Three cohorts in Regent University’s School of Psychology & Counseling (SPC) doctoral program broke away from their online studies at home to meet in person on campus. They embraced the warm weather of Virginia Beach for a week of learning, relationship-building, and conversation about what it means to be a Christian and what it means to be a counselor.
“They are long days for us, but they are exciting days,” said Dr. Mark Newmeyer, SPC assistant professor. “We are counselors. We are psychologists by training, so we enjoy these relationships. They are stimulating for us, and we love to pour into the students and have them actually give back to us. There’s reciprocity. These are doctoral students. They are future leaders in the field, and we realize these are our colleagues, so there’s a great relationship of respect with each other.”
Students who are well-established in counseling shared stories and experience from the field. Third-year students discussed their dissertations. They gathered at the end of a rigorous week at the beach to pray for their doctoral projects. These in-depth studies may be used to help shape the future of counseling, covering topics like models of effective therapy, cross-cultural efforts, and how they can take the counseling profession and make it applicable in parts of Europe, Jamaica and Africa.
“The program is elbow grease, and it’s dedication to find out how to work creatively in between everything else our students do. They are oftentimes full time or part time in the counseling field, and we like them to be there because we don’t want them to just have an academic degree; we want them to have a practical and academic experience,” said Newmeyer.
Getting that practical kind of experience, third-year doctoral student Andreas Bienert is looking forward to eventually taking his counseling skills back to his home country of Austria. He’s already worked on international projects, bringing counseling to Ukraine and speaking with its leaders about psychotherapy.
“The profession is virtually nonexistent, so we’re actually helping to create a professional body of practitioners who will build that foundation, from which hopefully they can build upon to create the groundwork for that profession to be established,” said Bienert.
Bienert’s dissertation involves cross-cultural analysis between accredited programs in the United States and the initiative he and SPC are leading in Ukraine. Assisting on an international wing of an accrediting board gives Bienert a new appreciation for the project and an appreciation for his cohort who is encouraging him through it.
“You’ve got very well-established clinicians, individuals who teach within higher education, those with multiple years of professional experience,” said Bienert. “I’ve built one of the closest relationships ever with the individuals in my cohort. With that, it’s almost like a family I have gained, and probably relationships that will carry out for the rest of our lives, simply because of the dynamics and the closeness we have experienced within the cohort.”
“One of our faculty members, Dr. Sells, likes to ask, ‘When do you become a doctor?’ It’s not the moment you walk across the stage and get your diploma,” said Newmeyer.
Newmeyer says the process of becoming a doctor and a leader in the field starts day one, and he sees students transform from information consumers into producers and presenters, assuming leadership positions within their organizations and universities.