How does Spiritual Direction differ from counseling?

 

There are entire courses in graduate schools that focus on answering that question, but I like Elizabeth de Smaele's answer.  She explains that spiritual direction and counseling differ in focus, approach and timeframe.  She explains--


  • Focus: People seek out a counselor because they are facing a problem. The focus of the relationship is to build understanding and tools in the person's life which will enable them to overcome the problem. The focus of spiritual direction is to foster your experiential knowledge of God and responsiveness to God's work in your life. Though problems are addressed (and may be what brings you into spiritual direction) they are not the focus of the relationship.


  • Approach: People look to a counselor to provide a solution for a felt need, and the counselor tends to be quite directive in providing that solution. The spiritual director (ironically considering the term) works in a much less directive manner. Priority is given to conversations about what is current, and the directee is free to bring content to discuss. Conversations often revolve around: attending to God's presence and work in your life, your inner responses to life's happenings, and your daily rhythms of tending to your spiritual life. Exploring such things with a spiritual director holds great potential for increasing knowledge of God and self, and for growth in inner wholeness. 


  • Timeframe: The counseling relationship is by nature short term. The necessary work is approached intensively and, once the goal is reached, the relationship comes to an end. In contrast spiritual direction relationships may be either temporary or long-term. The frequency of appointments may ebb and flow but the spiritual director often remains a trusted long term soul companion who offers you a mirror for the important ongoing work of self-reflection. 


How often would we meet?


Normally, we will meet once a month for 45-60 minutes.  There are some directees who choose to meet more frequently or less frequently based on their circumstances.  Consistency in Spiritual Direction seems to be an important key to understanding and witnessing God's work in our lives.  


What kind of training do you have?


In addition to a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from St. Meinrad College and a Master’s of Divinity from Notre Dame Seminary, I am certified in Spiritual Direction from the Institute for Priestly Formation at Creighton University and have training in Spiritual Direction Supervision from the Sophia Spirituality Center.  I've been regularly offering Spiritual Direction to clergy and laity since 1999.  

  

Are the meetings kept confidential?


The things that a directee tells his or her Spiritual Director are kept confidential unless state law mandates disclosure, including such things as suspected child abuse and neglect, self-neglect, exploitation of the elderly or other dependents, and threat to harm others or oneself. 



What does it mean to be certified in Spiritual Direction?


There is no standardized process for being certified in Spiritual Direction, primarily because there are so many different styles of direction, practiced within many religions and Christian denominations.  Training can range from a weekend course to graduate programs at major universities.  My certification was a three-year program and was led by some of the leading directors and authors in the field, including George Aschenbrenner and John Horn.  I am also a member of Spiritual Directors International.

What is Spiritual Direction?


"Spiritual Direction is a companioning that helps a directee to name and savor the nuances of his or her relationship with God, which draws the directee deepwardly in love, freedom, mercy, gentleness, healing, and self-awareness.  For information about Spiritual Direction and the benefits that come from it, please click here.  


How does Spiritual Direction differ from mentoring?


Mentoring and life-coaching are very popular today. These practices are rooted in teaching, modeling, and trouble-shooting.  While a Spiritual Director might sometimes offer some of those aspects, it is not the root of the ministry.  Instead, the primary role of the Spiritual Director is to actively listen and assist you in expressing the details and nuances of your relationship with God so as to give God a chance to speak through you and offer greater clarity, understanding, and direction.  In this way, the Spiritual Director does not come with an agenda, but allows you to express what is currently most relevant in your life. 

Frequently Asked Questions

DeepWardly Spiritual Direction Services

501-478-5060        Tom@DeepWardly.com