A Christian approach to counseling was the focus of the Cleveland/Bradley Ministerial Association Wednesday.
Dr. Oliver McMahan, member of the Church of God International Council of 18, pastor, counselor and professor at the Pentecostal Theological Seminary, spoke on a “God-centered” approach to counseling.
He said there are rules and regulations that have to be followed in a professional counseling setting, but this does not hinder the counselor from being a reflection of Christ.
“God is working with the believer and with the unbeliever … God is always working,” McMahan said. “As a believer, you have the opportunity to minster to people in perhaps their most vulnerable moments … you don’t have to endorse their lifestyles, just to be able to be a witness,” McMahan said.
He stressed to those present that this can be done even without talking about spiritual things or mentioning the name Jesus, which may be restricted in some settings.
“When you sit to counsel someone, the Lord is there. Actually the Lord is counseling even if the person is not a believer. Do you believe that? I don’t need to tell them for the Lord to do his work; He is already doing His work. … At my best I am counseling with Jesus taking the lead.”
McMahan said he believes God can enable a counselor who is a Christian to know the right thing to say in difficult settings and situations.
“I find in counseling [as] a part of all of our ministry, where we don’t avoid things we go as the Lord leads. He has the answers and he is working, even when I am silent,” McMahan said.
He emphasized the power of love and how it is important for people to feel loved by ministers and not just hear about it.
“Counsel with that hope. People talk about, ‘Is there anyway that it is going to get better?’ Yes, but really the great hope is to know the reality of the new heaven and the new earth, and somehow put that all together in counseling,” McMahan said.
McMahan said graduates of the seminary are now serving throughout the world. He said being able to work at the seminary and train these students is a “blessed privilege.”
The seminary offers clinical licensure and nonlicensure counseling tracks. The licensure program fulfills the requirements for professional mental health counseling licensure in all 50 states.
“Scripture is central,” McMahan said. “We use a lot of Scripture in our teaching.”
The seminary’s counseling program explains the role of watching people change over time and how counseling is involved in ministry.
“The thing about pastoring is, the scope of what ministers and pastors have to do in local congregations is very intense and broad. That is why we have pastors and [church] staff members who sit right beside those who want to become professional mental health counselors,” McMahan said.
Students at the seminary also receive training in biological and medical issues that may be leading causes of mental health issues.
McMahan said most of the programs offered at the seminary can be completed online.
The program also places an emphasis on community counseling, whether as a pastor or working with a nonprofit to help those in community. McMahan said the American Counseling Association began because a group of psychologists had a deep desire to do more for “those who can’t afford counseling, those who need counseling.”
Internships are also an important part of the seminary’s counseling program.
“We work very hard to ensure that part of that internship experience is community counseling,” McMahan said.
He said the seminary wants students to see community counseling as important, whether it pays or not, as a way of reaching out to others.
PTS is accredited through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada.