The Master of Arts in Counseling/Master of Arts (Biblical and Theological Studies) Degree Program


Program Overview

The M.A. in Counseling/M.A. (Biblical and Theological Studies) dual degree program expands the student's preparation in the biblical and theological areas. It is designed to prepare individuals for both professional counseling and such ministries as family ministries, pastoral care, discipleship, and small group ministries. The Master of Arts in Counseling degree program is designed to meet the educational requirements for state licensure.

The purpose of the Master of Arts (Biblical and Theological Studies) degree is to provide a graduate level understanding of biblical and theological disciplines for students seeking specialized education. It is ideal for students with various academic goals and realize the need for graduate study in theological and biblical disciplines; persons seeking a solid theological education to enhance their chosen professions and prepare them to fill a vital ministry role; students building a substantial academic foundation for doctoral studies; and for those serving with parachurch organizations or other specialized ministries who desire advanced biblical/theological competency. The M.Div. program is recommended for those preparing for a ministry where ordination is expected or required (e.g., the pastorate or chaplaincy) 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 incorporates an integrative approach from a biblical worldview that seeks to understand, explain, and treat emotional, relational, behavioral, and spiritual problems that people face in life. 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 participates in clinical experience in practicum and internship positions counseling clients in the community. 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 a certificate of completion upon graduation. Students are trained to master the art of counseling from a biblically-informed worldview.

Portland Campus Program (CACREP accredited)

Western Seminary’s Portland M.A. in Counseling degree specializing in Clinical Mental Health Counseling is CACREP accredited and the curriculum is designed 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.

Sacramento and San Jose Campus Program

Western Seminary’s Sacramento and San Jose M.A. in Counseling specializing in Marriage, Couple, and Family Counseling, while not CACREP accredited, is approved to meet the requirements to become a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in the State of California. While the State of California and Western Seminary require 325 hours of clinical internship experience, students are wise to consider accruing 700 total clinical hours and 280 client contact hours to meet national standards as adopted by many other states.

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 M.A. (Biblical and Theological Studies) program goals include:

  • Cultivate skills in the efficient study and interpretation of Scripture.
  • Provide theoretical and practical skills in one area of focused specialization; and
  • Promote growth in Christian maturity demonstrated through effective interpersonal relationships.

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

  • Theological reflection and discernment (conviction) by employing advanced theological thinking that integrates a gospel-centered worldview with biblical and social science studies;
  • Spiritual maturity (character) by applying biblical truth to life and ministry resulting in gospel-centered spiritual growth and transformation;
  • Interpersonal skills and emotional health (character) 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 M.A. (Biblical and Theological Studies) student learning outcomes include:

  • Applies biblical truth to life and ministry based on a thorough understanding of the biblical canon.
  • Employs mature theological thinking to evaluate competing ideas, develop a personally integrated and gospel-centered expression of biblical teachings, communicate theological truths clearly, and apply theological truths to life and ministry
  • Understands a broad range of biblical and theological issues, their historical background, and the significance that they have for the life and ministry of God’s people.
  • 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 an ongoing process of personal and spiritual formation that is clearly grounded in the gospel

Admission Requirements

In addition to the general requirements for admission to the Seminary, applicants for the dual M.A. in Counseling/MA(BTS) program must possess a four-year baccalaureate degree or its educational equivalent from a college or university accredited by a United States association holding membership in one of the seven regional accrediting associations, membership in the Association of Universities and Colleges in Canada, membership in the Association for Biblical Higher Education, or from an institution which maintains similar academic requirements and standards. Additionally, applicants must present a GPA of 3.0 or higher, 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 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, and up to 28 credit hours towards the M.A. (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. Transferability of credits earned at Western and transferred to another institution is at the discretion of the receiving institution.

Alternatively, students may receive advanced standing of up to 14 credit hours of the 28 credit hours of transfer credit towards M.A. (BTS) 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. Students can receive a maximum of six credits of advanced standing in NT and OT required courses. Consult the registrar’s office for information on eligibility of transfer credit and advanced standing.

Of the 122 credit hours required for the dual M.A. in Counseling and M.A (Biblical and Theological Studies) program, a minimum of 48 counseling and 28 of biblical and theological studies must be completed through coursework at Western Seminary, with a minimum of 40 credits of counseling and 20 credits of biblical and theological studies taken in resident study at a Western Seminary campus.

Degree Requirements

Students may complete their studies in as few as seven semesters, with a minimum of 122 credits required as a minimum for graduation. The M.A.(B.T.S.) program requires a common core 50 credits including of foundational, biblical, and theological studies and 12 credits of electives while the M.A. in Counseling program requires a common core of 60 credits of counseling coursework.

The Master of Arts in Counseling and Master of Arts (Biblical and Theological Studies) 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; (3) pass the Counselor Preparation Comprehensive Exam during their final semesters in the program, which is in preparation for national licensure exams; and (4) complete clinical experience hours as required.

All work leading to the Master of Arts in Counseling and Master of Arts (Biblical and Theological Studies) combined degree must be completed within six years from the time of matriculation. Permission to extend the six-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 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 (Biblical and Theological Studies) 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
MF500 Intro to Theological Study and Ministry Formation (P/F graded, lab fee) 0
ML506 Ministerial Ethics 2
Biblical Studies: 12 credits
Interpreting Genesis to Song of Solomon 4
Interpreting Prophets to Gospels 4
Interpreting Acts to Revelation 4
Theological Studies: 14 Credits
CH502 Learning from Church History 2
TH501 Knowing the Living God: Theology I 4
TH502 Glorifying the Word of Life: Theology II 4
TH503 Living as the Community of the Spirit: Theology III 4
Restricted Biblical/Theological Electives: 12 credits
With advisor's consent, select courses from BL, BT, CH, NT, OT or TH prefixes. Students are encouraged to consider using part of these electives for study in the biblical languages.
Clinical Mental Health Counseling Specialization (CACREP accredited; Portland Campus only)
Counseling Studies: 60 credits
CNS501 Clinical Foundations: Basic Counseling Skills/Interventions 2
CNS502 Psychological Theory and 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 Integrative Issues in Counseling 2
CNS509 Advanced Integration in Counseling 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 and 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
Marriage, Couple, and Family Counseling Specialization (Sacramento and San Jose Campus only)
Marital and Family Therapy/Counseling Studies: 60 credits
CNS501 Clinical Foundations: Basic Counseling Skills/Interventions 2
CNS502 Psychological Theory and Techniques 3
CNS503 Family Systems Therapy 3
CNS504 Psychotherapeutic Systems 2
CNS505 Psychopathology 3
CNS506 Legal and Ethical Issues 2
CNS507 Human Life Span Development 3
CNS508 Integrative Issues in Counseling 2
CNS509 Advanced Integration in Counseling 2
CNS510 Spiritual Development and Assessment 2
CNS512 Group Counseling 3
CNS513 Social and Cultural Foundations 2
CNS516 Marriage and Couple Counseling 3
CNS517 Child and Adolescent Therapy 2
CNS518 Career and Lifestyle Development 2
CNS523 Human Sexuality 2
CNS524 Research in Counseling and Family Studies 2
CNS525 Tests and Measurements 3
CNS526 -or- Psychopharmacology
CNS527 Physiology, Pharmacology, and Addiction
CNS529 Counseling Addictions 2
CNS530 Counseling Practicum I 2
CNS531 Counseling Practicum II 2
CNS532 Counseling Practicum III 2
CNS544 Counseling Violence and Abuse Issues 3
CNS553 Human Services 2
CNS559 Emergency Preparedness: Crisis Management 2