Spiritual formation training at Rosemead School of Psychology.
In this article, we describe spiritual formation training at Rosemead School of Psychology by outlining the various relationships wherein growth occurs. As Dallas Willard (2002) explains, we are always being formed, whether we are engaging our formation intentionally or not. Some aspects of Rosemead's training are geared explicitly to spiritual growth. However, all of the aspects of the program have the potential to bear directly or indirectly upon the spiritual growth of students. After describing the spiritual context of Rosemead within Biola University, we consider various relationships contributing to spiritual growth among Rosemead students in both formal and informal manners: self and therapist, faculty mentors and supervisors, the Rosemead community of students, and other salient relationships.
Though our lives are frequently divided into various roles and responsibilities, none of these components can be compartmentalized or isolated from one another; each of our lives has a singular narrative woven from many unique elements. Narratives of two current students in different stages of the program and two alumni illustrate the unique ways facets of spiritual formation at Rosemead intertwine in individual lives. In the final section, we consider opportunities and challenges for the future.
The Context of Spiritual Formation Training at Rosemead
The spiritual ethos of Biola University and the unique relationship of Rosemead to the university set the broader relational context for spiritual formation training at Rosemead. Though independently founded, Rosemead joined Biola College in 1977; in 1981 its merger with the undergraduate psychology department formed Rosemead as a school and gave university status to Biola. Since its beginning, Biola has been non-denominational. Forged during the so-called fundamentalist-liberal conflict, Biola's doctrinal statement represents a broad evangelical consensus. It maintains the inerrancy of Scripture and affirms premillenialism, but it does not take a stand on doctrines that have been especially divisive within the Christian church such as the nature of the Lord's supper, paedo- or credobaptism, or Calvinism vs. Arminianism. The additional explanatory notes dispute certain forms of Pentecostalism (e.g. a denial of a second baptism of the Holy Spirit), but leave open a wide variety of positions on miraculous gifting of the Holy Spirit (e.g. tongues, healing, etc.).
Biola draws students, staff and faculty from many Protestant denominations (Friends/Quaker, Assemblies of God, Baptist, Presbyterian, Anglican/Episcopalian, Wesleyan, and everything in between), along with Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox believers. Biola as a whole, and Rosemead within it, represents several traditions concerning spiritual formation and growth. Most, if not all, of the streams of Christian spirituality find representation at Biola (Foster, 1998). As will be discussed more fully below, Rosemead's relationship to the university and its spiritual diversity lead to challenges for spiritual formation training.
Relational Aspects of Spiritual Formation Training at Rosemead
Individual Therapy and the Person of the Therapist
All facets of training at Rosemead assume the centrality of the person of the therapist rather than just theories, modalities, or competencies. A central value of the program is the notion that therapists in training should grow in their own health (e.g. self-awareness) in order to help bring their clients to health. This is one of the main reasons for requiring students to go through their own therapy. Each student must complete a training therapy sequence, receiving 50 hours of individual therapy and 50 hours of group therapy or 36 hours of either marital counseling or spiritual direction. In addition to professional and academic competence, students are evaluated on spiritual and interpersonal growth; problematic deficits in these areas may call for intervention. Marks of spiritual growth include being aware of one's own brokenness and deficits, valuing process, and viewing self and God realistically. Nouwen's (1972) concept of a wounded healer expresses vividly the Christocentric and cruciform nature of a spiritually formed Christian psychologist. The components and rigors of the program disallow students from engaging merely in theoretical integration. Going through therapy and seeing clients promotes personal appropriation of the explicit content from coursework.
Faculty, Mentors, and Supervisors
Sorenson's (1994, 1997, 2004) research on Rosemead students and follow up studies (Staton, Sorenson, & Vande Kemp, 1998; Sorenson, Derflinger, Bufford, & McMinn, 2004) on how graduate psychology students learn integration has indirect relevance to spiritual formation training. In the studies, students ranked evidence of the professors' ongoing process in their personal relationships with God as being most salient to their learning of integration. Thus it would seem that the spiritual development of faculty members and their willingness to disclose that process of growth with students relates not only to learning integrative concepts, but also to personal integration and to spiritual growth among students.
