Q & A

What does a spiritual direction session look like?

Spiritual direction is holy conversation. It is usually done one-on-one, although it can also be done with groups. The traditional form for individuals is for a meeting that lasts about an hour, on a once-a-month basis and is held in a space prepared by the director, perhaps at his/her office, or at a retreat center. The space prepared is a place of quiet and prayer, set apart from the busyness of daily life so that the sharing is held in utmost confidentiality. The directee does most of the talking, while the director may reflect back, ask questions, or offer an insight, image, or intuition. A skilled spiritual director will help you pay attention to the promptings and leading of the Spirit in your own heart and life. With a good match, the session is often infused with a sense of the sacred.

How long does a spiritual direction relationship last?

The spiritual direction relationship lasts as long as you want it to last. For some people spiritual direction is for a season, during a time of discernment or transition, for example. But for many people, it is part of their on-going self-care, a support for their own relationship with God – and it lasts a lifetime, though rarely with the same director. It is not a “quick fix” for the soul, but rather subtle and deep work in which transformation happens, gradually, over the long haul. What someone wants out of spiritual direction often determines how long the relationship lasts.

What is the difference between spiritual direction and pastoral counseling?

Although both of these are faith-based, the work and focus differ. Spiritual direction is focused on the movement of the Spirit of God in one’s life. The work involves paying attention to what God is doing, where God is leading, and noticing when God feels present or absent – all with the aim of knowing God better. It is about one’s desire for wholeness and purposefulness of life in God, and is focused on spiritual growth. Pastoral counseling, by contrast, is often problem-based. There is a presenting concern that needs to be “fixed,” unhealthy patterns that need to be changed, or psychological dynamics that need to be addressed, so that the person in question may lead a happier life. Sometimes both are needed or desired in a person’s life – in which case, a spiritual director may also recommend seeing a counselor or therapist, or taking a break from spiritual direction in order to address more pressing concerns.

What is Expected of Me Between Sessions?

Directees often express a desire for guidance in their spiritual practices or their use of scripture or other spiritual reading. If you and your director surface some practices or readings that you might like to try, your guide will be checking with you to see how those practices are coming along. It is expected that the directee will prepare for the upcoming session with some reflection. Reviewing one’s journal if applicable, or simply a quiet time of reviewing the past month is helpful preparation for the session.

What are some practical details about Spiritual Direction?

Directees and their directors have a committed relationship and so punctuality and respect for each other’s time is a given. Life being what it is, sometimes appointments have to be rearranged. Advance notice is always appreciated. Most sessions last for one hour and often your director will have another directee scheduled shortly after your hour ends.
Most directors charge a fee or ask for a donation/free will offering be made to the church or a cause. Here in Central Illinois the request for pay or donation is in the $30 to $60 range for a one hour session. Some directors do not charge a fee for the first “come and see” session. Often there is a reduced fee for students or retired persons. Financial concerns can usually be worked out. Generally a person would not be turned away because of inability to pay.
The decision to enter the relationship must be done prayerfully and must be a “good fit” for both directee and director. Some directors ask that once you have entered into the spiritual guidance relationship, you commit to it for a period of four to six months in order to give it an adequate chance to develop. Other directors ask each time, “Would you like to schedule another appointment?” The decision by either party to withdraw from the relationship is to be respected by both persons.

How much does it cost?

That varies from director to director, and depends upon the area in which one is looking. Some spiritual directors, whose primary work is parish ministry, often offer spiritual direction free in their parish or to others in their denomination. Others supported by their religious orders may be able to offer spiritual direction at a reduced rate. Many spiritual directors offer a pay scale, and are willing to be flexible if there are mitigating circumstances. [See Getting Started]

How Do I End a Commitment with a Spiritual Director?

Not all directees and directors are a good fit for each other. Experienced, qualified directors are very aware of this. It is always best for both parties to be honest when one or the other senses the relationship is not life-giving or has come to a natural end because of human limitation or life changes. The relationship is grounded in mutual respect and so the “ending conversation” usually turns out to be a graced time that is not as difficult as one might anticipate. There is something to be grateful for in every relationship whether it has lasted a short or a long time. An individual may need different directors for different stretches of the journey. Spiritual directors are attuned to that reality and so ending the relationship is not taken as a personal critique.

If Not Direction, then What?

Spiritual direction may not be a good fit for every person. While you may feel the nudge of something needing attention around human / spiritual growth, direction may not be what is called for now. Or something in addition to direction may be called for. You might test out your need through the following questions and suggestions:
  • Am I looking for some "how to's" in developing a prayer life? Or a group with whom I can pray and share? Or support for my practice of intentional prayer and meditation?
Local meditation groups
Local church prayer groups
  • Are there areas of my life calling for focused healing prayer that might be supported and directed in a group setting?
Local church healing services and/or prayer groups
  • Are there specific problem areas of my life or troubling emotions siphoning off energy? Serious blockage issues that I want to talk about with another in hopes that I can find some ways of overcoming the difficulties?
Counseling or therapy
12 Step Groups
  • Do I feel the need for a "spiritual friend" with whom I can have an informal mutual relationship of prayer, sharing and support for one another in our spiritual journeys?
Looking at the groups you are in and take the risk of asking someone to whom you feel drawn and feel you can trust.

This Q & A page is a collection of Q & A’s from a number of spiritual direction sites.

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