Tag Archives: Biblical Seminary

Why study professional counseling at a seminary?


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 thbts_0314_l_bts_cnslngtxt_rede 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

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June 15, 2015 · 10:58 am

GTRI 2014: Day 12 Kigeme Refugee Camp


July 12, 2014. Kigeme Refugee Camp to Kigali

For all who travelled with us, our visit to the refugee camp was moving in many ways. We saw deep poverty and yet deep resilien

Heather with her new friends

Heather with her new friends

ce. The following observations are from Heather Drew, a counselor and one of my GTRI students and who begins her tenure as Fieldwork Coordinator in my seminary department today! Please welcome Heather and check out her blog as she is a gifted communicator in her own right.

Today was our last full day in Rwanda. We woke up in Butare, got one last cup of the best coffee I’ve ever tasted at a lovely coffee shop called Cafe Connexions, then rode our bus to a UN refugee camp in Kigeme. Around 20,000 Kinyarwandan speaking Congolese

Kigeme camp children

Kigeme camp children

refugees live in this camp, 12,000 of which are children, we were told. The abundance of children was immediately apparent to us as we were greeted by dozens of sweet smiles peering into our bus, waiting for us to climb out. Some of us took photos of/with the children and showed them the photo (they love that). Stan The children followed us around like we were pied pipers. The parents followed us with their eyes, and greeted us kindly. The camp was made up of rows upon rows of small mud houses with metal roofs – living spaces the size of a small American living room – containing 6-8 (or more) family members each. Our group wove through the narrow, red-dusty walkways between houses, climbing up slippery hills with the help of our small chaperones. They taught us some additional phrases in Kinyarwandan, showed us their beautifully-made and efficient water collection/filtration system, and held our hands. The EUG_7154children who could speak a few words in English were eager to do so. The ones who knew no English spoke to us without any words, showing us their homemade toys constructed with old bottles and broken pieces of things. It made me realize that the less a person has, the more resourceful and creative they become. This is a very prevalent characteristic throughout Rwanda.

At the base of the hill on which the camp sits is a meeting space where our team met with several leaders within the camp who lead trauma healing groups with fellow refugees. We were traveling with our friend Harriet Hill, one of the writers/developers of the Healing Wounds of Trauma material put out by American Bible Society, which this group has found so useful. (This book has been translated into several languages and is effectively used to facilitate around the world.) I had greatly anticipated this day, and in the moment the depth of it was not lost on me at all; here we were sitting in a room with about 50 Congolese refugees who use this book to lead healing groups in one of the most trauma-impacted areas of the world with Harriet Hill, the woman who had a dream over a decade ago to develop the material. It was extremely moving.

Leaders/facilitators gave testimonies about the groups and about personal healing, and presented questions they had. One person shared, “We are all traumatized…This material heals us and then we can help others heal.” Another shared, “During the genocide, so many of us – on both sides of the conflict – had hearts like animals. The Bible takes away our animal hearts.” Not all of these testimonies were ones of “arrival,” however. A few shared how they are still in the midst of the long healing process. The truthfulness of this impacted and inspired us.

After their testimony time Phil, Diane, Harriet, and their two leaders were invited to speak. Remarks were encouraging and thankful. Harriet Hill shared how much it meant to her that they have such bravery to share the comfort they themselves have received from Christ. She also shared Psalm 126, words that resonate with their stories. Finally, at the end of the meeting, we shared Fanta and

Zenko with Marianne Millen

Zenko with Marianne Millen

snacks together (a tradition of hospitality in Rwanda), then we said our goodbyes – even to Zenko, our dear new friend, which we were very sad about! – and boarded our bus for a 2 hour ride back to Kigali. I tried to focus on taking in the breathtaking beauty of the country as we made our last drive, because no photo can capture it.

Our final night was spent at East African Villas in Kigali. This was a hotel in Rwanda managed by a lovely Christian man called Ezekiel who was wearing a Georgia Bulldogs shirt when we arrived, which we enjoyed. We rested and enjoyed hot showers (a luxury I will no longer take for granted) during the few hours before dinner. Then we settled together in the dining room, ate our final Rwandan dinner feast, then Phil initiated our final team debriefing & sharing time.

