You may know Dr. Henry Cloud's name from his best-selling books. Titles like Boundaries or God Will Make a Way. Or you may have heard his radio show "New Life Live." But what you may not know is that at one time he was an accounting major with no plans to be Doctor Cloud. It was a Christian graduate school that played a major role changing his life.
In the 1980s, Cloud was an accounting and finance major in the business school at a southern university. "Halfway through college I went through a spiritual crisis and came to a deeper commitment to Christ," Cloud says. "I wanted to go into ministry. But the more I looked at it, what I really liked was the hands-on side of the spiritual, relational, and emotional issues in life, and how spiritual growth affected those."
He sensed a "very specific call" to go into the field of psychology. As he evaluated graduate schools, one program stood out to him. It was a Christian graduate school called Biola University in Southern California.
"I looked at a lot of universities, mostly secular. But [Biola] was the most clinically sophisticated doctoral program." The young college graduate also felt a connection to professors like Dr. Bruce Narramore, who were breaking new ground at the time in the integration of psychology and theology. Cloud says they paved the way "to help churches understand that not all hurting people are hurting because they're bad or sinful. Some may have issues that come about because we live in a fallen world and with help and counseling the issues can be resolved."
Biola taught cognitive and behavioral therapy like many other research-oriented schools, but Biola added developmental psychology. "I think that one of the things I really liked was that it provided a safe community with some good shepherds to ask really hard questions and to re-evaluate even well-accepted models and paradigms." Cloud says that Biola exposed him to "a lot of literature that doesn't tend to find its way into the mainstream but really makes you think outside some of the standard evangelical boxes."
At the time, counseling was not always accepted as a biblically acceptable path to wholeness. "It seemed the 1980s was a decade of having to have an apologetic for our existence [as Christian psychologists.] This became a chief mission of mine, trying to articulate a biblical theology of relational, emotional, and psychological healing in order to show how spiritual growth really was part and parcel with that."
Cloud was also drawn to the opportunity for theological study at a graduate level alongside his psychology coursework. The young 23-year-old realized he needed a Christian graduate school's focus on helping him develop as a person, not just a student.
Dr. Cloud still uses the lessons he learned during graduate school. "I think one of the chief lessons I learned was, like Jesus said, the fruit is only going to be as good as the tree." He was required to attend individual and group therapy, plus he had mentors and supervision groups. "They really would not let you slide through with a bunch of baggage. They made you look at yourself." Cloud compares the process to the Bible's teaching in Matthew 7:4-5: "How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? (Matthew 7:4 NIV)."
Looking back on the time Cloud says, "If you think about it biblically, they made you get the log out of your eye first." Cloud says Biola's focus on personal development helped him deal with some of his own issues.
After earning his advanced degree, Cloud completed a one-year internship with the nearby Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health. He moved into a private practice and organizational consulting and eventually co-founded a chain of psychiatric treatment centers. Now an accomplished speaker and author, his latest book on business leadership is called Integrity: The Courage To Meet The Demands of Reality.
Ever since high school, Cloud has relied on Micah 6:8 "He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God"requirements his Christian graduate school education is still helping him live out.
Kara Miller is a freelance writer and TV producer in Chicago.