Experiences and Reflections from Alumni
For over twenty years I served as a teacher in an inner city, public high school, and as a ministry volunteer at my church, but I had grown weary of bearing witness to the frontlines of trauma and crisis, anxiety and despair, broken hearts and broken families. I prayerfully prepared to step through God’s availed open door to return to Wheaton Graduate School for a brand-new season of forming, shaping, and refining. As a previous Wheaton graduate, having grown more biblically rooted and theologically formed through my Biblical Studies degree, I saw the Clinical Mental Health Counseling program as my next season of growth, especially having great confidence in Wheaton’s deep commitment to the integration of Christian ministry and professional practice. I now see how God had been carefully preparing my heart, deepening my desire, and cultivating my capacity to serve the hurting, the sick, and the marginalized in our society. I am confident that the deeply experienced, clinically gifted faculty, along with my very talented, supportive fellow cohort mates in the CMHC program, all served to prepare me well to step into the therapeutic and redemptive role that God was calling me to as a mental health counselor. This program stretched and strengthened me, so often cutting me open wide and deep at the character level, so that I could reflect, know, and grow into a more whole version of myself, one more personally aware and clinically prepared to therapeutically bring the grace of God’s peace, hope, and wisdom to all He entrusts to me as clients. If you believe you are ready to take this path of rigorous personal growth, spiritual formation, and professional development, I am convinced you will be thoroughly challenged and tested, equally encouraged and supported, but also graciously empowered by the One who uniquely calls you to faithfully serve Christ and His Kingdom in this important and truly redemptive work.
Coming from a background in international Christian ministry, I was interested in learning how to bring lasting holistic change to the most disadvantaged of society, especially in those whose cultural beliefs present obstacles to understanding God as a father. The CMHC program inculcated in me the discipline of integrating counseling skills, theories, ethics and research with a rich theological framework. This gave me clarity on the important role of professional clinical skills and interventions in helping the lost find attachment to God and gain restoration. The program trained me to consider the tension of man’s sinful condition, the pain of suffering and the image of God in every person and gave me courage to explore these difficult questions with them in a clinical setting.
One special bonus of being in Wheaton was that our faculty is connected to counseling practitioners working in populations around the world, who have a vision for God’s kingdom. This gave me access to learning opportunities that helped me adapt my clinical practice to non-Western cultures. As an international student, I appreciated the multicultural application emphasized in every class, the diverse experiences of my cohort and faculty, and the availability and warmth of our professors and staff. I felt championed and believed in as they supported my vision and personal development throughout my two years here.
"Two years in the Clinical Mental Health Counseling program at Wheaton College was a whirlwind of experience. Looking back, my Wheaton experience has been filled with grace and blessings.
In order to help students to become servant-practitioner-scholar, the program did not only create a safe space for students to openly communicate different perspectives, but also guided students in developing identities of professional counselors with a Christian worldview. The continuation of applying explicit and implicit integration in counseling made the program a lot richer, more valuable, and more relevant for us. With integration as a regular attendant in the program, I was able to reflect on the scope and depth of my own faith, while learning skills and interventions to be a competent counselor.
The diversity of my cohort made the CMHC program unique and memorable. Our cohort has been very supportive, encouraging, and understanding. They taught me how to be vulnerable and how to share. Moreover, with people coming from various cultural backgrounds and having different visions in the classroom, we were able to learn from each other to be culturally sensitive and competent."
"Wheaton's Clinical Mental Health Counseling program seeks to mold and equip their students in a holistic way. Academically, I learned different theories, skills, and treatments, but my learning excelled far beyond the textbooks. Through our professors years of expertise, we heard a wide variety of perspectives on how to care for a client. They instilled in us the importance of clinical wisdom and also spiritual discernment. They educated us on spiritual disciplines and encouraged our own spiritual growth and care over academic perfectionism. Our professors do not merely see us as students on a grade sheet but as children of God. Our professors loved us as such and showed us grace and compassion that gave us the courage to grow and advance as clinicians.
As a cohort, we had to learn how to depend on each other and learn from each other though being very different. Having people from different cultures, age groups, and ideologies helped us become more aware of different perspectives. Being challenged to think differently in the classroom translated in our practicums and internships with our clients.
Throughout practicum and internship, we receive incredible support. Unlike many programs, our professors help us find practicum sites and prepare us for each step. From meeting with different sites at PIE day to licensure applications, professors supported us through the entire process. Because of the encouragement of faculty members and fellow classmates, I feel more equipped as a clinician entering the workplace."
"As someone who wasn’t 100% sure that the CMHC program or a second career as a counselor was entirely possible, I was surprised by and grateful for my experience. The investment in my education, the relationships formed with the faculty and the cohort and the practical and supportive internship opportunities were not only meaningful, but useful.
Throughout this two year program, I was challenged by the academic juggle mixed with the real life demands of work, family and more. Yet I was encouraged by moments of inspiration, clarity and a deep connection with clients, classmates and staff. I was consistently introduced to new conversation partners through the Wheaton staff, conference lectures, a wide range of reading materials, various multi-media avenues and an abundance of on the job training. It was a risk to jump into the educational waters again, but I’m glad I strapped on the helmet and life jacket and paddled hard. It turns out, I wasn’t alone. God’s work in my life continues to remind me to take the next step, trust the process and learn what I can, with arms open wide. The Wheaton CMHC community was a great place with which to do this work."
