Merging Faith and Holistic Healing: A Conversation with Weimar University’s Professors of Psychology

In the pursuit of understanding human behavior and mental processes, the intersection of psychology and faith often illuminates profound insights. At Weimar University, a unique approach emerges, weaving together psychology, counseling, and wellness through the lens of Bible-based Christianity. This innovative program not only delves into the scientific study of the mind but also navigates the complexities of the study of psychology, falsely deemed by some as incompatible with Christian beliefs. In this interview, we explore how the Master’s in Psychology Counseling and Wellness at Weimar University bridges the gap between science and faith, shaping a new generation of therapists who seek to heal not just the mind but the whole being.

Dr. Garcia, what is psychology, and why should Christians pursue its study?

Psychology is the scientific study of human and non-human behavior and mental processes. Just as studying a poem or a song reveals a great deal about the author, studying humanity reveals to us our Creator—how He thinks, how He loves, and how brilliant He is. In addition, studying fallen humanity reveals much about the Great Controversy that is the context of our lives. Psychology encompasses any aspect of life that humanity touches; therefore, the benefits of its study are substantial. It teaches us to expand our potential, from developing the most efficient brain to maximizing the development of our children. It increases an understanding of how we best learn and think and garners an appreciation for the diversity of culture created by our Lord, aiding our perception of how we are influenced by others and influence others. When examined through the lens of Bible-based Christianity, it becomes a powerful tool in spreading the gospel by understanding how to best reach fallen man.

Ms. Cherian, you are a graduate of this program; why did you choose to study psychology, and why at Weimar?

During my time working in the preventative and community health field, I began to recognize the pressing need to address mental health issues among patients who initially sought care for physical health concerns. However, my training in this area was lacking. I started exploring options that could help me develop in this field. After considering various possibilities, I was drawn to Weimar for several reasons. First, Weimar’s commitment to upholding the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy resonated with my values and provided a solid moral foundation. A series of remarkable events led me to Weimar, where I had the privilege of learning from exceptional mentors who emphasized the importance of integrating physical, mental, and spiritual health in the holistic healing of individuals.

Dr. Garcia, you mentioned approaching psychology through the lens of Bible-based Christianity. I understand that many well-accepted theories in traditional psychology do not align with biblical truths; are the majority of Christians today accepting and practicing these theories?

I can’t speak for every Christian, but we do see that both Christian and non-Christian programs training future psychologists often reflect beliefs that don’t align with Scripture. Furthermore, this training, in conjunction with other multiple worldly influences, results in the outcome of strong anti-Biblical ideas brought forth in the practice of psychology, such as views on homosexuality, evolution in psychology, hypnosis treatments, mindfulness meditation, and many others that affect both psychologists and those with whom they interact. Unfortunately, this worldly palette of therapies can mislead the focus away from pure and true healing in applying Bible-based Christian psychology.

How did you handle this issue when you created the curriculum for the Master’s in Counseling, Psychology, and Wellness at Weimar University?

Psalm 16:8 says, “I have set the Lord always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.” This program strives to train therapists who place God first regardless of current worldviews, as reflected in the curriculum. For example, Moral Identity and Faith of the Christian Counselor is one of the program’s foundational courses. This class explores what it means to practice counseling in today’s climate. It encourages the student to develop a moral identity firmly founded on Scripture. Weimar University approaches the state-mandated curriculum for licensure through the lens of Bible-based Christianity, seeing the error and finding the truth for best practice of treatment, and thus learning how to offer patients the optimal holistic treatment plan. This only comes through knowing God, which is the basis of our program: By taking our counsel from the Lord, we can counsel others.

Dr. Garcia, are there any other aspects that make this program unique?

The graduate-level Principles of Health course emphasizes the wellness aspect of our Counseling Psychology and Wellness program. In addition, our Clinical Neuroscience and Psychopathology course includes a 10-day experience shadowing the Nedley Depression and Anxiety Recovery Program to obtain more hands-on training in addressing depression and anxiety. These valuable practical experiences are unique to Weimar University.

The critical philosophical difference of our program is that we aim for healing that not just gives relief from the darkness but healing that will banish the darkness. This can only be done through a holistic approach that includes the spiritual aspect of the human being.

