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Contemplative Clinical Practice Certificate

The Program

The Contemplative Clinical Practice Certificate Program in spirituality and clinical social work practice will consider the clinical relationship as a potential locus of the sacred. It will deepen the clinician's awareness of the sacred dimension of his or her work by exploring his or her own religious histories and spiritual practices, the clients' spiritual beliefs and practices, and the clinical relationship itself. The program will provide a framework for assessing religious and spiritual development and explore issues of ethics and social justice as they relate to spirituality.

Cultivating awareness is crucial for clinical practice in a complex, global world. The capacity of the clinical social worker to pay attention to the dynamics of the clinical relationship can be enhanced by continuous self reflection and contemplative practice. Contemplative practices can deepen awareness and develop a stronger connection...

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... to one's inner wisdom. Practices originating in religious traditions and those being created in secular contexts can deepen the reflective experience for both the clinician and the client.

Traditions will be explored using didactic and experiential methods. Using case material and sacred texts, participants will examine the strengths, limitations and possibilities of theories and practices for clinical work with clients from different backgrounds and with a range of psychological and spiritual concerns.

Participants in this advanced certificate program will:

  • develop knowledge, skills and a language in accessing religious and spiritual development in treatment interventions
  • acquire knowledge and skills in understanding religious and spiritual practices across issues of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and cultural diversity
  • develop a capacity to build a sustainable contemplative practice for self and others.


The Certificate in Contemplative Clinical Practice carries 31.5 continuing education credits.

Program Dates

Session I: October 16 - 19, 2014
Session II: April 9 - 12, 2015

The program consists of two extended weekend sessions (Thursday to Sunday). Between the two academic sessions, participants will apply their learning to their current clinical experiences. Students will receive consultation on their endeavors through monthly online chat room case-based discussions. In addition, students are given the option of individual spiritual direction by phone during the practicum period.

This program is wheelchair accessible. For disability access information or accommodations requests, please call (413) 585-2407. To request a sign language interpreter, call (413) 585-2071 (voice or TTY) or email at least 10 days before the event.

Admission Requirements

A minimum of a master's degree in social work or allied professions. Applicants must have a minimum of three years post-master's clinical practice experience.


The program consists of two extended weekend academic sessions of intensive coursework at the Smith College School for Social Work. Classes will include a rich variety of relevant theories, active class participation and case-based instruction based on students' current clinical work.

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Between the two academic weekends, students will participate in monthly facilitated chat conference call discussions. The conference calls will allow participants the opportunity to discuss issues related to attending to the contemplative dimensions in their lives and the enhancement of a contemplative practice in their clinical work with clients.

Spiritual Direction
Students are given the option of individual spiritual direction from Dean Carolyn Jacobs during the practicum period. Spiritual Direction is the process of accompanying a person on a spiritual journey where he/she reflects deeply on the experiences of daily life.  Spiritual direction exists in a context that encourages or invites you into a relationship with God, the sacred, the holy or a higher power.  This contemplative experience can occur whether you attend a church, mosque, synagogue, temple or none of these. The process is one of conversations where you are consulting with Dean Jacobs about the ways in which the transcendent other may be touching your life directly or indirectly.

Dean Jacobs will be available for conversations regarding your spiritual journey once or twice a month from October to March. She is available for conversations by telephone or in her office at Lilly Hall.


The Certificate Program in Contemplative Clinical Practice carries 31.5 continuing education credits.

Programmatic Themes

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The Smith College School for Social Work reserves the right to modify content as appropriate.

Exploring Contemplative Practices

The contemplative practice sessions will introduce, and invite, participants to an exploration of what defines a "contemplative practice." Together, students will experience selected practices, chronicle the effects of the practices in their daily life and discuss the impact of the experience in both our personal and professional worlds.

Contemplative Art Practice

Held in the Smith Art Museum, this session is an opportunity to experience art in a contemplative way and to discover the art museum as a contemplative space. The central practice is beholding, a way of seeing that encourages attentive observation and emphasizes the relation of the viewer to what is being viewed. It is a method of being as present as possible with a work of art and allowing it to become familiar, intimate, a method of self-discovery.

Eastern Religions: Buddhism and Compassionate Action

This introduction to the basic beliefs and practices of Buddhism places particular emphasis on the Buddhist understanding of impermanence, interconnection, suffering and the relief of suffering, and the centrality of compassionate action. The Buddhist belief that all beings are interconnected leads naturally to the compassionate outreach that is the foundation of social work. Buddhism is a path of awakening to insight and wisdom, based on inquiry--a curious, receptive, and open perspective on life. We will explore Buddhist practices, based on the understanding that wholesome competencies like mindfulness, compassion, and lovingkindness can be cultivated in anyone at any time.

