What does it mean to be in Spiritual Direction?
Being in Spiritual Direction means that you are engaged in an active process to understand how God is calling you to into a deeper relationship. As one part of this process, you are meeting regularly with a Spiritual Director who is trained to assist you in this process. Most people meet with their Spiritual Director on a monthly basis for about an hour at a time.
What is a Spiritual Director?
A Spiritual Director is somebody who has experience helping people enrich their relationship with God. The term "Spiritual Director" is probably misleading, since the Spiritual Director is not trying to direct you, but is trying to help you find your own direction as you are being called by God. A Spiritual Director can also help you sort out obstacles in your relationship with God and find new opportunities to expand that relationship.
What qualifications does a Spiritual Director have?
There is no "certification" for Spiritual Directors. There are a number of training programs for Spiritual Directors. These are typically three year programs. Some of these programs are run under religious affiliation, others are non-denominational. These programs will award some kind of certificate of completion. So while one can't be certified as a Spiritual Director (as one can be as, say, a physician) one can be certified to have completed some particular training program.
There is also an international association for Spiritual Directors called Spiritual Directors International (SDI). This is a non-denominational association that provides ongoing services to active Spiritual Directors. Most Spiritual Directors belong to this association. There are no requirements for joining other than paying dues, so membership in SDI should not be taken as an endorsement of one's ability.
Why wouldn't I go to my pastor for Spiritual Direction?
Some pastors, ministers, priests, and rabbis are trained in Spiritual Direction but this is not usually part of their standard training. Pastors are trained in corporate worship, not individual guidance. Some pastors may be very good at Spiritual Direction, others are not comfortable with the intense one-on-one work that this special ministry requires.
Sometimes individuals find that personal issues with a pastor are one of the obstacles in moving forward in a relationship to God. In this case, using that same pastor as a Spiritual Director is clearly not a good idea.
Do I need to be Christian to be in Spiritual Direction?
No, Spiritual Direction is part of many faith traditions. There are Spiritual Directors who are Buddhist, Jewish, and Muslim, to name a few. And within the Christian tradition, there are Spiritual Directors ranging from fundamentalist to progressive. So whatever your background, you will be able to find a Spiritual Director who is a good match.
And you shouldn't feel that your religious beliefs must match exactly those of your director. A contemplative Christian, for example, might feel comfortable going to a director who is Buddhist. I recommend that you think about this issue carefully and discuss it honestly with your director.
Does a Spiritual Director charge for services?
Different Spiritual Directors have different policies. Some only see a few directees from their immediate faith family and consider this part of their ministry and do not charge. Others consider it their full time vocation and need to charge enough to make a living.
Many factors come into play in this decision. Keep in mind that a Spiritual Director has numerous expenses, including tuition, office rent, professional association fees, ongoing training, travel, and their own spiritual direction. So be understanding if your Spiritual Director charges for his or her services. And be sure to discuss this issue and your ability to pay.
Is there a code of ethics for Spiritual Directors?
Spiritual Directors International (SDI) publishes a code of ethics. Your Spiritual Director will be able to supply you with detailed information. Some of the areas covered are these:
- A Spiritual Director must respect and maintain appropriate physical and psychological boundaries.
- A Spiritual Director must refrain from sexual behavior with the directee.
- A Spiritual Director must maintain the confidentiality and privacy of the directee. Keep in mind that there are specific legal limits to this confidentiality.
- A Spiritual Director must not take on issues he or she is not qualified to address. In general, this might include psychological, marital, or physical problems, although sometimes the boundaries separating these issues from spiritual issues may be fuzzy.
- Spiritual Directors must participate in some kind of supervision, frequently through Peer Supervision groups.
How do you find a Spiritual Director?
You can ask your pastor. Be aware that some pastors have ambivalence about one of their members going elsewhere for any spiritual discussions. You can also go to the Spiritual Director's International web site (www.sdi.org). Most members list their services on the SDI web site. Many have a web site of their own that will give you additional information.
How do I know if a particular Spiritual Director is right for me?
Most Spiritual Directors do not charge for their first meeting which is generally considered to be an evaluation meeting. You should ask about this to be sure.
The relationship of Spiritual Direction is a two part relationship (three, actually, since we usually think of The Divine Presence as being a participant.) It is important that the director and the directee both feel comfortable with the relationship.
When you come to your evaluation meeting, you might prepare a list of questions and discussion topics. Here are some good possibilities:
- What is the background of the Spiritual Director? What training? How much experience?
- What is the Spiritual Director's belief system? How will these impact the Spiritual Direction?
- What is the Spiritual Director's policy on charging? Missed appointments? Changing appointments?
- What options do you have for contacting the Spiritual Director? Phone? Email? Emergency appointments?
- What particular concerns do you have? Be very honest here. Now is the time to bring out any issues or questions you have.
- What specific information should the Spiritual Director know about you that is relevant to where you are on your spiritual journey?
Any other questions? Let me know. I'll try to answer them.