Counseling degree’s minor in spiritual direction a benefit to program

HUNTINGTON, Ind. In the past, mental health counseling has been seen primarily as a way to provide resolution to an individual's symptoms. However, in recent years the focus has shifted to deeper work that creates lasting change. Huntington University's graduate counseling program recognizes this need and provides appropriate training as part of its curriculum.

The graduate counseling program at HU not only gives students Christ-centered training in all classes, but offers them the possibility of a spiritual direction minor. This minor has been crafted both to educate students about the dynamics of spiritual formation and direction, and to equip them to be effective counselors.

Students who choose to add this minor to their degree are challenged to grow spiritually and better understand how they can meet their clients' spiritual needs. The minor is intended to provide preparation for any setting, not just Christian counseling agencies.

Dr. Michael Cook, Associate Professor of Counseling, says the minor was developed three years ago at the outset of the graduate counseling program. It recognizes the need to be connected with Christ to effectively counsel others, and seeks to provide this training to students.

The minor consists of three courses, each increasing in depth of study. As students progress, they grow in understanding of the richness and applicability of Christian disciplines.

The program takes a multifaceted approach to the study of spiritual formation, beginning with an overview and history of faith application. Throughout the course of the minor, emphasis is placed both on the integration of counseling and spiritual direction and the important distinctions between the two fields.
The program also includes a practical component, offering students mentoring opportunities and ways to be part of the spiritual growth of others.

Cook says the purpose of integrating what is learned from the spiritual direction minor is not to impose faith on clients, but to generate genuine care and respect.

"There is a lot of overlap between spiritual formation and counseling," says Cook. "It is through God's power that counselors can be effective with clients."