Ms. Cherian, how does counseling and wellness fit in with this program, and what is the relation between the three aspects (psychology, counseling, and wellness)?

The traditional division between the mind and body has frequently hindered our understanding. However, as we recognize their interconnectedness, we become more adept at working with the whole person. There are counseling centers that may overlook the profound impact of a balanced lifestyle on one’s mental health. Unfortunately, there are lifestyle centers that may neglect the significance of mental health when addressing physical health. Our program is designed to empower individuals with the knowledge of how to effectively bring the principles of ‘medical missionary work,’ also known as the ‘right hand of the gospel,’ into the therapy room. We have witnessed the benefits of this approach, combined with the introduction of Christ as the true healer and counselor, in expediting the recovery process.

The Counseling Psychology and Wellness MA program is approved by the state of California’s Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS) for both LPCC and LMFT licensure requirements.

Learn more about the Masters in Psychology, Counseling, and Wellness Program.

Lifespan Development (3 Credits)

From conception to old age, this course explores focuses on the biological, psychological, and social developmental issues and milestones for each stage of the lifespan, paying particular attention to the aspects of context, culture, and environmental issues. Topics include, but are not limited to: parenting style (child guidance), social contexts, social stress, poverty, low educational attainment, abuse and neglect, gender and family issues salient to relationships, separation, nontraditional and blended families and inadequate housing and how these affect development. Issues of aging and long-term care are included.

Moral Identity and Faith as a Counselor (3 Credits)

This course explores the formation of the student therapist’s identity as a counselor within the framework of Christianity and how this plays out in a secular world of counseling. This course presents philosophical and ethical perspectives integral to the understanding of the contemporary psychologies. Students learn how to analyze the ethical bias of psychotherapeutic psychologies, identify their underlying philosophical assumptions, and develop an appreciation for the moral components in individual, marital, and family identity formation. Also included will be a workshop to enhance spiritual development.

Christian Counseling and Psychotherapy: Basic Theories and Skills (3 Credits)

This course develops an understanding of the major theoretical orientations used by current practitioners, focusing on systemic approaches. Theories provide a coherent framework for understanding how people change. This course will highlight the Biblical understanding of how change takes place. This course covers the concepts and techniques associated with the primary theories of counseling psychology: psychodynamic, existential-humanistic, cognitive-behavioral, and post-modern; in contrast with wholistic counseling techniques. Also included are the evidence-based treatments, limitations, and outcome research associated with each concept. The course also highlights cultural and spiritual diversity as it applies to the therapeutic process and awareness of the self, interpersonal issues, and spiritual values as they impact the use of theoretical frameworks. This course also introduces the student to basic skill in attending behavior, clinical interviewing and clinical intervention. Finally, this foundational course clarifies key issues in human nature and prepares the student for developing a worldview that is consistent with their theological and spiritual orientation.

Advanced Counseling Theory (3 Credits)

This course will examine several individuals, and family approaches for counseling. The development of specific behavioral, cognitive, humanistic/experiential, psychodynamic and systemic frameworks will be deconstructed. Student will distinguish Christian approach of addressing individual and family concerns. Students will be involved in experiential activities designed to relate the observation, demonstration and practice to research-based explanations. In this course, we will consider how each approach is used in clinical, school, and marriage and family counseling applications. Training in the use of the therapeutic relationship will be a focus for understanding and intervening with clients.

Group Processes in Counseling (3 Credits)

This course introduces students to the theory and practice of group counseling with children, adults, families, and couples. The course focuses on basic group counseling theory including therapeutic group factors, stages of group development, and principles of commonly accepted and research-based group interventions. The course will cover different types of groups, such as support, psycho-educational, and process groups; the tasks, skills, and qualities of effective group leaders; roles of group members; and legal and ethical issues pertaining to groups, group leaders; roles of group members; and legal and ethical issues pertaining to groups. Importance is placed on responsibilities and skills and cultural considerations. Emphasis on small and large group processes and involvement in experiential activities is designed to relate the clinical process to theoretical explanations. Throughout, there is an emphasis on group work within community mental health settings.

