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.

Life after Loyola |An Interview with Lurlene D. Sweeney, LCPC

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).

A Journey of Faith and Fulfillment

A journey of faith and fulfillment. When I read those words on the Loyola’s Pastoral Counseling website, I felt the connection. I have come to see my life as journey, one that needs discernment, one that believes in destiny. I was facing yet another major life change when I felt the call to enter the Pastoral Counseling program. 

My first discernment of journey came early in life. I felt called to the monastic life when still in my teens.  I applied and got accepted into a monastery. Following that call required privations and sacrifices, leaving family and friends behind as I forged a new family, community and life. I found the call challenging but remained in it for many years. Finally, circumstances made it clear I needed a change. Though it proved the most difficult decision in my life, I accepted the call to move on and left the monastery.

But moving on can mean so many things. I found it hard to identify with my peers when I went on to college.  I felt out of place with my colleagues when I got my first job. I watched life progress and felt as though I were standing and watching it through a window, forever wondering where I fit in. Perhaps I had somehow gotten lost on my journey, perhaps I had missed my turn or wandered into areas I was not meant to be.

Then I found the ad in Commonweal describing the Pastoral Counseling program at Loyola. It mentioned calling, journey, and spirituality. I felt the attraction, I felt it to be the fit I longed for.

When I came for my interview, I knew my first test would be getting accepted into the program. Next, I would have to complete the requirements. But I was no stranger to sacrifice and challenge, to discernment and prayer.

Best of all, I have found classmates in this program who have had similar experiences, whose journeys have not been straight and narrow, but rather winding along a path of uniqueness. I am thrust into a group that is no stranger to suffering, sacrifice, and challenge. Here, I no longer look out the window and wonder about the rest. I sit at table and discuss, share, and experience.

I find strength in learning of the journeys of others. I find inspiration, comfort, and encouragement at the commitment others are making to be in this program, seeking a degree in Pastoral Counseling. I find that many, like me, are changing careers, forging a new path, accepting the daunting challenge of becoming a Pastoral Counselor.

And so I continue with my journey, working in the Master of Science program, hoping to become a Pastoral Counselor. And I know I am not alone.

From Brokenness to Healing

I have started on a new path.   A few years ago, I was meeting with a spiritual director to discuss a possible change in vocation. When I discussed my interests in working with counseling and spirituality, she mentioned the Pastoral Counseling Program at Loyola.  I have been receiving mailings from the program for the past few years and decided this was the year for me to start. I connected the start of this journey with the start of another one, when my wife and I were searching for a church home. We found it at St. Marks Episcopal Church, Capitol Hill. It practices an open communion. Every Sunday our clergy state the following:  “No matter where you are on your faith journey, no matter what you believe or do not believe, you are welcome to eat at God’s table.” Admittedly, my wife and I were taken aback when we first visited the church, mostly because the openness we experienced felt so different from any type of church culture in which we grew up. We came back and have stayed for almost ten years because we love the community, and its values resonate with what we want for our family.

In addition to the openness of St. Mark’s, I felt a connected to the idea of “brokenness” that often is the topic of sermons. I grew up Catholic and many of my church memories connected to the feelings of guilt and shame that individuals were meant to bear privately as a result of sins they committed. At St. Mark’s we talk about “brokenness” as those parts of our lives that prevent us from becoming the people we are called to be.  Instead of feeling like our brokenness needs to be hidden in the shadows, I have learned that it is through greater examination of these parts of our lives and the process of bringing them into the light that we get closer to understanding ourselves and enhancing our relationships with others. This is where I find the most meaning of what it means for me to be a pastoral counselor. How can I serve others helping them work through some of the brokenness in their lives, and also by continuing to work on my own?

This is the big question that serves as my compass at the start of my journey in the Master of Science in Pastoral Counseling program.  It has served me well, along with the phenomenal faculty, like Dr. Elizabeth Maynard and Dr. Dee Preston-Dillon, and students I have encountered in the Human Development and Introduction to Pastoral Counseling classes. I am not sure where this path will lead me, but that’s okay for now. It has been a rich and rewarding experience thus far.

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.

Beginning with a single step

The Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu stated, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. My decision to enroll in the Pastoral Counseling Program was that single step on the long journey to becoming a professional counselor.

I started my professional career as an accountant armed with an Accounting Degree from the University of Maryland – College Park. For 15 years, my life was filled with numbers, spreadsheets and financial statements. It was honorable work and I was good at it, yet as the fiscal years began to add up, I realized that there was a source of fulfillment that was missing. My faith had always been an integral part of my life and in 2004 that increased significantly as I finished my denomination’s five year process to become an ordained minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. In that role it is my humbling pleasure and privilege, to serve the members of the church and the community. A good portion of that service is encouraging others, instilling hope, providing spiritual direction and being present with persons as they experience life. In the pursuit of this I realized that even with a generous heart and the best intentions, increased knowledge was needed to become more effective in my service. That is when I made the decision to go back to school for a degree in counseling.

Loyola became a logical choice for multiple reasons. I didn’t want just any counseling degree, I wanted one that would embrace and not dismiss the solid foundation of faith that was already in my life. The Pastoral Counseling program at Loyola connected with those same goals. The diversity that Loyola offers in both cultural backgrounds and religious faiths was also very attractive. The differences in perspective and points of view have been both enlightening and enriching. Lastly, I had the experience of observing a class during one the department’s “Open Houses.” Seeing the interaction between the students and the professor was exhilarating. In fact, at one point the class discussion was so engaging that I had to stop myself from jumping in. I know now that even in my “pre-enrolled” state, my verbal contribution would have been welcomed and valued.

I started my MS Pastoral Counseling Degree journey in the fall of 2010 and I start my clinical internship next semester. So I have stopped counting the steps and am now truly enjoying the journey.

