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CUI's First PhD Builds on Popular Master’s Degree

March 22, 2021 - 2 minute read


Dr. John Townsend

In fall 2021, CUI will enroll students in its first PhD program, a Doctor of Philosophy in Counselor Education and Supervision through the Townsend Institute. Interest is strong, and one of the program’s architects, Dr. Margaret Christmas Thomas, is confident that it “will change the face of counseling in twenty years.”

"Our graduates will create research in the counseling field and become thought leaders and strong Christian faculty at Concordia and other institutions all across the country, contributing to the research base in our profession," she says.

Program director Dr. Donna Washburn says the PhD, which is a terminal degree in the field, will serve a wide range of high-level professionals in fields from counseling to academia to corporate and nonprofit America. CUI has offered a master’s degree in counseling for several years, and it has grown quickly to be one of the largest counseling programs in nation. More than 550 students are enrolled, with hundreds more joining the program each spring and fall.

One big attraction is that in 2019 the program received Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) accreditation, which is the gold standard for the counseling profession.

"It makes all the difference for recruiting students because it means you meet the highest standards for counseling accreditation,” says Christmas Thomas. “Getting CACREP tripled our cohort sizes. People want fully accredited, top-notch Christian counseling programs."

Our graduates will create research in the counseling field and become thought leaders and strong Christian faculty at Concordia and other institutions all across the country.

CUI's strategic partnership with John Townsend is another major aspect of the program's visibility and desirability.

The unique thing about our program is not only that it's totally online, but that it is embedded in the Townsend model, which is different from every other counseling program, Washburn says. It emphasizes growing in leadership skills based on competency and character.

Students will start with a four-day residency on campus and receive training from Dr. John Townsend personally, and from world-class people in his network of fellows, including Dr. Daniel Amen, Steve Arterburn, Jon Acuff, George Barna, Michael Hyatt, Dr. Ken Blanchard and others. Students will come for a second residency halfway through the program.

Dr. Deena Shelton, assistant director, says the PhD will offer a strong, neuroscience-based research emphasis with an integrated dissertation approach. Dissertation benchmarks are set along the way so that the entire program and dissertation are designed to be completed in three to four years.

It's an incredibly versatile program for mental health professionals and people who already have good careers as clinicians and leaders in a variety of mental health fields, Shelton says. “It also equips those who want to conduct research in major corporations and larger nonprofits in all aspects of mental health. The program is built to create leaders in a variety of academic institutions and organizations."

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