I’m in my second year of a Masters degree program in counseling at Southwestern College, finishing up my last quarter of classes before my internship. Having been here a while, I think I’m now qualified to say a bit about what Southwestern College is all about, from a student’s perspective. So here’s what I’m going to do for you. I’m going to take Southwestern College’s mission statement and offer my comments on it, section by section. Ready? Here we go…
The mission of Southwestern College is “Transforming Consciousness Through Education.” Consciousness, as understood at Southwestern College, is the capacity and willingness to live life with intentionality and the highest possible level of awareness regarding our personal, social and spiritual purpose for being here. Higher consciousness or awareness creates a capacity for enhanced decision-making and resourcing in our lives, which in turn supports the over-arching aim of all helping profession activity—empowerment.
Note that the word consciousness in the mission statement is used in a fairly general way. This is a good thing; it means there’s lots of room here for different spiritual perspectives and worldviews. Southwestern is not a religious institution; it doesn’t advocate any particular belief system or religious perspective above all others. It’s also not a cult; there is no particular individual who we look to for answers. We’re each encouraged to develop our own inner wisdom.
The mission of Southwestern College is not to make a profit. That immediately sets it apart from some of the for-profit universities out there. Not that there’s anything wrong with profit, but the not-for-profit nature of Southwestern definitely gives it a different flavor that I’ve grown to appreciate. What is that flavor? Caring, intimate, flexible, unique, heartfelt, beautiful… Less like a machine and more like a person or a family. Southwestern does not lack personality!
The primary vehicles for facilitating this shift in awareness are our Master’s Degrees in Counseling and Art Therapy/Counseling, as well as The New Earth Institute and the Southwestern Counseling Center. The college creates a professional environment within which advanced Counseling and Art Therapy skills are developed in a context of the student’s evolving understanding of self, self-in-relation and spiritual growth. The enhanced Consciousness of the students potentiates the intensive clinical training, allowing them to assist clients in moving toward greater self-awareness, empowerment and life satisfaction.
We do learn intellectual stuff here, but more importantly, we are invited to discover our personal edges—cognitive, emotional, relational, and spiritual. In my opinion, discovering and working those edges is an important part of becoming an effective therapist—more important than intellectual learning. However, you can be challenged intellectually here, too, and you probably will be—especially if you seek out that kind of challenge.
In this way, the mission ripples out in widening circles, impacting the world well beyond the more immediate learning environment we create at Southwestern College. In the three of the Masters Degree programs, the College is dedicated to creating a professional environment for teaching and learning clinical helping skills as well as the conscious and intentional exploration of the spiritual dimension of human learning and living. We strive to provide a multicultural learning environment which fosters ethical development as a foundation for professional growth and excellence in Counseling, Art Therapy/Counseling and related helping activities.
In my experience, spiritual practice and spiritual growth tend to be key values for both teachers and students here. Not in a “you have to believe what I believe” kind of way, but in a “discover what enlivens you” kind of way. This was one of the reasons I chose Southwestern. I value spiritual practice and spiritual growth; I wanted to feel comfortable talking and writing about spirituality in my classes, and I wanted to meet students and teachers who also value spirituality. I haven’t been disappointed. Most notably, I’ve been impressed and amazed at the spiritual depth and maturity of some of my teachers.
Southwestern College is a progressive training institution and graduate school which draws upon ancient world wisdom, modern social science, and current developments in the fields of counseling, psychology, art therapy, neurobiology, quantum physics and conscious leadership. Our approach is influenced by the likes of Phineas Quimby (Father of New Thought), Ralph Waldo Emerson (Father of American Transcendentalism), Carl Jung, Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers, Eckhart Tolle, Rudolf Steiner, Alice Bailey and the great wisdom schools throughout the centuries.
Note the wide range of Southwestern’s influences. Southwestern’s mission does not involve promoting any particular therapeutic approach or model—and in my opinion, that’s a good thing. Students here are exposed to a wide range of approaches, and we get to move toward what we are drawn to. Don’t expect to come out of here an expert in a particular model of therapy; that’s not really what Southwestern is about. It’s more about laying a solid foundation for clinical work—a foundation you can build upon for many years to come.
We hold that true agents of transformation will naturally embrace a commitment to transforming their own consciousness in order to help others. To that end, our first year MA degree curriculum is a deep journey into, and engagement of, the student’s authentic self and life path. The two-quarter sequence “Psychology of Consciousness” (a signature course at Southwestern) builds the experiential base and paradigm for engaging deeply the content of the core curriculum classes in a unique and profound way that develops transformational leaders. Southwestern seeks out faculty members who are reflective practitioners and have a spiritual and/or meaning-based practice of their own. We honor all traditions and practices as legitimate connections to wisdom and spirit, and the diversity that our philosophy attracts becomes part of the richness of the educational experience. The success of our training approach is reflected in the fact that our graduates hold leadership positions and professional licenses all over the country. Southwestern College is fully accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools as well as the American Art Therapy Association. If our mission awakens something within you – if your curiosity is stirred, please make a connection with us. We would love to meet you. This form of education could be what you are looking for…
What happens for you as you read this? Is Southwestern’s philosophy something you feel drawn toward?