Spiritual direction is not professional counseling. Even though there may seem to be some overlapping practices (such as active listening), there is a vast difference between therapy and spiritual direction.
Spiritual direction is primarily a wellness practice. First and foremost, spiritual directors do not diagnose or treat disorders of any kind. For example, if a person is clearly suffering from depression, a good spiritual director will notice that, share their observation with the directee and refer the person to a mental health professional. As the depression is being treated on a physical and emotional level, the depressed person may also seek spiritual direction to reflect upon how God is present to them in the midst of this situation. But a good spiritual director will not expect spiritual direction to solve a psychological problem.
Spiritual direction is different from life coaching. We are not goal-setting guides. We don’t seek to fix anything or anyone. People bring their whole life to spiritual direction, and since life is full of problems, spiritual directors hear about problems–a lot. That’s OK. Problems are like storms on the sea—to be expected now and then. The spiritual director may help the person navigate their life boat in the storm but cannot and will not steer the boat for the person. Spiritual directors expect God and the individual to weather the storm together. We are there to help you notice how God is in the midst of the situation. What is the invitation from God in this situation?
Spiritual direction is never about telling people what to do in any given situation. A good spiritual director will invite you to look inside yourself, to your own God-given wisdom, for answers. If you are with a spiritual director who starts telling you what to do and how to do it, or acting in any type of controlling fashion, politely decline their advice and move on.
In my next entry, I’ll talk about how spiritual direction can help you develop greater awareness of God.
For more about spiritual direction as I practice it, check out my website. If you have questions or comments about the content of Spiritual Direction 101, please let me hear from you in the reply section below.