Trevecca Nazarene University’s first Ph.D. program celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. The Ph.D. Clinical Counseling program, which focuses on teaching and supervision, remains the only faith-based program of its kind in Tennessee. The program began in 2007 and was accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) in 2015. This took place after Trevecca’s longstanding Graduate Counseling program had earned an outstanding reputation in Middle Tennessee.
“Our credibility within the community [was crucial],” said Susan Lahey, Graduate Counseling program director. “We had a lot of people who believed in what we did before we even offered this [doctoral] program. Our master’s programs had been around, at that point, over 15 years so there was a lot of belief in what we did, a lot of faith in the kind of product that we could submit.”
The doctoral program’s emphasis on teaching and supervision within the counseling profession works to help students develop the skills and leadership that are necessary for leading and advancing the field.
“When you become a counselor educator, your impact spreads down exponentially,” said Emily Kilbourn, doctoral program assistant. “So when you’re standing in front of a classroom training future counselors, you’re actually impacting all of those counselors and their future clients in that one setting.”
Leaders attribute the program’s success to many factors, including a highly committed faculty that remains active in multiple aspects of the field while teaching.
“[We have a] committed, devoted core and adjunct faculty…who are fully immersed in the field, either as clinicians, educators, supervisors, leaders, even researchers,” Lahey said. “Those are the five component areas that CACREP wants us to cover, so we are fully involved in all of those areas.”
Lahey also attributes the ongoing success and progress of the program to the students’ commitment. Students must dedicate themselves to the coursework to obtain a degree in a minimum of three years.
“We’ve been really blessed with a great student body, in master’s and Ph.D. students, who work really hard,” Lahey said. “They have busy lives, families, jobs, and somehow manage to do full time doctoral work and that requires a level of commitment that we see helps the program to be successful.”
Former students, such as Dr. Angie O’Gieblyn, say the program has been transformational. O’Gieblyn graduated in 2015 and is now a counselor educator, teaching fulltime at the master’s level.
“This program helped me discover passions, strengths and abilities I never knew I had,” she said. “It also helped me grow in areas of weakness in a supportive environment. It is a challenging program for sure; however, all that I gained both personally and professionally made it very worth it.”
Going forward, the Ph.D. counseling faculty and leadership will continue to bring changes to the program with the intention of giving students a better experience and more opportunities in the field to equip future graduates.
“The first decade of the program is really the development of the program itself,” Kilbourn said. “So we now have an opportunity to take a fully developed program and hone it into the most excellent program it can possibly be.”