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 approximately 20 per year. These students enter the program as a cohort, take many of their courses with one another, and move toward graduation together.
The program's distinctive curriculum includes the study of clinical and philosophical texts, first person narratives and case studies, extensive personal reflection and experiential exercises, opportunities for training in qualitative and phenomenological reseach, and a 9 to 12 month clinical internship. Upon completion of their two years of work in the program, our students are prepared to begin supervised clincial work as aspiring therapists. Most students go on to become Licensed Mental Health Counselors in Washington state. Some graduates continue onward to doctoral studies in clinical psychology, often with scholarly interests in focused on the use of qualitative and phenomenological methods in clinical research.
Existential Phenomenological Psychology
Existential phenomenology embraces a rich, diverse, body of thought, gounded in the disciplines of philosophy, psychology and the humanities. It offers a substantially different model of training from most other clinical programs. The Master of Arts in Psychology program at Seattle University 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 to 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, 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.
- They help us to listen well, to comprehend 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 phenomenoligical thought provides as well, a powerful set of approaches for exploring issues of cultural identity and difference in therapeutic work. Instead of offering stereotyped formulations that catagorize 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 training to examine with clients' experiences of historical oppression and exclusion, and to work skillfully within the therapeutic relationship to help empower their clients to lives of authenticity and meaning.