Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Christianity

Spiritual Formation Training in the Wheaton College PsyD Program: Nurturing the Growth of Servant-Oriented Practitioner-Scholars

Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Christianity

Spiritual Formation Training in the Wheaton College PsyD Program: Nurturing the Growth of Servant-Oriented Practitioner-Scholars

Article excerpt

The purpose of this article is to describe the spiritual formation training of students in the Wheaton College PsyD program. Building on our mission statement and drawing on faculty, student, and alumna perspectives, we explain how spiritual formation is conceptualized, practiced, and experienced in our training community. In particular, we describe approaching spiritual formation as a holistic, relational-developmental process that focuses on developing competent, service-oriented practitioner-scholars. Next, we highlight some of our program's strengths and growth opportunities in this aspect of training. We conclude by offering suggestions for a training focus on spiritual formation in Christian doctoral psychology programs in general.

The program goals and objectives of the Wheaton College Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) clinical psychology program flow from our mission statement, which focuses on Christian distinctiveness: a practitioner-scholar training model; commitment to professional practice as service to the Body of Christ and to underserved and marginalized persons; and an intentional community of faith emphasizing a balanced approach to spiritual, personal, professional, and interpersonal growth and development. Elsewhere our colleagues have described the clinical (Flanagan, Kahn, & Gregory, 2011) and research training (Gregory & McMinn, 2004) of students in the Wheaton College Psy.D. program also stemming from this mission. In the current article, we describe the spiritual formation training of Wheaton doctoral students. Building on our mission statement and drawing on faculty, student, and alumna perspectives, we identify spiritual formation as a critical aspect of our students' holistic training. We first highlight key assumptions about spiritual formation within our program. We then describe how faculty perceive spiritual formation as a holistic, relational-developmental process focused on training competent, service-oriented practitioner-scholars within an intentional community context. Students and an alumna then reflect on their spiritual formation experiences at Wheaton. Based on these reflections, we then highlight some of our program's strengths and growth opportunities in this training area. We conclude by offering general recommendations for spiritual formation training in Christian doctoral psychology programs.

Introduction: Key Assumptions and Distinctive Foci

Based on the work of Siegel (2012), Sperry (2013), and Willard (2006), we define spiritual formation as a developmental process that focuses primarily on facilitating spiritual growth but broadly on promoting holistic health, where health refers to "a state of optimal regulation and adaptive functioning of body, mind, [spirit,] and relationships" (Siegel, 2012, p. 459). In other words, stemming from our program's mission, we conceptualize spiritual formation as a holistic, relational-developmental process involving a balanced approach to promoting students' spiritual, personal, professional, and interpersonal growth and development. We assume spiritual formation is a distinct component of students' training and yet also permeates and is impacted by all other aspects of their training (e.g., clinical, research, and academic). In our training program, we strive to prioritize spiritual formation as central to our larger goal to holistically train competent practitioner-scholars.

Given our program's mission to foster an ever-growing commitment to serve the Church, the underserved, and the marginalized, one of the characteristics of spiritual formation training at Wheaton is our strong service-orientation. Specifically, we focus on nurturing the growth of servant-practitioner-scholars-that is, practitioner-scholars who view professional practice as service. We have the privilege of journeying with students during a particularly formative stage of life, as students respond to their calling to serve others. Here one of our program's core foci is cultivating our students' passion and skills for serving the "least of these" (Matthew 25:40, New International Version; see Matthew 25:31-46). …

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