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Doctor of Philosophy in Pastoral Theology, Personality and Culture (PhD)

This program will prepare persons for leadership and teaching in theological seminaries and for clinical services in pastoral care and counseling. Students study the integration of theology and psychology with a focus on developing as pastoral psychotherapists and theologians. Through this interdisciplinary program students will increase their knowledge of the theories and practices of healing and care.
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Rev. Dr. Trina Armstrong
Academic and practical work in pastoral care and counseling provide an opportunity for students to grapple with the complexity of the human experience. My goal is to help students focus their enthusiasm, compassion, and empathy to be more effective in their work with others. - Rev. Dr. Trina Armstrong

Two Track Options to Tailor Your Degree to Your Vocational Goals

There are two tracks in the PhD Pastoral Theology, Personality and Culture program. Track one is for students who want to teach or do research in pastoral theology from a pastoral care perspective, or for experienced clinicians seeking to become scholars in the field. The second track includes clinical training toward licensure as a licensed professional counselor. Clinical training, with additional course work, is at our affiliated pastoral counseling center, the Center for Religion and Psychotherapy of Chicago.

Track 1: Pastoral Theology Track

  • 18 semester hours in Pastoral Theology (courses include history and theories, faith development, advanced Pastoral Theology, and advanced Psychology of Religion)
  • 9 semester hours in a cognate concentration in the theological curriculum: church history, theology, ethics, biblical studies or another approved area (determined with advisor)
  • 6 semester hours of electives at Northwestern or another university.

Track 2: Clinical Track (21 additional hours)

In addition to the above requirements, students pursuing the clinical track will need to complete the following courses for a total of 61 semester hours.

  • 21 semester hours taken at the Center for Religion and Psychotherapy or an affiliated pastoral counseling center

About The Center for Religion and Psychotherapy of Chicago

The Center for Religion and Psychotherapy of Chicago (CRPC) is a not-for-profit organization offering psychotherapy and pastoral counseling for adults and adolescents, individuals and couples, since 1965. It is fully accredited as a clinical and educational site by the American Association of Pastoral Counselors. Staff members are licensed by the state of Illinois, and have been trained both in psychodynamic psychotherapy and in the engagement of the spiritual and religious dynamics of human experience. To learn more, go to

Commitment to Excellence

With a rich history of scholarship, a strong reputation for teaching, and access to world-class academic resources, Garrett-Evangelical is committed to excellence throughout its PhD program.

  • Substantial scholarship resources
  • Emphasis on pedagogical theories and methods
  • Opportunities for developing skills as teachers and scholars through serving as research and teaching assistants and developing a teaching portfolio
  • Home to one of the top ten theological libraries in the nation
  • Connected to faculty and libraries at the largest concentration of seminaries in the United States as part of the Association of Chicago Theological Schools
  • Partnership with Northwestern University libraries and faculty
  • Exceptional record of placing students in teaching positions at colleges and seminaries as well as leadership roles in the church

Renowned Faculty Dedicated to Rigorous Academics and the Practice of Ministry

Throughout Garrett-Evangelical's history, there has been a long-standing commitment to the pastoral care and counseling field. Our faculty are widely recognized for their expertise, scholarship, and leadership in the Church and academy. They have become national leaders of their professional organizations and hold places of international recognition and preeminence in the field. In the area of Pastoral Theology, Personality and Culture, our faculty members are experienced clinicians and scholars who bring a wealth knowledge. Our pastoral care and counseling faculty include:

Dr. Trina Armstong is Assistant Professor of Pastoral Theology and Pastoral Care at Garrett-Evangelical. She is an ordained itinerant elder in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, a licensed marriage and family therapist, and certified rape counselor. Her research intersects with practical and womanist theology, post-trauma psychology, and relational cultural theory. She also researches issues of loss, grief, death and dying, crisis care, and the impact of historical trauma on the wellbeing of African American families and interpersonal relationships. Prior to teaching at Garrett-Evangelical, Armstrong was Assistant Professor of Pastoral Care and Counseling and Pastoral Theology and Faculty Director of the Center for Interfaith Chaplaincy and Pastoral Care and Counseling at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities, as well as a multi-systemic therapist at Nystrom and Associates, LLC.

Dr. Rolf Nolasco is Professor of Pastoral Theology at Garrett-Evangelical. He is an experienced professor, trained in pastoral and counseling psychology, mindfulness and contemplative spirituality, and affective neuroscience. Nolasco is also a psychotherapist, published author, and has vast experience in cross cultural communications from living and working across the world within varying social and cultural backgrounds. He is the author of The Contemplative Counselor: A Way of Being (Fortress Press, 2011) and Compassionate Presence: A Radical Response to Human Suffering (Cascade Books, 2016). His most recent work seeks to affirm compassion as the pulsating heartbeat of Christian theology and praxis through the hermeneutical perspectives of brain science, psychology, and practical theology. Nolasco is currently working on two books, namely God’s Beloved Queer (Wipf and Stock, 2018) and Depression, Dark Night of the Soul, and Joy (Cascade Books, 2020).


Affording Your Education

100% Tuition Scholarships for all phd students

All students accepted into the Doctor of Philosophy program at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary will receive a 100% tuition scholarship!

About the PhD at Garrett-Evangelical

The PhD program prepares teachers and scholars for seminaries, church-related colleges, universities, denominations, ecumenical agencies, and local congregations. While the program is centered at Garrett-Evangelical, it draws on faculty resources at Northwestern University; the Association of Chicago Theological Schools (ACTS), which includes four seminaries with PhD programs; and other approved universities.

