The Master of Arts in Counseling/Master of Divinity (Pastoral Counseling Specialization) Dual Degree Program


Program Overview

The M.A. in Counseling/M.Div. (Pastoral Counseling specialization) 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 pastorate, pastoral counseling, family ministries, pastoral care, chaplaincy, discipleship, and small group ministries. Additionally, the dual degree track program begins preparation for membership in the American Association of Pastoral Counselors. The Master of Arts in Counseling degree program is designed to meet the educational requirements for state licensure. Historically, the M.Div. degree has been the recommended program for those preparing for ordination. It is also the recommended education for the Doctor of Ministry program and a recommended degree for admission to advanced programs oriented towards theological research and teaching.

The purpose of the Master of Divinity (M.Div.) program is to prepare persons for ministry leadership and for pastoral and leadership roles in congregations and other settings. The M.Div. course of study is guided by five overarching educational values which the Seminary believes are essential to that objective. Those values are:

  • Outcome-based instruction
  • Spiritual and character formation
  • Mentor relationships
  • Church relatedness
  • Global and cultural awareness

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, 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 engages 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. 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 as Licensed Marital and Family Therapists and/or Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors.

The Master of Divinity program goals include:

  • Develop students’ knowledge of the biblical and theological foundations of the Faith
  • Foster student’s spiritual life and moral integrity
  • Equip students’ capacity for cultural engagement
  • Expand student’s competencies for ministry leadership

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

  • Apply biblical truth to life and ministry based on a thorough understanding of the biblical canon and solid exegesis
  • Employ 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
  • Exhibit a Christ-like character worthy of being emulated, and integrity that imparts credibility to his/her ministry
  • Demonstrate self-awareness and a commitment to an ongoing process of personal and spiritual formation that is clearly grounded in the gospel
  • Demonstrate cultural awareness and discernment in theological thinking and ministerial practice
  • Implement a gospel-centered philosophy of ministry that is biblical, missional, and transformational
  • Communicate God’s truth clearly, accurately, and convincingly
  • Nurture and equip people so that God’s purposes are effectively accomplished in and through them

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 clinical counseling career and ministry. These will include a vital spiritual life, growing and nurturing relationships with people, commitment to a biblical/theological worldview, and vocational aspirations involving the care and nurture of people.

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 41 credit hours towards the M.Div. 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 20 credit hours of the 41 credit hours of transfer credit towards M.Div. 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 128 credit hours required for the dual M.A. in Counseling and M.Div. program, a minimum of 48 counseling and 41 M.Div. credit hours must be completed through coursework at Western Seminary, with a minimum of 40 credits of counseling and 10 credits of M.Div requirements taken in resident study at a Western Seminary campus.

Biblical Language Options

The Seminary offers Master of Divinity students two options to complete their requirements in the biblical languages: the foundational language track and the functional language track.

The foundational language track equips students with both the foundations of the Greek and Hebrew languages, including the elements of grammar, syntax, and reading, and with the skills of exegesis—the interpretation of the text. Then students will be able to read the Bible as it was written and encounter the depths of meaning that can get lost in translation. Students are introduced to a wide range of language tools, including computer programs. Following this track will lay a foundation for in-depth study in advanced classes. It will give students the strongest foundation as life-long learners to teach and preach the biblical text in an informed manner and/or to pursue advanced studies in which this level of original language competence would be expected. In addition, students in this track will be able to read advanced commentaries with greater understanding, be able to take additional elective courses in the interpretation of various biblical books, and be better equipped to evaluate commentaries, articles and theological books on their own. If the study and the preaching of God’s Word is your main focus of ministry, this is the recommended track to take. Students in the exegetical language track enroll in NT511-512, OT511-512, and NTS513 or OT513.

For students who choose not to develop the skill to read and translate the Bible in the original languages, the seminary offers the functional language track. It is designed to give students the practical ability to access the original languages through the Bible Works computer program and other contemporary reference tools. Using these tools, the student will learn the essential grammar and syntax of the biblical languages. Students will use the computer to find word meanings, parsing, etc. By the end of the two-semester sequence, students will be able to use original language commentaries with discernment and do many steps of the exegetical process as they prepare sermons and lessons in ministry. Students in the functional language track enroll in NT501-502, OT501-502, and an additional BL elective.

Degree Requirements

Students may complete their studies in as few as eight semesters, with a minimum of 128 credits required for graduation. The M.Div. program requires a common core 68 credits including of biblical, theological, Christian formation, and applied ministry studies while the M.A. in Counseling program requires a common core of 60 credits of counseling coursework. 

The Master of Arts in Counseling degree and Master of Divinity 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 Divinity degrees 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 Divinity (Pastoral Counseling Specialization) 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: 26 credits
Interpreting Genesis to Song of Solomon 4
Interpreting Prophets to Gospels 4
Interpreting Acts to Revelation 4
Greek Grammar 3
NT502/512 Greek Reading and Syntax
OT501/511 Hebrew Grammar
OT502/512 Hebrew Reading and Syntax 3
Please note: NT/OT513 are not regularly scheduled on all campuses but may be available online or web-conference (registration contingent on approval via academic petition).
NT513 -or- Greek Exegesis 2
OT513 -or- Hebrew Exegesis 2
BL5XX Biblical Studies Elective for 501/502 students 2
Theological Studies: 18 Credits
Wisdom from Church History 4
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
TH504 Integrating Ministry and Theology 2
Ministerial Studies: 14 credits
ML501 Theology and Practice of Gospel-Centered Ministry 2
Transformational Leadership 2
ML503 Nurturing Faithful Disciples 2
ML504 Taking the Gospel to Diverse Cultures 2
Ministerial Ethics 2
ML507 Gospel Responses to Contemporary Challenges 2
ML508 Preaching Gospel-Centered Messages 2
MF531-532 Ministry Leadership Formation (P/F graded, lab fee) 0
MF533-534 Ministry Leadership Formation (P/F graded, lab fee; as needed) 0
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 (MFT) 2
CNS527 Physiology, Pharmacology, and Addiction (includes one additional credit for LPCC) 2
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