Child and Adolescent Counseling (3 Credits)

This course provides an understanding of the broad range of childhood and adolescent problems and maladjustment behaviors. A variety of psychotherapeutic modalities are presented, providing the student with an opportunity to develop knowledge of basic child and adolescent therapy skills, assessments, and treatment strategies. The impact of the development aspects, family dynamics, social environments, and multicultural issues are addressed. In addition, legal and ethical issues and the role of hospitalization are considered.

Addictions Counseling and Treatment (3 Credits)

This course covers the prevention, assessment, and treatment of substance abuse/dependence, behavioral addictions, and co-occurring conditions. Theories of etiology, populations at risk, and the role of persons and systems in supporting or compounding abuse/addiction are discussed. The course reviews the cognitive, affective, behavioral, and neurological effects of psychoactive drug use and the impact of addiction on the family system. Best practices for the screening, assessment, and treatment of addictions and co-occurring behaviors are covered as well as community resources for individuals and family members. Additional focus will be placed on developing understanding of Recovery Oriented Care, social and psychological implications of socioeconomic position, and cultural awareness and competencies.

Counseling Diverse Populations (3 Credits)

This course focuses on the intersection and convergence of culture, race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, disability, socioeconomic status, religion, acculturation, and chronological age and how these inform effective mental health care. The goal is to increase awareness of multiple dimensions of diversity in order to prepare students to work sensitively and effectively with California’s multi-cultural population. Attention also is given to issues of privilege, marginality, and oppression, including sexism, racism, classism, ableism, ageism, and heterosexism. Theoretical perspectives on multicultural counseling will be examined as well as strategies for intervention and advocacy. This course will focus on eliminating biases, prejudices, and processes of intentional and unintentional oppression and discrimination. Throughout, effective strategies for communicating about emotionally charged material is emphasized.

Couples and Family Counseling: Post-Modern (3 Credits)

This course continues the study of the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of individuals, couples, and families using interactional and brief models. This course provides advanced training in the theories and techniques of modern and post-modern schools of family therapy including Cognitive Behavioral, Behavioral, Solution-Focused, and Narrative Therapy. Also included are the evidence-based treatments, outcome research, and limitations associated with each theory. Specific family issues addressed include: transition to parenthood, parenting young and school-age children, household division of labor, and blended families. Throughout, careful attention is paid to the historical and cultural context in which the theories were developed and the implications for working with diverse populations in recovery-oriented community mental health settings.

Christian Counseling and Psychotherapy: Advanced Techniques (3 Credits)

This course is designed to further develop the psychotherapeutic skills of students prior to their entry into a clinical placement. Students focus on developing proficiency in the core interviewing qualities, deriving goals for a clinical session, and in making contracts with clients for change. Additionally, students are encouraged to begin developing a theoretical and conceptual understanding of cases and trained to work with diverse populations. Students are also encouraged to address issues regarding the integration of their faith with the practice of psychotherapy.

Assessment of Individuals, Couples, and Families (3 Credits)

This course examines the application of psychological instruments to the assessment of individuals, couples, and families. Fundamentals of psychological assessment are reviewed including standardized and non-standardized testing approaches, basic statistical concepts, and moral, ethical and cultural considerations in assessment. The course will also provide an overview of issues related to cognitive assessment, achievement, aptitude, and neuropsychological assessment. Emphasis will also be on clinical, behavioral, and personality assessment.

Knowing God Better Through Career Development: Theories and Techniques (3 Credits)

This course prepares students to address the intersections of career, values, and life roles in the context of career counseling and responding to career and work-related issues

for majority and marginalized groups. Students will gain core knowledge of major career development theories; examine the implications of sociocultural factors on career development, work transitions, and the career counseling process; gain experience with career counseling assessments and resources; and become familiar with current career development literature.

Crisis and Trauma Counseling (3 Credits)

Students will develop a foundation for assessing and treating post-trauma reactions in adults along with an overview of trauma responses in children. We will begin by reviewing the variety of trauma populations followed by in-depth instruction on the mechanism of development major trauma concerns. The assessment and intervention of post-trauma conditions will be identified. Next, we will address clinical interventions including disaster mental health and exposure-based treatment. Finally, we will review issues affecting therapists working with trauma populations and self-care strategies to prevent compassion fatigue.