Much of the formal spiritual formation training faculty members oversee occurs in the extensive theology and integration sequence at Rosemead. Both PsyD and PhD students are required to take 18 units of theology courses and 12 units of integration courses. The 20132014 academic year is the third year of a newly revamped theology curriculum that gives more attention to integration and spiritual development. This sequence includes a yearlong course on Theological and Psychological Anthropology, two courses on Spiritual Theology and the Dynamics of Change, a course on theological ethics and the kingdom of God, and a biblical interpretation course. Prayer projects, exercises in spiritual disciplines, and many other formative components put into practice the content of the theology being taught. As will be mentioned in the narratives below, these practices facilitate the integration of explicit content with implicit dynamics.
Unlike the theology sequence, only one of the integration courses is required: Psychotherapy and Religion. After that course in the first year, students are free to fulfill their remaining 11 units with elective courses. Several of these focus on theoretical or therapeutic integration including: Psychology of Religion, the Nature and Scope of Integration, Psychotherapy and Spirituality, Religion and Health, Perspectives on the Self, Toward Mutual Recognition, Attachment-Based Psychoanalytic Therapy, and Integration and Therapy. Other courses such as Maturity, Missions and Mental Health, Mindfulness, and Spiritual Disciplines and Therapy focus more explicitly on spiritual formation.
Many less tangible, but perhaps more important, mentoring relationships influence the spiritual formation of students, modeling the lived dimensions of the faith as that pertains to becoming a professional Christian psychologist. These include relationships outside of coursework such as academic or research advisers, practicum supervisors, and adjunct professors. The care of the staff for our students is perhaps the least recognized, yet genuinely significant, formative relationship in our program. As will be seen in the narratives below, the power of largely unscripted relationships in the lives of students finds no greater attestation than the life of Beth Fletcher Brokaw who passed away after a long battle with cancer while this article was in preparation. Far more than merely an adjunct professor in our program, Beth mentored and encouraged many students in their burgeoning professions.
One cornerstone of the formal program of spiritual formation training at Rosemead is the chapel program. A non-mandatory chapel program is held weekly throughout the academic year. Most chapels follow the standard format of a church worship service: worship and an individual speaker. Worship is led by rotating groups of students. Programmatic chapels include the internship chapel commissioning those going on internship and the diversity chapel sponsored and planned by student multicultural task force. Chapels are used to commission new faculty, highlight student and faculty involvement in missions, or as convocation for a new academic year. On occasion, special chapels such as all-worship, group sharing, walking a prayer labyrinth, or communion take the place of the usual format. Chapels are directed almost entirely toward the graduate psychology program and are attended by graduate students, faculty, and staff.
During the first two years of the program, students spend a great deal of time with students in their cohort. The rigors of the program force the students to negotiate relationships with a frequently diverse student population as they try to support each other through their tasks and assignments. The program at Rosemead increases opportunities for intentional community on campus, and students tend to experience concomitant decrease in connection to the local church. Research concerning this trend will be discussed in the opportunities and challenges discussion below.
Clients, Consultation, and Service
Students grow through opportunities for service. They learn from the clients they see in their practicum sites, and on-campus consultation groups help students process integrative issues related to their practica. Students have joined faculty members on overseas missions trips during the summer, teaching psychology at institutions in other continents. Some students serve as course or lab instructors for undergraduate students. Structured, yet occasional, events such as spiritual retreats or even multicultural dinner and dialogue events provide opportunities for transformation.
To illustrate the interweaving of the relational elements of spiritual formation in the program at Rosemead, we present four narratives from two current students and two alumni. Third year student Quyen Sklar describes the link between explicit and implicit formation through courses, therapy, faculty, and fellow students. Steve Gioielli, currently on internship, considers many of the same relationships as Quyen, focusing on spiritual guidance and mentoring.