We all shared 3 words that we each felt best expressed what we had learned in Rwanda. Among the things shared: new meaning of “celebrating the recovery of life” and also of “groans that words cannot express,” what it means to embrace Jesus’s invitation to “watch with Him,” the privilege of carrying people’s stories with them, how impactful people’s eyes and testimonies were, how much courage we saw, how much desperation we saw and how that was pointed at God in many cases. It was a much-needed time of sharing. To my knowledge, there wasn’t a dry eye among us.

We ended our night by taking a few group photos on the balcony.

GTRI 2014 Team

GTRI 2014 Team

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Filed under christian psychology, counseling, counseling skills, Rwanda, Uncategorized

GTRI 2014: Day 10, Muhanga


July 10, 2014. Centre St. Andre

Thursday, Day 2 of the Community of Practice with the Bible Society of Rwanda. Already we are seeing deepening relationships. Last night many Americans and Rwandans sat together in the dining area talking and getting to know each other and revealing deep stories, stories of courage, pain, and hope. Precious times.

On day two of the Community of Practice we began with a short devotional considering Jeremiah’s lament. Barbara Shaffer and Carol King led a training and discussion of the problem of domestic violence. This is a new chapter in the Healing Wounds of Trauma materials. We discussed how much of a problem it is in Rwanda, why women stay, and how we can help both victim and abuser.

DSC_0307In the afternoon, we did another teaching (Carol and myself) regarding the problem of suicide. It appears that most Rwandans believe that one who commits suicide is automatically going to hell. In addition, the family is often shunned. This seemed a very entrenched belief and so my raising doubts and questions resulted in very spirited debate. While we also discussed how to help the suicidal person and how to help the family members, I left them with the encouragement not to speak for God and since no verses speak to the future of suicide persons, they ought to be careful to put words into God’s mouth.

We ended this conference day by giving the Rwandans an opportunity to have a session for their own care. We can see the weariness on their faces. Baraka led a care for the caregiver session while the GTRI team met to process what we were hearing and seeing–the heartache and the resiliency.

Monique (R) with Souvenir

Monique (R) with Souvenir

We had the privilege of listening to Monique’s story of surviving the genocide as a teenager and God’s subsequent call on her life. The story is too precious and hard to share here beyond a few words. She survived when family members around her were executed (shot) and fell on top of her. The killers left the pile of bodies, not knowing that she was not killed. Just prior to this event, she had read Psalm 91 and heard God speaking to her about her own future when she read verse 7,

“A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.” 

She has gone one to become an evangelist for Christ and a helper of the hurting. I can attest that she has a gift that few have. And I will never read that verse again in the same way

As the previous night, many of us stayed up quite late deepening relationships with new and old Rwandan friends. Looking over the dinner area, I saw heads bowed in prayer, attempts to speak in French, cackling laughter, and the sharing of food and drink. Such a beautiful sight.

Tomorrow will end our COP and we will move on south to Butare.

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Filed under Africa, counseling skills, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

GTRI 2014: Day 9 Muhanga


July 9, 2014

Wednesday morning. We had our last lovely breakfast at Solace guest house, packed our things and left to travel a little over an hour south to Centre Saint Andre, a retreat and conference facility. We arrived in time to get our rooms to put our things away and get to the start of the conference. This Community of Practice conference, run by the Bible Society of Rwanda, is their first ever such meeting of trauma healing facilitators and is designed to raise the level of skills and knowledge of the facilitators as well as share best practices among them. Our role at the conference is threefold: lead some of the teaching sessions, listen and respond to case consultations and, best of all, get to know the facilitators and share experiences. The room was set with tables for 6 with 4 Rwandans and 2 Americans each.

The conference began with a bible study by the secretariat of the Bible Society. He spoke of the necessity of having the right names for things. He noted the significant difference in naming Rwanda a country healing from genocide instead of Rwanda a genocide country. Each table then discussed successes and challenges. At my table we heard of many good stories of healing (Success) but also that the

Credit: Heather Evans

Credit: Heather Evans

facilitators feel much guilt for not helping more (Challenge). They struggle with feeling worn out and impoverished helping others. Some noted how their own families and marriages were suffering given that they found it hard to say no to tangible needs of those they were trying to help. They noted that many of the recipients did want to have tangible gifts in order to take time to be in a healing group.

