The Master of Arts in Counseling/Master of Arts in Ministry and Leadership Dual Degree Program


Program Overview

The M.A. in Counseling/M.A. in Ministry and Leadership dual degree program expands the student’s preparation in the biblical and theological areas, and adds a substantial ministerial emphasis. It is designed to prepare individuals for both professional counseling and such ministries as the chaplaincy, pastoral care, women’s leadership, small group ministries. The Master of Arts in Counseling degree program in Clinical Mental Health Counseling is designed to meet the educational requirements for licensure by the Oregon State Board of Licensed Professional Counselors.

The purpose of the Master of Arts (M.A.) in Ministry and Leadership program is to equip persons for ministry leadership in some form of specialized ministry in congregations and other ministry settings. It combines the core ministry and leadership skills with focused ministry specializations required in congregations and parachurch ministries today. The program is not recommended for those preparing for a ministry where ordination is expected or required (e.g., the pastorate) or for those who anticipate subsequent doctor of ministry studies.

The purpose of the Master of Arts (M.A.) in Counseling program is to prepare practitioners of personal integrity and spiritual maturity who will provide effective, ethical, culturally inclusive, professional counseling from a Christian worldview. The program prepares Christian counselors with the knowledge, skills, and insight needed to practice in church and parachurch organizations, family services, mental health clinics, residential and outpatient treatment programs, counseling centers, and public and private clinical mental health counseling settings.

Western's counseling program is designed with an integrative approach which seeks to understand and explain emotional, relational, behavioral, and spiritual problems that people face in life from a biblical worldview. The counseling program places an emphasis on theological reflection and spirituality as they relate to personal development and the therapeutic process. The program includes training in marriage and family issues.

Four major areas of study are blended in the M.A. program: biblical, theological, clinical mental health counseling, and spiritual integration. The program uniquely provides a quality classroom experience. A wide variety of teaching methods are utilized to assist individuals with differing learning styles and to allow for flexibility. Western Seminary emphasizes learning by doing. Each student spends five semesters of clinical experience in practicum and internship positions counseling clients in the community as early as the second semester in the program. Another critical component is the personal examination and reflection that takes place in a variety of settings, including small group case conferences and mentoring with faculty. In these settings, the student is challenged to reflect upon the practical application of theory and what meaning it has for them not only professionally, but also personally. Additionally, graduates of the counseling program may choose to specialize in work with children and adolescents, receiving an official certificate of completion upon graduation. Students are trained to master the art of counseling from a biblically-informed worldview.

Western Seminary’s Portland M.A. in Counseling degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling is CACREP accredited and has designed the curriculum for students anticipating the possibility of seeking licensure in a variety of states. While Western Seminary cannot obtain the individual approval of these states, courses were designed after a careful review of national requirements. Students are encouraged to contact state licensing agencies to determine specific requirements. Western has built elective credits into the curriculum in order for the program to flex with state requirements.

Oregon license applicants who receive their degrees on or after October 1, 2014, must complete 60 or more semester credit hours of counseling and a clinical experience of 700 hours including at least 280 direct contact hours. For further information, please contact the counseling office.

Program Goals and Student Learning Outcomes

The Master of Arts in Counseling program goals include:

  • Equip counselors for clinical mental health counseling positions and for counseling ministry in church and parachurch settings;
  • Integrate biblical and theological foundations with the insights of counseling theory and the use of counseling interventions;
  • Promote growth in Christian maturity in students demonstrated through effective interpersonal relationships;
  • Prepare individuals for state licensure and professional practice.

The Master of Arts in Ministry and Leadership program goals include:

  • The capacity for critical and constructive theological reflection regarding the content and processes of the areas of specialized ministry
  • The skill in the design, implementation, and assessment of ministry in these specialized areas
  • An understanding of the various disciplines that undergird the area of specialized ministry
  • Growth in personal and spiritual maturity.

The Master of Arts in Counseling is designed to prepare graduates of integrity with the following learning outcomes:

  • Spiritual maturity (character) by applying biblical truth to life and ministry resulting in gospel-centered spiritual growth and transformation;
  • Theological discernment (conviction) by employing advanced theological thinking that integrates a gospel-centered worldview with biblical and social science studies;
  • Interpersonal skills and emotional health (character) by demonstrating social and emotional awareness, respect for others, inclusivity in diversity, effectiveness in teamwork, intrapersonal and interpersonal awareness, and the ability to care for self;
  • Counseling skills (competence) by evidencing theoretical knowledge, application of theory, and clinical competence; additionally, students will demonstrate an ability to build an effective culturally inclusive therapeutic alliance with clients utilizing a breadth of clinical skills and technique consistent with current clinical research evidence;
  • Professional practice (competence) by applying their training to internship tasks, integrating supervisory input into clinical work, reflecting on multicultural and contextual issues, engaging cooperatively in the supervision relationship, and behaving in accordance with the ethical standards of the profession.

