WWJP: What Would Jesus Practice?

Vernon WareWho is someone that you look up to as a counselor? Adler, Frankl, Freud, Perls (yes, Fritz and Laura), Ellis, Beck, May? The list of names goes on and on, but I wanted to suggest one name that you might not have considered. Jesus. One of the many titles that is conferred upon Jesus is “Wonderful Counselor” (Isaiah 9:6) and I would hope that at least being “good” counselors is something that all of us have as a goal. So with that in mind, I wondered this simple question, WWJP? What Would Jesus Practice? Can we look at the life of Jesus and detect a partiality to a specific theory of counseling?

Would Jesus be considered a proponent of Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) when he counseled a rich young ruler to consider giving up all of his riches to the poor, so that he could truly be fulfilled?

Would Jesus’s time with his disciples be considered a very intensive Reality therapy session since Jesus asked them to make the choice to be in relationship with him and the other disciples to change their lives?

Would Jesus be considered a proponent of Person-centered therapy because of his brief group therapy session with the woman caught in adultery (John 8:3-11) and the men who accused her, where he asked very few questions but changed the behaviors of both the men and the woman?

Would Jesus be considered an Adlerian because of his transformative meeting with Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-9)? Jesus met with someone who was hated, even by himself, and in one conversation changed his thinking about himself and fostered Zacchaeus’ social interest so much that Zacchaeus said that he would repay those he had cheated four times over.

Jesus broke many of the conventions of that time: working on the Sabbath, having conversations with women and having connection with Gentiles, just to name a few.  So could we conclude that he was a proponent of the Existential approach since he championed the freedom of persons to choose their own direction in life?  

And while it is uncomfortable for me to put Jesus and Sigmund Freud in the same sentence, I do have to admit that Jesus did have a skill at getting through other’s Ego-defense Mechanisms.

There is obviously much more that can be said on this topic and I hope that you will respond and do just that! I would love to hear your feedback and get your answer to WWJP – What Would Jesus Practice?

Tiffany (Coons) O’Hara – An M.S. Graduate Success Story

JoAnn: What led you to Loyola’s Department of Pastoral Counseling and Spiritual Care?

Tiffany: I got my undergraduate degree from Mt. Saint Mary’s and knew I wanted to stay in Maryland.  While looking for graduate programs in Clinical Psychology, I saw Pastoral Counseling, but I had no idea what it was. I researched it, and the more I learned about it, the more I realized that it was the perfect fit for me with its blend of psychology and spirituality. I was not comfortable pushing aside my faith in my career path. I discerned Loyola was a good fit for me.

JoAnn: How was it at Loyola?

Tiffany: I loved Loyola from day one!  Starting class with a prayer, meeting people from different faith backgrounds, experiencing everyone’s passion to help other people, and the way they integrate spirituality into their work was so inspiring for me from my first class to my last and now.

JoAnn: What were your most memorable experiences?

Tiffany: Dr. Sharon Cheston’s and Dr. Frank Richardson’s classes stood out for me. Family Counseling and Pastoral Integration were my favorite classes. The clinical portions of my studies were meaningful for me. Getting hands-on experience with different supervisors was extremely helpful.  Two years of internship gave me the confidence to go out into the workforce and know that I was ready.

JoAnn: Where did you do your internships?

Tiffany: My first one was at St. Francis Academy, a Catholic High School in Baltimore, and the second year I was at Lighthouse Youth and Family Services. I had a practicum supervisor, an on-site supervisor, and a small group supervisor in my first internship and two supervisors in my second.  I learned so much from all of them and would advise students to make the most of the supervision that they receive.

JoAnn: I heard you got married, bought a new house, went on your first ever cruise for a honeymoon, got a new dog, wrote the Professional Seminar paper, and got a new job!  How did you juggle it all?

Tiffany: Through the grace of God!  And, with very supportive family/friends and self-care. I did a lot of knitting and crocheting blankets/scarves. I prayed and journaled. I had a “keep my eyes on the prize” mentality.  Everything that happened, while stressful, was a positive thing, so that helped.  Knowing that I was called to be a counselor helped me to get through the program.

