Weimar Student’s Journey to Healing

By Lindsay Philpott, a student at Weimar College

johnny-strickerJohnny Stricker grew up in a Christian home. His mom wasn’t able to have kids, but she had him through a miraculous set of events. Being in a faith-based home, Stricker grew up ignorant of the complete message of what it meant to truly live a Christian life.

When Stricker was five, his family moved to Belgium to do mission work. They had many amazing experiences, and when they came back to the states three-and-a-half years later, they were on fire for the Lord. They wanted to get their home church involved in evangelism, but they were unwilling to work with them. The pastor didn’t like them, and was physically abusive to Stricker.

By high school, Stricker had given up on studying the Bible. Instead, he invested his time into reading other material, watching movies, playing video games, and listening to music that wasn’t good for him. He eventually questioned what he believed. “I believed in the Bible, and had heard the prophecy seminars, but what do I believe?” So, he lived in this tumultuous state of mind.

Stricker wasn’t grounded in Christ when he started working. He met many friends, but instead of leading him in the right direction, they were a bad influence on him. He started learning things that he shouldn’t have known. He was getting depressed, but he didn’t want to admit it.

He figured he wouldn’t be able to do much good in the world, so he decided it was worth having all the pleasure he could find. He started using drugs, and got into partying. When he got in trouble at school for using drugs, they had him go to an intensive outpatient program. No matter how much information he heard, he decided he was still going to live his life like he wanted.

Stricker’s mom was agonizing and praying over him, because she knew something was wrong. His parents soon learned that Stricker had depression and suicidal thoughts. They began talking to different church members, and one of them suggested Dr. Neil Nedley’s Depression Recovery program. “My parents were desperate, so they wanted me to try it.” But Stricker only had intentions of using drugs and living life the way he wanted to.

Yet, the Lord had different plans for him. “The Holy Spirit was working. A week later, I woke up and it was on my mind to think that maybe this program does have something for me.” So Stricker called Weimar and did the survey for the program. They told him he couldn’t do drugs while at the program. “I was like, ‘OK, yeah sure.’ I’ll not do drugs for 10 days so that when I get back home I can get twice as high.”

The week came, Stricker’s parents dropped him off at the Depression Recovery program. His mom left a Bible beside his bed, embraced him and said, “You are in the Lord’s hands now.” Before his parents left, they told Stricker to embrace the whole program. He thought about that. “Maybe this program does have the answer. I’m going to do the best that I can, and if it doesn’t work, I’ll go back to drugs.”

As the program started, Stricker’s mind cleared up and he started to think clearly again. He hated it, because all the old questions about religion started coming back. Each morning he had to go to lectures. It was hard for him to get through them as he wanted to cry so much. After one lecture, Stricker went back to his room, opened the door and just started weeping. He picked up the Bible that his mom had left.

“I opened my Bible, but I didn’t know where to read. So, I randomly pointed at a verse, but that didn’t make any sense to me. It didn’t apply to me. I thought maybe the New Testament has something for me, so I went there. When I started reading some of what Paul had written, it again didn’t apply to me or make any sense.”

But then he thought, “maybe I should pray.” He closed his eyes, and said, “God, I don’t even know if you are real. If you are real, and if you care, show me who I can relate to in this Book.”

Stricker continued to do the program; all the hydrotherapy, the exercising, and the lectures. One lecture in particular that Dr. Nedley did was on pride, and how pride can lead to depression. He gave two examples. On the second example, Stricker new that God was real. The person that Dr. Nedley spoke about was depressed, a drug addict, a porn addict, an alcoholic, and had suicidal thoughts. But God had helped him to change to live a happy, fulfilling life. “This guy, if there was any guy in the universe that can relate to me, it was this guy. I knew God was real after that.”

As Stricker continued the program, he saw the care that each person was giving him; he saw their love for him. He saw Christ through them. It started to change him. He started reading his Bible more, and realized that God was asking him to give up his friends. “I was like, ‘Lord, I don’t want to give up my friends.’ I wanted them to have what I have.” Stricker started praying as he had never had before. He prayed that his friends would have this same experience that he had. Stricker also knew he had other things to give up too. He called his parents up and asked them to throw away some of his belongings that he wouldn’t need anymore. “They didn’t see that coming,” he said. He was at peace, he was happy. He started to feel a love for his parents that beforehand he had hated. He decided to become a new person.

Stricker wanted to come to Weimar for college, but the Lord knew that he wasn’t ready. He wasn’t accepted. He remembered that there was the HEALTH program, so he went to that. After the program, the Lord helped him finish the prerequisites that he needed to get into nursing school. He again applied for the Weimar Institute nursing program, and was finally accepted. He is eager to see how the Lord can use him in this ministry to reach a hurting world.

“To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.” (Revelation 3:21)

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.