The Master of Arts in Ministry and Leadership program is designed to prepare graduates with the following learning outcomes

  • Applies biblical truth to life and ministry based on sound hermeneutics and a thorough understanding of the biblical canon.
  • Employs mature theological thinking to evaluate competing ideas, communicates theological truths clearly, and applies theological truths to life and ministry.
  • Exhibits a Christ-like character worthy of being emulated, and integrity that imparts credibility to his/her ministry.
  • Demonstrates self-awareness and a commitment to ongoing personal and spiritual formation.
  • Demonstrates cultural awareness and discernment in theological thinking and ministerial practice.
  • Implements a gospel-centered philosophy of ministry that is biblical, missional, and transformational.
  • Leads others in effective ministry by casting a vision for transformational ministry, equipping others for ministry, and faithfully modeling servant leadership.
  • Demonstrates mastery of the key principles of their chosen area of ministry through effective service in that area.

Admission Requirements

In addition to the general requirements for admission to the Seminary, applicants for the M.A. dual degree program are expected to present an accredited baccalaureate degree (or its equivalent) with a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or higher (on a 4.0 scale), including a breadth of liberal arts. Applicants who do not meet these general academic requirements may petition the Admissions Committee for consideration. A recommendation from the applicant’s pastor and three personal recommendations regarding the applicant’s Christian character and leadership potential also are required.

Entering counseling students are expected to bring a foundational knowledge of psychology. Proficiency in this foundational knowledge will be confirmed through a placement exam, required of all incoming counseling students. If deficiencies are indicated, remedial work will be required. Counseling students may satisfy these deficiencies in one of the following two ways: Complete the appropriate undergraduate course(s) at an approved institution, or complete a recommended course of self-study. The student may not begin the second semester of counseling studies without satisfying proficiency requirements.

Applications must give evidence of personal character, interpersonal relationships, goals, motivation, and potential for future counseling ministry as fitting the program. These will include a vital spiritual life, growing and nurturing relationships with people, commitment to a biblical/theological orientation to the therapeutic process, and vocational aspirations involving the care and nurture of people. As a part of the admission process all counseling applicants will undergo a criminal background check.

Transfer Credit, Advanced Standing, and Residence Requirements

Upon approval by the program director and the registrar’s office, transfer of up to 12 credit hours of counseling is allowed from a state-approved graduate counseling program in the State of Oregon, and up to 26 credit hours towards the M.A. in Ministry and Leadership (Biblical and Theological Studies) from graduate institutions accredited by the Association of Theological Schools. Students must have earned a grade of B or higher for a course to be considered for transfer (courses assigned a passing grade rather than a letter grade will not be considered), and coursework must have completed no more than five years prior to matriculation to Western Seminary.

Alternatively, students may receive advanced standing of up to 14 credit hours of the 28 credit hours of transfer credit towards M.A. in Ministry and Leadership requirements if they are able to demonstrate current competency in required coursework based on prior study (based on parallel undergraduate work or transfer credit that is ineligible for consideration based on age). Advanced standing is allowed for up to eight credits of the required BL courses (501, 502, 503) and eight credits of the required TH courses (501, 502, 503). They may qualify for four additional credits of advanced electives for the remaining credits in each of these required courses. Transferability of credits earned at Western and transferred to another institution is at the discretion of the receiving institution. Consult the registrar’s office for information on eligibility of transfer credit and advanced standing.

Of the 110 credit hours required for the dual M.A. in Counseling and M.A in Ministry and Leadership program, a minimum of 48 counseling and 26 of biblical and theological studies must be completed through coursework at Western Seminary, with a minimum of 40 credits of counseling and 18 credits of biblical and theological studies taken in resident study at Western Seminary’s Portland campus.

Program Specializations

The intent of a ministry specialization is to equip the student with the skills, insights, and training experiences necessary for a distinctly defined ministry role. Eight credits of course work reflect a thoughtful blend of required courses and restricted electives designed to impart the character, knowledge, and skill outcomes deemed essential for each particular role. Two ministry specializations are offered for the combined degree, though not all specialization courses are offered at each campus: Chaplaincy and Women’s Transformational Leadership.

Degree Requirements

Students may complete their studies in as few as seven semesters, with a minimum of 110 credits required as a minimum for graduation. The M.A. in Ministry and Leadership program requires a common core 42 credits including of foundational, biblical, theological and ministerial studies and 16 credits of specialization or track coursework while the M.A. in Marital and Family Therapy program requires a common core of 60 credits of counseling coursework.

The Master of Arts in Counseling and Master of Arts in Ministry and Leadership combined degree is conferred upon the attainment of certain personal and academic requirements. In addition to the general seminary requirements, degree candidates must (1) give evidence of a genuine Christian character, orthodox belief, and conduct consistent with a God-given call to a position of leadership; (2) complete all courses in the prescribed M.A. curriculum with a minimum grade point average of 3.0. During their final semesters in the program students are required to pass the Counselor Preparation Comprehensive Exam, which is in preparation for National Certification and Oregon state licensure.

