FAQ’s about Spiritual Direction and
1. What is the difference between
spiritual direction and therapy?
The word therapy comes
from the Greek word, therapia meaning “to nurse.” By
definition a nurse offers the necessary care to restore an ill person to
health. Psychological therapy focuses on psychological illnesses or
problems that keep someone from living as a healthy human being. Rather
than focusing on problem solving, spiritual direction offers ongoing
support for someone wishing to deepen their relationship with God
through prayer and other spiritual practices. While therapeutic and
transfomative, the intent of spiritual direction is to develop a
heightened awareness of God’s presence.
2. When is
therapy more appropriate?
Directors and directees
need to be open to the fact that some therapeutic work may be necessary
to address specific wounds, blocks or problems in the life of the
directee. The process of discovering these needs is often a normal part
of the spiritual direction relationship and should be taken seriously.
If both people involved agree that therapy would be more appropriate,
the director should be prepared to make a referral and help the directee
make a transition into the therapeutic relationship. Confidentiality in
spiritual direction should be treated in the same formal and legal
manner as any other form of counseling. If appropriate boundaries are
maintained by those involved, direction and therapy can go on
simultaneously and could be complimentary aspects of a person’s inner
3. Who goes to a spiritual director?
Anyone who wants to
deepen their relationship with God by meeting with one who is willing to
walk the journey with them, listen to them, pray for them and respond to
them with prayerful compassion.
4. Aren’t all pastors by
definition spiritual directors?
Spiritual direction is
a specific ministry where-by one is called into a one-to-one
relationship of prayer and support with another person. While pastors
nurture the spiritual lives of individuals and churches, not all pastors
are called to be spiritual directors and many spiritual directors are
5. How are spiritual directors
direction is a formal professional relationship of nurture, time,
support and presence, it needs to be valued accordingly by both people
involved. It is often true that paying for this kind of on-going support
deepens the commitment of the directee. Arrangements regarding the
appropriate amount and timing of payments should be discussed during an
initial meeting before a commitment to on-going spiritual direction is
made. Payment to the spiritual director is often made at the beginning
of each session. Some directors are part of a religious community and
prefer payment to be made to the community.
6. How often does one go for
This decision should be
made at the initial orientation meeting. Many have found a once-a-month
pattern works well.
7. How long does a session
The orientation meeting
could last one and one half hours. A regular spiritual direction session
usually lasts one hour.
8. What if I don’t click with
my spiritual director?
Since God is revealed
in the spiritual direction process, each experience is an invitation to
growth and development. Talking openly and honestly with a spiritual
director about the challenges and discomforts in the relationship can
lead to insight, transformation and growth. If, however, both people
involved feel they have come to the end of their relationship, a session
to celebrate their work together should be planned and the directee
joyfully sent into a new season of their spiritual life with someone
9. What if I can’t find a
International is an organization devoted to providing resources to those
who offer spiritual direction. Based in San Francisco, they maintain a
data-base of spiritual directors across the country. Contact them at:
415.566.1560 or on the web at: www.sdiworld.org.
Contemplative Outreach a nation-wide organization devoted to the
practice of centering prayer is based in New Jersey. If they don’t
have names of directors, they could tell you where to get the
appropriate information. Contact them at: 973.838.3384 or on the web at:
www.centeringprayer.com. Contacting a monastery or convent in your area
would be another good place to find a director or a referral.
10. How are spiritual directors
supervised and held accountable?
directors are encouraged to be in supervision with a personal supervisor
or in a supervision group. At the orientation meeting with a potential
spiritual director, it is appropriate to ask if he/she is in a
relationship of supervision.
11. How are spiritual directors
Many programs around
the country offer education for spiritual directors. Those who complete
these programs are simply given a “certificate of completion.” Since
spiritual direction is a personal calling, education and skill
development is offered – certification by an organization is not. At
the orientation meeting with a potential spiritual director, it is
appropriate to ask how he or she felt called to this ministry and if
they have had any formal education?
12. Can my pastor be my spiritual
If you feel drawn to
the pastor as your spiritual director, it is important to honor and
explore that desire. As we all know, many pastors in local churches
function in multiple roles and have extraordinary demands on their time.
For this reason, it is often impossible for the pastor to offer personal
spiritual direction to the members of the congregation.
13. Should all pastoral leaders
have a spiritual director?
Yes. Pastors cannot
assume that spiritual leadership and personal spiritual growth are the
same thing. The critical nature of inner work must be respected. In
order to mature in their relationship to God, all pastors should have a
14. Are spiritual direction and
supervision for pastors the same thing?
No, but both are
important. Spiritual direction is designed for personal growth.
Supervision is designed for accountability in leadership. Patients,
clients, congregants, and others seeking help are especially vulnerable
to abuse by authorities in whom they have placed their trust. In recent
years, society has set up structures of accountability to protect those
involved in these vulnerable relationships. Psychotherapists, doctors,
social workers and others in helping professions are expected to be
mature people and have supervision in their work. Because of the
importance placed upon the separation of church and state, pastoral work
has been largely unregulated. Pastors and others in positions of
spiritual leadership should be in supervision for accountability and
should work with a spiritual director for personal spiritual growth.
15. Is it appropriate to go to a
director outside my denomination or faith group?
direction is concerned with a person’s experience with God, issues of
doctrine and theology take a secondary role. In other words, the ideas
that separate us are less important than discovering how the presence of
God transforms us. For this reason, it can be beneficial and
transformational to work with a spiritual director whose life in God and
whose experience of prayer and are different than our own.
© 2000, Brad Berglund
For More Information
Contact Brad Berglund
Davies Avenue • Centennial, Colorado 80112
free: 877.489.8500 • Phone: 720.489.8073
and Author Brad Berglund Taizé
Taizé-style worship in the Denver area
on Taizé-style worship The
Book Reinventing Sunday
Foreword by Ken Medema Brad's
Speaking Schedule Past
to Ireland Join
the Mailing List Links
Growth Resources for Pastors
Questions about Spiritual Formation
A Sample one-day Reinventing Sunday workshop