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Belmont Adds New Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling for Fall 2016

Program distinct in offering Christian, pastoral understandings of human care

Come this fall, individuals interested in pursuing a career in mental health counseling can begin studies in a unique master’s level program at Belmont University. The Master of Arts in Mental Health Counseling (MMHC) degree through Belmont’s College of Theology & Christian Ministry will be distinctive among contemporary counseling programs in that it embodies Christian and pastoral theological understandings of the care of human beings in addressing the depth and complexity of human suffering. The program will offer three specialty tracks: Licensed Professional Counselor; Marriage and Family Therapy; and Clinical Pastoral Therapist.

Program Director Dr. Janet Hicks is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Certified School counselor who has researched and written extensively on child and adolescent counseling including such topics as cyber-bullying, social aggression, self-injury, substance use and abuse and academic achievement. She said, “What sets Belmont’s Mental Health Counseling program apart from other counselor education programs is this integration of Christian resources and scientific perspectives on human nature and development. Our program seeks to guide the forming of professionals who will act with integrity as agents of the ministries of healing and transformation.”

Associate Program Director Dr. Tom Knowles-Bagwell is a Clinical Pastoral Therapist in Tennessee and an ordained minister. In addition, Knowles-Bagwell is certified as a Diplomate in the American Association of Pastoral Counselors and is a Certified Sexual Addiction Therapist through the International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals. He added, “During the last 30-40 years the mental health community has gravitated to an understanding of human suffering as merely biology gone awry. But from a Christian theological perspective the ‘suffering of souls’ is understood as surpassing biology alone and extending into intrapsychic, interpersonal, familial, social and spiritual dimensions. This is what makes the pastoral theological approach to the care of suffering persons unique.”

Belmont’s 60 credit hour program, which can be completed in two calendar years with full-time continuous enrollment, is designed to prepare men and women to serve as counselors and psychotherapists in professional mental health settings ranging from community mental health centers to psychiatric hospitals, to faith-based counseling centers, to residential treatment facilities, to private practice. The Mental Health Counseling program is constructed to satisfy the academic requirements for licensure in Tennessee as either a Professional Counselor—Mental Health Service Provider, a Marital & Family Therapist or a Clinical Pastoral Therapist.

Applications to the MMHC require the completion of a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university with a strong academic record of at least a 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale) GPA. Once enrolled, students will select nine electives based on the program specialty they decide to pursue on top of eight required foundation courses, including Foundations of Clinical Practice, Theories of Personality, Diagnosis and Treatment of Mental Disorders, Christian Ethics in the Clinical Encounter, Diversity and Social Justice in the Clinical Encounter, Theories and Methods of Psychotherapy Research, Spirituality and Theories of Human Development and Christian Perspectives on Psychopathology and Human Suffering.

In addition, students are required to complete a practicum and internship consisting of 750 clock hours of counseling and counseling-related activities in an approved site or agency as a part of the program. Normally, students will complete 24 semester hours of course work prior to beginning their practicum experience. Students will be required to pass a background check and show proof of approved professional liability insurance prior to beginning the clinical experience component of the program.

The Mental Health Counseling Program is the only graduate degree program in the College of Theology & Christian Ministry at Belmont University and was established to prepare professional counselors at the master’s level. The degree and specialization programs are preparing for accreditation consideration by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP).