Doctor of MinistryPastoral Care & Counseling Emphasis Curriculum

Units of Study
The Doctor of Ministry with emphasis in Pastoral Care and Counseling comprises 36 semester units of class and clinical work. This total also includes 12 semester units of dissertation/project research and writing.

Course Descriptions

How People Change: Theories of Counseling and Psychotherapy

In this course we will examine the major theories of personality and counseling, as background theory and as having practical implications for our work as pastoral caregivers and counselors. The primary theme of this comprehensive review is what constitutes change. How do people change? What blocks change? What facilitates change?  Our effort will result in each student building an integrated theory of pastoral counseling and a theology of change.

Dynamics of Loss, Grief, Trauma in Pastoral Care and Counseling (DMPS-6041)
This course explores the psychological, relational and theological dynamics of loss, grief and trauma. We will place these subjects in the larger theoretical contexts of attachment theory and trauma theory.  We will give special attention to the growing incidence of trauma in modern life, and the corresponding body of literature that informs how we understand the dynamics of trauma.  We will then explore the practical implications of this theory for pastors, chaplains and counselors who are seeking to help people and families in pain.  Attention will also be given to the theological understandings of loss, grief and trauma in the context of clinical work.

Contemporary Trends in Pastoral Counseling (DMPS-6044)
This course will examine some of the emerging trends in pastoral counseling—issues that impact every pastor increasingly in parish ministry and in the specialized ministries of pastoral care and counseling. Many of these emerging issues are related to the dawning of the postmodern age with all of its implications.  Narrative therapy is certainly one expression of the post modern age, as is the trend toward short term treatment approaches. In this increasingly diverse world, we will also examine the multicultural perspective on counseling and care-giving and the implications of a multicultural perspective for the traditional theories of pastoral counseling. 

Assessment, Diagnosis and Clinical Theology (DMPS-6105)
This course will review the major issues and approaches to the assessment and diagnosis of psychological and relational problems from a pastoral perspective.  We will look in detail at the prevailing diagnostic scheme based on the DSM-IV.  We will attempt to reflect on various diagnoses from theological perspectives and suggest ways that the DSM-IV system could be augmented by a spiritual axis. We will look at several of the more common assessment tools used by pastoral counselors today, and give students opportunities to become thoroughly acquainted with at least one tool.  We will also dig deeply into how we understand some of the more common psychological problems—depression, anxiety, obsessions and impulse control problems—from both psychological and theological perspectives.  This course will teach students how to think theologically about psychological issues.

Addictions and Spirituality (DMPS-6060)
This course addresses current understandings of the description, etiology and treatment of addictive disorders including, but not limited to, addictions to legal and illegal substances such as alcohol and drugs, as well as addictions to various activities.  Is there such a thing as an addictive personality?  What is the spiritual dimension of addiction diseases and how can pastoral caregivers and counselors play a critical role in helping people overcome their addiction difficulties?

Faith and Counseling throughout the Life Cycle(DMPS-6049)
We will study the contributions of key contemporary developmental theorists, looking at the needs, developmental tasks, and role of faith at each life stage.  We will give particular attention to the adult life stages.  We will explore the dynamics of rituals and how to effectively use rituals in therapeutic ways.   We will explore the opportunities for pastoral care at various stages of the life cycle.  This course also includes an exploration of issues in the field of psychology of religion, particular such questions as: What is a healthy faith?  What is a toxic faith?  How does faith develop over the life cycle? 

Pastoral Couseling with Couples and Families (DMPS-6055)
This course provides a basic framework for understanding and reflecting on couples and family systems in theory and practice.  It will focus on two primary models of family work: communication theory and Bowen family therapy.  Attention will be given to couple dynamics and models of couple interventions, and also attention to family dynamics and models of family interventions.  The genogram is a tool for making assessments with individuals, couples, and families in pastoral counseling.  We will practice using the genogram in class, learning to deepen understandings of persons in relationship.

Multicultural Counseling and Social Analysis (DMPS-6050)
In this course we will be exploring issues of culture and social location and how those issues influence psychological and spiritual well-being, and the helping process itself.  The course seeks to provide students with a way of understanding people within their cultural context.  By cultural context, this course means to include gender, age, class, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, cognitive and physical characteristics, and religious orientation.  By understanding the cultural factors operative in the counseling relationship, students will be better equipped to serve in multi cultural settings. 

