Loyola Clinical Centers: An Interdisciplinary Approach

How does one become the best counselor he/she can be?  The classes offered through Loyola’s Pastoral Counseling Program provide the foundation to becoming a good counselor.  The Pastoral Counseling Program also requires two years of an internship at a mental health facility for their degree programs, which helps to provide the experience.  Loyola also offers hands-on clinical experience through their own Clinical Center located at the Columbia campus for Pastoral Counseling students.

Because of my Masters in Clinical Psychology and my status as a Certificate of Advanced Studies Student, I was not required to do an internship.  I felt I was sorely lacking in the experience of true counseling because my previous internship experience through my masters program was at Kennedy Krieger Institute and the internship utilized behavioral psychology primarily where I basically observed the behaviors of clients and recorded them.  I chose to do an internship during the 2011-2012 school year through Loyola in order to gain the experience I lacked but was intimidated by the thought of counseling clients one-on-one and I expressed my concerns to Dr. LaSure-Bryant.  She informed me of Loyola’s Clinical Centers and the opportunity to work there in the summer prior to my internship. 

The clinic has a diverse population of clients who come in for counseling.  The clinic’s focus is on the care of the client so they try to work with the client’s financial situation in order to make counseling affordable.  One aspect of the clinic, which was particularly appealing to me, was that talking about spirituality was acceptable which brought a whole different dimension to the counseling experience.  At my internship experience in the fall, talking about prayer and spirituality was not encouraged and I shied away from those topics unless the client brought it up.  At Loyola’s Clinical Center, clients choose to come in to see a Pastoral Counselor, which provides the forum for the subject of spirituality to be brought up during the counseling session.

I gained invaluable experience working with clients while having the expertise of my supervisor, which gave me the confidence I needed to work with clients in the fall.  There are many opportunities for Pastoral Counseling Students in the clinic whether it is through counseling or running group therapy in conjunction with the Speech – Language Pathology DepartmentLoyola’s Pastoral Counseling Department provides its students with the opportunities to become the best counselor one can be.

Surprised by Authenticity, Diversity, and Hope | 10th Anniversary Mid-Year Conference

Where can students and faculty from so many diverse backgrounds come together, respect each other’s opposing views, and learn from each other?

At Loyola’s 10th Annual Mid-Year Research Conference on Religion and Spirituality (MYC).

session in progress
As I listened to A Dialectical Paradigm Shift in the Search for the Sacred, the presenter, M. Chet Mirman, PhD outlined what it means to be sacred, mentioned Buber, the supernatural, transcendence, and having a sense of awe and wonder at the mystery of the world. 

I was under the impression that the room was filled with theists on a quest for God (i.e. the sacred).  There were at least two Catholics in the room other than myself: a Jesuit pastoral counseling affiliate faculty member Fr. William Sneck S.J. PhD, and a Catholic nun in a full habit…

Then, someone in the audience raises his hand and asks this question, “What do you mean by keeping the baby of spirituality while throwing out the bathwater of bad metaphysical beliefs?”

Mirman replies, “Well, you know, God parting the Red Sea, bushes spontaneously bursting into flames, and other similar phenomenon.  The inquisitor looked puzzled.  Then the presenter offered, “Well, I guess I’d better come clean and tell you all that I am an atheist.” Mirman continues, “And I am trying to find my way back to belief.”  You could have heard a pin drop.  After a pregnant pause, the conversation continued with the theists and the atheist discussing metaphysical, philosophical, and theological theories and constructs.

I had taken four pages of notes and listened to his lecture for forty minutes before he disclosed that he was an atheist.  I think he was courageous to transparently admit to his views in a room full of theists.  And the fact that the discussion didn’t miss a beat with both theists and atheist learning from each other speaks to the brand of education found here at Loyola

Scioli signs his book for Teri Wilkins

Scioli Signs Book for Teri Wilkins

      A Whole Brain Intervention to Instill Hope was another example of the strength of diversity in action.  Anthony Scioli, an American, and Fr. Jen Charles Wismick, a Haitian, worked together in Haiti to instill hope in the survivors of the 2010 Haiti earthquake.  We need each other and work best in community; we do not do pastoral care in a vacuum.
Well attended session at Mid-Year Conference
Loyola students are diverse, hailing from all over the world, representing every race, creed, ethnicity, and gender.  Additionally, we are inclusive; we listen to, respect, and learn from each other. 

