Responding to a Critical Need: Calvin Seminary Launches MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling
Published by Danjuma Gibson
Professor of Pastoral Theology, Care and Counseling
Master’s degree will help meet national and global needs
Across the United States, there is a need for licensed mental health counselors at the national, state, and local levels. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the employment demand for mental health therapists and counselors and addiction and behavioral counselors will significantly outpace the employment average in all other labor categories.
In fact, by 2031, the number of mental health counselors is projected to increase by 22%, representing more than 43,000 openings per year over the next decade. According to the Department of Labor, drivers of the demand for mental health professionals include states seeking alternatives to incarceration for people with addictions and other mental health ailments and military veterans seeking mental health care.
Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services in Grand Rapids, Michigan, is one example of an employer striving to meet a societal need. The organization is currently in the market to add more than 200 employees.
“There are so many Michiganders who are today struggling with the pandemic, with changes in family life, work, and school. We’ve seen unprecedented increases in the number of people seeking care over the past two years,” said Gretchen Johnson, DNP, RNBC, Pine Rest’s chief nurse executive.
What would it look like for community mental health challenges to be met with excellence within the U.S., Canada, and nations worldwide? More programs are needed to equip future counselors for licensure through a high-caliber curriculum, clinical-placement experience, integrated-faith practices, and theological understanding for Christian professionals.
In February, the Calvin Seminary Board of Trustees approved a Master of Clinical Mental Health Counseling (MA in CMHC) degree program, with courses slated to begin this fall. The 60-credit program will include religious and theological foundations, clinical counseling, and clinical practice coursework. The program is available to students worldwide, who may choose from on-campus, fully remote, or hybrid course delivery. The seminary is in talks with three clinical placement sites in Grand Rapids and is open to other placements in the communities of distance-learning students.
Seminaries throughout North America have been offering professional counseling degrees as one of many products of theological education for decades. What makes the clinical mental health counseling degree a form of theological education, as in its adoption at Calvin Seminary, is that it requires an integrative approach of biblical and theological competency and counseling psychology throughout the program.
This approach is akin to other areas in theological education, including teaching, musicology, philosophy, history, archeology, or leadership. In these subjects, social science is integrated with other forms of Christian life and praxis to advance the Kingdom of God and the redemptive witness of the gospel message to every part of creation. Moreover, Calvin Seminary will provide future MA in CMHC students with institutional distinctives like exposure to Reformed life and tradition, intellectual rigor, and access to trusted Christian faculty.
We are excited about this missional program launching at the seminary, and we have already seen an incredible amount of interest among faculty, placement sites, and prospective students. Please join us in praying for the inaugural class and the impact of this program worldwide.
Dr. Danjuma Gibson, an experienced scholar, theologian, and psychotherapist, serves as the founding director of the MA in CHMC program. To learn more about the program and to apply to join the inaugural class, visit: go.calvinseminary.edu/counseling.
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