"What I appreciated the most about Wheaton College’s CMHC program was its emphasis on holistic growth. My expectation going into the program was focused on the academic rigor of the technical training, so I was pleasantly surprised by the equal ground given to areas of personal, emotional, and spiritual development. Not only were we trained to become competent clinicians, we were pushed to explore our own identities and who we are in the counseling room. We learned the importance of asking our clients thoughtful and deep questions, and we wrestled with those same questions within ourselves. After going through this program, I have gained a greater understanding of what it means to walk alongside and be a therapeutic presence to someone.
All members of the faculty were incredibly supportive of the students and they always tried to meet us where we were at. You knew that they really cared about you, and they weren’t just focused on getting us to graduation, but rather to make us great clinicians for life. They genuinely cared about how we were growing as a person, and not only as a counselor.
Finally, the cohort experience is what made this program truly memorable. There is something special and powerful about going through the two years of this program together. Being surrounded by future therapists was a unique opportunity and the chances to learn from each other were plentiful. On days I struggled with certain clients or with personal problems, I could turn to my cohort mates and find generous support. I am incredibly thankful for all the lifelong friendships I have made through this program and am overwhelmingly blessed to have been a part of this group."
"Something distinct about Wheaton is that they arrange programs in a cohort model. Naturally, this lends itself to both insightful and challenging discussion, meaningful conversation, and deep, lasting friendship. Moving through each semester with the same set of faces offered a sense of safety and stability, while providing crucial community for us to grow in, as both students and professionals. Our professors engaged passionately with both class material and students, teaching us the latest research and empirically based practices while instilling within us a desire to be the best counselors that we could be. They were always willing to lend an ear or provide a space to process what was on our hearts. Having this community, amongst peers and faculty/professors was critical to my own development and I am so grateful for it.
Day one we were told; "The ground is level at the foot of the cross." This would become a way to conceptualize our clients, as well as a way that we could relate with one another. Any and all competition was friendly and encouraging. When we were tempted to be prideful about our accomplishments, therapeutic successes, circumstance, etc., we were reminded yet again; "The ground is level at the foot of the cross." This reminder taught us (me) to dignify and humanize our own weaknesses (and strengths), but also those of our clients, our coworkers, our classmates and our professors.
When I first moved to Wheaton, after spending the previous two years in Guatemala, I thought; "What am I doing here?" "Where in the world did I end up?" The contrast between the culture I had just been living in and the one I was committing to for the next two years was mind boggling. For the first month, I asked myself those questions daily, but overtime, I stopped asking myself those questions and found myself asking, "Why not here?" As I did so, I found so much more than just a great education. I found friends, a home, professional mentors, role models, research opportunities and an internship (now job), working with at risk, minority youth, that I love with my whole heart.
Looking back on my experience in the CMHC program, I can say without a doubt that this was where I was supposed to be. Wheaton's program emphasizes professional orientation, diversity, competency of practice and integration of Christian faith with counseling theory. I was first drawn to the CMHC program's emphasis on the empowerment of servant practitioner scholars to serve the underserved both at home and abroad. Now, as I prepare to move back to Guatemala, the experiences that I have had here have unquestionably equipped me to work more competently. Wheaton has both sharpened me and refined me. I am stronger in many ways, but softer in others. Leaving Wheaton, I am sure that I have chosen well. I am more confident in the skills that I have to bring to the table but humbled by the knowledge that I have so much more to learn. Nonetheless, I am glad that I had the opportunity to begin this journey at Wheaton."
"You will leave this program sadder, but wiser."
"I distinctly remember these piercing words that a professor spoke over us the first semester of my time in the CMHC program. At the beginning, I thought them to be rather bleak and perhaps not the most encouraging pep talk that I had received. I mean, who really wants to become "sadder"? However, after completing the program and graduating, I have a deeper understanding of what he meant by this phrase.
Wheaton has prepared me emotionally, spiritually, vocationally, and mentally for the counseling profession. At times, this meant doing the hard work required in the program of personal therapy, group therapy, and often learning how to engage well with other people's pain.
The CMHC program is committed to shaping the whole person and providing students with excellent clinical training as well as rich spiritual practice and guidance. I became well versed in my ability to engage on a diagnostic level and apply empirically validated interventions to my work with clients. The professors that I engaged with on a weekly basis cared deeply about my holistic growth. They both educated us on a clinical level and yet showed interest in how we were doing in our personal lives. I was deeply shaped by the experience of the cohort. With this model, we were able to take classes and walk through life together for two years.
During the program, I was able to develop a niche and work toward my vision of doing therapy with adolescents. The professors support students' ideas and visions for what they felt called to do. This was such a gift. I left Wheaton with a deep sense of gratitude and a confidence that I had been well prepared for my work as a clinical mental health counselor."
"As an international student from China, I was both excited and anxious when I arrived at Wheaton College. While I felt privileged to be surrounded by my great cohort and faculty, I was concerned if I could graduate from the program due to my language and cultural challenges. However, I soon found myself respected, valued and cared for in class and in community. This nurturing environment at Wheaton allowed me to explore myself deeply and grow professionally. The professors modeled the power of therapeutic relationship and the meaning of multicultural counseling.
Also, my burden for the underserved grew during my years at Wheaton, inspired by the mission of the program and the lives of the faculty. My practicum and internship site also gave me exposure to marginalized populations. With the love I received from Christ and the community, I hope to bring all that I have learned back to China in the near future."