Next, Diane Langberg presented on the topic of shame. She defined guilt as a response to what we do but shame as a response to what we perceive we are or have become. She noted there are different types of shame but all result in a loss of “glory.” Some religious traditions believe that blood (honor killings) is the only way to cleanse the family of shame. She pointed out that while this is gravely distorted view of shame/honor, blood IS the only cleansing of shame–Jesus’ death and resurrection. She explored how Jesus did not run from the shame, that the image of God is one who runs after the shamed, who clothes them, who brings them his honor.

In response, the table groups considered three questions: What is considered shameful in Rwanda? What does the church say is shameful? Which of these are false sources of shame per the Scriptures? Consider some of the items mentioned,

  • To be pregnant without a husband, yet a man is proud
  • To divorce or separate
  • To be impotent or barren
  • To be a victim of rape
  • To be drunk (if woman); only shameful for a man if he does something wrong when drunk
  • To engage in open conflict; to talk openly of problems
  • To be in need/impoverished
  • For a woman to talk about domestic violence; to be a man beaten by his wife
  • to have disobedient children
  • To be albino
  • To commit adultery (church endorsed shame); to be HIV+

Interestingly, it was not always agreed upon which items should not be considered shameful.

396We ended our training day with a teaching/group interaction I did regarding addictions (the nature of addictions, what the Scriptures say, and how these facilitators can help improve commitment to sobriety in those they seek to help). I think most Americans and Rwandans felt the beginnings of connections forming as personal stories were told to us and we received them for what they were, treasures.

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Filed under christian counseling, Rwanda, trauma

GTRI 2014 Immersion: Day 5-6


July 5, 2014

A bright and sunny start to this day. The team will arrive to join me this afternoon. At Solace, a typical breakfast includes fresh fruits, coffee, croissants, honey, cheese and hard-boiled eggs. Eating on the porch I enjoyed the views across the valley and got to know some fellow Americans working for Solace (from Wisconsin

Credit: Heather Evans

Credit: Heather Evans

). Since this is a relatively quiet day, I decided to go on a hike of this part of Kigali. Walked by the offices of International Justice Mission and through several neighborhoods. It is nice to get to know the city well enough not to get lost.

After lunch, our good friend and colleague Baraka Paulette came by to bring me to the airport to meet the incoming GTRI team. Everyone arrived on time and in good spirits, even if bleary eyed from the travel. After getting everyone into their rooms, quite a few were up for a short walk. On the way, we stopped at a nearby art center to

Typical Solace meal Credit: Heather Evans

Typical Solace meal
Credit: Heather Evans

see the gallery and talk to artists busy at work. Soon we had dinner (usually 3 courses: soup, entrée, dessert).

At this point, I discover that we do not have reservations here at Solace for our last night. I ask the staff to help us find a comparable accommodations and they let me know that they will help us.

July 6, 2014

Sunday. We attend Baraka’s church on Ndera hill. We enjoy worship despite it not being in English. At least a couple of choirs sing. Diane preaches (translated) on Isaiah 45:2-3 which speaks of the mystery of treasures in dark places and makes application to those who are suffering much and yet

Credit: Heather Evans

Credit: Heather Evans

finding treasure in the Lord’s calling them by name. Several of the group held children’s church outside. After the service we were brought back into the church with the members to receive communion. Sitting on benches in a rectangle, we were given opportunity to wash our hands and then proceed with the service. (For those who want to know, we had the melt-in-your-mouth wafer and individual cups of juice).

