photo of female counselor facing two clients with their backs to the camera

Bethany Launches Graduate Program

Bethany Lutheran College is pleased to announce the addition of the institution’s first-ever master of arts degree program. The new graduate-level course of study is in clinical mental health counseling (CMHC).

While this new master’s program has been in development for over a year, Bethany received full approval for the program from its accrediting agency, the Higher Learning Commission, on January 29th, 2021. The first cohort of twenty-five students is now being recruited and selected for admission. The program’s first classes will begin in the summer of 2021.

During the planning stages for Bethany’s first graduate program, a task force conducted a number of surveys meant to gauge the appeal and need for a master’s program in clinical mental health counseling—the findings revealed considerable interest. Bethany’s program will be unique because faculty will approach the mental health field from a Christian worldview, and provide guidance on counseling situations that occur in both secular and religious settings.

The CMHC master’s program at Bethany has its roots in a number of the College’s long-standing majors, primarily psychology which is the scientific study of the mind and behavior. The new CMHC program can draw from the shared resources and expertise already in place at Bethany.

The CMHC master’s curriculum will be primarily delivered through an online program with some on-campus components. Students will be welcomed to the Bethany campus for three in-person residencies during their course of study. Each residency is a four-day intensive experience focused on developing specific professional skills. Students will also complete clinical experiences at a site of their choosing.

The program is designed with traditional graduate students and working adults in mind. Students will be able to choose a plan of study that fits their needs with completion possible in as little as two years. A three-year option is available as well. Core content areas of the program are based on the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs and the national standards set by the National Board for Certified Counselors. Graduates will be eligible to become nationally certified and/or state licensed. The format provides the unique opportunity to serve a national, or even potentially a global audience with mental health training.

Smiling photo of Ben Kohls
Dr. Benjamin Kohls

Dr. Benjamin Kohls has led the development of the new program at Bethany. Dr. Kohls earned a PhD in counselor education and supervision from the University of South Dakota, a master of science in community counseling from Minnesota State University-Mankato, and a bachelor of science in staff ministry from Martin Luther College.

Prior to joining the faculty at Bethany, Dr. Kohls taught graduate courses in clinical mental health counseling at the University of South Dakota (USD) and South Dakota State University from 2012-2018. He also served as a clinical instructor and supervisor for the USD Sanford School of Medicine. Dr. Kohls is also a member of the professional staff of Christian Family Solutions.

Dr. Kohls’ counseling experience includes work with youth, families, and adults in a wide range of clinical settings, including residential care, in-home therapy, acute inpatient psychiatric hospital care, partial hospital programming, and outpatient clinics. He specializes in working with issues of defiance and aggression in children and adolescents, trauma, spiritual concerns, couples and relationship issues, as well as anxiety, depression, anger management, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and family conflict. He integrates biblical truths into the counseling process while utilizing skills and strategies grounded in evidence-based cognitive behavioral therapy and will use this model for Bethany’s new program.

Kohls talked about the new program, “The CMHC program at Bethany stands apart from other programs in a number of ways. First, the program emerged from a deep desire to meet the need for more quality mental health counselors in our communities here in Minnesota and across the nation. By providing the program through online distance education, students from around the region and country will be able to earn their master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling. Second, the courses have been designed to meet the highest standards in counselor preparation and are all taught from a Christian worldview. Faith-informed mental health care values the whole person-mind, body, and spirit. Graduates will be equipped to ethically and competently handle the spiritual aspects of mental health. Lastly, Bethany’s commitment to personal mentorship continues throughout the CMHC program. Faculty are dedicated to walking with students through the challenging and rewarding process of becoming a professional counselor.”

Bethany’s CMHC Program Mission Statement: The counselor education program exists to prepare students—through a Christian worldview that applies biblical truth and rigorous scholarship within the field of counseling—to be ethical, influential, and highly competent professional counselors who serve their communities, churches, and future clients.

Prospective students can learn more about Bethany’s Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program by visiting the program webpage.