FAQ About Program / Curriculum
Program / Curriculum
This is not a short-cut program. The rationale is not acceleration or cutting corners but rather an intentional concentration on the essentials of spiritual direction in an intensive manner with a specific participant in mind. The SSD program is not just for anyone but rather for persons who have some basic theological background, formational experience, history of being in spiritual direction, and the time, energy, and capacity to engage a yearlong intensive hybrid program. Focused attention is given to the essentials of spiritual direction: presence, prayer, contemplation, listening, and discernment. Each is integrated both in theory and praxis in every course we offer throughout the year. Examples of suitable applicants are: pastors/priests and religious sisters with theological education or ministry degrees, professional or volunteer hospice workers, campus ministers, chaplains, bereavement ministers, and men and women who have participated in spiritual formation programs or are involved in, gifted at, or called to a ministry of accompaniment but who may lack formal training as a spiritual director and/or may not have geographical access to a local program.
NOTE: Beginning Cohort 3 onwards, the breaks are lengthened in between modules from one week to two weeks and the quarterly breaks from two to three weeks to allow ample space for the participants to engage in a more contemplative processing of the materials and their own training experience. In addition, we incorporated a pre-practicum SD-supervised simulated practices in dyads. We are also lengthening the Group Spiritual Direction (GSD) module from 4 weeks to 6 weeks starting with Cohort 4 to allow more time for group praxis. If we factor in the 4-week pre-requisite intro course, the Orientation to Online Learning workshop, and the one month preparation time prior to the Opening Residency, the entire program technically involves a 15-month period.
We do expect our applicants to have a history of being in direction for at least a minimum of six months to a year (ideally) prior to the start of the SSD. This prerequisite is rooted in the experience and wisdom of the Christian community’s practice of spiritual guidance and generally is accepted as a guideline in most, if not all, spiritual direction programs. Part of the rationale is that one fundamental way we learn to be spiritual directors is by being in direction ourselves. This is also the reason why we require participants to be in spiritual direction on a monthly basis while going through the program. That being said, the interviewing committee treats each applicant and his/her unique situation singularly, and we reserve the right to make legitimate exceptions if our communal judgment and discernment lead us to do so.
We do not mandate a specific age but we are looking for applicants who have had a breadth and depth of life experience and who exhibit a spiritual maturity that enables them to accompany and effectively guide others.
Great question! First, you may want to reflect on your sense of call over against your actual experience accompanying people in deep and personal, not to mention spiritual, contexts. It is rare to have a call divorced from actual related experience. The best guides are those who know the geography of faith and the terrain of the spiritual journey from both a personal experience and having been in spiritual direction for an extended time. Second, you may want to reflect on your own journey and ask questions like: Do people tend to seek me out for spiritual companionship and as someone who listens and offers prayerful support? Do I practice and know the difference between accompanying and supporting persons versus telling, fixing, rescuing, judging, or changing people? Do I enjoy accompanying others on their spiritual journey as they discern God’s movements in their lives?
More than half our curriculum involves actual practices of the principles being taught. Assignments are typically the reflective types and integrate experiential aspects of contemplative presence and prayerful listening. Our program brings head and heart together and is not designed to be an academic pursuit even though we expect graduate level work from our participants.
We expect that by the end of the second quarter (or even earlier) you will be directing at least two people so you are able to put into practice all that you are learning thus far. This experience will allow you to bring a “case” for supervision and consultation on a monthly basis with a supervisor.
You are assigned a mentor who accompanies you on your training journey from beginning to end. The mentor does not assume the role of your spiritual director (whom you should continue to meet with while going through the program) but more of a coach, supporting and monitoring your progress throughout. He/she has free access to all your online courses without participating in the process. Your mentor regularly establishes contact with you over email, phone, and/or Zoom web calls. You are also part of a small mentoring group (5 people maximum) facilitated by your mentor during residencies and web conference sessions (via Zoom). The mentoring group meets every quarter for companioning time involving shared reflection based upon the AI (Appreciative Inventory) – an ongoing self-assessment/discernment process. During the final residency, your mentor conducts an exit interview with you to give helpful evaluation feedback and recommendations before you finish the program.
