“Learning takes your whole body. ” –Dr. J. Derek McNeil, Acting President and Provost
Many of you have been drawn to this learning community at The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology because of the conviction that the fullness of your being should be heard, met, and taken seriously. Amidst this comes a core belief that you yourself are one of the most valuable and important assets of any work that you step into. This is a community that honors formation and becoming just as much as critical engagement and practical skill (which are both a part of formation as well). Who you are matters. As we like to say it, you can only accompany people as far as you have been willing to go yourself.
Formation is at the very heart of The Seattle School curriculum and experience, but we also happen to believe that you need to be pursuing growth outside of these walls. This can happen in your faith communities, your volunteer work, or perhaps your interactions with friends and family. In whatever ways you choose to lean into formation, may it be grounded in strong rhythms of self-care.
A significant part of your training and development as a therapist will happen outside the walls of The Seattle School, as a client in a therapeutic relationship. The Seattle School requires that you, as an MACP student, complete 40 sessions of psychotherapy with a licensed therapist to deepen your own self-understanding and linger for yourself in the work you will be asking of others. You’ll learn more about this in the weeks ahead, but know that we value your journey deeply and intentionally build this rhythm of self-care into the MACP curriculum.
You’ll be required to complete 10 hours of spiritual direction during your second year as an MDiv student, which will provide space to draw closer to some of your deeper questions of faith and vocation in a caring and connected context. It’s a space to lean into spiritual formation that is just for you. Although psychotherapy is not required, many MDiv students choose to pursue counseling during their time at The Seattle School. This can be a richly nourishing presence amidst your studies, impacting both your own life and the work you do with others.
Although you are not required to complete psychotherapy sessions or spend time with a spiritual director, we do highly encourage you to find a therapist or spiritual director to journey with you. At The Seattle School, in all of our degree programs, we are forming leaders and practitioners who are relationally mature, growing in awareness and courageously compassionate. You will be asked to reflect deeply on your story and how this has impacted your relational style. Sometimes it’s impossible to do this work well without a gifted sojourner.
Beyond Therapy and Spiritual Direction
We hope the rhythms mentioned above will be a meaningful part of your self-care as a student. We also know that holistically caring for ourselves is about much more than a task list or how we fill our calendars. In this, we’ve been inspired by the research coming out of The Seattle School’s Resilient Leaders Project. They identify three streams of resilience—people, practices, and purpose—that we believe are crucial to meaningful self-care. We pray that, in addition to the practice of therapy, spiritual direction, and self-care routines, you will also experience care through the people in this community and through reflecting on the purpose that draws you here.
Seek out the ways you can care for yourself well (good food, solo spa dates, laughter, church, climbing a tree, acupuncture, connecting with friends, etc.), and know that they are likely as nuanced as your own story! Some of you might already have a good sense of this, while others might spend three to four years learning what self-care even is and what the particularities of good self-care are for your personhood. It is a most noble and worthy endeavor, and we invite you to be always practicing. After all, learning at The Seattle School takes your whole body.