Students may specialize in one of six concentrations with an optional focus in African American/Black Religious Studies available in any concentration:

Our graduates leave with a knowledge and mastery of key approaches, scholarly literature, and research methods in their focused area and appropriate cognate studies. They are engaged in practices of research, teaching, and leadership and are theologians and practical theologians contributing to the missions of the Church and the academy.

Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary

Founded in 1853, Garrett-Evangelical is a graduate school of theology related to The United Methodist Church with an ecumenical outreach. Faithfully embracing the future, we are committed to preparing skilled, bold and articulate leaders for ministry in the 21st century. On the campus of Northwestern University, upon the shores of Lake Michigan and on the outskirts of Chicago, Garrett-Evangelical is a place to nurture mind, body, and spirit. The seminary serves more than 400 students from many denominations and various backgrounds and its 4,500 living alumni serve church and society around the world.

Degree Requirements

The Doctor of Philosophy in Pastoral Theology, Personality and Culture is a 40-credit hour program. For those who chose the clinical track option, an additional 21-credit hours will be required.

PhD Teaching Certificate

The Garrett-Evangelical PhD program offers the opportunity for students earn a PhD teaching certificate. Through teaching seminars and workings, teaching assistant (TA) experiences, and TA case conferences, the PhD teaching certificate program equips PhD students to:

  • Be reflective practitioners in the scholarship and practice of teaching
  • Become a partner with other students in reflecting on and supporting colleagues as teachers
  • Reflect critically on teaching philosophies and practices
  • Foster relationships that will support and sustain participants over the year of the workshop and beyond
  • Fashion unique identities as teachers
  • Understand and navigate institutional cultures
  • Prepare a teaching portfolio in anticipation of future employment in college or theological school


Meet Some of Our PhD Students


Meet a Graduate

Dr. Jesús Rodríguez Sánchez
Professor of Pastoral Theology at Inter-American University of Puerto Rico

Dr. Jesús Rodríguez Sánchez received a PhD in Pastoral Theology, Personality and Culture from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in 2003 and since then has been teaching at Inter-American University of Puerto Rico, where he is Professor of Pastoral Theology. Looking back on his Garrett-Evangelical education, he can see that he “internalized the influences of many of my professors and mentors at Garrett-Evangelical.” He was shaped by their teaching methods, animated by the urgent questions that enlivened them, and deepened in his commitments to an integrative and cross-disciplinary approach to reflection on faith and life. When he was considering PhD curricula, he looked for an “integrative educational model” and was drawn to Garrett-Evangelical’s program because it “took into account the relationship between theology, sociology and psychology in understanding the role of ministry and theology in contemporary society.” What he discovered, he says, was even more than that, an education that prepared him for the academic environment of the Inter-American University, where he teaches in an atmosphere that “is scientific and secular in nature and often challenges theological propositions.” A “transdisciplinary environment,” he calls it, a gathering of people who are committed to freedom from disciplinary boundaries and devoted to free-flowing conversation across fields. His teachers at Garrett-Evangelical helped him find his own voice and style of engagement in such a setting. “This is the reason why most of my books, which are written in Spanish, include in their subtitles phrases such as ‘a transdisciplinary dialogue between pastoral theology,’ followed by the discipline I am engaging, whether psychology, sociology, psychiatry, etc.” Garrett-Evangelical’s PhD program also inspired an important direction of his research, “my commitment to document the history of Protestant theology in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean.” He recalls how his advisor and dissertation committee “emphasized the unique value of cultural research based on ethnographic studies and primary documents analysis.” Fired by a vision to do this kind of work for the churches of his native land, he established the Center for the Study and Research of the Christian Faith in Puerto Rico. The Center is an internet site with a database of the original documents of key Puerto Rican scholars. To date the Center has attracted some four million viewers and is “a primary source of research for seminarians, historians and professors locally and abroad.”


  • PhD, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary
  • DMin, Northern Baptist Theological Seminary
  • MDiv, Evangelical Seminary of Puerto Rico
  • BA, World University of Puerto Rico

A Few of Rodriguez Sánchez’s Publications

Teoría y Praxis del Ministerio de la Capellanía en el Hospital: Una Introducción (Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico: Ediciones Situm, 2016)

A Latino/a Clergy Self Psychology Hermeneutics of Pastoral Care (Atlanta, Ga.: Scholar’s Press, 2014)

Encuentros Pastorales con Documentos Humanos Vivientes ante la Muerte, with Denis Soto Hernández (San Juan, Puerto Rico: Ediciones Situm, 2006, 20011, 2015)

Imágenes del Cuidado Pastoral y Su Influencia en la Calidad del Cuido (Hato Rey, Puerto Rico: Publicaciones Puertorriqueñas, 2006)

Admission Requirements

  • Masters degree in religious or theological studies from an accredited college or university
  • One year of clinical training is required
  • Proficiency in the English language

Admission Process

Detailed information for the application requirements and process can be found here.

In response to COVID-19 pandemic, PhD applications WILL NOT require GRE scores for those applying during the 2020-2021 academic year. The TOEFL test will still be required for students who have not completed a previous degree in English. Those who are unable to complete the test due to COVID-19 should contact the admissions office for alternative options.

PhD applications are due by January 20. The admissions committee reserves the right to determine in its sole judgment whether an applicant is a suitable candidate for a specific concentration in the PhD program.