Groups and Leadership in Congregational Settings (DMPS-6065)
This course will introduce the subject of the full range of group work in the life of a congregation or counseling clinic.  We will examine the basics of group dynamics, and assist students to understand the dynamics of group process, so that they can be more effective group leaders/facilitators.  In particular,, we will explore how a pastoral counselor can create and use support and therapy groups to augment ministry with persons.  We will explore what constitutes effective pastoral leadership--- in particular, a discussion of conflict management and conflict resolution techniques as applied to congregational/group conflicts.  This course will also touch on a systematic way of understanding congregational health and function, with related implications for pastoral care.

Ethics and Professional Issues in Pastoral Care
This seminar will focus on the variety of ethical and professional issues that contemporary pastoral care specialists, chaplains, pastoral counselors, and congregational clergy, need to navigate if they are to effectively serve others.  We will give special attention to: medical ethics and clergy misconduct issues and some of the current court decisions that impinge on the practice of ministry in a secular state.  We will also give attention to the special challenges of serving as a pastoral care specialist within larger institutions, like hospitals, military, corporations and ecclesiological structures.  While the seminar will use many case examples, students will be encouraged develop a comprehensive theory/theology of ethics, informed by but also informing the various contexts in which the student serves.

Theological Research Methods/DP Workshop
This workshop introduces students to integrative methods that connect theological and psychological perspectives in the theory and practice of pastoral counseling.  The course will focus on identifying, understanding, and practicing the skill of theological reflection.  Methods of critical reflection and decision-making will be presented and implemented through case studies and examination of problems and procedures in the practice of pastoral care and counseling. This workshop mentors students in the development of their Dissertation Project proposal.

Program Structure
The program can be completed two ways:

  • Extended Option for Bay Area students
    Classes meet one day a week during two SFTS academic years (September to May).  There are a total of eight resource seminars.
  • Intensive Option for students for students beyond commuting distance
    Students attend three successive four-week summer periods on campus. There are a total of seven resource seminars, one of which is taught online between summers.

Extended Option: Typical Sequence of Courses

Year One: Fall Semester

Loss, Grief and Trauma in Psychological and Theological Perspectives (DMPS-6105)
How People Change: Theories of Counseling and Psychoherapy (DPMS-6051)

Year One: Intersession
Theological Research Methods

Year One: Spring Semester
Assessment, Diagnosis and Clinical Theology (DMPS-6105)
Faith and Counseling throughout the Life Cycle (DMPS-6049)

Year Two: Fall Semester
Addictions and Spirituality (DMPS-6060)
Pastoral Counseling with Couples and Families (DMPS-6055)

Year Two: Intersession
Disseration/Project Workshop

Year Two: Spring Semester
Multicultural and Interfaith Pastoral Counseling (DMPS-6050)
Groups and Leadership in Congregational Settings (DMPS-6065)

Year Three
Dissertation/Project Supervision (DM-6010)

Summer Intensive Option: Typical Sequence of Courses

Summer One: Four Weeks
How People Change: Theories of Counseling and Psychotherapy (DMPS-6051)
Loss, Trauma and Grief in Psychological and Theological Perspectives (DMPS-6041)
Dissertation/Project Workshop:  Research Methods

Between Summer One and Summer Two
Assessment, Diagnosis and Clinical Theology-Part 1

Summer Two: Four Weeks
Contemporary Issues in Pastoral Counseling: Addictions and Multicultural Counseling (DMPS-6060 & DMPS-6050)
Faith and Counseling through the Life Cycle (DMPS-6049)
Dissertation/Project Workshop: Development of D/P Topic

Between Summer Two and Summer Three
Assessment, Diagnosis and Clinical Theology-Part 2

Summer Three: Four Weeks
Pastoral Counseling with Couples and Families (DMPS-6055)
Addictions and Spirituality (DMPS-6060)

Year Four
Dissertation/Project Supervision (DM-6010)

The purpose of the dissertation/project is to give the student the opportunity to explore one subject or aspect of their ministry in greater detail.  The dissertation aspect of the DP will involve the student in using the combined resources of psychology and theology to study a particular subject.  The project aspect of the DP will involve the student in implementing and evaluating a pilot project designed to both do ministry better and to be itself a learning platform.  In preparation for the Dissertation/Project, we offer one or more free workshops to assist students to identify and develop their DP topic and design proposals.


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Educational Programs

Master of Divinity
Master of Arts in Theological Studies
Doctor of Ministry
Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE)
Program in Christian Spirituality

Contact Information

San Francisco Theological Seminary
105 Seminary Rd
San Anselmo CA, 94960
Phone: 415.451.2800