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Graduate School » Professional Studies » Pastoral Counseling (MS)

Master of Science in Pastoral Counseling

The Master of Science in Pastoral Counseling is designed for ordained clergy who would like to develop their counseling skills. An advanced certificate is available for students who already have a counseling license.

Pastoral counselors are often are a first contact for helping individuals and families cope with serious problems. In this program, you will develop skills to better help those who seek your guidance.  

The convenient evening course schedule will allow you the flexibility to continue work while you complete your graduate degree.

Program Outline

Core Courses
All courses are three credit hours, unless stated otherwise.

Curriculum Plan

Core Clinical Courses (18 credit hours)

  • PSYC 570 Marriage and Family Counseling
    • System approach, theoretical formulations, counseling techniques/strategies, research findings, treatment issues, and ethical/social concerns in marriage and family counseling are studied. Prerequisites: PSYC 530, 544
  • PSYC 578 Professional Orientation: Ethical and Legal Issues
    • Studies that provide an understanding of all aspects of professional functioning, including history, roles, organizational structures, ethics, standards, and credentialing. In-depth study of ethical and legal codes of conduct of the counseling profession, i.e., American Counseling Association, American Association of School Counselors, American Psychological Association. Focus on ethical decision making related to the counseling process. Value clarification, rights and responsibilities of both counselor and counselee, competence, working with culturally diverse populations, as well as current legal guidelines related to maintenance of records, confidentiality, reporting child abuse/neglect, duty to warn and protect, and involuntary commitment will be examined.
  • PSYC 522 Social and Cultural Issues
    • Major social problems in contemporary society and their impact upon counseling will be probed. Exploration of subgroups and cross-cultural issues as well as emphasis on sensitizing students to ethnocentrism and development of respect for diversity in all its guises.
  • PSYC 530 Personality/Counseling Theories
    • Introduction to counseling theories and psychological processes involved in individual counseling. Including but not limited to analytical, phenomenological, person-centered, existential, behavioral, and cognitive/behavioral. Students will refine their own theory of personality and counseling. Case studies.
  • PSYC 544 Counseling Skills
    • Demonstration and supervised practice (role play) of micro-counseling skills, including attending behaviors, questioning, paraphrasing, summarization, reflection of feeling, confrontation, and reflection of meaning. Students will refine their counseling techniques, integrating acquired skills and influencing strategies with personal style. Prerequisite: PSYC 530
  • PSYC 548 Group Processes in Counseling
    • Group work studies that provide an understanding of group development, dynamics, counseling theories, group counseling methods and skills, other group work approaches, and ethical issues related to group work. Prerequisite: PSYC 530

Elective Courses (Choose two courses or six credit hours.)

  • PSYC 501 Advanced Human Growth and Development
    • Physiological, social and psychological developmental processes from conception to maturation. Review of stages of development, patterns of behavior, and exploration of current social issues related to development.
  • PSYC 518 Lifestyle/Career Counseling
    • Career counseling theories and skills across the lifespan will be explored. Recent developments in lifestyle, theorists and theoretical constructs, as well as practical delivery systems in school and community mental health agencies will be examined.
  • PSYC 528 Testing and Appraisal
    • Introduction to the major concepts of psychological testing: reliability and validity; standardized tests; ethnic, cultural, sexual and age related factors; ethical standards for development and usage; test construction; interpretation. Prerequisite: PSYC 500
  • PSYC 535 Psychopathology
    • Overview of psychopathology, with emphasis on etiology, symptoms, sociocultural factors, system effects of disorders, and maladaptive patterns of behavior. Current diagnostic and classification systems and treatment approaches will be explored.
  • PSYC 545 Substance Abuse Counseling
    • Overview of the physiological, biochemical, social, and psychological aspects of psychoactive substance disorders. Examination of the rehabilitative potential of Alcoholics Anonymous/Alanon and the major propositions of the disease concept of alcoholism. Differential diagnosis of psychoactive substance use, abuse, and dependence will be explored.

