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About the Institute for Spiritual Formation

The Institute for Spiritual Formation (ISF) is a community of faculty and students dedicated to deepening their experience of the New Covenant life in the Spirit on the basis of the finished work of Christ on the cross. It is a community intent upon the life of prayer, openness to God's will in all things, desiring only what God by the Spirit would provide, and allowing his life to penetrate and fill our very own.

a group of students talking outside

ISF plays a role in the spiritual formation core for Talbot students and also offers specific programs, including a Master of Arts in Spiritual Formation and Soul Care, Spiritual Formation concentrations for the Master of Arts and Master of Divinity programs, Doctor of Ministry track in Spiritual Formation and Soul Care,  a Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT), as well as a Certificate in Spiritual Formation. The coursework in these programs are integrated with areas such as theology, philosophy, psychology and more, and our Apprentice Training Model aims to facilitate personal growth through various academic and co-curricular activities such as:

  • Experiential-relational soul work employing the spiritual disciplines within courses along with co-curricular activity in personal spiritual direction, various retreats, individual psychotherapy and community experiences.
  • In-depth theoretical and integrative course work employing theology and the creation disciplines such as philosophy, psychology, the arts and education to aid in understanding the spiritual life and mentoring.
  • Training and service opportunities in spiritual direction and mentoring, which vary in nature, intensity and duration depending on the program.
  • Community and connection provided by fostering relationships between students, as well as with mentoring faculty and staff, which provide numerous opportunities to interact within group settings.

Talbot’s Spiritual Formation Programs

Whether your goal is full-time pastoral ministry, spiritual direction, teaching and preaching or simply one-on-one discipleship, Talbot offers spiritual formation-specific programs that prepare you to understand and live out your calling. The goal is to provide an education that stimulates both mind and heart and trains you in practical ministry.

Additional Resources

Co-Curricular Requirements

As part of the experiential and practical nature of the academic programs, students are required to fulfill some co-curricular requirements. These may include spiritual direction, didactic therapy, a faculty-student retreat, personal retreats, a preliminary oral interview, an intensive journey inward retreat, and a thesis. See the details of each requirement to see how it may or may not apply to various degrees.

Personal Spiritual Direction

As those being trained to lead the church in spiritual formation and soul care, it is vital for all ISF students to experience spiritual direction themselves. The student is expected to be open and honest with their spiritual director, hiding nothing regarding one's relationship with God and, within reason, attending to the direction of the spiritual director.

Spiritual Direction details:

  • Required of all ISF M.A., M.Div. Spiritual Formation Concentration, MFT, and Certificate students for approximately 10 sessions per calendar year (i.e. about once a month).
  • Students must enroll in Spiritual Direction (0 credits) each semester they take classes.
  • Students must meet with an approved spiritual director, and can only change directors with faculty approval.
  • The fee structure between spiritual director and directee is to be arranged between the parties and is not the responsibility of the Institute or University.

Didactic Therapy

This requirement is intended to introduce the student to the work and world of Christian psychotherapy as well as enhance the student's understanding and experience of the psychological dynamics and defenses at work in himself and in those with whom he shall work. Each master’s-level ISF student is required to experience a minimal number of hours in personal didactic psychotherapy concurrent with enrollment with a clinical therapist approved by the faculty. Required of all M.A./M.Div. Spiritual Formation Concentration students (encouraged for Certificate students).


  • M.A. Marriage and Family Therapy students: minimum 35 hours before enrolling in Practicum III
  • M.A. Soul Care/M.Div. Spiritual Formation Concentration: minimum 25 hours completed before enrolling in Practicum II
  • M.A. Concentration: minimum 12 hours completed before the end of the final semester for grades to be submitted
  • The fee structure between therapist and client is to be arranged between the parties and is not the responsibility of the Institute or University.
  • Further therapy may be recommended in SF 543 Personal Foundations of Spirituality or TTFT 791 Practicum I.

Faculty-Student Retreat

Each Spring all students who were enrolled in SF 543 (Personal Foundations of Spirituality) the previous Fall semester are required to attend a 24-hour overnight retreat with the ISF Faculty and Staff. The purpose of this time is to build on the foundations of 543 by looking deeper into one’s personal history with the guidance and support of the faculty, staff, and one’s classmates.