We prefer not to use the term Certification for our SSD because there is no official “body” that actually certifies anybody to be a spiritual director. We do not presume to confer upon anybody after finishing our program that they are now “certified” since we believe that spiritual direction is a charism and a calling. It’s either you have it in you or not. The training only confirms, validates, reinforces, and equips you for such a calling. At the end of our program we may offer a certificate of completion or participation but not a certificate of spiritual direction. We are careful not to give any impression to our participants that upon finishing our program that they are now “officially” a spiritual director.
We employ the term in its classic sense of representing the universal faith we commonly affirm together as Christ followers who subscribe to the Apostles’ and the Nicene Creeds. We are decidedly Christian in emphasis. Our work is oriented toward Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestants of differing persuasions. Our faculty represent such diversity and hopefully our participants as well because we value the rich privilege of learning from the various traditions of the Christian Church as a whole.
By way of summary, our program is:
- a one-year focused training (14-15 months with breaks)
- geared toward persons with appropriate background and experience
- employing a hybrid format: online and residency combination
- ecumenically broad in make-up and approach
- decidedly contemplative in focus
- international in its thrust and global in reach
- communal in emphasis
- experiential and praxis-driven
- facilitated by experienced and seasoned practitioners in the field
Lastly, and most importantly, our program design is heavily influenced by the spirituality and writings of Henri Nouwen.
For a more detailed explanation of our program distinctives, click HERE!
FAQ About Online Learning / Technology
Online Learning / Technology
It differs in at least two important ways. First, the SSD is a hybrid-format program. While most coursework takes place online, participants are also required to physically attend two one-week residency sessions during the program. The combination of online engagement and face-to-face sessions utilizing multiple pedagogical modalities is vital and gives you the best of online learning and campus-based education. The hybrid approach with online learning sandwiched between residencies makes it possible for capable and gifted spiritual directors-to-be to participate. Work schedules, ministry responsibilities on weekends, and geographical distance (particularly for those living outside of the U.S.) often make multiple year, local programs problematic, if not impossible, for many interested persons.
Second, by design the SSD is a non-accredited program, unlike most undergraduate and graduate programs at colleges and universities, where you will earn grades and college credits. Although all credible programs involve intellectual rigor, we believe that spiritual direction (as care of souls) is not primarily an academic endeavor. We are convinced that the most appropriate environment for nurturing the call and developing the skills involved in becoming a spiritual director is not the academy but the community of faith. Both our online component and two weeklong residencies offer attentive mentoring and are done within the spirit of an intentional, supportive faith community.
Technology and Internet access and skills are an important component in our program. While you do not need to be a computer expert, you do need to know how to:
- Navigate and conduct a search on the Internet
- Use email
- Download a program from the Internet and install it
Students need to have consistent access to an Internet-capable (and connected) computer, and they need to already possess intermediate computer and Internet skills. We provide some basic training, as well as online tutorials and a Help Desk to assist you with Moodle (our online learning platform). If you have a newer computer with good Internet access and are self-motivated, willing to ask for help, and can follow written instructions, the technology should not prevent you from keeping up.
Only if your schedule prevents you from regularly engaging in your courses. Online courses offer participants a lot of flexibility with their schedules. However, each online course will have a specific structure (usually a week-by-week format) and a schedule with specific deadlines for activities, homework, and projects. Some courses may require you to login and take part in online discussions 3-4 times per week. Sometimes you will be required to take part in a synchronous activity at a specific time on a specific day.
It would certainly vary from participant to participant. On the average, participants should be prepared to invest a total of 10-15 hours each week as follows:
- 4-5 hours on coursework preparation and assignments
- 6-7 hours for online engagement: reading/responding to posts (Tuesday to Friday)
- 2-3 hours for personal reflection and experiential exercises
The week runs from Monday to Saturday (with Sundays off). Mondays are usually devoted to coursework preparation (reading texts, watching videos, listening to audio, etc.). Tuesdays through Fridays are usually focused on online engagement (responding to discussion question prompts, threaded discussion/interaction with classmates and the instructor, blog or journal posts, etc.). Saturdays are usually allotted for working on assignments and other review or catch-up work. Note, however, that this average time allocation will change once the “official” Practicum period kicks in half-way through the program as this will involve the participant directing at least two people and seeing a supervisor in addition to seeing his/her own spiritual director on a monthly basis. Also, during the Group Spiritual Direction module, more praxis time is required.
While our instructors strive to be as responsive as possible, they are not available 24/7. Instructors will let the participants know how quickly to expect a response to their emails and phone calls and the best way to contact them with urgent matters.