JoAnn: How was the job hunting process?

Tiffany: I started job hunting my second to last semester before I graduated. Perhaps I was a bit pre-emptive, but I am glad I did. The process was frustrating and discouraging! I put out so many resumes and only got only two bites. I was in a catch-22 situation. I had not yet graduated or gotten my license. I interviewed with Contemporary Family Services. I told them I wanted to be a school-based counselor and they were looking for a counselor for their charter schools in Baltimore. They offered me the job on the spot! I will start as soon as my LGPC (Licensed Graduate Professional Counselor) certification is completed.

JoAnn: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Tiffany: I am thankful, grateful, and blessed to have gone through the program, graduated, and to be where I am now.  I enjoyed my years at Loyola in the PC
Program
and I miss it much more than I thought I would.

Is “Diversity” really about Differences?

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I am a person who doesn’t like to be around people who are like me, but instead different.  I have always sought out friendships and experiences that expand my understanding and love for people, and I’m often marveled at how our heavenly Father beautifully crafted us together.  So when I first began Loyola University’s career development class, I felt like a fawn frolicking amongst a meadow of diversity.  My class represented a variety of religious beliefs, nationalities, sex, ethnicity, professions and talents.    But as the class came to an end, I found myself less amazed by our differences, and more in tune with our commonalities – our personhood – the very life, breath, and heart of God’s creation.

Our final assignment was a demonstration from each student expressing his/her personal life path and addressing the question of identity, “Who am I?”  Sharing of the “self” is not easy or comfortable for many.  However, each student was given the creative liberty to demonstrate meaningful moments, persons, or experiences that have helped shape their identity.   In my personal journey, for example, I’ve come to realize that my life isn’t really about “who am I?”  For me it’s about, “knowing who He is – knowing Jesus.”  Instead of what I know or do, it’s about Who I know and what He does.  It has especially been through my struggles and weaknesses that God has proven faithful and strong.

My peers expressed themselves through drama, sand art, music, poetry, pottery, film, media, and scrapbooks.  It was a beautiful moment of how sharing of the “self” causes all other differences to become less definitive of “who we are.”  As my classmates grew increasingly comfortable sharing their stories with one another, I witnessed a group of people become “one” — I believe just as God describes in 1 Cor. 12:12-14.  It wasn’t our stories of success, achievement, or credentials that united us, but it was our openness about life’s failures, hurts, and mistakes.  To be open and allow others to see “you” — each one a masterpiece, yet also so human, fragile, and dependent on Christ — unveils all differences.  We are what I like to call, “commonly different.”

It was as though God intentionally pulled pieces from his human fabric – my peers — from across the globe to weave together one majestic tapestry.  Each thread so unique and exquisite, yet when hidden or separated, unable to fulfill God’s common purpose and good.

As counselors, I believe it’s so very important that we embrace diversity and extend compassion to people from all walks of life.  But, beyond diversity, are hearts and souls … the highest calling for Pastoral Counselors.

Why does CACREP matter? An interview with Dr. Oakes on accreditation, retirement, and excellence

Dr. OakesHave you heard that Dr. Oakes was retiring?  Not just yet!  We still need her expertise.  Loyola University is in line with the trend according to Business News Daily of employers who are hiring workers over 50 valuing their experience, credentials, and mentoring abilities.
Read on to find out why Dr. Oakes changed her retirement plans, and to uncover exactly what CACREP is and why it matters.
Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing my new boss in the Pastoral Counseling Department, Dr. K. Elizabeth Oakes (Kayliz).  I work with Dr. Oakes chiefly on our pursuit of CACREP re-accreditation through the self-study process. Below is an account of the interview highlights.
 