Pastoral Counseling Courses

  • THEO 500 Foundations of Scripture
    • An introduction to the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament with attention to the cultural contexts in which the texts were formed, canon formation, their transmission and translation, the nature of biblical authority, and methods of interpretation. The close study of a variety of selected texts will also take note of their use by individuals and faith communities.
  • THEO 510 Systematic Theology
    • Theology is seen as faith seeking understanding. This course will attend to basic beliefs, the development of doctrine, and models of articulation in the historical and contemporary life of the applicant’s faith community. The course will examine the role of religious reflection and interpretation in major doctrinal movements.
  • THEO 520 Moral Theology
    • An examination of how faith defines and seeks the good life. The course will study how, through reflection and spiritual practices, the individual and the faith tradition articulate values, undergo conversion and reform, and struggle to express their mission in the contexts in which they find themselves.
  • THEO 530 Pastoral Theological Method
    • An introduction to various theological methods that are useful in the integrative discipline of pastoral counseling. Students will explore the historical and theological foundations for the ministry of pastoral counseling, its grounding in congregational and specialized ministry, and its critical relationship to behavioral and other sciences. The course will frame the approach to methodological issues historically, allowing students to locate various methods in relating to the long history of this discipline including contemporary national and intercultural contexts. Methods for critical reflection and decision making will be presented and implemented through case studies and examination of problems and procedures in counseling.
  • THEO 540 History of Pastoral Care and Counseling
    • This course prepares pastoral counselors to understand their contemporary ministry cast within the rich tradition of religious care of the whole person. Content of the course will include:
      - The history of care of the soul within the applicant’s specific tradition
      - Study of religious care in the broader context of other historical religious traditions
      - Specific study of the pastoral counseling movement as it emerged in the 20th century
      - Attention to globalization and the pastoral counseling movement
  • THEO 550 Pastoral Diagnosis
    • This course will interface with contemporary practices in diagnosing and treating emotional disorders with theological resources for assessment in religious contexts. The course will relate current psychiatric and systemic diagnostic categories and their differential treatment strategies to religious understandings of the human person, functional theological norms, and pastoral roles and tasks. Case studies and other practical diagnostic exercises will frame the content of the course.
  • THEO 560 Basic Pastoral Care
    • This course surveys basic pastoral responses to care of the human person through the life course and situational crises in human life. The course will provide a beginning understanding of human emotional and physiological processes in grief, trauma, crises, and developmental transition, and draw both from contemporary and historic models of care to develop a basic frame for pastoral responses in these crises and transitions.
  • THEO 501 Franciscan Intellectual and Spiritual Tradition
    • An exploration of the Franciscan charism in its 13th century roots. Using primary sources, it will attend to what is spiritually distinctive in the lives of Francis and Clare, the context in which their spirituality emerges, and their impact on early Franciscan movements. The course will trace the charism through later spiritual movements and note how individuals fruitfully integrate this spirituality into their intellectual endeavors. The mutual influence of charism and intellect will be examined in the contributions of Alexander of Hales, St. Bonaventure, Bl. John Duns Scotus, Roger Bacon, William of Ockham, Teilhard de Chardin, Bl. Pope John Paul XXIII and others.
  • PSYC 620 Pastoral Care Specialist Training
    • This course seeks to strengthen the personal pastoral identity and spirituality of caregivers and to enable them to provide pastoral care in a way that integrates the spiritual dimension and resources of one’s faith tradition with current theoretical understandings and practical skills. Seminar components include didactic seminars, clinical consultation and peer support. Topics focus upon the theoretical foundations and practical aspects of pastoral care and supportive counseling. Special attention will be given to supportive techniques for use in short-term, grief, marital, divorce and crisis intervention counseling and to issues and problem areas cited by the participants. Clinical consultation will be conducted within a group atmosphere of acceptance and support where participants will share verbatims of brief pastoral care and counseling experiences in order to foster personal and professional integration and skill development as a pastoral care specialist. Peer support group meetings provide a confidential setting in which personal growth is encouraged through:
      - Processing of feelings and reactions
      - Exploration of personal and professional issues
      - Feedback from peers
      - Prayer and sharing of one’s faith journey

Advanced Certificate
The advanced certificate in pastoral counseling is designed for already licensed counselors who want to provide counseling services in a religiously oriented environment.

