We continue our series getting to know the RTS Orlando faculty with an interview with Dr. Scott Coupland, Professor of Counseling and Administrative Coordinator for the Master of Arts in Counseling program at RTS Orlando.
Dr. Coupland has served on the RTS faculty for over twenty years, and maintains a private counseling practice in addition to his teaching duties at RTS. His longevity of service and commitment to his students has helped create a culture of camaraderie and care in the MAC cohorts.
The formation of persons happens best in community, specifically, in a community of persons who possess the habits of knowledge, character, and skill essential to faithful and fruitful gospel ministry, and who are committed to cultivating these habits in other persons as well.From the Introduction to the series, here
1. Tell us a little about yourself.
I grew up in an Air Force family and that involved 11 different moves in my younger years. My father was away from the home a significant amount of time so my mother often functioned as a single mother while working full-time. My parents, who were not Christians, were also not engaged emotionally with me or my siblings. In my later teens I became desperately aware of a longing for deeper relationship. I thought I could find what I was looking for in sports, dating, and fraternity brotherhood, but none of these things satisfied. A Christian in my fraternity befriended me and shared the gospel with me. In time, the Holy Spirit awakened my heart to repent and believe the “good news.” Since then, God has used many people in my life to continue to convey His grace and healing love to me.
My primary vocations prior to my marriage and entering graduate school were as a cowboy (my first degree was in animal science) and a restaurant manager. My desire to work more directly with people and to teach led me on the path of three graduate degrees including a Ph.D. in marriage and family therapy. I now have over 30 years of counseling experience in settings like a church, a college campus, hospitals, and private practice. It has been my delight to teach counseling and supervise the clinical work of students at RTS for twenty years. My wife is a practicing physician, and I have two adult daughters living and working in the area. My avocations include scuba diving, aquariums, jet skiing, and birding.
2. In addition to your teaching responsibilities at RTS, you maintain an active counseling practice. What led you to pursue counseling as a career?
The major force in my pursuing this career direction was a desire to make sense of the pain associated with my childhood neglect. Over the years God has brought many people into my life, including Christian counselors, that have helped me honestly wrestle with the trauma I experienced and my response to it. I am grateful for the Lord’s redemptive, healing, and freeing work He that continues in my story to this day.
3. How has practicing counseling for over 30 years influenced your Christian life?
It is a joy to be involved in and witness to God’s work of transformation in the lives of my clients. At the same time, delving into the darkness of people’s wounds, sins, and struggles can, at times, feel discouraging. This tension between the light and shadow sides of counseling also characterizes my Christian life. The inescapable, painful aspects of living in a fallen world can tempt me to sink into cynicism. Thankfully, Jesus has used the glorious movement in the lives of my clients to help me resist this temptation. As I have watched so many of my clients exercise courage, take scary steps of faith, choose love over self-protection, and cling to their Savior in the midst of their suffering, I have been awed by God’s faithful and kind pursuit and care of those He loves, including me. Christ’s work in their lives gives me hope to carry on in the face of my struggles, to trust Him, and continue to serve Him.
4. How has your work as a counselor influenced your teaching, both inside and outside the classroom?
John Frame, professor of systematic theology and philosophy emeritus at RTS, has argued that theology must be first understood before it is applied, but if it is not practically applied then it is not true theology. This is a formative concept for my instructional work with students and others. I have an ever deepening and refining biblical and theological framework that undergirds my thinking that I hope is communicated in my teaching, but the thousands of hours I have spent sitting across from clients has taught me that if what I have to offer in my teaching is not practical then it likely will not be transformative.
An important aspect of my counseling is to invite clients to risk trusting God by being wisely vulnerable with others in their lives. My desire is to see them offer the good gifts and parts of themselves that reflect God’s glory to others. The vulnerability I see in them encourages me to offer the same to those whom I teach.