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Master of Theology in Pastoral Care & Counseling Program

What It Is

In 2014, as the Antiochian House of Studies (AHOS) in North America neared its 25th Anniversary, the late Metropolitan PHILIP gave his blessing for the establishment of a new graduate program in pastoral counseling, with the specific focus of training clergy and lay volunteers to provide supportive care to individuals and families in crisis from a uniquely Orthodox foundation. Its curriculum was largely developed from the theological and anthropological teachings of Archimandrite Sophrony (Sakharov) of Essex, and although a number of ideas from the fields of psychology and social work are explored in the program, it remains essentially dedicated to theologically-founded pastoral care. Professor Renos Papadopoulos, director of the Centre for Trauma, Asylum & Refugees (CTAR) at the University of Essex and a long-time spiritual child of Father Sophrony and the monastery he founded at Essex, serves as the program's senior advisor.

The 54-credit Master of Theology in Pastoral Care & Counseling program is designed for three specific populations: (1) clergy interested in becoming more skilled in responding to complexly disoriented persons and families under their care, (2) members of the helping professions looking to grow in their ability to offer their work from a strong foundation in Orthodox pastoral theology, and (3) lay persons interested in beginning in or developing in a parish-based, community-based, or diocesan-based ministry in spiritual care, crisis response, chaplaincy, or disaster spiritual care.

The program requires a minimum of an accredited baccalaureate degree, evidence of sufficient Christian maturity, and evidence of active parish service for admission, and will take a total of 3 years to complete. Along with taking 12 uniquely designed non-resident courses and 2 intensive week-long residency courses in applied Orthodox pastoral theology and the core pastoral counseling disciplines, students will participate in a 6-credit, 400-hour practicum which will combine locally-placed work in pastoral care with supervision during monthly video-teleconference sessions. In their final year, students will complete a robust 6-credit research project culminating in a major thesis, which will be afterwards made available to parishes throughout the USA and beyond.

Along with their degree, graduates will be awarded either one unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) in collaboration with our in-house faculty CPE supervisor or a Pastoral Care Specialist certificate that recognizes CPE equivalence. Upon graduation students may also be eligible to request a path for entry-level certification in pastoral counseling, professional chaplaincy, crisis management, or traumatic stress expertise, depending on their emphasis during the practicum and thesis portions of the program.


How it Works

Every student in the program will complete the following 14 uniquely-designed courses: Fundamentals of Pastoral Care & Counseling, Christology & Human Suffering, Ethics in Pastoral Care & Counseling, Developmental & Cultural Aspects of Pastoral Care, Theology of Crisis Care, Introduction to Pastoral Counseling Theories, Group-Based Pastoral Care, Pastoral Care Interventions with Individuals in Crisis & Special Populations, Dimensions of Spiritual Illness & Healing in the Desert Fathers, Clinical Assessment & Treatment Planning in Pastoral Work, Parish-based Critical Incident Response & Disaster Spiritual Care, the Sanctification of Marriage & Family Life, Pastoral Care Interventions with Families in Crisis, and Parish-based Family Care Programming & Community Outreach.

The integrated curriculum process includes the following educational elements:

(a) directed reading and audio-visual training resources assigned by mentors,

(b) regular essays to demonstrate interaction with the material,

(c) bi-monthly video-teleconference (VTC) sessions with a small group of cohort members and a program mentor,

(d) two intensive course residency weeks at the Antiochian Village Learning Center,

(e) professional pastoral care supervision with our faculty supervisors, making use of locally-placed work in ministry over 2 years,

(f) a robust research project in the field of pastoral care that demonstrates a firm foundation in Orthodox pastoral theology and culminates in a major thesis. 

The coursework is completed during the first two years of the program, with each year containing one intensive summer residency course and two (fall and spring) semesters containing three non-resident courses each.  Strong emphasis is placed on real-time application of ideas from the course materials into local ministry, and students are encouraged to prioritize and invest most deeply in course materials that can make an immediate impact on their setting in ministry.  Following the completion of the program coursework, students will advance to the guided research and thesis phase.

Supervised ministry placement will not necessarily require students to volunteer hours outside of their current work and ministry settings.  Clergy, members of the helping professions, and lay persons active in volunteer ministries with suffering, disoriented, or distressed persons and families will likely be able to complete their practicum without changing their current schedule.  Students who do not have such schedules already in place will work with the program supervisors to determine a local opportunity that will provide a suitable place to gain experience and contact with people in need.

Once accepted into the program, students will receive the full program syllabus and the most recent edition of the practicum handbook.

Further Information

The Pastoral Counseling faculty are pleased to answer questions from prospective students, and the director can be reached at Please allow up to one business week for a response.