 
JoAnn: How long have you been with Loyola’s Pastoral Counseling Department?
Dr. Oakes: I joined the Loyola Pastoral Counseling faculty, July 1, 2002.  So, I am coming up on my 10th year.  I am coming from a background of clinical training as well as practice.  I am a graduate of this program. I graduated with my doctoral degree in 1999, and a CAS (Certificate of Advanced Study) in 1994.
(Dr. Oakes alluded to closing out her work here and retiring, so I asked her about it.)
JoAnn: That leads into my next question, I heard that you were retiring, but now I hear that you have taken on the role of Chair of the Pastoral Counseling Department?  Can you tell me how all that came about?
Dr. Oakes:  The Interim Chair.  I found out, as it were, (that I will serve) for a year in that role as a transitional object.   Are you familiar with that term?  I am using it inappropriately though, in clinical counseling it is not used that way.  (I am serving as Interim Chair) in order for the department to move between the loss of the previous chair due to illness, and to do a faculty search to get a chair brought into the department.

JoAnn: And does that have anything to do with CACREP – you staying on and changing your plans of retiring and taking on the role of Chair?
Dr. Oakes: Yes, it has everything to do with CACREP.  They would like the leadership of the department to have a background in Counseling Education.  And the previous interim chair had a background in English Literature, so we needed to change that.

JoAnn: So, not only are you functioning to help with CACREP accreditation, but your very credential helps with CACREP because you have what they are looking for in the leadership of the department?
Dr. Oakes: Yes, that is correct.  My degree is in Counseling Education.

JoAnn:  Ok, let’s back up a bit.  For those who may not know, what is CACREP exactly?
Dr. Oakes: Let’s start with the name itself.   It stands for Counsel for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs.  This is the accrediting body for the American Counseling Association.  …  CACREP looks to provide standardization and consistency in the quality, content, and relevance of the curriculum of students who are in counselor education programs. 

It does this in several different ways, but the two main ones are CACREP:

  1. Looks at the content of the courses
  2. Examines/monitors how we prepare our students to become professionals in the field; seeing that the formation of the students’ professional identity is consistent with that of the field and then making sure that the teachers who teach are qualified and of a caliber that helps to meet the expectations of CACREP standards. 

 (When I asked Dr. Oakes why CACREP accreditation is important, she offered)

Dr Oakes: … it is more like CACREP is a watch dog, like AMA for physicians.  It gives you credibility to the public that is seeking your services.  If they see that you have been trained by a CACREP accredited program, they will be assured that you have had a quality of training in line with what the profession expects for its counselors to have. 

JoAnn: How did you become the CACREP expert for the department?
Dr Oakes: This past school year, 2011-2012, I was the MS Program Director, and the CACREP process makes sense to fall under the purview of whoever is in that position.  Also, I had training from CACREP to conduct the self-study. 

JoAnn:  So what does the PC Department do to keep its CACREP accreditation?
Dr. Oakes:  (She says as we share a laugh.) You would have good insight into that!  We conduct a CACREP accreditation self–study.  We investigate, review, analyze, and assess how well we have been doing as compared to the standards that CACREP has laid out for us.

Our self-study then is reviewed by CACREP officials.  Next, we have a visit from a CACREP team that samples what we have told them in the self-study for verification.  They write a review and analysis and make recommendations to the CACREP board of directors, and at that point the decision is made whether or not to grant the accreditation status. 

Once the board makes a decision to grant us re-accreditation, we could get an interim re-accreditation (2-3 year) or a full accreditation (8 years).

JoAnn: Is there anything else about CACREP that you think we need to know?
Dr. Oakes: Well, it is very important to have CACREP accreditation!  It really makes the department pay attention to the quality and character of the faculty that we hire, it makes us look closely at the admission strategies and the assessment of potential students and their ability to be successful in the program, and it contributes to the evolving professionalization of the field.

The Pastoral Counseling Department also holds university-wide Middle States accreditation, and at least 3 certifications: the National Board of Certified Counselors, the National Association of Pastoral Counselors, and International Registry of Counsellor Education Programs (IRCEP).  

 

 
 
 

 

Counseling Programs: Secular or Pastoral?

