Owen Center staff counselors hold professional degrees in theology and/or counseling. Associate and assistant counselors complete a certified, master’s level training program and are approved by our board.

Dr. Gary B. Spooner

Gary has been a lead pastor for 38 years in churches in Mississippi and Alabama. Most recently, he pastored Covenant Presbyterian Church in Auburn, Alabama for 29 years. Recognizing the need for Christ-centered counseling in the Auburn area, he and his wife, Jill, began the Owen Center in 2015.

He received a Masters of Divinity degree from Reformed Theological Seminary, Jackson, MS and a Doctor of Ministry in Counseling from Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, PA.

Gary and Jill delight in five children and (to date) 13 grandchildren.



Jill Spooner

Jill, co-founder of the Owen Center, holds a BA (English) from the University of Georgia, a Master’s degree from Reformed Theological Seminary (Jackson), and an MA in Counseling from Westminster Theological Seminary. She earned three certificates from the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation (CCEF).

Jill works part-time at the Owen Center and focuses on the needs of women. She regards counseling as a privilege and part of a life calling to help others connect biblical theology and real life.




Braden Benson

Braden holds a Master of Arts of Christian Counseling and a Master of Divinity from Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, NC.  He received a degree in Psychology from Mississippi State University with an emphasis in Marriage and Family Therapy.  He is a member of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC) and the Association of Biblical Counselors (ABC).  For the past seven years, he and his wife have worked in counseling ministries, adult Christian education, and with Joni & Friends, a Christ-based ministry to the disabled. Through the Owen Center, Braden pursues a life-calling to serve Christ by cultivating the ministry of biblical counseling in the Auburn/Opelika community.




Jillian Heard

Jillian holds BA (Spanish) and BS (Environmental Studies) degrees from Wofford College and a Master of Arts degree in Christian Counseling from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. She sensed a call to counseling while working for Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) and still loves to walk alongside young women through their joys and struggles. Jillian works part-time at the Owen Center and focuses on the needs of women. She feels honored to join in on the work that God is doing in the lives of those He calls into her office.

Board of Directors

The Owen Center is led by a Board of Directors consisting of Clifford Jones, Pastor of Greater Peace Baptist Church in Opelika; Sara Smith T, a local pediatrician; Ron Anders, the mayor of Auburn; Mike Preg a local retired Presbyterian pastor; Howard Eyrich, who leads the counseling ministry of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham; Stephen Taunton, who serves as decon at a local church as well as treasurer of The Owen Center; and Gary Spooner, who is executive director. Gary’s preparation for leading the center includes 40 years of pastoral counseling, a doctoral degree from Westminster Theological Seminary, training through the Christian Counseling Education Foundation (CCEF) and certification by the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).