The Master of Arts in Counseling and Master of Arts in Ministry and Leadership combined degree program must be completed within seven years from the time of matriculation. Permission to extend the seven-year statute of limitation must be granted through submission of an academic petition. Reinstatement to the program after withdrawal requires Admissions Committee action and may subject the student to additional requirements for the degree. All credits applied toward the degree requirements must be earned within ten years of the awarding of the degree.

Professional Assessment of Candidates (PAC Review)

Western Seminary counseling faculty review each student every six months to insure progress is being made toward professional identity as a mental health professional. Students who are doing well receive encouragement. If concerns are indicated, members of the PAC Review committee meet with the student to discuss plans for strengthening their academic and professional candidacy. In rare situations, the committee may advise students to develop other vocational goals. This process is intended to encourage students and support them as they develop as counseling professionals. For a few, this process of monitoring student progress may help prevent unnecessary financial expense preparing for an unsatisfying career.

Master of Arts in Counseling/Master of Arts in Ministry and Leadership Curriculum Plan

Foundational Studies: 10 credits
BT501 Hermeneutics 2
BT502 Understanding Biblical Theology 2
CS501 Loving God and Others 2
CS502 Growing in Prayer and Other Key Spiritual Disciplines 2
MF501 Intro to Theological Study and Ministry Formation 2
Biblical Studies: 12 credits
Please note: Biblical studies, theological studies, hermeneutics and church history courses may be offered in 4-credit or 2-credit formats, depending on the campus location.
Interpreting Genesis to Song of Solomon 4
Interpreting the Prophets to Gospels 4
Interpreting Acts to Revelation 4
Theological Studies: 14 credits
TH501 Knowing the Triune God: Theology I 4
Glorifying the God of Our Salvation: Theology II 4
TH503 Living as the Community of the Spirit: Theology III 4
TH504 Integrating Ministry and Theology 2
Ministerial Studies: 6 credits
ML501 Theology and Practice of Gospel-Centered Ministry 2
ML502 -or- Transformational Leadership 2
WL504 Women in Leadership 2
ML506 Ministerial Ethics 2
ML531-532 Ministry Leadership Formation (P/F graded; lab fee) 0
ML533-534 Ministry Leadership Formation (P/F graded; lab fee; as needed) 0
Counseling Studies: 60 credits
CNS501 Clinical Foundations: Basic Counseling Skills/Interventions 2
CNS502 Psychological Theory & Techniques 2
CNS503 Family Systems Therapy 2
CNS504 Psychotherapeutic Systems 2
CNS505 Psychopathology 3
CNS506 Legal and Ethical Issues 3
CNS507 Human Life Span Development 3
CNS508 Introduction to Integrative Issues 2
CNS509 Advanced Integration 2
CNS510 Spiritual Development and Assessment 2
CNS512 Group Counseling 2
CNS513 Social and Cultural Foundations 2
CNS516 Marriage and Couple Counseling 2
CNS518 Career and Lifestyle Development 2
CNS519 Treatment Planning and Outcome Assessment 1
CNS520 Professional Orientation 1
CNS523 Human Sexuality 2
CNS524 Research in Counseling & Family Studies 2
CNS525 Tests and Measurements 3
CNS526 Psychopharmacology 1
CNS528 Neuropsychology and Intro to Psychopharmacology 1
CNS529 Counseling Addictions 2
CNS530 Counseling Practicum 2
CNS531 Internship Case Conference I 2
CNS532 Internship Case Conference II 2
CNS533 Internship Case Conference III 2
CNS534 Internship Case Conference IV 2
CNS544 Counseling Violence and Abuse Issues 1
CNS557 Emergency Preparedness: Suicide Prevention 1
CNS558 Emergency Preparedness: Trauma Counseling 1
CNS5xx Counseling electives (consult with department advisor) 3
CNS581 Comprehensive Clinical Integration Paper 0

Specialization or Track: 8 credits (select one)

Chaplaincy Track
CA501 The Chaplaincy 2
Restricted electives: 6 credits
Select 6 credits from the courses below, or related electives with advisor approval:
CA505 Hospital Chaplaincy 2
CA530 Military Chaplaincy 2
CA531 Clinical Pastoral Education 2
CNS501 Clinical Foundations: Basic Counseling Skills/Interventions 2
CNS557 Emergency Preparedness: Suicide Prevention 2
Women's Transformational Leadership Track
WL501 Pastoral Understanding of Women 2
WL504 Women in Leadership 2
WL505 Building Relational Ministries for Women 1
WL506 Develop and Deliver Life-Changing Bible Messages 2
WL507 Develop Life-Changing Bible Study Curriculum 1
WL508 Develop Your Discipling and Evangelism Potential 1
Restricted electives: 1 credit
Select 1 credit from the courses below, or related electives with advisor approval:
WL502 Women in Pain, Part 1 1
WL503 Women in Pain, Part 2 1
Note: Students may substitute WL531-534 for MF531-534