Explicit and Implicit Spiritual Formation
By the time I (Sklar) entered Rosemead, I had been a Christian for about 13 years during which I went from being a wide-eyed Christian filled with my own idealizations about God and Christianity to a cynic who was angry with God and the church. Much of the deconstruction of my faith occurred in my early 20s--a time in which I felt depressed and abandoned by God. However, through the deconstruction of my faith, God revealed himself to me through an image that continues to anchor my faith. Two years after I graduated from college, I began a master's program in clinical psychology at a Christian university. It was here that I met a professor who significantly impacted my life. It was something about being in her presence where I felt known and valued in a way that I'd imagine I'd feel before the presence of God. She taught one of my integration courses and through my relationship with her, my heart was softened to integration and my curiosity was sparked about the role of the Holy Spirit in transformation.
By the time I started Rosemead, I was ready to reconstruct my faith. I wanted to integrate what it means to be living in the aftermath of the Fall, yet holding on to the hope that stems from God's love and continuous work in this world, particularly in being with people in their messiness and suffering. Not only was I interested in understanding this conceptually, i wanted to be the kind of person who embodied living within this tension.
My spiritual formation process at Rosemead occurs both at an explicit level through theology and integration course materials as well as an implicit level fleshed out through the dynamics of my relationships with God, others, and self. At an explicit level, the theology courses have continued the conversation about the role of Holy Spirit in transformation that began in my master level training. As a result, I have been more aware of my need to invite the Holy Spirit in the process of my growth as well as my clients' processes. The theology courses require a lot of writing, which helps me articulate my understanding of God and make the implicit knowledge about God explicit.
I am also learning not only to think critically about the church but also what it means to actively be the church. Simultaneously, the diversity in my cohort made for an interesting dynamic that was ripe for applying what we had been learning regarding what it means to be the church. I found myself having difficulty extending grace to the peers in my cohort who differed from me. Instead, I made assumptions about them, but what I did not know was that they, like me and like my clients, had a story, too. In realizing this, I became curious to hear their stories, which allowed me to extend grace to them as people, like me, who are in process. Thus, at an implicit level, my spiritual process in knowing how to be with others who differed from me in the church occurred through my relationships with cohort members.
In addition to my relationship with my peers, I've been blessed with a number of faculty members who have invested in me, who serve not only to aid in my professional growth, but also in my psychological as well as spiritual health. Rosemead is a demanding program, both in terms of its rigorous academic requirements as well as its emphasis on professional and personal development. For me, the hurdles tend to draw out my neurosis in finding value and self-worth in performance, much in the same way that I related to my parents growing up and in my earlier relational dynamic with God. However, through my relationships with a number of professors at Rosemead, I am reminded time and time again that it is who I am becoming in the process that is of great significance. One professor in particular, through her own vibrant personhood, affirmed that I was valuable just as I am, which I implicitly experienced when I was with her. Nonetheless, these hurdles provide opportunities to grow and be challenged. Through these challenges in the program and through my relationships with mentors, I implicitly learned what it means to be living in the dialectical tension of working hard in the field that I love without losing who I am in the process.
Another relationship that is of significance in my spiritual growth at Rosemead is my relationship with my therapist. Through individual therapy, I have revisited some of my own painful memories and experiences, the same painful memories and experiences that had made me so angry with God and the church in the first place. In this ongoing process with my therapist, I am becoming more aware of the effects of how I've been sinned against, the pervasive nature of original sin in my life, and the psychological defenses that I've unconsciously developed as a means to cope with pain. My relationship with my therapist also allows me space to learn, both implicitly and explicitly, and to practice new, healthier ways of relating.
While I certainly gain explicit knowledge and understanding in my theology and integration courses, it is through the relationships that I have been blessed with along the way that fleshes out what it all means. As a result, I think I am a different person than when I started Rosemead, and I look forward to the next phase in my spiritual development as I begin spiritual direction this semester.
Varied Forms of Spiritual Guidance
After having received formal graduate theological training in spiritual formation, I (Gioielli) was ambivalent about entering graduate professional training in clinical psychology. The intentional life I had fostered to quell my neurotic tendencies and enter more deeply into the unconditional love and acceptance offered by God was to be challenged by the necessary evaluative measures and academic achievement expectations inherent in this type of professional training. Still, I was hopeful that the wisdom, skills, and personal development afforded by an integrative program like Rosemead would lead me further down the path of relational intimacy with God, others, and myself, and grant me greater understanding of human flourishing and suffering.