“Do we hafta pray?” Finding the divine spark.

“Do we hafta pray?”

 “I’ve never found religion all that useful.”

“What’s that mean . . .  pastoral counseling?”

“I don’t need God. God won’t pay my rent!”

These are composite statements and attitudes of some clients who have come to me for counseling. Here are my witty responses:

“Would you like to pray?”

 “What do you find useful?”

“What does it mean to you?”

“Maybe if you asked nice He would.”

Okay. I really didn’t use that last one.

My clinical internship is supported by an on-site pastoral care department. They promote my presence as being that of a pastoral counselor. Some people seek me out because they want a spiritual component to their counseling. Others come to me wanting counseling, but expressing reluctance or outright refusal to being “pastoralized” (<–not a real word).

Life in my little counseling room is easy when clients intentionally walk with God or any belief in spirituality or a higher power. At Loyola, I’ve learned to meet my clients where they are at and talk the common theme of spirituality regardless of religion. With non-God/non-spiritual clients, my pastoral presence struggles a bit. Wanting to respect their boundaries, God, Jesus, spirit, and prayer become secrets that I hide in my mental closet.

Meeting the non-spiritual client where he or she is at is challenging because I cannot be a non-spiritual counselor. Like breathing, my spirituality is both a voluntary and involuntary response. Even if I choose not to speak of it in session, my spiritual presence is still very active, humming along in the background, influencing my way of being, and scanning the surface for a chance to connect with the client.

Sometimes, my Type A pastoral presence wants to bop non-spiritual clients on the head and say: “How can you NOT realize and attend to your spirit???!!!” My more reasonable, compromising pastoral presence has come to rely on the concept of Namaste: recognizing the “Divine spark” that lives in all of us.

Silently present, Namaste acknowledges the divine within non-God/non-spiritual clients. It waits with eternal patience at the closed door where their spirituality lives. 

Namaste knows there is always somebody home.

From teacher to counselor

I have always been the type of person that wants to better myself.  I thought my undergraduate degree in Theology would take me very far in life.   What it did in fact, was, allow me to see how much more education I needed to succeed.  Until recently, I had been looking for a graduate program that would incorporate my interest in Theology with helping people. I knew that online education was not really for me, I prefer to meet people face-to-face and have conversations in real life rather than in some small square on my monitor.  Then, at the mall, I saw an ad for Loyola University’s graduate degree program in Pastoral Counseling and how to attend an information session. The information I received made me think and reflect on my life’s decisions. It was a perfect fit for me, the synthesis of spirituality and counseling. As a teacher, I often find myself counseling students to make good choices.  This degree would not only allow me to help students, but, adults as well.

I have learned so much since starting my first year of the MS program for Pastoral Counseling. In addition to the overall learning experience, the professors are what really make the classes come alive. Dr. Jill Snodgrass, Ph.D. enriched the introduction to pastoral counseling class by allowing us to write weekly reflections on our service-learning experiences. These allowed us to integrate our classroom learning with our volunteer experiences and is the a prime example of a Jesuit education—the ability to make what you are learning come alive! Even after the semester has come to a close, I still volunteer at the organization because of the wonderful experience I had there.

One of the memorable moments I remember in counseling theory class with Dr. Sharon Cheston, Ed.D.  was when she showed us an actual Counselor/client experience with one of our classmates.  Being in the room, you can feel the peace she brings to the situation.  Another hallmark of a Jesuit education: the opportunity to take what you are learning and see it first-hand in practice. In addition to great educators, there are many resources made available to help guide and aid the graduate student. From financial aid to writing workshops (APA) Loyola has made provisions for the student to succeed completely.  If you are the type of person that likes to help others and you have an open heart and mind, then, this program of study is for you!  Click here to begin your journey.

“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails,” Proverbs 19:21 (NIV). | Michelle Adams


That scripture comes to mind when I reflect on my personal journey and decision to attend Loyola.  I am the spouse of an Army officer, and last summer, our family moved from Missouri to Maryland.  Initially, I refused to move with my husband, because we have a son with a joint custody agreement.  It was not “my plan” to leave or separate as a family – I couldn’t even entertain the idea.  But then God placed a strong and clear calling for me to trust Him … I knew that He was sending us to Maryland.  I knew there was a higher reason and calling, but I had no idea that a few months later I would find myself applying to Loyola University to be a pastoral counselor.

It all came about when searching for job openings in the area.  I had been separated from my son, and longed to discern why and what God had in mind.  Instead of job matches, a biography of an alumna from Loyola first appeared in my Google search window.  She had earned a master’s of science in pastoral counseling and instantly my heart leaped at the thought of “pastoral” or “spiritual” and counseling combined.  In the same day, God confirmed my calling – His purpose – by crossing my path with three people who spoke highly of Loyola’s reputation and commented, “it’s a renowned program.”  Having worked at a university for 15 years in Missouri, I believe God knew that it would be important to me that Loyola had quality academics and a solid reputation.

Before I could apply and seriously consider the pastoral counseling program, I started exploring financial aid and scholarship opportunities.  Living on a single income, I had no idea how we could afford graduate school.  That same day my husband came home from work and stated, “you are eligible for post 9-11 G.I. bill education benefits!”   I was floored how God had everything in place.  I also visited and attended one of the classes to ensure the location was accessible (I’m not a city-driver), the students and faculty were friendly, and class times would accommodate our family commitments.   It was ALL in check with my mind, body, heart, and soul. 

My journey as a M.S. Pastoral Counseling student just began this past January 2012, but there hasn’t been one class that I haven’t walked away thanking God for the opportunity and privilege to attend Loyola and to soon serve Him as a pastoral counselor.