Shared Counseling Program Experiences—“Something Beautiful for God”

By: Tara Mastoris

My boyfriend, Anthony, and I are both in graduate counseling programs. Anthony does not go to Loyola’s Pastoral Counseling program. He attends another school’s clinical counseling program. I thought it would be interesting to share Anthony’s experience of being a faithful person in a secular program versus my experience of being a faithful person in a faith-based program.

Some difficulties Anthony finds being in a secular program:

1. It can be frustrating at times going to school with people who do not turn to faith in the counseling process (mentioning God and/or a Higher Power in counseling conversations seemed so foreign in the classroom environment).
2.  Anthony expected faith to be incorporated more into the classroom than it is. This became especially obvious when one of his professors discouraged prayer and talking about prayer with clients.

Some benefits Anthony finds in his program:
1.  Though faith is not prominently discussed, Anthony is encouraged by the informal discussions about faith among his classmates.
2.  In our conversations, Anthony has begun to discover more about the pastoral side of counseling. In his future practice, God will be the center of the therapeutic relationship between him and his clients.
3.  Anthony believes he is more aware of God’s presence in the counseling process because he has a growing awareness of the absense of faith discussions in classes.

Some of the benefits of a pastoral program for me:
1. I love that prayer is an integral part of the classroom discussion.
2.  Prayer has served as a vehicle to learn more about my classmates. Through conversation and prayer, I have been able to participate in their journeys.
3.  The faculty is committed to integrating spirituality and counseling.
4.  I am able to evaluate my progress not just as an academic student, but I am also able to reflect upon my spiritual growth.

I love Mother Teresa’s following words: “You can do what I can’t do. I can do what you can’t do. Together we can do something beautiful for God.” Anthony and I have discovered that the differences in our counseling programs have allowed us further reflection on the types of counselors we hope to be.  

When we share our different experiences and use our strengths and gifts to the fullest in whatever we pursue, we can “do something beautiful for God.”

A Jesuit’s Journey: Maryland by way of Zambia and Lusaka

Excuse me, please” a voice called from the back. “What you are explaining, it is the one way ANOVA?” The voice came from an International student, Nicholas Penge. The class, Statistics and Research Methods.

Nicholas Penge

Nicholas Penge

Nicholas Penge is no stranger to education. His father, a teacher, first worked in the schools owned and operated by the Coppermines in Luanshya, Zambia.  At ten, Nick’s father moved the family north, as he changed his employment by working for the government as a teacher in the Primary school.

Nick loved learning. He admits that even from his earliest years, he also felt drawn to the priesthood. Thus he entered the minor seminary secondary school, and later joined the Franciscans. After two and a half years, though, Nick believed the fit not right and left.

Nick then enrolled in the University. But unrest and riots caused the government to shut it down, and again, he headed home. He could not help but wonder where his life-work lay. As he thought about this question, he found himself again attracted to service, and with the encouragement of his parish priest, he went to a “Come and See” hosted by the Jesuits in Lusaka.

“The ‘Come and See’ event really grabbed my heart,” Nick says now. He entered the congregation and was sent to Zimbabwe for his first studies. This time the fit felt right.

As Nick went through the various stages of his studies, he found that psychology interested him quite a bit.  When he went on to minister to various people, whether it was as an assistant in a parish, director of vocations, chaplain to prisoners or vulnerable mothers, he could see that he needed more when dealing with the cases brought before him. “I could see that the cases were not totally spiritual, but psychological as well,” he admits.

And so Nick began his search once again, this time for a program that would not only combine spirituality with psychology, but would offer him a Master of Science degree. He consulted with friends and colleagues, and found many who recommended Loyola University of Maryland’s Pastoral Counseling program. Nick applied and came to the United States in 2011.

As he finishes his first year, Nick says that this program is important to him. “Before, people came to me with problems that were psychological as well as spiritual. I felt my lack of psychological understanding did them a disservice.” Nick hopes he may continue on to the PhD program, but admits, that decision will be down the road.

