About Spiritual Guidance

What is spiritual guidance/direction?

Spiritual direction names an ongoing but entirely voluntary relationship. It accompanies persons on their spiritual journey, befriending their spirit and entering into the spiritual process with them in ways that foster spiritual growth in all of the realities of a person’s life. In the Christian tradition spiritual direction attends to, facilitates and supports a person’s openness and responsiveness to the Divine Spirit. The spiritual director listens contemplatively, listens with active empathy and understanding to the unfolding of a sacred story that is trying to launch itself into a fruitful future and free itself from the hurts and wounds that bind a person to the past. Spiritual direction is concerned with spiritual growth, spiritual healing, and spiritual transformation. This takes place within a current of spirituality that expresses a divine-human relationship. Ultimately the focus is on divine intimacy.

Does it have other names?

Spiritual direction is also called spiritual accompaniment, holy listening, spiritual companioning, and spiritual guidance. A spiritual guide can be a soul friend or a spiritual mentor. All of these modalities share the same focus on God or a person’s sense of the Sacred. It is about a deepening understanding of the divine or the sacred as it emerges in every dimension of life, personal, social and relational.

How often does a person go to spiritual guidance/direction?

Individuals usually go for spiritual direction for an hour once a month. It is important to note that spiritual direction does not offer quick one-off solutions. However, many spiritual directors are happy to see people according to their felt needs and circumstances. This relationship may be of short-term or long-term duration.

What happens during a session?

During a session, the focus is on whatever aspect of life the person wishes to bring to it. Time is also found to discern God’s presence (or absence) in the events being narrated. Spiritual directors sometimes talk of looking for “God-seeds” in the stories they hear. The session may contain moments of prayer and reflective spaces.

Do spiritual directors receive supervision?

Yes. Most spiritual directors receive personal spiritual direction and qualified supervision. If you wish you may ask to see their Code of Ethics and Practice.

What about confidentiality?

Please note that all spiritual directors are ethically bound to confidentiality. Even in supervision, no names are given and identity is kept strictly confidential. Again, you will find the rules of confidentiality in the Spiritual Director’s Code of Ethics and Practice.

Why would a person undertake spiritual guidance/direction?

Individuals usually go for spiritual direction because they have begun to question the meaning of their lives or yearn for a deeper, more spiritual life. They may seek direction because they want to develop a more responsive relationship with God in every aspect of life. Spiritual direction can also help a person develop a set of spiritual practices that are in tune with the current realities of life, personality and temperament. Spiritual direction may also help a person develop inner peace and identify a life direction open to the whole of creation.

How much does it cost?

Talk to your spiritual director about this. There are usually no fixed fees, though spiritual directors have to pay utility bills like everyone else. Most practitioners operate a sliding scale based on a person’s financial situation and capacity to pay. AISGA currently recommends €40 per session or more for those who can afford it. This helps to subsidise services for those who are less financially comfortable.

Is spiritual guidance/direction another form of psychological therapy?

While spiritual direction has some similarities to counselling and psychotherapy, it is also very distinctive and requires a different giftedness, formation, and expertise on the part of those who offer it. Some spiritual directors are happy to accompany persons who are receiving counselling or psychotherapy from accredited practitioners. Unlike contemporary forms of counselling and psychotherapy, traditions of spiritual direction share a history that is almost two thousand years old.

How do I find a qualified spiritual guide/director?

Training centres will have their own qualified practitioners. Publishing a list of spiritual directors on our website is a delicate matter and could cause difficulties for all concerned. We are working on how to formulate lists in a way that is satisfactory for all.

What if I don’t feel comfortable with a spiritual guide/director?

Spiritual direction works best when the person feels at ease with the director: someone with whom you can be yourself and feel open and honest in his/her company. If for whatever reason this is not happening, you are perfectly entitled to change, though it would be good to talk things over honestly with the director before terminating the relationship. Good spiritual directors understand this and respect the other person’s decision.

How does a person become a spiritual director?

People become spiritual directors as a result of a discerned call from God to engage in this work. This call has been recognised by others who are experienced in these matters. Then, natural talents and spiritual gifts are enhanced by recognised education and appropriate practical preparation. Training Centres usually require that a person has a basic knowledge of theology before applying and programmes last, on average, two years, which consist of course work and a supervised practicum. AISGA list on its web-site a number of training locations in Ireland. Training Centres usually require that a person has a basic knowledge of theology before applying and programmes last, on average, two years, which consist of course work and a supervised practicum.