Doctor of Theology in Pastoral Counseling (ThD)

Aims of the Program

The Doctor of theology in Pastoral Counseling (ThD) prepares persons for the ministry of pastoral counseling at the doctoral level by combining rigorous academic and theological work with supervised clinical practice. The degree is an equivalent of the PhD, designed for those whose interest in pastoral counseling is primarily professional.

Emory University also offers a PhD program through its Graduate Division of Religion in the program in Person, Community, and Religious Practices. Through the PhD, students may pursue advanced studies in pastoral theology as preparation for primarily an academic career of research and teaching. The ThD, by contrast, offers doctoral-level preparation for the full-time professional practice of pastoral counseling and is not intended to qualify students for academic careers in pastoral theology.

The ThD helps students gain advanced understanding of appropriate theological and theoretical concepts. Students also learn, under qualified supervision, the application of these concepts in pastoral counseling and how to promote professional integration of theory and skills in both pastoral counseling and pastoral guidance. In addition, each student designs and executes a research project appropriate to the student's professional practice and gives evidence of creative ability to contribute to the aspect of pastoral counseling that is the focus of the research project.

Degree Requirements »

ThD Handbook PDF File


The doctoral program is under the immediate direction of the ThD committee of the Atlanta Theological Association. The director of the A.T.A. ThD program is Emmanuel Lartey. Inquiries for information about matters regarding admission should be directed to the Candler Admissions Office at 404.727.6326 or The Advanced Studies Committee of Candler School of Theology oversees Candler's participation in the program. This arrangement enables students to cross-register through Candler for courses at Columbia Theological Seminary and Interdenominational Theological Center.


ThD students initially are assigned a temporary course adviser. Later, the student works with a dissertation adviser, who chairs an advisory committee selected by the student and approved by the dissertation adviser. The committee consists of at least three persons, ordinarily two Candler faculty members and a member of another A.T.A. school faculty. The committee is responsible for preparing examinations for the student and functions in an advisory capacity throughout the writing of the doctoral dissertation.

Grading System

Grading of student work is based on the following scale: A=4.0, B=3.0, C=2.0, and F=0. Students must maintain a grade average of 3.0 or better to remain in doctoral programs. A grade of B- or lower in a core course or practicum is cause for review of the student's progress. A course grade of F normally results in termination of the student's program.

Work extending over two or more semesters, such as practicums or project/dissertation supervision, receives a P (in-progress) at the end of each semester until the work is completed. All Candler students, including ThD students, are subject to Candler's policy on incomplete course work.

Transfer of Credits

ThD students may take a maximum of twelve semester hours, including transfer work taken prior to admission, at institutions not related to the A.T.A.

Students may receive credit for clinical or academic work taken before admission into the program under the following guidelines: it must have been done at the graduate level (but not toward the completion of another degree) within the past five years and have received a grade of B or better. The work must contribute significantly to the student's projected ThD work.

Students may transfer credit from accredited institutions outside the A.T.A. with the approval of their adviser and the director of the program. The student must pay the fees to the school where such work is done and arrange for transcripts to be sent to Candler's director of admissions.

Directed Study

ThD students may register for directed studies with members of the A.T.A. faculty for a maximum of nine hours. Prior to registering for directed study work, students must complete a Request for Directed Study form (available from Candler's registrar) and obtain the instructor's signature.

Withdrawal/Leave of Absence

A ThD student who chooses to withdraw or to take a leave of absence must notify in writing Candler's director of advanced studies and the director of the A.T.A. ThD program. In order to be acted upon by the ThD committee, requests for a leave of absence or withdrawal for an upcoming semester must be received by both directors by April 1 for the fall semester or November 1 for the spring semester. In addition, the student must complete an exit interview with the associate dean of admissions and student services. If the student withdraws during the semester and does not complete an exit interview, an F will be recorded for all courses, and the student will be responsible for any charges incurred.


Readmission may be granted by the ThD committee upon written request of the student, the recommendation of the primary adviser, and the approval of the director of advanced studies. The request must be received by the director of advanced studies by April 1 for the fall semester or November 1 for the spring semester. Written notification of a readmission decision will be sent to the student by the director of advanced studies. Students with unpaid balances or incomplete course work will not be considered for readmission.

Professional Certification

The supervision in pastoral counseling, an integral part of the ThD degree program, is provided according to the standards of the American Association of Pastoral Counselors and the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. The supervision may be used, therefore, to meet the requirements for counseling supervision of both the A.A.P.C. and the A.A.M.F.T.


Admission to the ThD degree program requires an MDiv degree with a superior academic record from an institution accredited by the Association of Theological Schools (or an equivalent accrediting body outside the United States and Canada); a sense of pastoral identity, preferably in pastoral ministry or grounded in a significant history of service in the church; and significant clinical pastoral education experience (usually not less than four consecutive units), although provisional admission may be granted prior to completion of this requirement. Recent GRE scores (no more than five years old) are required along with other application materials.  Since this program is a joint program of three schools through the Atlanta Theological Association, a student may seek admission through any of the three. Students enroll and pay tuition through the school to which they were admitted.  For details regarding the items required for the application for admission, please see pp.47-49 of the 2011-2012 Candler Catalog and Handbook