Many therapists following the private practice model — sitting with individual clients and couples once a week — lament the isolating aspects of their work arrangement. PC&CC’s Dr. Joanne Comstock has found the antidote to this situation, by balancing her time between seeing clients and teaching a crop of new helping professionals at Wesley Theological Seminary and Loyola University in Maryland.
“I like the difference between teaching and seeing clients throughout the week. I think it stretches me and helps me,” she says. “Students ask good questions. They make me think and stay on top of things that are new, so it’s engaging, and I know it helps my counseling work.”
Comstock has taught in Loyola’s Pastoral Counseling graduate program for several years, but moving to Wesley this fall will be new, yet familiar, territory.
“I received my master’s in theology from Wesley,” she explains. “I’m especially looking forward to teaching seminarians because I think it will be a new kind of experience and I know I will learn something from that, too.”
She will be teaching a family systems course that includes working with couples. “It’s to help them work with families in difficulty, and partnerships that are in difficulty. Part of the curriculum will be helping them understand when they need to refer families to mental health professionals.”
Comstock adds that the family systems approach has applications to the entire church body as well. “Some of the work will be helping clergy recognize that the church is like a family system, that it has the same issues and dynamics. We will work to help them understand communication patterns. It’s going to be an interesting class,” she notes.
Comstock has noticed that she seems to be pulled more toward the theological aspects of helping relationships lately, both in moving into the new position at Wesley and in adding some more theologically-based courses in Loyola’s M.A. program in pastoral care.
“At Loyola, I’ve taught classes in clinical case supervision, the helping relationship, and the Professional Seminar. Now I will teach the M.A. [program’s] course that is both academic and oversees an internship,” Comstock says. “I think the best part of teaching is the students. They bring a real energy and a real caring — they’re all people who are entering the field, usually from somewhere else, and want to make a difference. I get energized by it, too, because it pushes me to stay on top of things, and I think that’s good. It keeps me learning.”
In addition to teaching, Comstock continues to see a mix of clients — couples, adults, children, and clergy among them — who are facing issues such as anxiety, depression, sexual abuse, and relationship challenges. Meanwhile, she is making time to write articles about her research for potential publication.
Comstock works out of PC&CC’s Bethesda office and may be reached at 202-449-3789 x703.