After church we were taken to Baraka’s family home to enjoy a goat roast, a lovely way to pass the Sabbath! Mid-afternoon we departed on our bus for Enfant de Dieu, an organization that cares for former street children. They house almost 100 boys, providing them with training, education, and housing. We watched them drum and dance for us

Credit: Heather Evans

Credit: Heather Evans

(including street-style dancing) and then shared donuts and sodas as well as some games. I and one of the older boys played beach volleyball against another teammate and child on something that was akin to sand. My poor feet took a beating. During our time we also got to hear how the ministry works and about the counseling offered in groups and individuals. It was especially fun to show some of the video footage on my phone from last year. We could see who had grown the most and who had left to go back to family.

Finally, we ended our day back at Solace Ministry with an American missionary couple who have been in Kigali for almost 2 years. They were able to describe work with prostitutes and pastors. Also, they filled the team in on some of the cultural differences: A person is a girl or boy until she or he has a child. Many girls would choose to contract HIV rather than be childless. For a man to get married he has to build a family home. Because some of the materials are so expensive, many are putting off marriage and thus encouraging sex before marriage. Many expect that men and women who travel will have sex outside of marriage while on the trip. Some form of genital mutilation is present here (not so much cutting as stretching). Finally, we explored the survival mentality and how that can be a help and a hindrance.

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My next two weeks in East Africa


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.

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Filed under Biblical Seminary, christian counseling, christian psychology, counseling skills, Diane Langberg, genocide, Rwanda, trauma, Uncategorized

Some thoughts on international trauma training


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.

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Filed under "phil monroe", Abuse, Biblical Seminary, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Rwanda, trauma

GTRI featured in an online, free journal


Our Global Trauma Recovery Institute is featured in the most recent issue of the EMCAPP Journal for Christian Psychology Around the World. Pages 172-211 include an overview of GTRI, two essays by Diane Langberg (The Role of Christ in Psychology; Living to Trauma Memories) and one by me (Telling Trauma Stories: What Helps, What Hurts).

The journal also contains an essay by Edward Welch (www.ccef.org) where he muses his development as a biblical counselor, explores the matter of emotions and some of the stereotypes of biblical counseling. The journal also includes a large number of essays about Paul Vitz as well as a number about the Society of christian Psychology.

Take a look!

 

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Filed under "phil monroe", biblical counseling, Biblical Seminary, christian counseling, christian psychology, counseling, counseling skills, Diane Langberg, Ed Welch, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, trauma

Training Trauma Healers For The Church


Over at our faculty blog site you can find my summary of a recent trauma recovery training for pastors and church leaders. Biblical co-sponsored this training with the American Bible Society in an attempt to bring a well-established, scripture-engaged trauma healing model to the Philadelphia area. Read more about the model and its value as well as see a picture of the training (thanks Heather Drew).

Trauma comes to us in all shapes and sizes. Traumatized outsiders (i.e., immigrants), child sexual abuse, domestic violence, community violence, racial injustice and natural disasters are here, not just something that is “over there.” While we may have more professional mental health resources here than other communities have access to, we still do not have enough to serve the need. And even if we did, the best models of recovery connected traumatized people to their faith and their communities. What better place to do that than in the church?

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Filed under Biblical Seminary, counseling, counseling skills, suffering, trauma

Join Our Trauma Healing Community of Practice: March 17-19


March 17-19, 2014 is the 3rd annual Community of Practice hosted by the American Bible Society and their Trauma Healing Institute. As Advisory co-chair I have been involved in the planning for this event and am excited for what it is shaping up to be. Once again, we will be at the Mother Boniface Spirituality Center in Northeast Philadelphia.

If you are interested in networking with trauma recovery facilitators from 6 continents you should come. If you are interested in getting NBCC CEs, you should come. If you are wanting to learn more about the ABS trauma healing model, you should come. There will be presentations on the following topics (a sample)

  • Reports from trauma recovery work in Uganda, DRC, refugee camps, Sri Lanka, and more
  • Update on Resiliency (myself)
  • Urban Trauma (Michael Lyles, MD)
  • Shame and Trauma (Diane Langberg, PhD)
  • Military Trauma (Pat Miersma)
  • Trauma and children (Bethany Haley, PhD)
  • Update on current trauma recovery research (Matthew Stanford, PhD)

Check out this link to see the speaker list and networking opportunities.  Same link will allow you to register.

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Filed under christian counseling, christian psychology, counseling, trauma