Curriculum Overview

The Ph.D. curriculum for the concentration in Pastoral Care and Counseling consists of nine seminars, two research languages, four semesters of supervised practicum, four comprehensive examinations, and a dissertation. Please see our visual overview of the four year schedule.

Research Languages

Students are expected to complete two modern research requirements, one a language and one a course in methods. The first language, typically completed prior to the first full year of residence, may be chosen from among German, French, Spanish, Latin, or English (if English is not the student's native language). The second research requirement is LD4520 Introduction to Mixed Methods Research, completed in the summer term following the first full year of residence.


Pastoral Care and Counseling students take 9 courses in four areas of study throughout their first two years in residence. These four areas of study emerge from the core values and commitments of the Pastoral Care and Counseling program. Each area has specific educational outcomes. Students are required to take 6-7 courses within these four areas, as specified below. The remaining courses can be taken in any of the doctoral areas in light of the student's interests.

Historical (2 required courses)

Educational outcomes: Thorough knowledge of history and development of pastoral care and its larger frameworks of pastoral and practical theology as well as a more general understanding of the vocation of theological educator.

PC8510 History and Emerging Trends in Pastoral and Practical Theology.
This course explores pastoral care in light of its larger cognates, pastoral theology and practical theology. An overview of pastoral and practical theology throughout Church history. Focus on key figures and theories in the early church, Middle Ages, Reformation, and the modern period up to and including today. (required)

GR8620 The Vocation of the Theologian
An investigation into the academic, professional, and spiritual calling of the theologian, within the larger context of the mission of the Church, the worship of the Triune God, and the Christian life. The course considers historical, philosophical, practical, and theological perspectives upon our calling from God as Christian scholars. (required)

Descriptive-Empirical (1-2 required courses)

Educational outcomes: Understanding of cross-disciplinary nature of pastoral care and the variety of models of cross-disciplinarity. Capacity to carry out and/or interpret social scientific research in a cross-disciplinary framework

PC8520 Cross-Disciplinarity in Pastoral Care and Practical Theology
This course explores various models of cross-disciplinarity in the field of pastoral care and its larger cognate practical theology. Students assess models on theological and social scientific grounds and then locate themselves within these methodological discussions. (required)

LD8920 Implementing Social Scientific Research
Topics include an introduction to the Ph.D. dissertation process; mixed methods research; ethical implications of research; the complex nature of subjectivity; and biblical/theological frameworks. Participants collect and analyze data, present a succinct report of their results, reflect on how personal and professional experiences affect the act of research, and consider ways that their work can influence both the academy and the church, as well as the research other. Successful completion of LD4520 is prerequisite. (required of those students carrying out their own research)

Systematic-Constructive (2 required courses)

Educational outcomes: Capacity to bring theological/Biblical frameworks into conversation with social scientific and/or philosophical frameworks in order to construct theories of action. Thorough knowledge of two broad interpretive and normative frameworks in the social sciences and/or humanities. Thorough knowledge of two theological and/or Biblical frameworks.

PC8530 The Turn to Relationality and Theological Anthropology
This course investigates the continuities and discontinuities existing between social science theories (especially related to life in families and groups) and theological anthropology (especially those that acknowledge the turn to relationality). It is assumed that students have acquired a graduate-level understanding of and exposure to psychology, philosophy and sociology. Course participants will develop a congregational/pastoral theology that places social science theory in dialogical tension with theological anthropology. (required)

PC8540 Pastoral Care in Context and Community
This course examines contextual and communal emphases in pastoral care by bringing together sociological theories and ecclesiology. It explores how the church and more specifically pastoral care can critically engage the realities of late modernity, globalization and post-modernity. (required)

Performative (2 required courses chosen from among those being offered)

Educational outcomes: Capacity to construct guidelines for the practice of pastoral care and counseling in specific areas of specialization, e.g., aging; children, youth and family ministry; or, congregational health.

Supervised Practicum

Students are expected to complete four semesters (or the equivalent) of supervised pastoral care and counseling practica during their first two years of study.

The first two semesters must be clinical practica (such as but not limited to CPE, chaplaincy, AAPC). The second two semesters of supervised practica may be clinical, or may focus on the student's area of specialization. Practica should be chosen in consultation with the student's supervisor.

Read more about supervised practica here: Practicum Requirements (PCC PhD)

Comprehensive Examinations

Students take four comprehensive examinations in their third year of study. These include the following:

  1. History of Pastoral Care and Counseling
  2. Theology of Pastoral Care and Counseling
  3. Area of Specialization
  4. Thesis Area


Students are expected to complete the Ph.D. dissertation according to the guidelines published in the academic catalog.