Western Theological Seminary Welcomes Director of MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program

Dr. Elizabeth Pennock is joining the WTS faculty summer of 2023. 

Dr. Elizabeth Pennock will join the faculty of Western Theological Seminary (WTS) and serve as Associate Professor of Counseling and Director of the Master of Arts in Mental Health Counseling Program, which will begin receiving applications summer of 2023.

“Dr. Pennock brings the sought-after combination of a skilled counselor, competent teacher, and gifted administrator that we need for this role,” said WTS Dean and Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Kristen Deede Johnson. “We are tremendously grateful that God opened the way for her to join us to provide leadership to this endeavor alongside current faculty member Dr. Chuck DeGroat.  Dr. Pennock will be a gift to our entire faculty and seminary as well as to the wider church and community, especially in light of today’s mental health crisis.”

Dr. Pennock’s areas of expertise include trauma and trauma-informed care, counselor education and supervision, and spirituality and counseling. The dissertation she completed for her PhD in Counselor Education was titled “Trauma-Informed Clergy: An Investigation of Factors Predicting the Trauma-Related Attitudes and Beliefs of Christian Clergy in Florida” (University of Central Florida). She has specialized training in trauma therapy that informs her research, teaching, and counseling practice.

Dr. Pennock spent seven years doing mission work and church planting in Eastern Europe before pursuing her career in counseling. After completing her master’s in counseling, alongside running a private practice, she spent six years as a missionary member care provider with a large, interdenominational mission agency. In this role, she provided counseling and crisis care to global missionaries, including psychological assessment of applicants to help assess their readiness for ministry and training staff members in spiritual and emotional formation and cultural adjustment.

Recently, Dr. Elizabeth Pennock was involved in helping with the successful initial CACREP (Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs) accreditation efforts for Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. Western Theological Seminary will be seeking CACREP accreditation for its program.

“The qualifications required to lead a program that receives CACREP accreditation are extensive,” said Dr. Chuck DeGroat, Professor of Pastoral Care and Christian Spirituality. “Dr. Pennock is uniquely qualified and comes to this role deeply committed to Christ and the church.  WTS is truly fortunate.”

“CACREP accreditation is the gold standard for counseling programs,” said WTS President Felix Theonugraha. “Already, seven states require students to graduate from a CACREP-accredited school to qualify for licensure. An additional 21 states have legislation in the works requiring counselors to graduate from a CACREP-accredited school to be eligible for licensure. I predict that Michigan will require CACREP accreditation in just a few years.

“Given the severity and complexity of mental health challenges in our communities, churches, and country, we cannot afford to offer anything less than the highest quality counseling program to our students, which is why we sought Dr. Pennock to lead the program.”

Applications for the Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program are expected to be available in late summer of 2023, with the inaugural class joining the WTS community fall of 2024.

Prospective students and current pastors, and ministry leaders will also have the opportunity to take two courses during the 2023-2024 academic year at a discounted rate. These bundled courses are designed to equip current leaders to engage in trauma-informed ministry in light of the contemporary mental health crisis.

Western Theological Seminary (WTS) is a Christian theological seminary affiliated with the Reformed Church in America. Located in Holland, Michigan, WTS offers 12 graduate programs online, in residence, in English, and Spanish, for women and men preparing for faithful Christian ministry.  Home to the Eugene Peterson Center for Christian Imagination and Center for Disability and Ministry, WTS is committed to providing excellent theological education and forming students spiritually. WTS was founded in 1866 when seven of the eight members of Hope College’s inaugural graduating class wished to become ministers and petitioned the RCA to allow them to complete their education in Holland.