Trauma and Spirituality

Spirituality is often a well of hope for those suffering the effects of trauma. This session explores religious and spiritual practices as resources for making meaning out of the ashes of traumatic events that occur from individual experiences, historical oppression, community events, natural disasters and war. The usefulness of both psychodynamic and transpersonal theoretical orientations will be examined. Particular attention will be given to faith development and process-oriented frameworks for understanding the personal meaning attached to symbols, rituals, beliefs and divine figures and to learning about internal relationships to religious and spiritual resources. While the focus of this session is on a strengths perspective, this does not preclude an examination of those religious or spiritual experiences that have had a negative impact on the individual and group experience of coping with trauma.

Assessment & Diagnosis: Integrating a Spiritual History

This session will assist clients in identifying ways to assess clients' religious histories, existential concerns and spiritual beliefs and will suggest some ways of opening these conversations in psychotherapy. Particular attention will be paid to the therapist's own spiritual beliefs/religious history as a lens through which they view their client's stories as well as to the issues of transference and countertransference raised in the process of doing a spiritual assessment. This workshop will involve some didactic teaching and experiential work.

Psychological Theories and Their Relationship to Spirituality

This session will explore the ways in which a client's spiritual beliefs and religious history can provide a therapist with important information about a client's inner life. Particular attention will be paid to Object Relations Theory and the development of an individual's internalized object representation of their God. Using the novel Letter to Sister Benedicta as a common case, participants will apply this material to clinical work.

Cross Cultural Issues and the Significance of Difference

Some spiritual paths invite us to relinquish the concerns of "self" and to see the confines of "identity" as a source of suffering. And yet, even as we aspire to dissolve our separations from all beings, there are ways we need to persist in exploring and claiming our distinct roles and experiences within systems of social injustice and privilege. How can we utilize our complex "identities" to inform our engagement in transformational work, both personally and professionally? This session will reflect on the significance of social location as a platform for socially engaged practices and will guide participants in adopting accountability strategies at personal, interpersonal and community levels.

Spiritual/Theological perspectives on Suffering, Justice and Hope

This panel discussion will address suffering, justice, and hope from the perspectives of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism. Each panelist will present his or her own understanding of these issues within the broader context of his or her faith tradition. Following the formal remarks, class members will be invited to participate in discussion. Social justice and action will be considered as a key component of each of these concepts.

Narrative Throughout the Lifecycle

Narrative approaches to clinical and pastoral counseling will be presented in didactic form, followed by case examples from the instructor. In addition, the use of scriptural narratives in therapy and pastoral care, such as the Prodigal Son and the stories of Moses’ conversations with God, will be elucidated.
Cases will focus on adult developmental concerns from early adulthood to old age.


Spiritual Issues in Death and Dying

The intersection of spiritual and psychodynamic issues at the end of life is addressed in this session. How multicultural and ethnic groups view death, dying and grieving will be included along with their implications for practice are discussed. This course will expand practitioner's knowledge and skills in integrating psychological and spiritual ways of making meaning. Special attention will be given to applying knowledge from a variety of religious traditions and spiritual disciplines to a range of end-of-life settings. The course is designed to enrich the practitioner's own comfort with diverse religious and spiritual practices.

Contributing Faculty

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Carolyn Jacobs, Ph.D.

Dr. Jacobs is the Dean, Elizabeth Marting Treuhaft Professor of the Smith College School for Social Work, and the Director of the Contemplative Clinical Practice Certificate Program. She has taught primarily within the research and practice sequences of the School. Her areas of professional interest include religion and spirituality in social work practice and organizational behavior. She has written and presented extensively on the topic of spirituality in social work. In 2001 she was elected to the National Academies of Practice as a distinguished social work practitioner. Recent publications include Jacobs, C. (2010) “Exploring religion and spirituality in clinical practice” Smith College Studies in Social Work, 80(2-3); Jacobs, C. (Ed.) (2010) Smith College Studies in Social Work, 80(2-3); Jacobs, C. (2007) “Spiritual Development” in Lesser, J. G. and Pope, D. S. (Eds.) Human Behavior in the Social Environment. Chapter 8, 188-203. VT: Allyn and Bacon, Jacobs, C. (2006) “Transformation and Kaleidoscope Memories” Smith College Studies in Social Work, 76 (4) and Jacobs, C. (2004) “Spirituality and end-of-life care practice for social workers” in Berzoff, J. & Silverman, P. R. (Eds.) Living with dying: A handbook for end-of-life healthcare practitioners. (pp. 188-205) NY: Columbia University Press. In April 2011, Dr. Jacobs was a panel member on the topic of Spirituality and endof-life care at the18th Annual Living With Grief® Program, Hospice Foundation of America, Washington, DC. Dr. Jacobs received her B.A. from Sacramento State University, her M.S.W. from San Diego State University, her doctorate from the Heller School of Brandeis University and her training as a spiritual director from the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation. She maintains a spiritual direction practice.

