Spirituality an important part of Neumann counseling course


By Mike Lang

Staff reporter

ASTON, Pa. — Although she is not Catholic, Georgette Hall-Peterson appreciates how the Franciscan charism permeates the pastoral care and counseling program at Neumann University.

“The Franciscan way of living and way of relating to each other is paramount. You see it reflected all through the program,” said Hall-Peterson, an adjunct professor in the graduate school of pastoral counseling at Neumann.

Hall-Peterson teaches a course in marriage and family counseling, which includes couples, premarital and family therapy. She said she has not seen the spiritual aspect of therapy integrated into the program at other schools, but she likes that about Neumann.

“It does figure into how I, as a therapist, am with that person, how I treat that person,” she said.

The pastoral care program at Neumann teaches the Catholic Church’s position on issues such as cohabitation, same-sex marriage and divorce, all of which are popular topics, Hall-Peterson said.

However, students are encouraged to ask questions on all topics “because the program is about growth and learning. You learn from the dialogue with each other. If we don’t have that conversation, how do we grow?”

Hall-Peterson, who received her master’s degree in pastoral counseling from Neumann, has her own practice, Strength for the Journey Empowerment Ministries. According to its website, the practice mirrors Neumann’s approach, integrating “the mental, spiritual, emotional, physical and community dimensions of life.”

The north Wilmington resident also is an academic support and retention counselor at the Pennsylvania Institute of Technology, which has locations in Media and Philadelphia. She said most of the faculty in the Neumann pastoral care program are practicing therapists, which she likes.

Any changes to the pastoral care program since her days as a student relate to its quality more than content, she said. Also, when Hall-Peterson was there, most of the graduate students were older or nontraditional students returning for their master’s degree. Today, she sees more younger students who have just received their undergraduate degrees.

Students must acquire some practical experience before they graduate, and they must produce a genogram of their family. Genograms are similar to family trees, Hall-Peterson said, but they include more than names, such as the nature of relationships between members, health information and behavioral issues. There could be information on the history of illness and addiction, for example.

“It can give you information on a family’s way of being,” she said.