In 2014, as the Antiochian House of Studies (AHOS) in North America neared its 25th Anniversary, the late Metropolitan PHILIP gave his blessing for establishing of a new graduate program in pastoral counseling, with a specific focus of training clergy and lay volunteers to provide complex supportive care to individuals and families in crisis from an Orthodox pastoral theological foundation. The program curriculum has been largely developed from the theological and anthropological teachings of Archimandrite Sophrony (Sakharov) of Essex, and the faculty members have studied formally with members of the monastery community that Fr. Sophrony founded at Essex, enabling a living link for ongoing mentorship and consultancy. Although a number of concepts from the fields of psychology and social work are explored in the program, it remains dedicated to theologically-founded pastoral care developed firmly within the Orthodox tradition.

The 48-credit Master of Theology in Pastoral Care & Counseling program is designed for three specific populations: (1) clergy interested in becoming more skilled in responding to complexly disoriented persons and families under their care, (2) members of the helping professions looking to grow in their ability to offer their work from a strong foundation in Orthodox pastoral theology, and (3) lay persons interested in beginning in or developing in a parish-based, community-based, or diocesan-based ministry in spiritual care, crisis response, chaplaincy, or disaster spiritual care.

Every student in the program will complete the following 12 uniquely-designed courses: Christology & Human Suffering, Ethics in Pastoral Care & Counseling, Developmental & Cultural Aspects of Pastoral Care, Theology of Crisis Care, Introduction to Pastoral Counseling Theory, Group-Based Pastoral Care & Counseling, Dimensions of Spiritual Illness & Healing in the Desert Fathers, Clinical Assessment & Treatment Planning in Pastoral Work, Issues in Human Sexuality, Parish-based Critical Incident 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 Learning 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 Learning Center in Bolivar, PA 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.  Following 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 one unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) in collaboration with our in-house faculty CPE supervisor or a Pastoral Care Specialist certificate that recognizes CPE equivalence.  Upon graduation 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.

Once accepted into the program, students will receive the full program syllabus and the most recent edition of the practicum handbook. More information on the program faculty can be found at the link below:

M.Th. in Pastoral Care & Counseling Program Faculty