Throughout my Rosemead student experience, I have faced perplexing difficulty in integrating my spiritual life, theological beliefs, and psychological theory. What is the Holy Spirit's role in the psychotherapy process? Is healing through psychotherapeutic interventions a means of common grace to all, or is there something unique afforded to the Christian psychologist and/or client? How do we make sense of the role of suffering as the mark of a disciple, if a goal of psychotherapy is to alleviate such suffering? Can psychotherapy be harmful or antithetical to the spiritual formation process? These questions nagged at my soul as I wrestled with how to integrate my spiritual life with the realm of clinical psychology. A few aspects of Rosemead have served as guardrails and guideposts along the way.
First and foremost, Rosemead's didactic therapy and spiritual direction requirements were essential for providing safe relationships outside of Rosemead in which to explore my spiritual life. My individual therapist was a steady and consistent presence to contain my anxiety and to provide me space to wrestle, even though my faith was being reconstructed and though research, reporting writing, and clinical training sidelined my prayer life. She normalized the taxing marathon-pace of graduate school and served as a beacon of hope as we explored possibilities of a slower contemplative existence beyond my time at Rosemead. My spiritual director was my second set of eyes and ears that helped me to discern invitations from God amidst the clamor of voices preparing me to face the pre-doctoral internship imbalance. In the valleys, when I began to doubt my decision to pursue a career as a clinical psychologist, he reminded me of God's work in my life to lead me to Rosemead and guided me to take up the Ignatian discipline of finding God in all things.
In the classroom, my most spiritually formative experiences occurred in the integration of psychology and theology courses. In a course entitled Maturity: Psychological and Theological Perspective, we compared and contrasted viewpoints on pain and suffering and explored the role of pain and suffering in spiritual growth. Interwoven throughout the semester were intimate moments of sharing experiences of suffering and its effects on our spiritual lives. A small class size and a professor willing to disclose his own experiences created a sacred and safe space to be known and afforded me courage to venture more deeply into my own experiences of God and suffering.
Faculty-student relationships at Rosemead can be challenging for students to navigate given its evaluative components. To complicate matters further, I found the rigor of graduate school to be robbing me of relational and spiritual support at the very time I needed it the most. I spent less time with my church community and felt more and more marginalized as my professional identity in clinical psychology began to take shape with fewer people who seemed to empathize with what I was experiencing. However, mentoring relationships with two Rosemead faculty members provided me with much needed spiritual guidance and encouragement. They created disarming environments in which I felt comfortable to share my difficulty in integrating my identity as a disciple of Jesus with that of a clinical psychologist and offered personal anecdotes that were encouraging and normalizing. They made space in their busy schedules to talk and pray with me, and I felt like I had a spiritual lifeline on campus. I felt deeply and genuinely cared for. An email or phone call out of the blue just to let me know someone was praying for me felt like manna falling from heaven. Perhaps most importantly, I found two Christian clinical psychologists whom I wanted to emulate, who were wholeheartedly devoted to both God and their professional roles and found ways to integrate the two with depth and genuineness while having space for the unknown and mysterious.
Beth Fletcher Brokaw, one of my faculty mentors, was particularly interested and involved in the spiritual lives of Rosemead students. She lovingly charged me to make space for Rosemead students to go on retreat and commune with each other and God. Graciously, she agreed to help facilitate these weekend retreats and they proved to be rich with meaningful spiritual interaction and much needed rest.
Beth recently passed away after a 14-year battle with cancer. After being given the news by her oncologist that she had only a few weeks, Beth arranged an evening gathering in her home for Rosemead students and alumni to visit with her and say goodbye. As she reclined in her chair with about 50 of us crammed in her living room, Beth shared of God's goodness and faithfulness to her and her family over the years in the midst of the ever-present pain and imminent grief. We laughed and cried as we recounted our most meaningful memories together, shared with Beth how she had touched our lives profoundly, and sang songs of worship to God. Toward the end of the evening, each person had the opportunity to have one-on-one time to say goodbye to Beth. As I knelt next to her chair, she grabbed my hand and spoke words of blessing and encouragement over me--to be a leader, a husband, and a future father. She shared that in her recent prayer experiences my wife and I had come to mind, and she would continue to pray for us in her final days. The whole experience was absolutely surreal. Somehow processing Beth's death has awakened a part of my spirit that has been paralyzed by fear and cynicism. In reflecting on her life, I have been drawn deeply into communion with God, in gratitude for having known Beth and by the desire to know more intimately the God whom she shared with me.
