My introduction to the pastoral counseling department came via Dr. Wicks. I was presenting at the annual convention for teachers in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, and he was the keynote speaker. He had just published Riding the Dragon and spoke of how educators needed to take care of themselves, which was a lesson I needed to hear. At the time, I was enrolled in a PhD program in education and was teaching continuing education courses in classroom management and brain-based learning. I had retired from K-12 classroom teaching and had decided to change careers and become a full-time professor.
While I was enjoying my classes and doing well academically, I had noticed a void in my secular doctoral program. When Dr. Wicks noted he taught in Loyola’s pastoral counseling program, something finally clicked. After decades in the Catholic school system, where spirituality had been embraced as a vital component of people’s lives, it was strange to me that the topic of spirituality was now actively avoided. I decided to investigate pastoral counseling.
In the classroom, I had counseled many students, especially adolescent girls and teachers struggling with technology integration, but I had always been uneasy about that role. While I was quite confident about my abilities as an educator, I lacked training in counseling. Would studying pastoral counseling make a difference? I was not sure but made an appointment to speak to an advisor.
When I walked into the suite of offices that morning, I was struck by the atmosphere. Everyone was so warm and welcoming. I met one of the current students, and she graciously and enthusiastically spoke with me about the importance of spirituality in the department’s offerings. I spent over an hour with the advisor, and she recommended first applying to the M.S. program. Going from a doctoral program into a master’s program seemed a bit disconcerting, but she explained that the licensing work was at that level. The thought that I could become a licensed counselor excited me, and after some extensive reflection, I submitted my application.
I am now completing my last class as a PhD student. The past six years have been wonderful. The coursework has been academically rigorous, my professors have been marvelous, and I have made enduring friendships and obtained employment as a licensed (LGPC) therapist. I have honed my skills as a clinician, a researcher, a supervisor, and an educator. The void has disappeared, and I have never been happier.