Sometimes participants will be able to get their questions answered by someone other than the instructor. If participants need technical help with Moodle (our online learning platform), they can contact the Moodle Help Desk via email or find the answer they need in our Moodle tutorials. If participants have questions about an assignment or other course-related questions, they can post them in the Course Questions Forum, and the instructor or a fellow participant can answer.
Online courses do require a substantial time commitment; although you will only be taking one course in a 4-week schedule at a time in SSD. While it is true that the major portion of each online course is asynchronous, which enables participants to complete the coursework at any time of the day during a given week, there is only so much time in a day. We encourage applicants to realistically review their daily schedules and commitments and check it against the estimated time expected per week for SSD participants.
You will be given the email address for the SSD Moodle Help Desk, and someone will respond to you within a certain timeframe. Also each course will have a Course Questions forum, where you can ask any question including your Moodle questions.
Each online course has an assigned instructor. You will find contact information, such as an email address and phone number, on the course syllabus and on our Moodle website. Although you are not in a classroom, you can still seek guidance from your instructor when needed. Instructors may also offer online or virtual “office hours” from time to time using Zoom web conference call.
It depends. Many potential participants have a misconception about online courses, thinking they will only need to log in to their course once a week, listen to a lecture, do a few activities, and take a quiz, similar to what they experienced in many of their face-to-face courses in college. That is not the case with SSD courses. Our online courses emphasize building relationships, and engaging and interacting – with the instructor, the course content, and with your fellow cohort participants. So unlike many face-to-face courses, participation in online class discussions is not optional or only for those seated in the front row.
Online courses rarely have the same pacing or instructional activities as face-to-face courses. Although synchronous communication tools, such as Zoom web call, may be used in your online courses – thus enabling the sort of real-time interactions students are accustomed to in on-campus courses – text-based asynchronous communication tools (e.g., threaded discussion forums) are still the primary tools used for participant-instructor and participant-participant interaction and communication in online courses. Due to the very nature of these tools (i.e., text-based and asynchronous), online courses have very different pacing and use very different instructional strategies than on-campus courses.
We will give you a video tour of Moodle (our online learning platform), via our Moodle website, so you’ll get an idea of how to access course content, interact with instructors and turn in assignments. We will also offer an “Orientation to Moodle and Online Learning” session before and during the opening residency. Two weeks before the first online course starts, we will host an optional “Open House” weekend on our Moodle site during which students will have the opportunity to “play” with Moodle and to get live help from our Moodle experts.
Online learning takes place in a variety of ways, but it is most effective when everyone in a course regularly and actively engages with the course content (readings, lectures, videos, etc.), with their instructor and with one another. Much of this engagement happens in threaded discussions (Forums), which are asynchronous (non-live) and, also, through different types of group work.
FAQ About Costs / Fees
SSD Costs / Fees
The total program cost for our fourth cycle (Cohort 4) is $ 6,700. The tuition amount can be paid in full anytime after the applicant has officially been accepted into the program.
There is a one-time application fee of $150 due immediately upon submission of application paperwork. This fee is nonrefundable and nontransferable.
Note 1: The SSD Program Committee has decided beginning Cohort 2 and onwards that we are incorporating a one-day silent retreat during the Closing Residency which from now on will be an eight-day event (Sunday to Sunday). Please know that we will be collecting $150 from each participant to cover the cost for this additional day before the scheduled Closing Residency.
Note 2: The only other additional costs to attend the SSD concern your required books/course materials, practicum fees (spiritual direction/supervision sessions [negotiable fees] plus a flat fee of $300 for 8 hours of dyad/mentoring group simulated practice sessions with supervisor/mentor feedback/coaching) as well as your travel expenses to the Opening and Closing Residencies. At this time, the residencies are held in the greater region of Southern California in the United States. Transportation to the residency location for those arriving at a local airport (and back) will be the responsibility of the participant. The CQ office can offer assistance by way of suggested options, arrangement guidelines and instructions.
Super Early Bird Applicants (Those applying anytime before Jan. 31, 2018)*
- Early bird applicants only pay $6,200 for the program (with $500 automatic discount).
- A required initial deposit of $1,200 is due within two weeks after receiving an official notice of acceptance to the SSD program.
- A second payment of $1,500 is due on March 31, 2018.
- A third payment of $1,500 is due on June 30, 2018.