Recent alumna Charis Geevarughese describes lessons in grace and love with people and with God. These lessons intertwine with the theme of trust in God's guidance over life transitions spanning continents and cultures. At Rosemead, Doreen Dodgen-Magee experienced healing in relationships with God, faculty, and fellow students to move beyond neuroticism into authentic selfhood.
Distances Travelled: Physically, Spiritually, and Emotionally
Six years ago in Malaysia, I (Geevarughese) received my acceptance letter to Rosemead School of Psychology. The excitement was hard to contain especially after six rejections from the seven schools to which I applied. My excitement was short lived when I discovered that funding from my scholarship program fell through. I recall crying in disappointment, questioning God's plan, but finally came to a sense of surrender that He had things in mind that I did not comprehend. I was reminded that His plans were very different from mine. For example, prior to entering clinical psychology and finding it a good fit, I was adamant not to study clinical psychology. Prior to applying for a PhD program, I decided only to pursue a masters for fear of my 20s being drained by graduate school. Prior to coming to the US, I never thought I would have the opportunity, let alone financial means to study abroad. Yet, despite all of my plans, God's word to the Israelites rings true in my life: "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future" (Jeremiah 29:11).
After some time, the finances for my scholarship were resolved and I came to the US to begin my graduate school journey at Rosemead. These five years had a significant impact on my spiritual life and relationship with God. There were periods of darkness and light that primarily served to deconstruct and reconstruct my image of God. I will highlight two things I learned from my time at Rosemead. First was that of grace. Prior to beginning my time at Rosemead, I had a conceptual knowledge of grace and knew that God was gracious. However, I never fully understood what it meant until I began individual therapy. My therapist helped me become aware that I had always believed God to be gracious but never experienced him as gracious. I had a god who was kind and loving only because I was doing the right things. I recall several times being confused by my therapist who said that she cared for me just because she could. It puzzled me that she cared when I was angry, sad, disorganized, and confused. I began to realize that maybe it was possible that God, who was greater and more compassionate than my therapist, had grace for me just because it is His character to do so (Matthew 7:11). It was not because I got into graduate school, or had good grades, or that I stayed out of trouble, or any other human reason; He cared because it is his nature to do so. My image of God as a distant caring god was reconstructed to an image of a relational caring God, through the help of my relationship with my therapist.
Second, God was giving me opportunity to learn to love and be loved. One of the most profound ways that I learned this was through my clients. I entered this field because I like taking care of others, a common theme among psychologists. It came somewhat naturally for me to listen to my clients and empathize with their pain. What I was not expecting were the lessons I would learn from my clients. My clients helped me face my fear of having an impact on others and of being loved. They taught me the meaning of the verse "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Mark 12:31) by expressing their gratitude for the work we had done. I learned that love was a two way process that existed in relationship. God was helping me reconstruct my image of relationship and what it means to be loved and to love in relationship. I moved from a rigid one-sided, "I'll help you but I don't need your help" kind of love, to a reciprocal love that God demonstrates over and over again in His relationship in the Trinity and with us.
Learning about grace and love served as pillars for what I believe is the bigger picture and lesson for my life. I believe God is preparing me to answer the question, "Do you trust me and the plans I have for you?" This involved the stripping away of old images and objects, which then enabled Him to rebuild my knowledge and experience of Him and who I was in Him. This process has not ended. Now at the end of my five year journey at Rosemead, I am faced again with the question, "Do you trust me and the plans I have for you?" As I make plans for my post-graduate degree world, I am aware that I have changed and my relationship with God has changed. I do not have clear direction or plans, but I have a deeper understanding and experience of a God who cares and has good plans for me because of His character.