Shamanic Revelations

When you hear the word “shaman,” what image pops up in your mind:

  • A short skinny guy wearing a grass skirt dancing dangerously close to a fire?
  • The dark hidden face of an ancient medicine man or woman chanting softly to the spirits?
  • Jesus? (Gasp! Yes, Jesus was a shaman . . . probably the best ever.)

In fact, the Society of Jesus and shamanism have common ways of being in the world. Before you stone me as a heathen, read on.

The online Merriam-Webster dictionary has a woefully antiquated, inadequate, and unenlightened definition of a shaman: “a priest or priestess who uses magic for the purpose of curing the sick, divining the hidden, and controlling events.”

Yikes. Uses magic? Nope. According to the Foundation for Shamanic Studies:

“In a holistic approach to healing, the shaman uses the spiritual means at his or her disposal in cooperation with people in the community who have other techniques such as plant healing, massage, and bone setting. The shaman’s purpose is to help the patient get well.” (Shamanic Healing: We Are Not Alone).

Jesuits come from all walks of life. Shamans can be anyone and rarely use a title such as priest or priestess. I personally know of one shaman traipsing the halls and classrooms of Loyola University with the title “student.”

Like shamanism, Ignatian spirituality is incarnational – God is not “out there” somewhere; God is right here in ALL things: people, events, objects, elements, animals, insects, and the stars. Jesuits are “contemplative in action” and take their meditative and reflective way of being into the world to guide their actions. Shamans converse with the spirits of plants, animals, and divine beings and apply that guidance in life and administering to the sick.

A shaman does not “cure” anybody but instead provides the energy and knowledge that support healing just as a Jesuit might bring the presence of God through prayer to help people heal. Divining the hidden in shamanism is no more than providing something for a person to reflect on and respond to which is similar to pastoral counseling.

Although Jesus could control events, his primary interest was letting life unfold in accordance with God’s love, even when this resulted in his crucifixion. Almost 2,000 years later, today’s shaman will follow his lead and consult him as a spiritual teacher when it comes to life’s events.

Just ask me.

Hiking Shoes and Water Required

This is the perfect time of the year for getting up early and going for a hike. The other day, I grabbed my water pack and my puppy—a five-year-old black lab/beagle mix named Princess and headed to the park.

Princess on our hike

                We arrived at the trailhead and began our trek through the woods following the trails that are already shaped out for hikers; at some point our curiosities led us off the trail and into the woods with little to guide us. We traversed some water obstacles—well I traversed, Princess just sat in the water. We climbed steep hills, over dead trees, and I slid down a muddy hill on my butt. It was an exciting six-mile hike through the woods.

Chrystal in Iraq 2004

Chrystal in Iraq 2004

                Trekking through the woods reminds me of my life’s journeys. There are ups and downs; sometimes the path looks impossible with tall hills, rocks, water, and obstacles—all to be overcome. Risks need to be taken when faced with obstacles and when deciding to stay on a path laid out for you or to leave it and travel the unknown.     

                Most people who know me would tell you that I’ve done a lot for a thirty something. Life is a journey—and I love it. I served in the U. S. Army for over five years—even going to Iraq; I worked as a government contractor—boring; I packed everything I own and moved 500 miles south to go to a small private Christian college—because I wanted to live in a small town; I spent a summer in China teaching English to teachers—awesome!; I went through a period of depression in college—I had teachers and counselors that cared and helped me through it; I went to South Africa, India, Bangladesh, and Mozambique for a semester to complete my undergrad internship; I graduated from college—it took me 12 years to complete and I was the first in my family to do it!

                I thought I was on the wrong trail when I found myself back in Maryland. I wanted to find a different trail, but I wasn’t even sure which direction it was in. I found a path that led me to Loyola University. Everything about my journey has led me here—all my defeats and victories, trials and triumphs!

                My journey is still just beginning—I anticipate that I’ll find some other trails along the way, some I’ll stick to for a while and some I won’t. Along my journey I hope to help others discover their life story and overcome the obstacles to find the path that is meant for them.

