Folks, most of you know I made a move from Directing the Graduate School of Counseling at Biblical Seminary to a new job at the American Bible Society. BTS is now advertising for my replacement: GSOC Director Ad 9-17 FINAL. Please share this and pray that they find the right person capable of leading the counseling programs into their next area of growth. The MA counseling program, if I can say so myself, is top-notch and a rare find for those seeking both licensure and biblical-theological depth.
Category Archives: Biblical Seminary
Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment and my seminary, Biblical Seminary, have teamed up to offer a 3 credit course for seminarians on the topic of child sexual abuse prevention and response. This course will run on our Hatfield campus on Monday nights during the month of June. To my knowledge, a course like this has not been offered before. I highly encourage you to send your pastors or church leaders for some continuing education.
Yesterday I posted information about summer courses at BTS. I’m really excited about Heather Drew’s course that explores therapeutic activities beyond talking about our struggles. Do check that out! Today, I’m posting about an upcoming trauma healing facilitator training (initial and advanced equipping) being held here in Philadelphia May 1-4, 2017. More on that in a minute.
But first, a change…
For the last 17 years I have been teaching in and leading Biblical Seminary’s counseling programs (now housed in our Graduate School of Counseling). I know I’m very biased, but I think our programs deliver training that transforms—mature counselors who learn how to listen and walk with others through difficult times. Over the years we have been able to develop licensure and ministry-oriented counseling programs as well as the Global Trauma Recovery Institute. This last certificate program enables participants to enter into cultures and communities and support trauma recovery without causing harm.
I’ve enjoyed every minute of it, due in no small part to supportive administration, excellent students, and fantastic staff who every day make BTS look great! But, after months of thinking and praying, I have decided to step away from the leadership of the program and full-time employment at BTS. Beginning July 1 I will assume the position of Director of Training and Mentoring with the American Bible Society’s Mission: Trauma Healing. I have been partnering with the Bible Society since 2010 as the Co-Chair of the Advisory Council for ABS trauma healing programs. In this new venture I hope to have a closer role in supporting best practices in their train-the-trainer model of addressing trauma around the world.
If you are wondering why a psychologist would want to work as a trainer of lay and pastoral leaders in a Scripture-engagement trauma healing program, read this: 4 Reasons Why I Promote Scripture-Based Trauma Healing. Short answer? We can’t solve the world’s trauma if we don’t change the culture of conversation about trauma and faith. This program can do that.
Want to join me in equipping others?
May 1-4 ABS will run a local training for both initial and advanced equipping sessions designed to teach you how to lead healing groups and/or run equipping sessions to train others to lead healing groups. I will not be doing most of the training but I do hope to put in an appearance. This document will give you a bit of an overview. This one tells you about the role of the facilitator. And if you are already sold on the material and the mental-health informed training program, here’s where you sign up. Can’t attend now? Check thi.americanbible.org for dates of upcoming trainings here and in other parts of the world.
What is not changing about my role at BTS?
As the Thomas V. Taylor Visiting Professor of Counseling & Psychology, I will continue to teach the Global Trauma Recovery Institute’s curriculum with Dr. Diane Langberg. If you are looking for continuing education and specialization in trauma recovery, this mostly online curriculum may be right for you. In addition, I will provide additional support and teaching for BTS as they need it. However, under the leadership of Bonnie Steich, LPC, NCC, ACS, the existing faculty and staff will continue to deliver an exceptional curriculum.
The BTS Graduate School of Counseling has 2 course offerings this summer: a course on addictions and a course on counseling interventions that move beyond talk therapy. Both are equal to 1 credit or 9 CE credits for professional counselors. The addictions course (Jessica Hansford, LPC, CAADC) will be entirely online and delivered over the course of the month of July. The beyond talk therapy course (Heather Drew, LPC) will be delivered live July 21-22 at our Hatfield campus (with pre and post course work due for those who want graduate credit).
If you want to refresh your counselor knowledge and skills, both courses will give you some new ways to engage counselees.
Link above provides course descriptions. To apply, click here.
Not long ago I was asked about the benefits of learning professional counseling at a seminary. So, here’s my initial response:
Biblical Seminary, where I teach, offers a MA degree in counseling that leads to the Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) credential here in Pennsylvania. In fact, the graduates of our Graduate School of Counseling have been licensed as professional counselors in 9 different states (PA, NJ, NY, DE, MD, DC, TX, MI, and GA) since our licensed oriented program began in 2005.
