We All Have Questions.
Here are some questions and answers that will help guide your decision.
Understanding the Experience
How does one know they are ready to experience spiritual direction?
Does one have to have a strong religious background to begin spiritual direction?
Not necessarily. Spiritual direction has little, if anything to do with religion (per say), or religious studies. It does not require committing to a specific religion, going to church or worshiping in community. Spiritual direction is about a self-discovery that is revealed when one opens their heart and soul to the love that comes from the God of his/her understanding. This is the love that serves to help a person discover who they are, who they ought to be, and who they are to become. People who are able to pray with, meditate on, and contemplate scripture, poetry, art, and music welcome the experience of spiritual direction.
What’s the difference between spiritual direction and therapy or counseling?
In therapy the counselor serves as an advisor, one who makes suggestions, problem solves, teaches coping mechanisms, etc. taking on a superior place in the relationship. In spiritual direction, the director serves as a companion. Advising is different than companioning. The director walks with the directee as they discover themselves and the God who loves them. There is no advice given. The director is simply a listener who helps the directee process experiences they have with God as well as the love that comes from that very same God.
Can people currently in therapy for any number of reasons benefit from spiritual direction?
In many cases, yes, but not always. It depends on the reasons for therapy and the progress happening in that experience. It’s up to the director to determine if a person is ready for direction while in therapy at the same time. Most directors welcome professional therapy for directees who suffer with depression, addiction, marriage issues, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, trauma, etc.
I am not Catholic. How might my affiliation with Buddhism affect my experience of spiritual direction?
How does a person know they are ready to do the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius and is that experience only for Catholics?
Anyone with a dedicated prayer life, who wants to deepen their relationship with God, or is going through a time of discernment could be ready to make the Spiritual Exercises. The experience does involve a specific commitment and intention. The Spiritual Exercises do not require that a person be Catholic. Any Christian believer can make the exercises. The director will make the necessary adaptations to accommodate the retreatants’ needs so the experience is meaningful and fulfilling.
How does one begin Spiritual Direction?
During the first meeting (virtual or in-person) with a potential directee, the director needs to get a good sense about what a person is looking for in terms of their spiritual life. The director will ask questions about the potential directees’ prayer life, image of themselves, and their image of the God of their understanding. Potential directees are given the opportunity to ask questions of the director i.e., background, training, etc. The director will then explain how the experience will unfold and suggest that the person think and pray about it. If both are comfortable, a first session time will be arranged (virtual or in-person).
How long are the sessions, how often will they happen, and how many will I need?
Sessions last about one hour. Depending on the desires of the directee, sessions can happen weekly, bi-monthly or monthly. The number of sessions a person needs depends on how the spiritual direction experience unfolds. Some people remain in spiritual direction for many years, some keep the same director while others change directors.
What is the difference between a directed retreat and a guided retreat?
A directed retreat can last anywhere from three to eight days. During this time, the retreatant meets with a director daily for one-on-one spiritual direction. Following time with a director, in an atmosphere of complete silence, retreatants are then free to spend time in prayer, enjoying nature, reading, meditating, journaling, etc. Eastern Point Retreat House in Gloucester, MA, among many other spiritual centers, offers directed retreats all year long.
A guided retreat usually lasts three days and centers on a specific theme (faith, trust, grief, transition, hope, etc.). These retreats include formal presentations by the presenter, time for individual and group prayer, sharing, guided meditations, and liturgy. Marie Joseph Spiritual Center in Biddeford, ME is well-known for a variety of guided retreat offerings.