Diploma in the Art of Spiritual Direction

The DASD program has been the flagship spirituality program at SFTS. With nearly 300 alums, we have rich testimony to the power of this vision for training spiritual directors. The diploma is unique in its combination of academic rigor and spiritual formation. Its strong emphasis on supervised practicums has contributed to the high quality of directors that have emerged from this program.

Graduates of our program have provided national and international leadership as spiritual directors and supervisors of spiritual direction. They have created spiritual direction certificates in the United States and Korea. In addition, graduates have used their training to become retreat leaders, social activists, create programs in contemplative pedagogy, participate in interfaith dialogue, create programs in the spirituality of art. They have created national and international programs in coaching and reinvented their ministry to become pastor as spiritual guide.  In these various ways, graduates have creatively used and expanded the meaning 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.

Program Requirements

Students wishing to obtain a diploma will participate in the same retreats that serve the certificate program. To obtain a diploma, participants must take one additional retreat (five in all). In addition, they will register for 1.5 unit on-line courses that are available in conjunction with each retreat. These courses will add an academic component and writing requirements to the emphasis on formation and practice in the certificate program.

The first retreat toward a Diploma is “The Art of Contemplative Listening” which offers training in “open-hearted listening:” listening from the heart, attending to the heart of others, seeking the heart of the matter. Through study and practice, participants will explore elements of deep listening.

Participants will also take three additional retreat modules:

  • Foundations of Spiritual Direction
  • Discernment
  • Classic Spiritual Writings
  • One elective

Between retreats participants will:

  • Be in spiritual direction
  • Participate in an on-line community offering further study and support
  • Work through a required set of readings and turn in short reflection papers on the readings
  • Practice contemplative listening with a designated spiritual companion or friend, meeting at least once a month for an hour for this purpose.
  • Locate supervised practicum (see below)

Practicum & Supervision

After completing retreats in Contemplative Listening and Foundations of Spiritual Direction, participants will locate 2-3 directees to begin practicing their own style of spiritual direction. These practicums will be supervised by a local spiritual director approved by this program. Participants will negotiate a contract and payment with their supervisor.

Supervision and evaluation of a student’s progress will occur annually.

Students may complete the five retreats and additional background at the rate that suits their life circumstances. But they must have two years of supervised practice to receive the certificate.

In addition, participants in the DASD program will undertake additional supervision work offered through SFTS. Stay tuned for more information on this aspect of the program.

Retreat, Study, and Community

Each retreat will combine study, spiritual practice, quiet, and community. Typically, each morning will be dedicated to the study of the retreat topic. After lunch and a break, participants will have opportunities to meet in small groups to practice what they are learning. The day begins and ends with worship or meditation. Retreatants have opportunities to take their meals together as well as time for quiet, rest, contemplative walks. Participants will encounter models of practice from a variety of spiritual and cultural traditions.

Click here to learn more about retreats.

Admission Requirements

Because spiritual direction depends on the director’s own spiritual grounding, applicants should have at least six months of regular spiritual/ contemplative practice. Participants should indicate a regular habit of contemplative prayer or other appropriate spiritual practice and participation in some form of community.

If you are interested in training in spiritual direction, you are strongly encouraged to experience some form of spiritual direction before entering the program. If you are drawn in this direction, we encourage you to locate a spiritual director and begin this process of deep spiritual nurture and growth. If this is not possible, consult with the Director about how to satisfy this requirement. In the absence of unusual circumstances, participants in the DASD program will be in spiritual direction for one year before beginning the program.

Applicants will typically have at least a BA degree and some background of study in spiritual or theological studies. If this is lacking, contact the Director for guidance in acquiring some knowledge of spiritual traditions before you begin the diploma.


Housing costs as follows:

For a one week term (6 nights, 5 days of instruction): $420.00
For a two week term (12 nights, 10 days of instruction): $770.00

Housing is in a dormitory style building with shared bathrooms and kitchen facilities.

Meals and Material Costs

Meals include a self-service breakfast, communal lunch, and a coffee and tea service during the day as well as material costs for the program: $97.50 for one week, $195.00 for two weeks. Dinners are not included in this fee but can be arranged individually or as a group through carry out, restaurants, or simple cooking in the dorm. There are a number of very pleasant restaurants and coffee shops within walking distance. 

For further information, please contact:

Dr. 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.