Finding a Good Fit in a Spiritual Director

One of the advantages of having a lot of spiritual direction training programs around these days is that—at least in some areas of the country—you have a lot of spiritual directors to choose from.  Even with supply at its highest, it is important that you are comfortable with the person you choose.

First, spend some time in prayer asking God to guide you to the right spiritual director. Do not skip this step! As a director, I spend time asking God to guide people who need to be in direction with me to my office door. I have this beautiful notion that if all directors and directees take this step, we will all be blessed with good fits all around.

While praying about your choice, also do some discernment work. Think seriously about the background of the director you want to meet with. Do you need a male or a female? Do you want someone from your own religious tradition or not? Someone from your own tradition may know your religious language and rituals which can save you some time and effort. Sometimes, however, it is refreshing to talk with a director from a completely different background even if you have to do some translating for him or her. You may find they are not caught up in your denominations politics or that they are better able to be unattached to any outcomes in your life.

Do you have a good selection of directors in your geographic region? If so, you are lucky and probably should interview or “try out” a number of directors until you find a good fit. If you do not, then consider looking “the next town over” or developing a direction relationship by phone with someone you find either by referral or internet search.

Don’t expect to find the right director the first time. Prepare for yourself a “cheat sheet” of two or three questions about your spiritual path that you want to explore in spiritual direction. Then, when you meet with a spiritual director the first time, you will be ready. A first meeting with a director can feel a bit like a first date, even a blind date! It may be a little awkward, so relax and be curious. Notice how the director relates to your questions. Does he or she seem comfortable? Interested? Compassionate? Those are all good signs. Then notice how you felt in this director’s company. Were you comfortable? Open to sharing? Did you feel safe? Those are good signs.

If none of that happened for you, don’t worry. It doesn’t mean the director is bad or that you did anything wrong. Bad fits happen and it is no one’s fault. And never feel compelled to make another appointment at the time of the first meeting. I prefer my first-timers to take some time to think it over and then get back to me for a second appointment unless they are sure they want to work with me. All good spiritual directors will understand if you want to take time to look around at other directors or to pray about your decision. Some spiritual directors prefer that you agree to a 3-month trial period before making a joint decision about moving forward in the direction relationship.  If that feels appropriate to you, then agree to it. But there’s no need to feel bound by it if you know immediately that this is not the director for you.

You may be wondering why comfort is so important in spiritual direction. Aren’t we supposed to be stepping out of our comfort zone? I suggest you find a director you feel comfortable with and stay with him or her for awhile so that when it is time for you to step out of your comfort zone (as we all have to do from time to time) you will feel safe enough to do so with this person by your side. Good spiritual directors will eventually up-end our expectations, question some of our beliefs and challenge us to see differently. But good directors know that even those challenges must be done gently and in good time.

So yes, make sure comfort is top on your list when searching for a spiritual director that is a good fit for you.

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.

About Teresa Blythe
  • http://beingthebeloved.tumblr.com/ Greg Gardner

    Thank you, Teresa. Very, very helpful.
    Greg

  • Diane Taylor

    Thanks, Teresa for these wise words. Since I’ve been in the process of searching for a new spiritual director for 6 months, these words were very helpful.