and leadership skills brought together in practice a diverse group of people who all wanted to grow and change and be respectful of themselves and others. Carla always had ideas for community. She wanted everyone she loved to have a support system, and in a way we believe that she was building family for herself and those to whom she was close.
Carla worked privately for several years and then shared office space with Elaine Kornblum, MSW. Elaine passed away in 1985 and it was after that sad loss that Meramec Counseling began. Donna and Carla were the only partners for several years. Linda Pilcher, MSW, and Marian Hirsch, MSW, were associates for several of those years. Marian became a partner and when Linda received her Doctorate in Counseling Psychology, she became a consultant for Meramec Counseling.
Carla Cunningham stayed the leader and guiding force behind Meramec Counseling through our move from Clayton to Maplewood in 1989. Carla was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1991 and she died from the disease on March 6, 2000. Her death left Meramec Counseling with a clear directive to carry on in the tradition which Carla had begun. Our loss was deep and we still wonder and imagine regularly what she would think and say about all that is going on in our world. Carla had a unique vision and incisive ability to read a situation clearly. Most of us associated with Meramec Counseling owe the quality of our lives to her influence.