Seeking Advice: The Joys & Challenges of Counseling

In my Introduction to Pastoral Counseling class this past fall, Dr. Dee Preston Dillon asked the class to consider what is the “best and the worst” of being a pastoral counselor.  My greatest challenge is having feelings of inadequacy to provide support and guidance to my clients. Related to this challenge is also what I believe to be the greatest opportunity, the possibility of healing for my clients through grace. My counseling can serve as medium for that grace.

I have continued to reflect on this question. Taking a page out of David Letterman’s Top Ten, I’ve started the conversation with my own Top Three. I welcome my colleagues to comment on my post naming their own “challenges” and “joys.” 

DRUMROLL PLEASE

CHALLENGES
3. Value Dissonance
In my Human Development class this spring we discussed what happens when clients’
personal values are not aligned with our own and their choices do not appear to serve in their best interest. . My role as a counselor is to help clients define their intentions in seeking counseling and to be ethical in helping them make choices which are congruent with their intentions, regardless of what those choices may be. I realize this is easier said than done and welcome advice from my colleagues on this issue.
2. Lack of self-awareness
Self-awareness is a life-long process and as frustrating as it is to discover new “blindspots.” These are the experiences that provide opportunities for the greatest learning and growth.
1. Being able to keep the faith
I imagine there will be many days when I will question my abilities as a counselor. I hope that I can seek support from good colleagues and be open to God’s grace in getting me through these times.

JOYS
3. The ability to both be a travel companion and a wayfinder for clients.
We are all on a journey and it is the role of the Pastoral Counselor to walk with our clients while also helping them discern their path.
2. “Aha!” moments
Just like the name of this blog, we are “meaning makers.”  I look forward to the first time I realize when I facilitated an “Aha!” moment for a client.
1. Transformative relationships
Pastoral counselors can help transform their clients’ lives. As I hope for the possibility of transformation for my clients, I know that my relationships with them will also be transformative for me, thus deepening my own spiritual development.

Lessons from the semester: Patience, Presence, Trust, and Wisdom

Mario ConliffeDuring a recent stroll, I observed some children playing merrily and freely in the warmth of the sun. Some splashed about in the community’s pool, while others, barebacked, competed exuberantly in a game of basketball, while others still rode their bicycles. Excitement is in the air; it’s the joy of summer! Can you tell?  I feel refreshed and blessed for I too, am in celebration mode – I just completed my first semester at Loyola.

Whew!

This past semester at Loyola has been richly rewarding. The lively discussions in class, at times, were nail-biters. Passion and compassion fueled many a conversation. I vividly recall in my Counseling Theory and Practice class, a highly emotional discussion on the controversial, sensitive, and much publicized killing of Trayvon Martin. There was great contention on whether or not Loyola’s Pastoral Counseling Community had an obligation to address the issue. Also, what were some of the issues we would need to address, and how would we counsel both families? It further sparked debates about counseling the perpetrators of violence and abuse – Can we truly put aside our personal feelings in order to do so?

At other times, students simply shared their personal life stories. I walked away from each class with a greater spirit of acceptance. I felt honored to be a part of a group of people who feel strongly about justice and healing in our world, but also, people who are desirous of making a great contribution.  For the first time in my academic career, I felt excited about going to EVERY class, and about what I was researching and learning in those classes.

No, my experience at Loyola this semester was not all “bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.” There were intervals, when frustration, a lack of understanding, and my insatiable hunger to “know it all” overwhelmed me, but kudos to my lecturers. They were always encouraging, patient, willing to listen, and would point me in the right direction.

When all is said and done, I have discovered that impatience in the learning process only lengthens the purgatory of the wilderness. So I conclude this semester with these lessons:

  1. Patience: Be Patient. Learning cannot be rushed; there will be moments of rush and moments of calm.
  2. Presence: Be present in the sacred of learning.
  3. Trust: Trust that the learning will come.
  4. Wisdom: Invite wisdom each day.