Frequently Asked Questions About Spiritual Direction

What is "classical Christian spiritual direction?"

Spiritual direction is part of an ancient tradition of seeking guidance in discovering the will of God and drawing closer experientially to the presence of Christ.

Spiritual direction is not Christian counseling, coaching or mentoring. The spiritual director is not an answer-giver, nor is the practice of spiritual direction a substitute for psychological or pastoral counseling.  It is something different.  

The director’s task is to accompany the directee on their spiritual journey, prayerfully listening with them as they seek to know God better. 

What is a "classically trained" spiritual director?

Spiritual direction has existed as a specialty in the church for over a thousand years.  Its roots go back to the early church.  Throughout Christian history, the practice of spiritual direction was found almost exclusively in the Catholic and Orthodox churches, but in recent decades it has become reintroduced in many other Christian traditions, including Protestant, Evangelical and Pentecostal churches.  

Although there are no regulations for use of the term “spiritual director,” classically trained Christian spiritual directors have been through a rigorous training experience that lasts generally about two years.  This includes study in spiritual formation and growth, many hours of supervised practice, training in spiritual exercises and disciplines, and continuing supervision. These directors are trained in the discipline of prayerful listening. They are bound by a code of ethics that assures confidentiality in their meetings.  

Classically trained spiritual directors generally charge for their services.  Most offer an initial meeting together when the potential director and seeker mutually covenant as to time, fee, frequency, and format of connection.  Either party is free to discontinue the services at any time.   

What goes on in spiritual direction?

Spiritual directors and directees typically meet together on a monthly basis.  During these meetings, the focus is on the directee becoming aware of the presence, activity, and callings of God in their lives. 

Spiritual direction is about an individual and their relationship with God.  The directee sets the agenda and topics, while the director listens for God on their behalf and says very little.  Instead of teaching, the director creates a safe place where seekers can listen for the Spirit to speak to their heart, and where anything can be shared and handled in  confidentiality.   

How is spiritual direction different from counseling or coaching?

Spiritual direction is not the same as counseling or coaching.  People meet with spiritual directors in order to develop a deeper connection with God.  It is not coaching, since the director does not presume to be an expert, telling the directee what to do. The seeker sets the agenda, while the director says very little.  A code of ethics governs the confidentiality of what is said. 

The role of a spiritual director is like that of a butler.  A director meets with and ushers a seeker into the presence of Christ. Directors do not give answers or instructions. Rather, they accompany and pray with directees as they enter into the Presence of Christ Himself. The director is there to gently assist and reflect as directees become aware of God’s leading.  

What are the benefits of spiritual direction?

People seek spiritual direction for many reasons–to find guidance from God about particular situations, to experience a more fulfilling walk with God, when working through grief or loss, when desiring to develop greater spiritual discipline, or when they just want a safe place to tell their story.

Spiritual direction can be a safe place to learn more about God and oneself.  It helps seekers get in touch with their inner values, desires, needs, thoughts, and feelings. 

For that reason, spiritual direction has been for thousands of years a life-changing experience for those who are fortunate enough to find it.