- A final payment of $2,000 is due on September 30, 2018.
Note: The early bird accepted participant may opt to settle the second, third, and final payment combined together ($5,000) by installment. The extended ten-month payment plan (January-October) requires a one-time $100 processing fee up front. $500 is due every 15th of the month.
*Clarification: By the Jan. 31 deadline, we mean that the applicant would have been accepted and have sent the initial deposit on or before Jan. 31. Please be aware that it takes more or less about two weeks after one applies to gather all the recommendations and process the application. It takes about another week to schedule and conduct an interview either by person or via web conference. Then it takes at least a couple of days before we communicate our application decision. Once confirmed as accepted into the program, the applicant has two weeks to send in the initial deposit. So we encourage those contemplating to apply to do so early enough to take full advantage of the super early bird offer we have and not rush it really close to the deadline.
Regular Applicants (Those applying beginning February 2018 until September 1, 2018– which is the deadline for applications for Cohort 4)
- Regular applicants pay $6,700 for the program.
- A required initial deposit of $1,700 is due two weeks after receiving an official notice of acceptance to the SSD program.
- A second payment of $1,500 is due on March 31, 2018.
- A third payment of $1,500 is due on June 30, 2018.
- A final payment of $2,000 is due on September 30, 2018.
- Note: If an applicant gets accepted by mid-March or later, the second, third, and final payments can be negotiated. Extended payment plan can also be requested and granted on a case-to-case basis with a one-time $100 processing fee).
The fee of $6,700 for the entire 15-month cycle covers the two residencies [Opening/Closing] (6 days and 7 days respectively) which include room and board as well as the tuition fees and materials for all 8 online courses and 6 residency classes and practicum sessions. The total program cost covers all the course materials (excluding textbooks), online learning tools (excluding software programs), and stipends for our online/residency faculty, mentors, and program staff.
Below is the summary breakdown of the SSD cost:
$ 3,300 (Residency Expenses)
- $ 1,800 – lodging and food
- $ 1,500 – tuition fees and materials for 6 residency classes/practicum sessions
$ 3,400 (Online Expenses)
- tuition fees for 8 online courses
- technology, instructors, one-on-one/group mentoring costs
The detailed breakdown is as follows:
$1,800 covers lodging and food*
- $750 for the Opening Residency (6 Days/5 Nights Stay)
- $1,050 for the Closing Residency (8 Days/7 Nights Stay)
*Based on our best approximation of overnight stay fees and other room costs which would vary from one retreat center to another
$1,500 covers the residency tuition fees ($750 for each residency)
- 6 residency classes and practicum sessions (3 per residency)
- 10-12 hours of mentor-facilitated small group dynamics, group spiritual direction and supervision sessions
Note: The above does not include worship, spiritual practices, personal quiet time, formal and informal one-on-one, small, and large group interactions, helpful feedback, supportive and encouraging fellowships with cohort and other residency participants (on which it is hard to put a price tag!).
$3,400 covers online tuition/instruction for 8 courses and mentoring costs
When compared to other spiritual direction programs, SSD is fair and reasonably priced. Whereas a local 9 or 12-month program over two or three years may offer less over more time, our SSD program offers more in less time. By way of analogy, many universities offer a January term in which a semester’s worth of work is compressed into one month. The tuition fees of these month-long intensives are typically equal to semester-long classes. When evaluating the cost of SSD, it is important to note that our program is similarly compressed and not equivalent to a local one-year program. In fact, the contact hours involved in our two residencies as well as in our 8 online courses of 4-6 weeks each (through instruction, facilitation, supervision, regular interaction with instructors, mentors, and other cohort members) is comparable to (if not even higher than) many two or three year local programs and is, therefore, very reasonably priced.
The initial deposit is fully refundable if the participant drops out before the second to the last scheduled offering of the required SC – Intro to SD class starts which is Sept. 3 (check the projected schedule for 2018). If the participant drops out anytime after that specified date, $ 2,000 out of the total monies given up to that point will automatically be forfeited. After the Opening Residency, no refund will be given, except for extraordinary circumstances beyond the participant’s control. Partial refund may be given at the discretion of the program director.
The SSD ultimately hopes to offer scholarship subsidy to deserving participants who demonstrate legitimate financial needs. However, as a relatively new school, the SSD is not yet in a position to offer such scholarships at this time.