  • Students will pay a fee of approximately $60 (subject to change each year) to pay part of the cost of this retreat, and will be required to provide their own transportation.
  • Students who are absolutely unable to attend this retreat during the Spring semester immediately following the Fall that they take SF 543 may request permission from the ISF faculty to defer until the following year.
  • The retreat generally goes from a Sunday noon to Monday noon. Those with ministry responsibilities will be expected to make advance arrangements in order to ensure their capacity to arrive on time (latecomers will have to wait until the following year to participate, as every element of the schedule is essential and cannot be missed or completed in advance).

Personal Retreat

All students in the ISF program are required to go on one 48 hour retreat each semester for the purpose of cultivating the inner life before God (a total of at least four 48-hour retreats). This is to be done in consultation with one's designated spiritual director and a faculty member before and after the experience.


  • The retreat requirement must be completed by finals week of the student's last semester enrolled to receive final grades (including written work).
  • Student costs for such retreats are the responsibility of each student.
  • M.A. Soul Care & M.Div. Spiritual Formation Concentration students will provide written description of retreats to the faculty.
  • M.A. Concentration and Certificate students will enroll in 4 credits of SF 672 Personal Retreat in their last semester, with the entire workload consisting of approximately 180 hours, which includes the four weekend retreats (counts for 120 hours), and 60 additional hours, which may include design and five page write-ups of each retreat, class-time, coursework, and additional personal retreats.

Preliminary Oral Interview (POI)

M.A in Soul Care students (only) will have an oral interview with a faculty committee to (1) assess their progress and potential to successfully complete the program and (2) assess the appropriate manner suited to the student's needs and capacity in which to complete the Intensive Journey Inward Retreat requirement.


  • This interview is typically scheduled near the end of the second semester and/or with the completion of at least 9 credits.
  • The results are reported to the Institute faculty which determines the appropriateness of allowing the student (1) to continue the program, (2) to continue the program with certain conditions and/or a POI the following year or (3) to not allow the student to continue in the program (or in some cases, permission to continue by switching to the non-training M.A. Concentration program.)

Intensive Journey Inward Retreat

Required only of students in the M.Div. and M.A. in Spiritual Formation & Soul Care programs. Due to the nature of soul work involved in spiritual direction and in harmony with its tradition, each student is required to have a total of three weeks of extended retreat in isolation or partial isolation (which will be defined in each student's POI process) to explore and cultivate the inner life in the presence of God under the supervision of a spiritual guide (as designated or permitted by the faculty) and one's advisor. Special instructions will be given in order to facilitate making the proper arrangements. This experience will attempt to integrate insight from various psychological as well as contemplative traditions for the intended purpose of drawing near to God in the Holy Spirit.


  • The student should enroll in 4 credits of SF 670 Intensive Journey Inward concurrently or upon completion of retreat (Spring of second year or final semester of enrollment).
  • The Intensive Retreat is to be completed before graduation.
  • The costs for such a retreat are arranged between the student and other parties and are not the responsibility of the Institute or University (if retreat scholarship funds are available, they will be announced to the student body).

Spiritual Formation Master’s Project-Thesis

Required of students with a concentration in Spiritual Formation only. Students are required to complete a Master's Project-Thesis in the area of spiritual formation, spiritual direction or mentoring (concurrent with enrollment in SF 740 which includes 3 credits for writing and one unit for personal growth exploration). The project must involve both a theoretical and practical/experiential dimension in consultation with thesis advisor.

Practicum Qualifying Exam

This is required of all MFT students. The Practicum Qualifying Examination (PQE) is intended to assess the academic readiness of students prior to enrolling in practicum. The PQE consists of two parts including an objective multiple choice section and essay section. In order to move on to practicum, students must pass the PQE.

Message from the Director

John Coe

Greetings in the name of our Lord. I want to invite you to the journey of a lifetime.

It is along the path that we have already begun as disciples of Jesus Christ, and we wish to join with you to discover and explore together what it is "to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God" (Eph. 3:19). In that knowledge and love of God, we begin to no longer fear the truth of ourselves, our sin, falseness and pain. In knowing ourselves honestly and openly before God and His Word, we are able to come out of hiding and into the light to love our neighbor as ourselves and help them on the journey. We at Talbot School of Theology and the Institute for Spiritual Formation are committed to assisting students along the path toward a deeper knowledge of God and self, of love and humility, of His abundant resourcefulness and our great neediness. God be with you as you explore our programs in light of God's will for your life.


John Coe
Director of the Institute for Spiritual Formation