The Program Model

We believe the most important learning experiences in becoming a therapist occur through a process of ongoing and deepening dialogue between students, program faculty, researchers, and clinical mentors. To facilitate this kind of dialogue, we limit the number of students admitted to the Master of Arts in Psychology program to 20-24 per year. Students enter the program as a cohort, take most of their courses together, and move toward graduation with their cohort. 

The program’s distinctive curriculum includes: the study of clinical, theoretical and philosophical texts, first person narratives and case studies, extensive personal reflection and experiential exercises, opportunities for training in qualitative and phenomenological research, and a 9-to-12-month clinical internship. Upon completion of the MAP degree, most students go on to become Licensed Mental Health Counselors (LMHCA) in Washington State, where they work as therapists in community mental health agencies, private or group-based practices and other care settings. Some graduates continue onward to doctoral studies in clinical psychology, often with research and teaching interests focused on the use of qualitative and phenomenological methods in clinical practice.  

Existential Phenomenological Psychology

Existential phenomenology embraces a rich and diverse body of thought, grounded in the disciplines of philosophy, psychology and the humanities. It offers a substantially different model of training from most other clinical programs. Our program distinguishes itself by using these reflective traditions as a foundation for training students as psychotherapists. 

Existential and phenomenological ideas serve as a source of both questions and insights into basic human experiences of love, growth, suffering, healing, spirituality, and making meaning. 

  • Existential approaches help us deepen our ability to engage with and understand the lives of clients through in-depth reflection on the meanings expressed or implicit in their words and actions. 
  • Based in person-centered and humanistic ethical ideals, and inspired by thinkers such as Buber, Kierkegaard, Husserl, Heidegger, Gadamer, Sartre, and Levinas, our program challenges the tendency of modern therapies to approach human experience in a reductionistic manner, e.g., to see clients as mere clusters of symptoms to be treated, or to be related to through checklists and narrowly scripted interventions. 
  • Ideas from phenomenology help us to approach clients' experiences in their full richness and complexity. They assist us in setting aside diagnostic labels, suspending theoretical and ideological judgments as we engage with them. 
  • Ideas from phenomenology help us to listen well, to engage with the uniqueness of each client's situation, needs and perspectives. By doing so, we can help them to create richer meanings in their lives and deepen their relationships with others.  
  • We work from the conviction that the best therapists are not detached technicians; they are responsibly committed to their clients, embodying qualities of humility, warmth, and compassion.  
  • Existential and phenomenological thought provides as well, a powerful set of approaches for exploring issues of cultural identity and difference in therapeutic work. Instead of offering stereotyped (or stereotypical?) formulations that categorize and essentialize the qualities of "others", the phenomenological tradition emphasizes the need to explore the complexities and uniqueness of the intersecting identities of our clients. 
  • We provide aspiring therapists with skills and clinical training to explore clients’ experiences of historical oppression and exclusion, and to work within the therapeutic relationship to help empower clients to live lives of authenticity and meaning. 


Professor Steen Halling, one of the program's founders, provides a 3 minute overview of the Master of Arts in Psychology program.
Seattle University Arts & Sciences.

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Master of Arts in Psychology

MAP Program Information
Harding 140

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