My experience at Rosemead, studying psychology, and living 8000 miles from home has grown me. It has made me face this ever present human desire to be in control and earn my way to heaven. And God in His goodness is bringing me into the right relationship with Him. I am grateful for lessons of grace and love, deconstruction and reconstruction, fears and trust, all of which prepare me to discover and find my place in God's plans. Rosemead offered me the opportunity to experience these lessons through the courses, interactions with professors and peers, and through the ever-present emphasis on being a disciple of Christ in this field.
Forming an Authentic Self
Twenty-six years ago, I (Dodgen-Magee) arrived at Rosemead eight days married, two weeks from my twenty second birthday, filled with over-achieving energy and assuredness that I was in the right place. I had worked hard to achieve admission, naming what I now know to be a full-blown propensity toward anxiety about my worth as drivenness and harnessing it into academic accomplishment and dedication. Few of my undergraduate classmates chose to focus as long or fret as diligently as I did over homework and exams. In those days I found no need to differentiate between major and minor assignments. In my mind, every single paper, project, and test was an opportunity to prove my worth and bolster my severely lacking confidence about my intellect and abilities. While I knew I wanted to do the work of a psychotherapist, I had not fully comprehended the meaning of entering into five plus years of study with a cohort of students equally driven and even more intellectually gifted.
I approached my first semester of graduate school with the ferocity of a cheetah chasing an antelope. I proofread and edited everything I turned in (including simple reaction papers) multiple times with the goal of eradicating any possible error or misstatement and, thereby, reinforcing the validity of my entrance. I didn't sleep, I didn't attend to my relationships or health, all the while working hard to make it appear as though I wasn't working too hard. I ended that first semester in the emergency room severely dehydrated, sleep deprived, and generally over-extended. Here is where the beauty of my Rosemead experience began.
Literally too sick to complete finals, the community of scholars, therapists, and students who I was working so hard to impress began the process of directing me to the most potent learning possible: the learning that takes place not in the head alone but in the integrated experience of the whole being. What good was I to anyone if I had a stellar GPA but had no ability to come to terms with my feelings of inadequacy and insecurity? If I could not understand and resolve these issues in myself how could I ever hope to help others work through their own stuck spots?
Rosemead's values around faculty mentorship, group process, and didactic therapy quite literally altered the trajectory of my life. As I received a broad and deep understanding of theory, technique, and integration during my time in graduate school, I was also becoming known in profound ways. Faculty took the time and energy to notice process elements under my academic content and to address them in appropriately challenging ways. Classmates provided opportunities for relational risk taking and feedback. Supervisors noticed markers of potentially unresolved internal conflicts and pointed me toward places to resolve them. Didactic therapy offered space for this and for other important internal healing. Perhaps most significantly, all of these relationships directed me to attend to the very complex relationships of me with myself and me with God. Ultimately, this is where some of my most potent spiritual formation occurred.
Prior to arriving at Rosemead I had what I think of as a developed, almost one-sided, relationship with God. I believed that I knew God's desires for me and that they were for me to work hard, serve others, be mature, and, ultimately, make a great impression for God's sake. At that time I didn't truly understand that a relationship with God is, like all relationships, deeply colored by one's own internal process and is hindered when it is based upon projections of the other rather than on authentic, often-times messy, inter-connectedness.
As I came to understand that my professors were far more interested in the health of my authentic self than my performing one, that my classmates valued honest struggle and vulnerable exchange over high academic achievement, and that my own inner world was the generative source of much of my fear of failure, space for God opened. While in that space I was offered many opportunities to challenge my assumptions of what God wanted of and for me. Exposure to texts ranging from psychological classics to the works of mystics, my own exploration in therapy, complex interactions in the classroom, quality teaching and supervision, and active engagement in relationships of all kinds began to alter the shape of my internal world. Through the voices, hands, and feet of many in the Rosemead community, God became real to me. I no longer found my identity in pleasing the God of my projections but, instead, began to be transformed by the God who was being introduced to me as a Being who wanted to be with me, to know me, and to help me be loved. Just as I believed it was healing to be with a client in meaningful ways, I began to experience that God simply wanted to be with me in much the same way that my professors, supervisors, therapist, and classmates were with me. They weren't interested in the "shape" I took on externally but were rather invested in relationships with my growing, learning, forming authentic self. By correctly putting the emphasis on God's interest in simply being in relationship with me rather than on my ability to please God, I began to be transformed. Things were less "shaped," less obvious and clear. I no longer felt certainty about being in the right place but, instead, knew I was in a very important and profound space, a holy space. It was a space where the formation of my soul was the foundation upon which a personal and professional life could sit firmly: a space where the healing power of relationship (informed by solid teaching and training) and organic and living formation is emphasized over mere achieving.
