LIFE AFTER LOYOLA:
An Interview with Lurlene D. Sweeney, LCPC
My first-year clinical supervisor, Mrs. Lurlene D. Sweeney, LCPC, is a graduate of Loyola University Maryland’s Pastoral Counseling program. She is calm, sensitive, compassionate, and understanding, with a strong work ethic. I was always impressed with the skill and ease that she brought to our supervisory meetings. Not only did she have excellent clinical skills, but her pastoral presence was very valuable in helping me navigate my new role as a bereavement counselor intern. Even after our mandatory sessions were over, I would call Mrs. Sweeney whenever I needed therapeutic guidance, and she was always amenable to receiving my calls. Therefore, as I considered life after Loyola, my mind automatically found Mrs. Sweeney. What follows is a glimpse of Lurlene D. Sweeney’s life after Loyola.
Glenda Laurent Dickonson: When did you graduate from the Pastoral Counseling program and what degree did you receive?
Lurlene D. Sweeney: I graduated in 2003 with a Master’s of Science in Pastoral Counseling.
GLD: What was your first job after graduation, and how easy or difficult was it to attain?
LDS: I began working prior to graduation as a consultant. I had formed a partnership with two other clinicians and we provided behavioral health consultation to a non-profit as a subcontractor for the Department of Health and Human Services from 2002 – 2004.
GLD: Did your affiliation with Loyola and/or the Pastoral Counseling program benefit you in finding employment after ending your tenure with Health and Human Services?
LDS: In 2004 I was employed by Prince George’s Health Department Children and Parents Program (CAP) where I had done both years of my clinical internship. I worked there as a therapist until 2006. Actually the director had offered to hire me during my first internship year with CAP, but I declined because I did not want it to interfere with my studies. So you see the connection with Loyola in terms of obtaining employment. It is often the case that a student is offered employment at their placement.
GLD: You left CAP in 2006, so what is your current position?
LDS: I am an independent contractor with The Pathfinder Project, Inc., a group practice serving multi-generational, multi-cultural clients with a variety of mental health disorders. I have chosen, at this time, to work part-time, and this venue suits my needs, allowing me to work 2-3 days per week. In addition, I provide supervision for graduate students in Loyola’s Pastoral Counseling program (http://www.loyola.edu/pastoralcounseling). I enjoy staying engaged with the students and staff at Loyola. My flexibility in my work schedule facilitates my availability for supervision.
GLD: Did you have a specific goal upon graduation, and if so, have you attained it, or are you on your way?
LDS: Actually, I did have a goal. I have not yet attained it, and it’s possible that I will not; but that’s okay because what I am doing is no doubt in line with what God has for my life. My goal when I began the Pastoral Counseling program, was to develop skills and qualifications to work with organizations, particularly churches in conflict. I wanted to do conflict resolution within the religious community. The description provided by Dr. Bob Wicks during open house was that this program was a marriage of theology and psychology, and it sounded like the ideal program to launch the career I wanted. I had an undergraduate degree in psychology, and had spent decades studying scripture, and I loved both areas. Therefore, Pastoral Counseling sounded great to me. By the way, I had never heard of Pastoral Counseling before reading the announcement for the open house in the Washington Post.
GLD: What was your favorite or most meaningful class that you took at Loyola?
LDS: The most meaningful class was Group Therapy because of what happened in that class. I witnessed the power of the process to bring meaningful change in a person’s life. That class changed me and my classmates in a very profound and lasting way.
GLD: Is there a professor or staff member who inspired you or who you admired?
LDS: Dr. Wicks impressed me as to what it means to be a pastoral person. Dr. Joe Ciarrocchi left an imprint for being demanding but fair; the former Clinical Director was the most encouraging to me personally.
GLD: Many students come to Pastoral Counseling as a second or even third career. What about you? What were you doing prior to Loyola?
LDS: Prior to Loyola I was a career Civil Servant. I retired as a Supervisory Safety and Health Manager from the U.S. Coast Guard. That was a job that required more left-brain activity – thinking rather than feeling, making tough decisions, managing crises, etc.
GLD: Why Pastoral Counseling? Was it a calling?
LDS: Given the diversion from my goal, I must acknowledge what people like Dr. Allan Tsai said to me early on – that I possess a gift that makes it easy for people to talk to me, and I am able to really hear what they are saying. I know the gift is from God, and has been there all along, but I was not pursuing the development of the gift.
GLD: What advice do you have for current PC students?
LDS: To get the most out of the program, one has to be open to the experience. It’s not just an education, it is a process of personal change – a journey, first for the learning clinician, and then for those they work with. As scripture says: “And hardworking farmers should be the first to enjoy the fruit of their labor.” 2 Tim. 2:6 (NLT).