What a Spiritual Direction Session Looks Like

What a Spiritual Direction Session Looks Like September 14, 2012

Two people sitting in a quiet, private space perhaps with a lighted candle on a table nearby, discussing whatever life experience the directee shares.  That’s spiritual direction.

At the first visit, the two of you will likely spend some time getting to know one another.  After the initial “meet and greet,” the spiritual director will begin the session in his or her own way.  I like to invite a time of silence, asking the directee to “take as much or as little silence as you need and begin when you are ready.”

When ready, you—the directee—will start talking about the reason you are seeking spiritual direction.  It can be as simple as wanting to have someone you can check in with each month as you live out your spiritual practice. Or it could be a life situation you want to explore.  If you don’t know where to start, it’s not a problem. The director may ask you what prompted your desire for spiritual direction or what your spiritual path has been like. Once you share your concern, story or expectations, the director will begin to sense what is at the “heart of the matter” for you.

The “heart of the matter” is what you will explore with the director.

While it is impossible to diagram a typical session, there is a flow that occurs in spiritual direction.

  • Initial story unfolds. “I’m here to explore _______________.”
  • Director listens for places in the story that have deep emotion or significance for you. She may ask you to say more about those places or may ask an open-ended question.
  • Director will be silently praying for you as you talk and may invite pauses of silence along the way.
  • Director will be listening for your language for the holy and noticing your image of God. He may ask you about those, for clarification and to get a feel for your deep beliefs and values.
  • Director will be noticing where she feels God’s presence most acutely in your story.  She may ask you to reflect more on that piece of the story.
  • Director will assist you in clarifying how you feel the Spirit is leading you to take the next step on your spiritual path.


All of this may not happen in one session, but may occur over many sessions.  Spiritual directors are trained to be patient and not attached to a particular outcome for you. We want you to set the pace and make your own choices.

It is for that reason that a great many spiritual directors do not like the term “direction.” As spiritual directors, we are not in charge.  God is.  The mystery we call God is the true director and we recognize that you and God have more to say about your spiritual path than we do. Directors are always at the service of God and you (in that order).

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.

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