Opportunities and Challenges
Challenges to Spiritual Formation Training at Rosemead
Several challenges beset spiritual formation training at Rosemead. The rigors of graduate education and general developmental factors may divert students from the paths of growth (Edwards 2006; Mullis 2008). The unique relationship of Rosemead to the greater Biola community severs additional lines of support for Rosemead students. Research on Rosemead students provides ambiguous data concerning the success of our efforts in light of these challenges.
Intensity of the program. Rosemead students undergo rigorous evaluation and complete multiple requirements throughout the program. Students are evaluated regularly, with end of second year evaluations being especially prominent. Criteria cover academic and clinical/professional skills, but students are also evaluated in areas of spiritual, personal, and interpersonal growth. In the evaluation process, each student is scored and discussed by every faculty member. A three-person faculty committee discusses the results with each student. Pre-practicum evaluation, comprehensive examinations, professional qualifying examination, practicum and internship applications, dissertation or doctoral paper approval and defense must all be managed in addition to the usual rigors of coursework and practica case loads. The pressures of the program provide unique opportunities and challenges for spiritual growth.
Given the rigors of the program and its focus on training in professional therapy, it is easy for the facets of the program focused on spiritual development to recede to the background. For example, first and second year students comprise the majority of attendees at chapel. As students make progress in the program, they tend to have much less flexibility in their schedule for things such as chapel or church attendance. While students are motivated to grow spiritually, they must also learn how to complete the requirements of the program successfully, care for their clients skillfully, and process the things they are learning in therapy. The space and resources for spiritual formation and church involvement decrease as these demands increase.
Developmental factors. Many students matriculate at Rosemead shortly after finishing their undergraduate degrees. These students, in particular, must negotiate many developmental challenges of young adulthood including: establishment of distinct identity from parents; sorting out faith, values, and worldview; dating, marriage, and children; and new financial responsibilities. All students, and especially those with no graduate training, must learn to thrive amidst the rigors and anxieties of graduate education while learning professional standards within the field of psychology. As the narratives above suggest, all of these things are difficult enough to manage apart from intense inner growth through therapy and large amounts of psychological resources being given to clients.
Rosemead within the larger Biola community.
Even though Rosemead School of Psychology is situated within the larger university, the lives of the graduate students are fairly isolated from the rest of the university. At one time or another all Rosemead students will work at the Biola Counseling Center (BCC), and because the majority of the clients at the BCC are Biola students, staff, or faculty, Rosemead students must protect their professional roles by exercising great care concerning their involvement in programs and activities in the broader university. Although the university has a tremendous range of opportunities for spiritual development, many of these opportunities are not live options for Rosemead graduate students. Intentional programs for spiritual development must focus instead on the 120 or so graduate students rather than rely on the programs that are carried out for the other 6000 students of the university. For example, Rosemead students have one chapel available to them per week, rather than the nine or more chapels per week for the rest of the university.
Research at Rosemead. Edwards (2006) longitudinal study on God image showed that Rosemead students declined in all six scales of the God Image Inventory as well as in church attendance over three years in which the study was conducted. This means that the students surveyed:
experienced a significantly decreased sense of God's presence in their lives, a decreased sense of God's desire for them to grow, a diminished feeling of being 'good enough' for God to love them, an increased sense that God is not the kind of person that would love them, and a lessened sense of control over God and by God over them . . . their sense of faith was diminished in that they had a decreased sense that what they believe about God is represented by an actual being, as well as a decreased sense of importance regarding their relationship to God. (Edwards 2006, p. 17)
Edwards suggests that these results may be explained by the rigors of graduate school, by other developmental issues, or by the individual therapy requirement for Rosemead students, all of which are mentioned in the narratives above. It could also be the case that the concepts employed by the God Image Inventory are ambiguous. The faith subscale, for instance, only used two items: "I am not very firm in my beliefs about God," and "I have confidence in my beliefs about God." However, it is not clear that affirmation of either one of these unambiguously identifies spiritual growth or decline. It is arguably the case that increased spiritual growth (and faith) is consistent with less confidence in explicit beliefs about God, meaning the scale may fail to measure robust spiritual growth.
