Self-Care for the Spiritual Director

Don’t even think about becoming a spiritual director if you are not willing to be diligent about self-care. Once you begin to hold space for other people’s spiritual questions, challenges, pain and bliss, you will notice how much you need additional time for prayer, processing and play in your own life. If you don’t become wise about how much rest and reflection time you need, you can easily become emotionally overwhelmed. So here’s what I recommend for every spiritual director in the way of self care:

A peaceful daily schedule -  If you are a whirlwind of busy-ness, you will need to take it down a notch. If you gravitate toward chaos and drama, get over it right now! People expect their spiritual directors to have a calm and peaceful exterior and interior. Find a daily schedule that allows you a sense of fullness and a contemplative pace.

A very good spiritual director – Do not attempt to provide spiritual direction to others without you being in a regular spiritual direction relationship. You need an experienced spiritual director to meet with monthly.  If you are the only spiritual director in town or if you feel your town’s spiritual directors are not adequate for what you need, find a director in another town who will work with you by phone.

A supervisor – Supervision is the way spiritual directors continue to grow and learn once they have completed their formation and training programs. If you can find one who has been trained specifically in spiritual direction supervision—great! If not, don’t let that stop you. Find an experienced spiritual director who will agree to work with you as a supervisor, get any one of the good books on supervision and work through it together. Supervisors help you “unpack” a moment or interaction within spiritual direction that has some energy for you—whether it is something you feel anxiety about or something curious. Ordinarily you will write up a case study with a snippet of conversation that you recall from the session and the supervisor helps you talk about what happened within you as you were in the midst of that part of direction. Always keep the directee’s name anonymous in supervision. You may also do supervision by phone if you cannot find a supervisor in your geographic region.

Boundaries – Obtain a copy of A Code of Ethics for Spiritual Directors and read it. Then read it again and again. The boundaries you set up as a spiritual director are protections for you and the directee. If you suffer from being “too nice of a person” you will get into tangled and unhealthy relationships with your directees. You are not their friend, their driver, their therapist, their chaplain or their teacher. Know what you are and stick to it! If you begin these relationships with boundaries and you maintain them (within reason) you will be taking care of yourself in the best possible way.

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

Teresa Blythe is a full-time spiritual director and ordained UCC minister living and working in Phoenix, AZ. She serves as the Director of the Hesychia School of Spiritual Direction in Tucson. Contact her at teresa@teresablythe.net.


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