And that is why I am proud to be a student at Loyola.

More than Lip Service | Obama, Gay Marriage, and Unconditional Love

Fall and Spring are so nourishing at Loyola.  I find myself excited by the things I learn, the challenges I’m given, the classmates and professors who help me grow.  Then summer comes.  I take one class, maybe two, and the thrill of it all is packed into a few short weeks before I have no choice but to take a break.  And yet!

Last week Barack Obama spoke up in favor of gay marriage.  In that moment of his standing up for those who are marginalized, the excitement that normally comes to me through my courses set my heart once again on fire.  Why?  Because I saw a man who has been given great power – and with it, great responsibility – use that power to give voice to the voiceless, to show respect to those who are outcast, to preach acceptance and love not in a sermon but in his simply choosing not to discriminate, not to hate.

This is what Loyola is teaching me.  It is what Jesus – and the Jesuits who founded Loyola University Maryland – have always taught:  love unconditionally.  No wonder my heart is aflame when class is in session!  Learning to love is essentially getting to know God, Who is love.  The disciples asked regarding Jesus, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He talked to us on the road… (Luke 24:32)?”  I often refer to my experience at Loyola as my journey…I am walking with Him on this road and my heart is indeed burning.

Yet this summer my heart is burning again as I watch a man with so much power over others attempt to give that power to those without.  I took Intro to Pastoral Counseling a few semesters ago with Dr. Stewart-Sicking.  He had us not only reading about empowering others through our counseling but also through fighting the systems that keep others on the margins.  We were compelled to do service learning – I did mine at Bon Secours Hospice in Richmond, VA – so we could better understand those who are most in need of compassion – and action.  It gives me hope to see the leader of the free world risk so much (it is, after all, an election year) in favor of compassion.  Perhaps the citizens of his country will be inspired to risk the same.

I am taking only one course this summer although I dare say I am immersed in a second.  It is the course of Life, prerequisite:  Love.

When the Journey Chooses Us

Throughout my journey I have learned that there are some things in life that we choose, and then there are other portions of our journey that choose us.  If I had to categorize my decision to come to the PC program at Loyola, I would definitely place this in the latter category.

The year was 2005.  It was my final year of seminary and as I began preparing for graduation, there was a part of me that felt unsettled. My future was still quite fuzzy and at the age of 25, there were more things that I did not know than what I had managed to figure out at that point. But there were two things I was sure about. I knew that I was called to be a healer, and I knew that I always had an interest in both psychology and spirituality.  When I was in my undergraduate Psychology program, I felt like I had to disconnect from my Spirit, and when I was in seminary, I felt like I had to disconnect from my clinical mind.  I did not want to choose between my “secular” understanding of the mind and human behavior and my faith in the power of the Spirit to heal. In fact, at the core of my being, I believed that in order to truly heal, I needed to find a place that allowed me to be merge the two—addressing both spirit and mind.

After browsing the website, I knew that every other part of my journey prepared me for this program.  When I arrived at the orientation, I was greeted by a Native American prayer, a Buddhist quote, and surrounded by persons of different faiths and cultural backgrounds.  There was something sacred about this place and yet, there was an equal emphasis on the school’s commitment to prepare us clinically so that we can be licensed in the secular world.  From these first moments on campus, I was certain that the Pastoral Counseling program was exactly where I needed to be.  I knew that I would not only be prepared to have a career doing what I love, but I would be able to allow all portions of my identity to remain in conversation to become exactly who I have always been. …a holistic healer.