By contrast, Hofer's study (2004) of Rosemead students nine years after graduation indicates that those alumni viewed their faith as being stronger at the time of the study than it had been both during and prior to being in the program at Rosemead. Taken together, Edwards and Hofer's studies seem to show perceived spiritual decline while studying at Rosemead, but perceived spiritual growth in the years following that resulted from the program itself.
Opportunities for Spiritual Formation Training
Some of the challenges to spiritual growth also present opportunities. The sheer challenge of graduate psychology education allows many opportunities for spiritual refinement, since God uses circumstances and trials to grow us. Likewise, the tight knit community of students that is cut off from many other relationships mirrors some of the dynamics of growth through the people of God in the church.
Additional research will aid our efforts to improve our spiritual formation training. Todd W. Hall's Spiritual Transformation Inventory (STI), which is a greatly expanded version of the Spiritual Assessment Inventory (Hall & Edwards 1996, 2002), has been administered to students, not to gain a formal body of research, but to continue developing the measure itself and to provide students with their own personal profiles. In the past year, the technology and automation for the STI have been updated. After taking the STI, students receive their results along with suggestions for soul projects in which to engage: sometimes students are asked to complete some of the soul projects as course assignments. The current plan is to begin administering the STI in the first semester of the first year in Theological and Psychological Anthropology. Students will then take the STI at additional points in the program to begin gathering some longitudinal data on the spiritual development of Rosemead students.
Despite its rigors, being formed by the Holy Spirit in an academic community committed to the cause of Christ and to the healing of wounded souls is a privilege and a thrill. Very few places within the church maintain such sustained, intense reflection on subjects related to the growth of the human heart and to the intersecting domains of psychology and theology. We hope and pray for God to continue the work he has started in us.
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Private Practice, Portland, Oregon
M. Charis Geevarughese
Steven M. Gioielli
Quyen T. Sklar
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Jason McMartin, Rosemead School of Psychology, Biola University, La Mirada, CA 90639; firstname.lastname@example.org
Jason McMartin (PhD in Religion, Claremont Graduate University) is Associate Professor of Theology at Rosemead School of Psychology and Talbot School of Theology, Biola University. His research interests include human flourishing, the doctrine of sin, and religious epistemology.
Doreen Dodgen-Magee (PsyD in Clinical Psychology, Rosemead School of Psychology, Biola University) maintains a national public speaking docket and a private practice. Her research interests include how technology impacts neurological, relational, and intrapersonal functioning.
M. Charis Geevarughese (PhD in Clinical Psychology, Rosemead School of Psychology, Biola University) was a Fulbright Graduate Exchange Student from Malaysia. Her interests include attachment and self-identity in romantic relationships, international student experiences and development, multicultural and ethnic issues, and trauma.
Steven M. Gioielli (PsyD Candidate in Clinical Psychology, Rosemead School of Psychology, Biola University) is Clinical Psychology Intern at The Albert and Jessie Danielsen Institute at Boston University. His research interests include the integration of psychoanalytic thought and spirituality, interpersonal neurobiology, and contemplative prayer.
Quyen T. Sklar (MA in Clinical Psychology, Rosemead School of Psychology, Biola University) is a psychology graduate student at Rosemead. Her research interests include narrative inquiry, culture, traumatic stress, and post-traumatic growth.
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|Author:||McMartin, Jason; Dodgen-Magee, Doreen; Geevarughese, M. Charis; Gioielli, Steven M.; Sklar, Quyen T.|
|Publication:||Journal of Psychology and Christianity|
|Article Type:||Author abstract|
|Date:||Dec 22, 2013|
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