Mirabai Bush

Mirabai is Senior Fellow and the founding Director of the Center on Contemplative Mind in Society, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to encourage contemplative awareness in American life in order to create a more just, compassionate, and reflective society.  She has designed and led contemplative trainings for lawyers and judges, social justice activists, and corporations including Google, where she co-developed Search Inside Yourself: Mindfulness Based Emotional Intelligence. She is a director of the Center’s Program in Higher Education, including the Contemplative Practice Fellowship awards and the Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education.  She is co-author, with Ram Dass, of Compassion in Action: Setting Out on the Path of Service, and co-author, with Dan Barbezat, of Contemplative Practices in Higher Education: Powerful Methods to Transform Teaching and Learning. She is editor of Contemplation Nation: How Ancient Practices are Changing the Way We Live.  

Her spiritual studies include meditation at the Burmese Vihara in Bodh Gaya, India, with Shri S.N. Goenka and Anagarika Munindra; bhakti yoga with Hindu teacher Neemkaroli Baba; and studies with Tibetan lamas Kalu Rinpoche, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Kyabje Gehlek Rinpoche, Tsoknyi Rinpoche, and others. She was a student of aikido master Kanai Sensei for five years. She has a special interest in the uncovering and recovery of women's wisdom to inform work for social change.

Betty Morningstar, M.S.W., Ph.D.

Betty is an associate chaplain at HebrewSeniorLife in Boston, where she co-leads a volunteer pastoral counseling program.
She has worked on the adjunct faculty and as field advisor for the Schools of Social Work at both Simmons and Smith Colleges.  Topics of  her publications and presentations have included LGBT family issues, adolescent and adult sexual identity development, spirituality and aging, and narrative approaches to spiritually-oriented clinical practice.  She is the 2013 recipient of the Smith College School for Social Work Day Garrett award for contributions to the social work profession.

Christopher O'Rourke, M.S.W., M.Div.

Christopher earned his MSW from the Smith College School for Social Work in 1995 and a Master of Divinity degree from The Harvard Divinity School, Harvard University in 1986.  He is currently Director of Social Work Training at the Danielsen Institute at Boston University.  Christopher is an Adjunct Associate Professor at The Smith College School of Social Work and a Lecturer at Simmons College School of Social Work.  Both his writing and teaching are in the areas of the intersections of spirituality, religion, and clinical practice.

Tuition & Fees

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Application fee: $40 (due with application materials)

Tuition deposit: $300 (due with acceptance to confirm enrollment; the deposit is credited to the full tuition bill)

2013-14 tuition: $2,100*

*Tuition can be paid in full or in two payments of $1,050 (the first payment is due October 1 and the second payment due by April 1).

Agency discount

Agencies sponsoring three or more students will receive a five percent tuition discount per applicant.

Refund Policy

The $40 application fee is nonrefundable. Because program decisions are based on class size, tuition refund deposits cannot be considered.


The Smith College School for Social Work reserves the right to cancel any program which is undersubscribed. In the case of cancellation, all tuition fees paid will be reimbursed in full. The School also reserves the right to modify certificate content as appropriate.


More information

Your application packet must include the following:

  • Application form (available online only)
  • $40 nonrefundable application fee*
  • Current résumé*
  • Personal statement (two to three pages) responding to the following:*
  1. What is it about you that would be important for us to know?
  2. How would you describe your own personal spiritual journey and how does it inform your clinical work?
  3. If you have a contemplative practice, how would you describe it?
  4. What are you hoping to take away from this program?
  • Two letters of reference supporting the candidate's participation

*Submit by mail or email to


All application materials and the application fee must be received by July 11, 2014.
Deadline has been extended until August 18!

Apply Online

Online application must be paid by credit card (MasterCard or Visa only). All online applications will receive confirmation of receipt by email; if you do not receive confirmation that your application was received (within 48 hours), please contact us.
Please be sure to mail or email the resume, personal statement and letters of recommendation.

Mail Your Application Form and/or Supporting Documents

Return your completed application packet to:

Smith College School for Social Work
Contemplative Clinical Practice/Irene Rodriguez Martin
Lilly Hall
Northampton, MA 01063.

Fax Your Materials

Applications may be faxed to the school at (413) 585-7990. Faxed applications must be paid by credit card (MasterCard or Visa only). All faxed applications will receive confirmation of receipt by return fax; if you do not receive confirmation that your application was received (within 48 hours), please re-fax your application or contact us.

The School for Social Work reserves the right to cancel any program which is undersubscribed. The school also reserves the right to modify certificate content as appropriate.