I did not choose Loyola…in many ways, Loyola chose me.  And I will forever be grateful…

Food for Multicultural Issues

I was cruising down St. Paul’s street in downtown Baltimore heading off to class when suddenly three youths stepped out in front of my car. My tires squealed as I slammed on the brakes, just in time. Then I waited. The young men stood in front of my car for about 20 seconds, watching me intently. Then they disappeared back where they had come.  During that time, I was not sure what to do. Had I heard the Multicultural Panel before this incident, and listened to Ryan Heeman tell a very similar story, I might have had a better clue. You see, I am white, and the youths were African American.

 If we are going to meet with this kind of dilemma in normal life, life as a counselor will bring even greater challenges. How can I be sensitive to someone who is LGBT? Am I aware of the cultural differences between Asian or African or Hispanic and the dominate white American? Have I ever stepped into the life of someone of another faith tradition, or enjoyed a celebration in another culture? These are the questions the Multicultural Panel at Loyola Pastoral Counseling Department addressed April 26, 2012.

 Professor Katherine Oakes, who teaches a course on Diversity Issues in Counseling, planed the panel. She brought in a number of MS and PhD students to share personal accounts, dissertation work, and clinical experience. They had a lot to share. 

 For each of us, there are limits to our understanding and our knowledge of other cultures. Dian Adams spoke of the clinical insights she has gained in addressing a client’s cultural context. She spoke honestly about having made assumptions, assumptions about how her client perceived herself. And she was wrong. She candidly admitted that had she asked, she would have been in a better position.

 Ryan Heeman recounted his personal perspectives on what post-racial means to him and what it might look like in his personal experience as a “Generation-Y’er.” His own story mirrored mine, except that Ryan knew to look the individuals in the eye and treat them as nothing more than some youths out to have fun.

 Other panel members addressed the issues of religious tolerance and understanding, and individualist and collectivist world views. They are not unique to a culture, says Inna Edara, speaking of his own findings in his dissertation research. And commonality is also not a given, according to Thomas Skeeter, who recounted his visit to Haiti. He expected to find something similar to his own community. Instead he learned that some Haitians could not understand how the African American community failed to reach out to them when they came as immigrants to America. The Haitian youths envied his opportunities for education.

The session ended with suggestions for more presentations and work in this field. Professor Katherine Oakes hopes to continue discussions on diversity and multicultural issues in the Fall of 2012.

Finding my vocation at Loyola

Many students in the Pastoral Counseling programs were attracted to Loyola specifically because they are encouraged – and even guided in how – to approach counseling through the lens of their faith.  I am one such student.  My journey began in the MA program after several people had asked me to be their spiritual director.  Having no qualifications to do that, my answer to them was no.  However, I felt God asking me to become qualified.  I am a consecrated virgin in the Catholic Church and I understood my new calling as a way in which to reach out to others considering their own vocation.  What I realized very early on was that my new calling is really a way in which to live out my own vocation.  I switched over to the MS program at the end of my first semester, anxious to become a licensed clinical professional counselor…a career I would have never guessed I’d be in.

            I am a Christian.  I believe God is love and Jesus is God.  Therefore, Jesus also is love.  When I took my vows in the Order of Consecrated Virgins, I became a “bride of Christ,” as the rite declares.  As such, I believe I must also be love.  Before starting at Loyola, I thought I was doing pretty well at being love.  I was very accepting and respectful of others – of their faith traditions, sexual orientation, ethnicity, personal stories.  Or so I thought.  Classes like Contemporary Religious Perspectives, Psychopathology, and Diversity Issues in Counseling opened my eyes to the many ways in which my heart had been closed.  I began to see how many limits I had been trying to place on my limitless God and I was given tools to break apart that box I was trying so hard to fit Him in. 

            I am constantly amazed at how other people understand God.  In this program I have encountered Buddhists, Muslims, Baha’i, Orthodox Jews, Hindus, Protestants, and Seventh Day Adventists.  I have been blessed to hear them share the God they know so well.  I see their God and my God are not as far removed from one another as I once thought.  God, as I know Him, looks much different than He did the day I married Him.  He is more beautiful and more loving than I gave Him credit for.  And the more I meet Him through the program, I am falling in love with Him all over again.