Clinical Psychologist is Reaching the City with God’s Love
Dr. Elizabeth Skjoldal has reopened Moody Theological Seminary’s Counseling Center with a vision of bringing professional mental health care to the entire Chicago community.
“We want the MTS Counseling Center to be a place that gives excellent treatment to all,” Skjoldal said. “I’m hoping that the clients that come through the door are as diverse as the city of Chicago.”
Born in Cuba and raised in Miami, Skjoldal and her family left an authoritarian regime looking for freedom and found freedom in Christ through a Church refugee resettlement program in the U.S. Skjoldal is passionate about reaching across cultural and language barriers to help people experiencing depression, anxiety, and other mental health challenges.
“I initially studied medicine because I really wanted to help people. Of course, mom and dad, as Cuban immigrants, hoped I would grow up to become a doctor,” she recalled. “In my first biology class, we had to dissect a frog. Didn’t love that! But I did love, love, love my psychology classes. I went home and told my parents that I was going to become a psychologist, a counselor, a helper. They were so supportive.”
At the University of Miami, she completed her master’s degree in Community Mental Health Counseling and went on to earn a doctorate in Counseling Psychology. She became Director of Care and Counseling Services for Baptist Health South Florida, then served as executive director of Caring for Miami, and taught for 28 years at Trinity International University’s Graduate School in Florida.
“I loved working with patients,” she said. “I loved the clinical aspect of it, but I also liked my teaching role. I've never been happier than being in the classroom. I love seeing students grow and then help others as counselors.”
In her new role at Moody Theological Seminary, Dr. Skjoldal manages the MTS Counseling Center as its new Director, as well, she serves as a faculty member for the seminary’s popular Clinical Mental Health Counseling (CMHC) program. She is assisted by Ms. Amy Baker, LCPC, who serves as Clinical Manager & Intern Supervisor overseeing licensed counselors and graduate student interns at the MTS Counseling Center.
“I was drawn to Moody by the idea of counseling in the city -- the interdisciplinary and multicultural aspects of it,” Skjoldal explained. “Here, you can help people from every country. And when I interviewed at Moody, I saw the diversity of the faculty. We have such a diverse team of counseling professionals from cultures including Korea, Togo, and others.”
“There's been a lot of emphasis in the past 20 or 30 years on learning cultural competencies to be able to counsel someone from a different culture or racial background,” she continued. “Beyond basic competency, several Christian authors have been doing research in cultural humility. Counselors need to be professional and follow best practices, but also be humble.”
“Are you willing to be open to let that client teach you about their culture, their family system, whatever it may be, so that you can work with them? This idea has transformed how we teach counseling. Christians, because of the Holy Spirit, should be the most humble. Demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit, we need to go into every counseling situation seeing that client as made in God's image. We are privileged to listen to their story and counsel them in whatever pain they may be experiencing.”
Skjoldal stressed that MTS Counseling Center is open to clients from all walks of life seeking help.
“You don't have to be a believer to come here,” she said. “On the contrary, we want to help anybody that comes through our doors. This year, we have a counselor that speaks Mandarin Chinese. I speak Spanish. Eventually, I hope we can have every language group represented, a counselor to meet every need. That would be my dream.”
She continued: “This is a place to go if you want help in dealing with life's struggles – depression, anxiety, family conflict. Our entrance to the counseling center is on LaSalle Street, and very private. People don't even have to see you come in.”
“We are excited to offer evidence-based counseling from a Christian world view to meet the needs of our Moody community and the downtown area! The student interns and licensed professionals at MTS Counseling Center are committed to offering a safe space to journey with our clients as they seek healing and transformation. This is a place a where God’s love for this city’s people can be experienced.”
About Moody Theological Seminary
Moody Theological Seminary offers Master of Arts degrees in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and Counseling Psychology, along with professional certifications in Trauma-Informed Counseling and Marriage, Family, and Couples Counseling. A recognized global center for theological education, MTS has 45,000 alumni representing 46 countries around the world.