Counseling degree programs take many forms but usually include coursework in basic counseling skills, models of counseling, human development, psychopathology, marriage and family systems, psychological assessment, group and career counseling, research and program design, and finish with practical, hands-on, supervised training at a location providing counseling services. Of course there are lots of other courses you might take such as trauma counseling, play therapy, addictions, counseling and physiology, history of counseling, and any course specifically focused on a particular counseling model or problem (e.g., eating disorders, depression, anxiety, personality disorders, etc.). As a result graduate programs differ from one another most often on the basis of the elective courses they offer. These differences may be the result of faculty research and practice interests.
So, you might think it doesn’t really matter much where you take your MA Counseling courses. Aren’t all counseling programs about the same? While there is some truth to this–Helping Relationships probably teaches the same counseling skills at Biblical or a state funded university–the culture and mission of the school can make a huge difference in the educational experience. Rather than put down other programs, consider these benefits from studying counseling at a seminary.
- Mission matters. Biblical’s mission is to follow Jesus into the world. I suspect most counseling programs want to graduate students who care about others, who see their calling to be one of service (vs. making the most money possible). But who are we serving and who do we represent? And WHY do we serve others? Questions like these are front and center at BTS. Our goal is not just to reduce negative mental health symptoms (as great as that is). Rather, it is to love well just as we have been loved. Notice that our mission is to follow. From our perspective, counseling is first God’s mission. Thus, the power to help others grow and change does not reside in the counselor but in the Spirit. Personally, I find this quite freeing. I have a significant role but I don’t have to be the one manufacturing change.
- Theodicy matters. We live in a fallen world. Diagnosing the cause and symptoms of a problem is good. Knowing what to do about it is even better. And yet, the existential question about who we are, why we suffer, and where God is in our struggle is on the minds of almost everyone who comes to counseling. People come to counseling because they want answers or at least find hope when answers are not available. Seminaries are well-poised to address the deep theological questions and concerns on the hearts and minds of suffering people, not merely to have the right answer to give but to struggle with and learn what hope looks like when the current scene is dark. At Biblical, we talk about building a working theology of suffering, trauma and recovery. Our work with the text of Scripture in counseling classes has little to do with finding proof-texts and everything to do with engaging God with the subject matter of our lives. Existential angst is not a new subject and so seminaries may have better access to philosophical and theological literature (think: Augustine, Gregory the Great, Kierkegaard, etc.) beyond that written by modern mental health providers.
- Character matters. A good counselor develops a solid knowledge base. Competent counselors need to know about problems and effective interventions. Counselors need to know how to read between the lines and to develop trust-filled working relationships. But I would suggest to you that the character of the counselor matters as much as what the counselor knows or can do. Seminary oriented programs provide ample opportunity to focus on developing the character of the counseling student. For example, our program’s first two goals are: live grace-based lives increasingly characterized by wisdom, the fruit of the Spirit, and love for God and community; Demonstrate a commitment to humble, learner-oriented ministry in a world marked by cultural, theological, and philosophical diversity. These goals are first at BTS because without them, the skills of counseling will not be used well. Since the human condition is one marked by blind spots to character flaws, a seminary education encourages students to look a bit deeper into their own character and see what God wants them to see about themselves.
Can you get great counseling education at a university? Absolutely! And yet, a seminary may provide you a unique learning environment to develop great counseling skills as you deepen your relationship to God.
[Note: the video-based training described below is available to anyone for free. The information below is for those interested in purchasing continuing education credits after watching the video. If any of the titles interest you, click the link below and start watching right away!
BTS is an NBCC approved continuing education provider. Just in time for those looking for last-minute CEs before renewing their LCSW or LPC this month, please check out our new online offerings. We offer three new trainings:
- Narcissism and the System it Breeds, By Diane Langberg, PhD
- Understanding and Responding to Dissociation, By Diane Langberg, PhD
- Making the Church a Safe Place for Trauma Victims, By Philip Monroe, PsyD
The videos are free for anyone to watch. If you desire CE certificate, the cost is quite nominal in comparison to the usual going rate. Check out the abstract and objectives and follow the links to pay for your CE quiz. Watch the videos, complete the quiz, and we will email you a certificate you can use to claim on your license renewal form.
In the wake of Ferguson, NYC and many other struggles regarding race and law enforcement, BTS is hosting a free seminar on February 23, 2015 at Temple University to hear community leaders, law enforcement, and mental health discuss some of the struggles and look for ways the church can be a healing force. The hidden matter of urban forms of trauma and impact on the conflict will be the highlight of the night.
Here’s why you should sign up now!
- It is Free!
