Diploma in the art of Spiritual Direction

Spiritual direction is a covenant relationship in which one Christian assists another or others in the discernment of God’s presence and the contemplative living out of God’s call.

San Francisco Theological Seminary, the first Protestant seminary to offer such a program, educates and prepares men and women, both ordained and non-ordained, for the ministry of spiritual direction.

The DASD program blends rigorous academic work with time for retreat, worship, celebration, prayer, contemplation of God’s presence in our lives, and focused practice of, and reflection on, the art of spiritual direction. Combining three successive three-week January intensives, which provide 18 semester hours of graduate-level credit, and year-round, home-site supervision, the DASD program offers an inviting opportunity for prayer, study, and practical experience focused on the nature and practice of spiritual direction.

I have been so blessed by the community and leadership of the program. I can genuinely say that the DASD program helped save my faith. It’s been a community of grace, generosity, and encouragement, as well as a welcomed challenge in the academic sense.  2017 DASD Student, Adam L.

The program offers skills not only in the discernment with individuals, but also of structures and groups, a unique aspect of SFTS’ program. We assume that spiritual direction skills transfer to work with many kinds of groups. If you successfully complete the course of study and supervision, you receive a diploma of completion. This diploma does not imply credentialing as a spiritual director per se, because the ministry of spiritual direction is constituted by a call from God, instituted by a specific invitation to exercise this ministry, and authenticated by its fruits, but it testifies to your rigorous and multi-dimensional preparation.

Program Requirements

Courses are offered on a revolving basis, and therefore students may enter the DASD program in any year. Students are required to complete each of the below courses for a total of 18 credit hours. Two courses are offered during each January term according to the following groupings.

First year:

  • The Art of Christian Listening (3 credit hours)
  • Fundamentals of Spiritual Direction (3 credit hours)

Second and third years in rotation:

  • The Art of Discernment (3 credit hours)
  • History of Christian Spirituality (3 credit hours)
  • Contemporary issues in Spiritual Direction (3 credit hours)
  • Discernment: Systems and Nature (3 credit hours)

Students are required to do reading for courses well before the January term starts. Reading lists are sent to second and third year students during the summer months with the expectation that they will complete these assignments before the January term begins.


Students fulfill the supervision requirements of the program in the context of their regular ministries and in the geographical areas in which they live. During the first January term, students begin to identify potential supervisors in their areas. Supervision requirements must be met for the DASD to be awarded. It is the responsibility of the student to remunerate his/her supervisor according to the supervisor’s needs.

Supervision constitutes six (6) credit hours. Because of additional external expenses associated with supervision, SFTS does not charge tuition for these credit hours.

Admissions Requirements

Admission is open to persons (ordained or non-ordained) from any denomination who have completed or are in the process of completing an advanced theological degree. Admission is also open to those applicants who can demonstrate sufficient background in Bible and theology. Applicants lacking in these areas may be admitted provisionally, upon condition that they fulfill an additional two-course requirement before beginning or completing the program. These courses, one in Biblical studies and one in Christian theology, must be pre-approved by the director of the program. Admission to the DASD program requires, without exception, a bachelor’s degree.

Spiritual Direction

Spiritual direction is a ministry that involves attentive conversations with a wise and competent spiritual director. Spiritual directors themselves receive spiritual direction as an important part of their own self-care accountability. Persons applying to the DASD program are expected to have had at least one year of formal spiritual direction. For information about how to locate a spiritual director in your geographical area, contact Spiritual Directors International or email us.

Christian Community

Spiritual directors do not attend to the presence and activity of God in the life of another or others in isolation. Directors draw upon the wisdom and reflection of the entire Christian heritage, and they draw upon the strength of the faith-based communities of which they are a part. Applicants are expected to show affiliation with and service within a Christian faith community. SFTS encourages students to establish and maintain appropriate denominational structures of support and accountability and to participate actively in such peer organizations as Spiritual Directors International.

Degree Options

Students already enrolled in the Master of Divinity (M.Div.) program

  • Students must apply and be admitted to the DASD program as a separate program. Such doubly admitted students may count up to three January term courses toward the M.Div. degree, as long as these courses are taken during the period of M.Div. study. The tuition for these three January term courses is covered at the M.Div. tuition rate (i.e., under the full-time M.Div. tuition charge, if applicable, and under existing financial aid agreements). The remainder of the courses and all program fees are subject to full DASD charges.
  • With the above exception, no financial aid will be awarded for DASD tuition.
  • No M.Div. courses may be transferred into the DASD program.

Students who wish to enroll in the M.Div. program

  • Those who earn a DASD may transfer three courses into a subsequent M.Div. program, to be counted as electives.

Students who wish to enroll in the Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) program

  • The student must apply for, and be accepted by, both the DASD and D.Min. program separately.
  • The student participates in three, three-week January DASD terms.
  • The student completes the following D.Min. coursework: three resource seminars, one dissertation/project seminar, and completes a dissertation/project.
  • For information about program costs, please contact the DASD program office.

Combined Master of Arts in Theological Studies (MATS) and DASD Program

  • For information about this combined program, please contact the DASD program office.


Short-term on-campus conference housing is available on a first-come/first-serve basis. Availability of housing varies year to year according to the size of the full-time resident student population. Applying early for housing is strongly recommended. Housing costs depend upon the quality of the accommodations and the student’s need for a single or shared bedroom. Housing applications that include descriptions of the various accommodations are sent to students each fall. For each January term, typical housing costs range from $625-$1,300 per person for on-campus housing in either our conference center or on-campus apartments. Housing costs will vary from year to year.

Meals and Material Costs

Every student, commuter or resident, pays a fee of $300. This fee covers the cost of lunches (our main meal), snacks, art supplies, and materials. The majority of program housing is in a dormitory style residence hall, Susanna Baird Hall, with a single, small kitchen. Meal plans and material costs may vary from year to year. Students are responsible for their own breakfast during their residence. There are four days during the January term when classes are not held and no meals are served. There are, however, a number of restaurants, coffee houses, and diners within walking distance of the Seminary.

Preparation as a Supervisor

Supervisor training for experienced spiritual directors is offered in partnership with Together in the Mystery. Information about upcoming seminars is available here.

For further information, please contact:

Wendy Farley, Director, Program in Christian Spirituality

415.451.2867 | wfarley@sfts.edu

The SFTS Program in Christian Spirituality was one of first to offer spiritual direction training in a Protestant seminary. It presents a ground-breaking approach to spirituality that combines head and heart, prayer and public witness, ancient practices and contemporary experimentation across many faith traditions. Congratulations to the program, which celebrated its 20th Diploma in the Art of Spiritual Direction graduating class in 2016.