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Student Maddy Mooney – Merging Counseling & Theology

After finishing her undergrad at the University of Toledo with a major in psychology and a minor in counseling, Maddy Mooney entered the Master of Arts in Clinical Counseling (MACC) program at Winebrenner Seminary fall 2019.

Maddy had previously thought she would go into occupational therapy. But after interacting with missionaries at a Christian retreat, she was exposed to the great need for trained counselors who are equipped to serve others from a grounding in God’s word and truth.

It was only after living through her own tragic life event that Maddy experienced for herself the need for a counseling approach that drew on both theology and counseling theory. In the middle of pursuing her undergrad, her sister passed away from an automobile accident. Maddy took advantage of the resources at her university and began personal counseling to process her intense grief and confusion. Her journey was both forming her and clarifying her own life direction.

While the school’s counselor was able to address Maddy’s anxiety, the counselor was not trained to treat her grief and trauma. Rather, God provided a Christian friend who had also lost her sister. With genuine empathy and prayer, this friend walked Maddy through the initial stages of her grief. Through this experience, Maddy realized that she wanted to serve “emerging adults” who are dealing with grief and trauma. Further, she wanted to do this in a way that included God’s healing truths.

Not surprisingly, God connected Maddy to her long-time friend Dr. Mary Iiames, a professor in Winebrenner’s MACC program. Maddy was surprised to learn that Winebrenner was CACREP accredited, meaning that students can take the Ohio licensure exam upon graduation and become a fully professional, licensed clinical mental health counselor.

Moving from a secular university to seminary was a huge shift for Maddy. Although good, Maddy wasn’t accustomed to applying biblical principles to scientific theory. Suddenly she was learning spiritual models in addition to the more familiar biological and social models. She reflects on her Winebrenner education so far, “We are spiritual beings and it is important to look at a person as all encompassing. Winebrenner gives us that ‘extra tool’ in our belt.” When Maddy envisions her day to day life as a professional counselor, her intention is to pray for clients before they enter the room as well as after the session is done. “God can do way more than I can do. I am just a vessel.”

This past summer 2020, Maddy completed a summer internship at her home church, Crossroads Church of God in Lima, Ohio. There, she oversaw the fledgling young adult ministry. “The opportunity was a good seed God planted in my own life as well as in the church. [The internship] taught me a lot about myself and leadership and about how to respond and be a mentor to the other young adults.” She initiated spiritual formation with the young adults and taught them to multiply this in other individuals. Maddy’s leadership style was definitely informed by her Winebrenner classes. For example, she used bio, psycho, social, and spiritual models when approaching the discussion topics. She even followed the cognitive behavioral approach to motivate the group to put spiritual principles into practice as opposed to merely giving mental assent.

Her lead pastor, Brian Robertson, met with her weekly for her own development. He praises her work stating: “Maddy was a tremendous asset to our church family through the internship program. Having someone who can think strategically as well as theologically is wonderful. We have benefited from her training, and the groups she established continue to have an impact on the life of our church.”

When considering her future as a professional counselor, Maddy knows that her counseling skills will be an asset in the Church, both alongside her fiancé who serves as a campus minister and as a leader in their local church. For the immediate future, she is working hard on her Masters and preparing for her upcoming wedding !