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Is Spiritual Direction Therapy?

Yes and No.

Therapy for the soul, yes.

But it is not what we know today as therapy that uses the term counseling, but there is an overlap.

What are the differences?

  • Pastoral Counseling: It is a problem-solving, crisis management faith-based spiritual care.

  • Spiritual Direction: This is a form of pastoral counseling, where two people come together listening to the whispers of the Holy Spirit (who is the Spiritual Director) in the directee’s life, where the process is prayer and attention. The primary role of the human spiritual director is a holy listener.

  • Therapy Counseling: It is a problem-solving, crisis management that considers one's values and faith.



What is the Training of a Spiritual Director?

Some have formal education with advanced post-graduate credits ( certificates) in spiritual direction from universities, some may have short-term or long-term study within an organization or a parish, while some may have no formal theological or pastoral education yet are called to a ministry of holy listening as companions.

Spiritual directors can be lay, religious, or ordained and work in retreat houses, monasteries, or within parishes as part of their regular duties or in private practice. Many spiritual directors work part-time in this ministry and have degrees and training in other disciplines which may or may not be related to ministry, counseling, or religious formation.  Many now are full-time.

Am I looking for a Spiritual Director or a Spiritual Companion?

  • A trained Spiritual Director utilizes the skills of counseling to help one in developing a conscious, intentional,  and active relationship with Christ, integrating it within a formation model of a solid foundation of the Church's teachings, along with an understanding of the stages of growth in the spiritual life and human development.  

  • A Spiritual Companion walks alongside and accompanies another in their spiritual journey as a spiritual friend, as does a Spiritual Director, yet does not have the formal or has limited training for the roles of instruction or guiding, or counseling.


Are there Fees for Spiritual Direction?

Depending on the training of the director, where they work and live, fees may vary. Those in full-time ministry working in retreat centers are paid stipends that are collected by their organizations, while those directors who minister in parishes generally do not, since it is part of their services for their local church as employees. All other spiritual directors collect fees directly from the directees. Fees vary depending on the locale and the directors' level of training, and ongoing formation costs. 


A  Response to a Question from a Directee

Dear spiritual director,

If spiritual direction is about helping one grow in their relationship with God, how can it help me since

I am uncomfortable sharing about my prayer life? For me, such is too personal and intimate. 


Dear friend in Christ,

Prayer is (as one’s encounter and relationship with God), as it should always be, intimate between you and God and not anyone else. 


In spiritual direction, prayer as a method (as a way), is what is shared and handed down in our tradition to help one grow in their relationship with God.  A spiritual director's role is to: 

  • help one notice areas in their prayer life they may have overlooked

  • offer practical considerations such as helping one organize time

  • share different methods of engaging from the Church’s tradition

  • help one how to listen for those prompts where they are coming from (Holy Spirit or the ‘ bad spirits’), or

  • teach about the discerning of spirits

  • support one to notice and sort out distractions or attachments

  • suggest tools to mitigate the normal wandering of the mind to increase attention and focus

  • affirm how one is proceeding  

You described a desire to grow in your prayer life -  with that as your starting point consider taking that desire to prayer to see what God has to say about it with you.  The 'questions to consider’ I sent are there to help one notice where some of the distractions ( such as normal daily issues or those that He brings up for healing) or attachments (spiritual)  so as to ask for the graces to be freed from them so as to continue to grow in Christ.  


My hope is that what I have written here will help a bit.  I am not yet familiar with how much knowledge you have regarding the rules of discernment and your experiences in applying them. We can talk about that if you wish.   Being busy for its own sake is not a good. Yet I do my best with God’s grace to keep to a healthy schedule of activity and rest to be in this ministry as a lay person.  


If more comes up in-between sessions, I suggest to directees,  as I do for my own spiritual director, is to note them down when they come up. Then before we come together to review your thoughts and experiences, you discern and decide what to share, what seems pertinent, or what needs a bit of clarification. 


Till then, know you are in my prayers.

In Christ,


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