Inside the Classroom: Psychospiritual Development

Written by Ryan Fallgren
June 17, 2013

One of the school's most compelling courses, STMA 561 "Psychospiritual Development", begins today--Monday, June 17--in a two-week summer intensive format, and will also be offered Winter Quarter 2014. The course is required for Seattle University's School of Theology and Ministry students in the MA in Transforming Spirituality, MA in Transformational Leadership and the MA in Relationship & Pastoral Therapy degree programs. Yes, Dr. Gretchen Gundrum shares with us, it is intentional that the words psycho and spiritual are not hyphenated.

Dr. Gundrum shares:
I used to hyphenate 'psycho-spiritual' but I don't any longer.? Western thought has suffered from the Cartesian dualism that separates matter and spirit.? Richard Rohr, OFM summarizes the issue for me with this statement:? 'It is not about becoming spiritual beings nearly as much as about becoming human beings.....We have created a sad kind of dualism between the spiritual and the so-called non-spiritual.? This dualism precisely is what Jesus came to reveal as a lie.? The principle of Incarnation proclaims that matter and spirit have never been separate.? Jesus came to tell us that these two seemingly different worlds are and always have been one.'? To become more authentically human is really to become holy.? That's a pretty amazing concept.

Master of Divinity and MA in Pastoral Studies students along with students from SeattleU's counseling degree programs, students in MA in Student Development Administration, and even a faculty member from SeattleU's School of Nursing have benefited from the course in the past.

Psychospiritual development is a journey that students take into the memories, pain, and joys of their own lives. Students study developmental theorists and apply their ideas to their own evolution as human beings on the quest to make meaning.? For some students, this requires learning a different vocabulary since it's not overtly theological (it is, of course, implicitly and often explicitly so).?

Dr. Gundrum tells us:
Many years ago, Seattle University's School of Theology and Ministry had the wisdom to require psychospiritual development of students studying to be spiritual directors.? How can you accompany another person if you don't know your own story?? How can you be an effective pastoral leader if you haven't faced your own wounds?? If I don't know myself, I will be toxic and actually a danger to others.? Unconscious material that is not faced gets projected outward onto others.? This essential work is at the heart of the ministerial covenant.? We are all wounded healers.? The scar tissue of our souls is the place where we are actually strongest--if we have done the inner work to understand how we got there and what it means for us.? Whatever has happened to us can be useful in the care and service of others if it has made us wiser.

The course itself has evolved over the years as a number of faculty have shaped it.? Pat Howell, SJ designed and taught it for many years; Dr. Mary Rose Bumpus and Dr. Gundrum built on Fr. Howell's work in addition to others' investment. Any individual in a counseling, consulting, or mentoring capacity will particularly benefit from engaging this course. However, no matter what vocational path a student plans to take, every student benefits from the deeper awareness and healing that can come from looking at one's history squarely and making peace with it.


From the Students: Quotes

"Dr. Gundrum courageously shared her own experiences to illustrate material and to lead by example." - Jamie Yslas

"The models of various developmental psychologists along with models of faith development were particularly effective and valuable, along with the opportunities to reflect on different stages of my life with these new perspectives." - Charlotte Davenport

"This class exceeded my expectations. I approached it as an academic requirement... but it went much deeper than that, pulling me in with mystery and enlightenment." - Theresa Henson

"I really appreciated the opportunities to learn about different theorists and applying theory to my own experiences. Dr. Gundrum, thank you for giving so much of yourself to us! This course ripped my heart out and really moved me." - Liz Fenn

"I was told that I would love this course, but it hit me in a very powerful way and was much more than I ever could have expected. What a gift this class has been, especially at this time in my life! The combination of learning opportunities and modes in lecture, small group, discussion groups and more were especially effective and valuable." - Gail Thomas

"I particularly loved the paper writing and the readings. This course is the class that has 'nudged and grown me the most since I began classes at the School of Theology and Ministry last summer." - Nydia Blood

"The rituals at the end of every class session were very moving. I especially found the multiple ways of engagement enriching, including watching films." - Andrea Chicas

About the Professor: Dr. Gretchen Gundrum

Dr. Gretchen Gundrum hails from Cincinnati, OH.? The second oldest of six, she entered religious life with the Sisters of St. Joseph in New Orleans right out of high school.? After novitiate training she chose to leave and discerned a different path.? She became a high school French, English, and religion teacher, enjoyed a wonderful summer in France, completed a masters degree in French at Middlebury, and then was hired as a secretary for the first Black mayor of Cincinnati.?? After Mayor Berry retired, Gretchen moved to California.? During a 10-year stint, she worked her way up from a technical writer to an executive with the Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program.? Her most fun job was directing internal communications for the Northern California Region and planning special events. ?

Despite success within the corporation, however, something was missing. A volunteer experience with women recovering from addiction led her to some deep soul-searching and the decision to pursue a PhD in clinical psychology with the hope of teaching and becoming a clinician. She completed her doctorate at the Pacifica Graduate Institute in Carpinteria, CA and defended her dissertation on her 50th birthday.? A great way to celebrate!

When Gretchen and her husband Peter Ways moved to Seattle, she discovered Seattle University's School of Theology and Ministry.? She loved the school?s ecumenical nature and interviewed for adjunct teaching.? Initially hired to teach Pastoral Care Skills, over the years she also taught Ministerial and Theological Integration (MTI), Christian Prayer and Spirituality, Fostering Communities of Faith, Psychospiritual Development (her favorite!), and practica courses for the Pastoral Studies degree and the Relationship & Pastoral Therapy degree.

Her teaching career at the school has had two phases:? after teaching full time for three years, she commuted to St. Louis for one year, directing the formation of lay students at the Aquinas Institute of Theology. The commute became too onerous and she then took a position as the pastoral associate at Sacred Heart Parish in Bellevue.? After three years of parish ministry, she returned to the School of Theology and Ministry in 2007, combining teaching with her private practice of psychotherapy and spiritual direction.