Tuesday, January 7, 2014

What do we teach in our graduate program?

Recently, I was invited to visit one our undergraduate courses to discuss the Christian perspective that is taken in our graduate program.  The framework for this conversation was taken from Johnson’s (2010) book, “Psychology and Christianity: Five Views, 2nd Edition.” After consultation with my faculty colleagues and reflection on our goals in the program two perspectives arise as the most salient, levels of explanation and integration.

The levels-of-explanation perspective asserts that there are unique means and methods to studying psychology that differ from other disciplines such as philosophy, theology or physics. This perspective endorses a belief that it is important for Christians to learn how to examine constructs of human behavior from a psychological point of view including such things as the scientific method and biological bases for behavior. In our graduate program this means that we study and explore many of the empirically validated treatments such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT).  It is also reflected in our emphasis on ethical practices within the field and the development of a strong professional counseling identity. A levels-of-explanation perspective exposes our students to a wide range of information and leads to more prepared and informed practitioners.

The integration perspective more clearly blends the study and practice of psychology and Christianity. Integrationists value science and rigorous study but do so from a distinctly Christian perspective. Those using this perspective often examine psychological science and explore its direct relationship to Christian theology. In our graduate program conversations about the impact of Christian faith on the practice of counseling are commonplace. In one of my courses on Social and Cultural Diversity we spend time exploring the impact that Plantinga’s (1995) text, “Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin” has on our understanding of human pain and difficulty. Examining our clinical and scholarly work within a worldview shaped by Christian thought is an ongoing practice. Working within an integrationist perspective allows our students to deeply engage with biblical values while considering their application to the wider world.

When I consider what goals our faculty have for students who complete our graduate program two main ideas emerge:
When you complete TCC’s Master’s Program in Counseling Psychology our faculty aim for you to be a competent and qualified beginning counselor whether you want to work in an explicitly Christian setting or not.

When you complete TCC’s Master’s Program in Counseling Psychology our faculty want you to be able to articulate a holistic view of human nature, including a perspective on how a Christian worldview impacts the practice of counseling.

These two goals align clearly with our Christian perspective in the master’s program.  We value the application of science and the study of psychology from a research based perspective. In addition to that we explore the unique perspective that a Christian worldview provides on psychology. This flexibility suggests a well-rounded and thorough perspective.

          Ultimately our perspective in the graduate program is a reflection of our reformed and ever reforming theology.  As we seek to prepare well-rounded and well-prepared helping professionals we are also responding to the call echoed throughout the bible that “the Kingdom is coming and the Kingdom is here.”  Both are true, that we long for the coming of the day when God’s kingdom rules every corner of the world and that we know that God’s hand is at work within every part of creation right now in the midst of brokenness.  Our philosophy within the master’s program in Counseling Psychology seeks to honor and respect those realities.


Johnson, E.L. (Ed.). (2010). Psychology & Christianity: Five views. 2nd ed. Downers Grove: IVP Academic.

Plantinga, C. (1995). Not the way it’s supposed to be: A breviary of sin. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.