“I have always liked psychology. I probably scared my mom a lot when I was in high school because I wanted to read … I was just fascinated by … it’s absolutely horrible … serial killers.” So says Christina Haskell of San Antonio, TX about her early interest in psychology.
Christina is about halfway through ACU’s online Master of Marriage and Family Therapy program, with an expected fall 2020 graduation date. She just began her internship at Abiding Hope Christian Counseling Center, a great place for students to gain counseling hours.
“I think I need 75 counseling hours in my spring semester, and a lot of people struggle with getting enough clients. However, in my internship — I’ve been able to get 97 hours, so I’m ahead of the game, and it’s been really, really wonderful,” Christina shares.
The long and winding road to her MFT program
Her voracious appetite for books on serial killers notwithstanding, Christina struggled in school as a child. She recalls, “I was not a good student. I didn’t understand why, when everybody else was reading in class, my mind would wander. I’d be looking outside and thinking, ‘There’s a bird. I wonder where he’s been. Where’s his family?’ And by the time I get back to the class and what they’re doing, they’ve read a whole chapter and I have no idea what’s going on.”
After high school, Christina enrolled in a community college where she continued to struggle with focusing. A marriage and two children took her out of school. But in 2011, a divorce and a radio program that mentioned Colorado Christian University got her interested in a business degree.
The man she was dating (her now-husband, Bob) remarked that she didn’t seem like the business type. Further discussion helped Christina realize her favorite thing about management was the people part. “Finding out where they wanted to be. What did they want to do? And getting them to that place.” Bob suggested she major in psychology instead.
Christina graduated from Colorado Christian University with a 2.6 GPA, “which is not good. It was so not good that I decided not to go to my graduation. I told my husband, ‘It was by the grace of God that I graduated.’ I struggled to turn in papers on time. I struggled to read all the assignments and feel like I grasped everything.”
During this time, Christina’s son was diagnosed with ADHD. She shares, “As I read up on ADHD, and realized all of my son’s symptoms, these were the same symptoms I experienced as a child. And it was just completely undiagnosed.” A talk with her doctor followed by a test confirmed that an attention disorder was the reason Christina had struggled so much with her studies.
Discovering her heart for hurting families
In 2015, a year after marrying her firefighter husband, Bob, Christina discovered he’d never stopped dating. Bob was diagnosed with sexual addiction. Christina says, “And that is where Bob really put me on the path to have a heart for families that are hurting with, or struggling with, sexual addiction. Sexual addiction in itself is an underdeveloped area. It’s under-researched. The estimation is that it affects 1 in 7 people sitting in church pews. There’s porn addiction, sexual addiction, affairs, prostitution addiction — all of these things that people use to cope with life.”
Christina joined a church-affiliated support group and then became the leader of the group. When the church decided to discontinue the support group, she found another church that would welcome her group.
Bob joined a support group for men dealing with their sexual addiction. “And when the church decided not to do that group either, he found a new place, and he set up a very successful group here in town,” Christina shares.
Choosing ACU Online for her Master of Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT)
Her own struggle with finding help as the spouse of a sex addict and the realization that it was an under-researched problem that many people were grappling with led Christina to apply to an NYU master’s program. She thought maybe she’d get into research. But NYU told her, “I’m sorry, your GPA is just too low. Maybe you can take classes somewhere else.”
Christina had also made contact with ACU. “But at the time I thought, ‘It’s a Christian university. Nobody’s going to take it for real because when you talk to people about sexual addiction from a Christian perspective, they just think that you’re prudish. That you just don’t think sex is okay which is a huge misconception.”
Christina continues, “I was really struggling with whether to go to a Christian university for my master’s. And when I didn’t get into NYU, by the grace of God, of course, ACU called me back the next day. That’s when I learned about the MFT program.”
Christina’s experience as an ACU Online student
Currently boasting a 4.0 GPA, Christina is a stay-at-home mom to 13-year-old Lucas, 10-year-old Bishop, and 2-year-old “Oklahoma Tornado” Lois. She says, “The online part of it makes it amazing because I can study when the kids go to bed. I don’t have to be in a specific class at a specific time, except for that internship class. And it’s so flexible. It’s the only way I’ve been able to do it.”
Christina loves “that faith is integral and is integrated within our program because it allows you to really speak about it openly in the psychology arena.” She also appreciates that Dr. Halstead has set the tone for “supporting all people regardless of what their personal beliefs are. We’re going to have to be Christian counselors in a world that doesn’t always accept the Christian point of view.”
How does Christina expect to use her degree?
While her interest in researching sexual addiction remains strong, and Bob sees her getting a doctorate, Christina really wants to go into private practice. She currently works with a group that supports first-responders after extremely traumatic calls to help prevent PTSD.
She reflects on her own trauma when learning of Bob’s sex addiction and that of the women she works with going through the same thing. “If they’re experiencing PTS symptoms, I try to help them talk through it, so it doesn’t become a disorder, and so it doesn’t become part of who they are in their daily life experience.”
Christina concludes, “I hope that in my private practice, God leads me to people dealing with sexual addiction, marital problems, and post-traumatic stress. My specialization for my degree is trauma. And so being able to really walk people through that kind of experience would be very fulfilling for me.”
Christina sees a world in need and she’s doing something about it. Do you share her call to help others overcome trauma? Learn more about what ACU Online’s Master of Marriage and Family Therapy program can do for your future.