August 15, 2014 | 12:55 p.m.
By Tricia Theurer, Communications Specialist
Beginning fall 2014, Bethel Seminary San Diego will launch a new program, the M.A. in Mental Health Counseling. The program actively integrates theology and biblical studies with clinical theory and practice, training students to become licensed professional clinical counselors in California. A challenging program with high standards, it will prepare students to counsel clients with a wide variety of needs—including life adjustments, career counseling, and severe chronic mental illness—from a clinical framework that integrates theology and spiritual formation.
The master’s program was added to Bethel Seminary San Diego’s offerings in light of recent legal changes in healthcare policy. Implications of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and California-specific changes to the delivery of and payment for mental health care “are expected to increase the number of patients seeking care from community clinics, behavioral health hospitals, group homes, halfway houses, and other community-based healthcare entities,” according to G. Keith Olson, Ph.D., director and lead faculty of Bethel Seminary San Diego’s M.A. in Marital and Family Therapy program as well as of the new program.
Along with addressing the mental healthcare needs of the general population, the new program will help fill the growing demand for additional mental health and professional counseling staff in schools and universities. This need has been highlighted in several high profile cases of school violence, bullying, social media abuse, and suicide among students of all ages, says Olson.
Olson says that especially in San Diego County, Bethel Seminary San Diego is known for preparing Marital and Family Therapy (MFT) graduates who integrate systemic theory and Christian theology. Expanding this approach is a natural progression. “With the new Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) designation in California,” he explains, “program faculty, along with Bethel Seminary San Diego administration, recognized that broader mental health treatment contexts would also benefit from similarly prepared clinicians trained for LPCC licensure. The M.A. in Mental Health Counseling degree program was designed to meet that need.”
Courses cover content in many areas including psychotherapy theory, clinical interventions, multicultural counseling, psychodiagnosis, psychopharmacology, legal and ethical issues, addictions, co-occurring disorders, domestic violence, group psychotherapy, crisis intervention, trauma response, and more. The program builds on Bethel Seminary San Diego’s other excellent programs, including the closely related M.A. in Marital and Family Therapy and the M.A. in Ministry Practice. All classes are provided in the traditional, face-to-face format and meet in the late afternoons and evenings to accommodate working adults. Students select either a full-time (three year) or part-time (four year) pathway to complete degree requirements. The program, like the M.A. in Marital and Family Therapy, meets all academic requirements for licensure in California. Both programs are also regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Schools and nationally accredited by the Association of Theological Schools.
“For 17 years, graduates of the Bethel Seminary San Diego MFT program have been making a difference in secular and Christian settings,” Olson states. “We’re proud and excited to extend the benefit of our integrated Christian-psychological training to mental health counseling.”