Research and Evaluation in Counseling (3 Credits)

The goal of this course is to enable students to become informed consumers of psychological research and to use current research knowledge and tools to improve treatment outcomes. Students will explore methods and issues associated with the conduct and use of research concerning phenomena relevant to counseling psychology. The course provides an overview of hypothesis generation, research design, data collection and interpretation, and utilization of research findings in clinical practice, while considering systemic and sociocultural influences. Students will review seminal research findings including research on specific treatments and common factors across treatments that improve therapy outcome. The course also provides students with assessment tools for evaluating mental health programs and the effectiveness of one’s own clinical practice. Emphasis is given to helping students become knowledgeable consumers of research, including the use of research to inform evidence-based practice.

Clinical Neuroscience and Psychopharmacology (3 Credits)

Fulfills the California Board of Behavioral Sciences requirement for surveying the use of pharmacological agents in patient care. This course provides a basic overview of neurobiology in order to understand the biological bases of behavior and the psychopharmacological treatment of mental disorders. The course includes information about commonly prescribed psychiatric medications for children and adults – indications, contraindications, mechanisms of action, side effects, drug-drug interactions, iatrogenics, and variability related to age, gender, ethnicity, and medical condition. Students will learn how to work cooperatively and effectively with clients, family members, and prescribing clinicians. Additionally, controversies related to the medical model and to specific prescribing practices will be explored.

Psychopathology & Diagnostic Processes (3 Credits)

This course examines the major types of psychopathology. It explores techniques of intake interviewing and determining mental status to formulate a differential diagnosis based upon the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Students will also recognize and understand the controversial history of the development of the DSM. The

course also includes a critical examination of the clinical and experimental literature in psychopathy. Etiologies of cognitive/affective functions and dysfunctions and implications for therapeutic intervention are also addressed.

Human Sexuality and Sex Therapy (3 Credits)

This course will provide students with an understanding of human sexual development with a particular focus upon sexuality counseling from a systems perspective. The goal of this course is to learn about the many facets of human sexuality and the treatment of sexual dysfunctions in a safe and respectful environment. Topics include the physiology, psychology, and sociology of sexuality, including the effects of sexual attitudes and functioning on individuals and families. Gender Identity and LGBTQ and sexual perspectives will be reviewed. Clinical applications, including the treatment of sexual difficulty and dysfunction will also be explored. Students will develop familiarity with the language and terms of sexology and demonstrate an ability to apply this knowledge to clinical situations. Finally, students will explore the above with a framework of Christian compassion and love, exploring how God created sex to be beneficial. A review of AIDS, HIV, and STDs will be given.

Legal, Ethical, and Professional Issues in Counseling (3 Credits)

This course introduces students to the legal, ethical, and moral issues related to the practice of LPCC and MFT in the state of California. This course focuses on contemporary professional law and ethics and moral dilemmas related to counseling practice. Students review statutory, regulatory, and decisional laws related to the scope of therapy practice, including confidentiality, privilege, reporting requirements, family law, and the treatment of minors. Professional codes of ethics (ACA, AAMFT/ CAMFT, and APA) will be reviewed. California law that is relevant to the practice of counseling will be examined including goals and objectives of professional organizations, standards of training, licensure, and the rights and responsibilities of professional counselors. Case examples will be discussed. Consideration is also given to the student practitioner’s values and behaviors, especially in relation to becoming a Christian therapist.

Practicum in Counseling (6, 3 per term)

The purpose of this course is to develop counseling competencies when working with a variety of clients with unique presenting concerns. Specifically, the focus will be on your ability to engage your clients in treatment, establish a working alliance, identify dysfunctional patterns, and use either general strategies or ECBIS strategies to facilitate change. You will work toward the development of a personally acceptable and professionally effective style of establishing and working in helping relationships. We will work toward helping you to examine your behaviors and rationales and to modify for greater effectiveness.

Course Prerequisites:
This is the terminal course for the program and will run concurrently with a weekly seminar that will address issues in counseling practice.