Building relationships through communication, psychotherapists have assisted millions of people suffering with addiction, poor relationships, and mental illness. As therapeutic counseling became more common, pastors and other people of faith noticed the similarity between informal pastoral counseling and traditional psychotherapy. Others realized the significant place faith had in helping those in pain to heal. Incorporating the two fields, those who obtain a Christian counseling doctorate use the teachings of Jesus Christ and tried-and-true psychotherapeutic methods to provide relief to the suffering.
Christian counseling doctorates are primarily sought by graduates of seminary or masters level degree programs. Students in these programs are committed to the field and prepared to spend three years mastering statistical methods, exploring esoteric psychological and Christian counseling theories, completing internships and practicums, and authoring insightful dissertations. Most doctoral students of Christian counseling seek the advanced certification in order to expand their counseling practices. Others want to qualify to undertake informative research and teach at university.
Why a Doctoral Degree?
According to a recent report by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, people with a doctoral decree will earn nearly $600,000 more over their lifetimes than those with simply a master’s degree. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) demonstrates that those with doctorates have a 40% greater chance of finding work than their counterparts who earn a bachelor’s degree; that same report shows that doctoral degree holders earn over two times more than those with just an associate degree.
Getting Into a Doctoral Program
Although it’s no walk in the park, qualified candidates should have little trouble getting accepted into doctoral programs. Typical requirements include:
- Master’s degree in a related field from an accredited institution
- Sufficiently high grade point average (GPA) – typically at least 3.0
- Sufficient score on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE)
- Letters of recommendation
- Letter of intent
- Curriculum vitae
- Prerequisite course work in ethics, human growth and development, counseling theories, psychopathology, clinical diagnosis and treatment, and theology
Inside a Christian Counseling Doctoral Degree Program
Christian counseling doctoral programs are intense and rigorous. Students are expected to master counseling theories and practice, to develop a deep understanding of philosophy, theology and Christianity, and to apply those effectively. Unlike other online Christian counseling degree programs, doctorates require comprehensive study of research methods and statistics. Students interested in previewing doctoral course work may choose to download free course materials like those available from MIT’s Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience. Another option is to take a course, such as Yale University’s Introduction to the Old Testament.
At the doctoral level, students are typically expected to complete a practicum as well as an internship. According to the American Psychological Association, accredited internships must last at least 12 months. Considered gatekeepers for the professions, students should expect their internship and/or practicum to be demanding but also educational. Of course, as a doctorate is awarded, students will be required to complete a doctoral dissertation.
What’s Next for Christian Counseling Doctoral Degree Holders?
Graduates of doctoral programs are extremely well prepared to conduct pastoral counseling. Functioning at this level, they can expect to earn over $65,000 annually, and, according to the BLS, the field continues to grow. The rigorous training they receive enables them to teach at the university level, conduct research, and publish writings in professional and scholarly journals; university professors in the field can expect earnings similar to those enjoyed by counselors.
Regardless of their career path, graduates of Christian counseling doctoral programs enjoy enhanced understanding of their faith. They also master the integration of faith with counseling to help individuals, groups, and families. With the greater insight gained through intense study, graduates are better able to counsel, lead, and minister as well as supervise congregations and employees.