- Great speakers: Former Commissioner of Philadelphia Police, Sylvester Johnson, Mike Majors, community leader, Rev. Desiree Guyton, LPC, Dr. Shannon Mason, and Dr. Dan Williams. There may be even more!
- Opportunity to ask questions
- Though free, space IS limited.
Sometimes we complain and feel the conversation isn’t going in the right direction to solve these complex problems. I encourage you to be a part of the solution.
Tomorrow marks the end of the road for students of the 8th cohort of our MA counseling program here at Biblical. After two years of hard labor, er studying and practice, they are now set free to do other things like read for pleasure or hang with family on Monday nights. Of course, some will transition to a few final online licensure courses and others will continue to accrue supervised hours to meet licensure requirements, but the intensity of learning and the cohort life will not be the same.
In thinking about my own graduation from a cohort some 15 years ago, I remember the strange feeling of having arrived at the finish line with an empty feeling. I think that feeling came from the fact that I still had a ways to go to get licensed and to land a job.
Or maybe we put too much expectation on the acquisition of a goal, on our accomplishments. Degrees, jobs, houses, marriages, children–all good things–do not provide lasting changes in our outlook on life, our level of happiness, our perception of self. Sure, these things do provide opportunities for re-evaluation of self, the world, values, etc. But they do not exert changes. You can find people with many degrees, titles, things, who are still searching for an elusive sigh of relief, of arrival at some new constant state.
Is there a better response to graduation?
Instead of only looking for arrival or to the future, what if we use this time to see what God has done in our lives over the last two years? Like climbing a mountain, you get time at the top to stop and look out and back to see how far you travelled. During the climb your head is down trying to avoid tripping over rocks or roots. On the journey, you had to keep a steady pace for fear of quitting. But at the top you can stop and ponder. The time doesn’t last long since you will need to climb down soon. But before you go, take a look at the things God has enabled you to do. You weathered losses, had many ah-ha moments, developed courage to try rather scary things, had to admit weakness, received unexpected support, were sustained and able finish tasks that you thought unnecessary.
If you have just reached a goal like a graduation, take a minute to write down what diificulties you survived and what unexpected blessings you experienced. Look back and then write it down. Otherwise, you may forget as you climb back down the mountain.
Starting Monday I will be off traveling to Kampala, Uganda and then on to Rwanda for Global Trauma Recovery Institute. I welcome your prayers for myself, my students, and the attendees. In addition, Diane Langberg and myself will be leading a group of 12 Americans (10 GTRI students) on a listening/dialogue immersion trip throughout Rwanda. Some of the highlights of our trip(s) will include,
- 2 day trauma healing community of practice in Kampala with the Bible Society of Uganda
- 3 day trauma healing community of practice in Rwanda with the Bible Society of Rwanda
- Afternoon mini-conference with pastors in Southern Province, Rwanda
- Day with the newly forming Association of Christian counselors in Rwanda
- Visits to NGOs working with trauma victims and street children
- Church services
- Visits to genocide memorials
- Visit to a refugee camp
- Numerous conversations, formal and informal over the next two weeks
I will make some attempts to update all on my trip as I go. You can follow me here and @PhilipGMonroe or @BTSCounseling. If you are interested in seeing more about the GTRI engagement model, check out this short video. And, if you would like BTS to continue doing this kind of missional work, feel free to go here and donate before the end of our fiscal year, June 30.
In just a few days I will be off to Uganda and then on to Rwanda to do some training with trauma healing workers in both country’s bible societies. In addition, a group of students from our Global Trauma Recovery Institute will join me in Rwanda to learn more about how to help without hurting. In light of this trip, I penned a few thoughts for those who have a heart to do something about the massive trauma needs around the world. Here’s a preview:
Trauma is a hot topic these days. We live in a world where we are aware of terrible traumas happening around the globe in real time. We hear and see tsunamis unfolding, towns being flooded when dikes are breached, mass shootings, bodies strewn about due to ethnic conflict, houses destroyed by errant bombs, and gender violence in almost every corner of the world. While humanitarian efforts to respond to the physical needs of those in trouble are not new, there is a recent push to have charity workers become “trauma informed” so they can also address spiritual and psychological distress.
Trauma is a hot topic not just because we have more evidence of it happening in real time. It is hot because we have better information about the impact of violence and abuse on the human brain, on human interactions, and on the fabric of a society (Mollica, 2006).
Christian counselors, many of whom want to provide cups of cold water to the hurting masses, undoubtedly wish to use their skills to bring hope, healing and recovery to traumatized peoples around the world. But just where should they start?
You can read the rest of my thoughts over at our faculty blog site.