The Antiochian House of Studies (AHOS) has been offering programs of theological study in distance-learning and blended formats for over 35 years. AHOS currently offers two Master of Theology degrees: the M.Th. in Applied Orthodox Theology and the M.Th. in Pastoral Care & Counseling. Both degrees are granted by AHOS in partnership with the Saint John of Damascus School of Theology of the University of Balamand in the Republic of Lebanon, under the aegis of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch.
The 48-credit Master of Theology in Pastoral Care & Counseling program is designed to prepare clergy and lay volunteers to provide timely and complex pastoral care to individuals and families in acute crisis from a robust Orthodox pastoral-theological foundation. The Christological and anthropological teachings of Saint Silouan the Athonite and Archimandrite Sophrony of Essex (along with his spiritual children) are given special prominence in the program, when it comes to laying this foundation, and to this end the faculty maintains a vital spiritual link with the Monastery of Saint John the Baptist at Essex. Although concepts from the fields of psychology and social work are periodically explored in the program, such exploration is always shaped by a distinctly Orthodox epistemology.
Every student in the program will complete the following 12 uniquely-designed courses: Christology & Human Suffering in the Essex Tradition, The Ethics of Pastoral Care & Counseling, Developmental & Cultural Aspects of Pastoral Care & Counseling, Hypostatic Theology & Pastoral Ministry, Introduction to Pastoral Counseling Theory, Group-Based Pastoral Care & Counseling, Curing Spiritual Illness in the Patristic Tradition, Clinical Assessment & Treatment Planning in Pastoral Work, Issues in Human Sexuality, Parish-based Crisis Response & Disaster Spiritual Care, the Sanctification of Marriage & Family Life, and Pastoral Care Interventions with Families in Crisis.
The integrated curriculum process includes the following educational elements:
(a) directed reading and audio-visual training resources assigned by – or developed by – the program faculty,
(b) regular essays and oral examinations to demonstrate comprehension and application of the course materials,
(c) bi-monthly video-teleconference (VTC) sessions with a small group of cohort members and a program mentor,
(d) two intensive course residency weeks at the Antiochian Village Conference & Retreat Center,
(e) professional pastoral care supervision with our faculty supervisors, making use of locally-placed work in ministry over 2 years,
(f) a robust research project in the field of pastoral care that demonstrates a firm foundation in Orthodox pastoral theology and culminates in a major thesis.
The core coursework is completed during the first two years of the program, with each year containing one intensive, week-long residency course at the Antiochian Village Conference & Retreat Center in western Pennsylvania, and six non-resident courses accomplished in pairs within three reading terms (summer, fall, and spring). Strong emphasis is placed on real-time application of ideas from the course materials into local ministry, and students are encouraged to prioritize and invest most deeply in course materials that can make an immediate impact on their setting in ministry. Upon the completion of both full years of program coursework, students will advance to the guided research and thesis phase.
Supervised ministry placement will not necessarily require students to volunteer hours outside of their current work and ministry settings. Clergy, members of the helping professions, and lay persons active in volunteer ministries with suffering, disoriented, or distressed persons and families will likely be able to complete their practicum without changing their current schedule. Students who do not have such schedules already in place will work with the program supervisors to determine a local opportunity that will provide a suitable place to gain experience and contact with people in need.
Matriculation into the program requires the completion of an accredited baccalaureate degree and evidence of sufficient Christian maturity and active parish involvement – as supported by a letter of recommendation from an appropriate member of the clergy. Along with their degree, graduates will be awarded either a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) in collaboration with our in-house faculty CPE supervisor or a Pastoral Counseling Specialist certificate. Upon completion of the the program students may also be eligible to request a path for entry-level certification in pastoral counseling, professional chaplaincy, crisis management, or traumatic stress expertise, depending on their emphasis during the practicum and thesis portions of the program.
New student cohorts are formed only in odd years (i.e. 2019, 2021, 2023, etc.). Once accepted into the program, students will receive the full program syllabus and the most recent edition of the practicum handbook.