How to: Doctor of Professional Counseling Program

January 24, 2022

by Greg Henson, CEO, Kairos University and President, Sioux Falls Seminary and Jake Porter, Lead Professor for the Doctor of Professional Counseling Program and Assistant Professor of Counseling at Houston Graduate School of Theology


Let’s continue our review of the various programs available through Kairos University’s global network of partners. Today our attention is focused on the Doctor of Professional Counseling (DPC) program, which is available through Houston Graduate School of Theology, one of Kairos University’s Legacy Partners.

The DPC is a unique degree program because no other seminary accredited by the Association of Theological Schools offers such a degree. It is a first-of-its-kind doctoral program focused on the practice of integrative counseling.

Why Do People Enroll in the Doctor of Professional Counseling?

Students who enroll in the Doctor of Professional Counseling program are counselors or therapists who recognize in themselves the desire to keep sharpening their skills while also growing in their understanding of the field. These are students who have been working in their profession for a few years, discerned a need to grow, and developed a sense of where to enhance their practice and the field. Many times, the inner drive to engage in the DPC is connected to a sense of stewardship. Students recognize that they are trusted with the lives of others, and they sense a need to serve them well.

You may have noticed that the statements about why people enroll in the program are not about having the title “doctor” in front of their name. In our experience, those who flourish in the program see the degree and the title “doctor” as a helpful byproduct of the enriching educational and formational journey. While the program is educationally-rigorous and provides an opportunity for students to think and reflect deeply on their practice, it is, first and foremost, a program focused on the student as a practitioner – as one who is doing the work of walking alongside others. People enroll in this program because they want to be at the “top of their game” as counselors or therapists. The Doctor of Professional Counseling program invites students to be awakened to a new world of learning and possibilities and develop the skills to continue growing and serving their clients or patients well.

The Aspects of the Journey

Once enrolled, students will journey through three types of learning: orientation and immersion, specialized study, and project/dissertation. Each of these types of learning is supported by formational and communal experiences. Let’s look at each one.

Orientation and Immersion
Learning experiences in this category are focused on 1) helping students learn about the program as they prepare to engage in doctoral-level study, 2) immersing students in the theories of counseling and therapy as they begin to deepen their understanding of the field and their practice, and 3) studying the theological and formational foundations for those in the profession.

Specialized Study
As students progress through the program, they are invited to identify a particular area of study or aspect of their field on which they will focus their attention and will ultimately drive the work they do in their project/dissertation. It is often most helpful for students to identify this area of focus before they enroll or during the enrollment process as it will give form and shape to many things they do in the program. The learning experiences in this phase may involve working with faculty, mentors, and/or with peers (or all of the above). Students can focus on things like assessment faith integration, skills and techniques, self-care, and more – basically, any area of study that is connected to their profession. The possibilities are endless.

Having the title “doctor” means that an individual has contributed to her field’s body of knowledge. The project/dissertation is the place where students in the Doctor of Professional Counseling program accomplish this work. One of the reasons Houston Graduate School of Theology launched the DPC was that practitioner research in the counseling field was lacking. Students in the Doctor of Professional Counseling have the opportunity to apply their skills and learning while advancing the field. The project/dissertation is guided by the learning the student gains throughout the program. They identify a need, develop a solution or a way to address that need through research and practice, test their solution, and then share what they have learned through that process.

Formational and Communal Experiences
Throughout each aspect of the program, students engage with others in a wonderful community of learning and find themselves undergoing a rich formation process – maybe in some surprising ways! Often, students find themselves building community that goes beyond the boundaries of the Doctor of Professional Counseling program.

How Has the Program Served Students?

Ken’s Story
I enrolled in the Doctor of Professional Counseling because it was the only doctoral program that I could find that allowed me to advance my counseling competency while simultaneously developing my faith. It has been wonderfully practical! The core counseling and psychology classes have been well balanced between the theoretical and practical. I have personally been able to increase my competency to counsel through the doctoral work and this helps my practice staff and myself assist our clients.

Jocelyn’s Story
My top three reasons for enrollment in the DPC at Houston Graduate School of Theology are to enhance my counseling skills and leadership qualities, gain education and the essential abilities required to do research studies, grow–spiritually: to become all that God has destined and called me to be. I enjoy learning about God and discussing with my cohort effective ways to communicate and reach others for the cause of Christ.

Like any journey, there are bumps, dips, and, sometimes, even detours, but I am learning that if I stick to the course and stay on the road, God will. God has been faithful on this journey. I have learned so much in a very short time. I highly recommend the Doctor of Professional Counseling at Houston Graduate School of Theology. It is enriching in both content and format!

Joanne’s Story
I have delighted at the depth and quality of the professional development the program has created through the faculty, courses, course material, and assignments. On a practical level, I have become a better therapist. On a deeper level, I have developed an advanced set of skills that reflect maturing clinical interventions, informed and wise ethical decision making, and expanded my knowledge base. In terms of clinical self-care, I have developed a reflective practice that not only makes me a better therapist, but the practice of which I now teach. Finally, on a practical and applied level, I became a supervisor of provisionally-licensed therapists, I have more topics I present as Continuing Education Units, and I have several new and effective interventions and programs I use with clients that were a result of DPC coursework.

BJ’s Story
The emphasis on practice over simply theory inspired me to enroll in the Doctor of Professional Counseling program at Houston Graduate School of Theology. I was drawn to the idea that subject matter would be relevant to enhancing my ability as a counselor by providing relevant growth material and practical lessons that I could immediately implement into practice. I have enjoyed my experience. The faculty is extremely energetic and ready to give guidance and wisdom. The peers I work alongside are caring and insightful.

all stories