Exploring Theological Education as Discipleship: Clinical Counseling

The Master of Arts in Clinical Counseling (MACC) program offered at Winebrenner Theological Seminary is specifically designed for Christians with deep compassion for people, and who feel “called” to the counseling profession. Students who enroll in this program typically desire to serve their community as professionally trained, licensed counselors. The program aims to prepare students to be effective clinical mental health counselors who ethically integrate Christian values and a Christian worldview into their service to clients.

The MACC Practicum and Internship are both extremely important experiences in students’ preparation as professional clinical counselors. Together, the Practicum, Internship I and Internship II courses require a time commitment of a full year, at the very end of the program. It is intended to be an “on-the‐job” experience, conducted in a clinical setting which is as close as possible to the one in which a student will seek employment. The nature of the experiences that the student is immersed in should be as similar to a typical counseling position as possible, but with much more supervision than would be available to an employed counselor.

As MACC students progress in the program, they tend to develop through several stages of learning. During Practicum and Internship, students are ideally exposed to interventions with a wide range of clients and are given increased opportunities to expand and develop a wide range of professional competencies.  Initially, counselors usually lack confidence in their skills and abilities, often questioning their level of clinical capability and personal development. As time passes, they tend to vacillate between feelings of proficiency and feelings of inadequacy.

Upon successful transition into the Practicum course, students meet for classes each week, receiving faculty supervision. These classes are structured such that they are reminiscent of a group counseling session. Students are required to keep their peers and professor updated on the progress they are making in their counseling site, highlighting their accomplishments and their challenges equally. As bonds among them grow and deepen, students often share any personal situations that require prayer support and even praise reports! A weekly assignment called the Photovoice Journal allows each student to summarize their week using a photograph and scripture reference that effectively represents what is happening in their life and Practicum/Internship experience.

As the Practicum and Internship Coordinator, and Faculty Supervisor, I have been particularly blessed by the growth of the students that she has observed in this final segment of the MACC Program. Students who enter the program, and even the Practicum experience, with anxiety that often seems overwhelming, are able to test and prove the goodness and faithfulness of God as He affirms them in their “call” and in His provision for their success. This final phase is as stressful and as challenging as you would imagine, with adjustments to new environments, difficult client cases, and the constant struggle to maintain a healthy work/family/ministry life balance consuming each student’s thoughts and preoccupations. The Word of God proves true however, as Proverbs 27:17[1] and Hebrew 10:23[2] come to light!

Over the years, MACC students have become increasingly more sought after at their internship sites, often being hired long before they have completed the program. The accolades continue to pour in from their site supervisors, not only lauding them for their skills and competencies but, in particular, for their exhibited character strengths that are positively impacting their professional presentation as well as their client outcomes.

Indeed, as Romans 5:3-5 declares, God has blessed and equipped the MACC program to successfully prepare students for the counseling profession who “…know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope!”

[1] As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpen another.

[2] Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.

Dr. Karen McGibbon, Assistant Professor, Clinical Counseling