Requirements for Advanced Certificate (18 Credit Hours)

  • THEO 530 Pastoral Theological Method
    • An introduction to various theological methods that are useful in the integrative discipline of pastoral counseling. Students will explore the historical and theological foundations for the ministry of pastoral counseling, its grounding in congregational and specialized ministry, and its critical relationship to behavioral and other sciences. The course will frame the approach to methodological issues historically, allowing students to locate various methods in relating to the long history of this discipline including contemporary national and intercultural contexts. Methods for critical reflection and decision making will be presented and implemented through case studies and examination of problems and procedures in counseling.
  • THEO 540 History of Pastoral Care and Counseling
    • This course prepares pastoral counselors to understand their contemporary ministry cast within the rich tradition of religious care of the whole person. Content of the course will include:
      - The history of care of the soul within the applicant’s specific tradition
      - Study of religious care in the broader context of other historical religious traditions
      - Specific study of the pastoral counseling movement as it emerged in the 20th century
      - Attention to globalization and the pastoral counseling movement
  • THEO 550 Pastoral Diagnosis
    • This course will interface with contemporary practices in diagnosing and treating emotional disorders with theological resources for assessment in religious contexts. The course will relate current psychiatric and systemic diagnostic categories and their differential treatment strategies to religious understandings of the human person, functional theological norms, and pastoral roles and tasks. Case studies and other practical diagnostic exercises will frame the content of the course.
  • THEO 501 Franciscan Intellectual and Spiritual Tradition
    • An exploration of the Franciscan charism in its 13th century roots. Using primary sources, it will attend to what is spiritually distinctive in the lives of Francis and Clare, the context in which their spirituality emerges, and their impact on early Franciscan movements. The course will trace the charism through later spiritual movements and note how individuals fruitfully integrate this spirituality into their intellectual endeavors. The mutual influence of charism and intellect will be examined in the contributions of Alexander of Hales, St. Bonaventure, Bl. John Duns Scotus, Roger Bacon, William of Ockham, Teilhard de Chardin, Bl. Pope John Paul XXIII and others.
  • THEO 570 Spirituality and Spiritual Formation
    • The objectives of this introductory course will help students (re)discover the sources of their own spirituality. It will acquaint them with a variety of spiritual resources from other religious traditions – especially the traditions of Buddhist mindfulness practice and Christian contemplative prayer. The course will help them experience the relational and communal nature of spirituality. The course will also help individuals acquire an appreciation for the vital connection between spirituality and pastoral counseling.
  • PSYC 620 Pastoral Care Specialist Training
    • The objectives of this introductory course will help students (re)discover the sources of their own spirituality. It will acquaint them with a variety of spiritual resources from other religious traditions – especially the traditions of Buddhist mindfulness practice and Christian contemplative prayer. The course will help them experience the relational and communal nature of spirituality. The course will also help individuals acquire an appreciation for the vital connection between spirituality and pastoral counseling.

Admissions Requirements

  • Hold a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution in the United States
  • Have an undergraduate GPA of at least 2.5 on a 4.0 point scale

 

Steps to Apply

  • Completed application form (plus $20 fee if submitting the paper application)
  • Official transcripts from all postsecondary institutions attended
    • Must be sent directly from Registrar of institution(s) attended
  • Submit a DD214 form (United States veterans only).
  • Submit a concise, typed, two-page statement of your professional goals, including why you wish to become a licensed counselor. You could also include specific training objectives and long-term career goals following graduation. Submit to gradschool@sf.edu.
  • Submit two letters of recommendation, preferably at least one professional and one academic reference. Must be submitted using our department form.
  • After the Office of Admissions has received the above-listed materials, you will be required to interview with the Psychology and Counseling Admissions Committee.



Contact Us

If you have questions about getting started in our Master of Science in Pastoral Counseling program, please let us know. You are welcome to contact the Counseling program director or your personal graduate counselor.