“Spiritual direction is not a modern innovation but a very ancient and simple process of one person offering another spiritual guidance and counsel.”[1]

Wikipedia identifies the history of Christian spiritual direction from the dawn of Christianity in the first century. Spiritual direction is the practice of being with people as they attempt to deepen their relationship with the divine, or to learn and grow in their personal spirituality.[2]

Over the centuries faith companions have been known as a spiritual friend, a spiritual guide, anam cara in the Celtic tradition, a spiritual companion, a spiritual mid-wife. Since the 14th century, spiritual directors have come from both trained clergy and trained laity. They all share the same focus helping the seeker(directee) as the “truest mirror to reflect the contours of your soul to you, a creative and critical friendship rooted in love that was prepared to negotiate the world of your inner contradictions and woundedness to bring you closer to God.”[3] Through its history, Spiritual Direction became less about prescriptive advice and more about supporting someone on their journey. In more recent times, less prescriptive spiritual advice has been offered in writings, and in person, by names such as John Wesley, Evelyn Underhill, Henri Nouwen and Thomas Merton.[4]

Spiritual direction is the art of Christian conversation and listening carried out in the context of a trusting relationship. A spiritual director is a faith companion who listens to your life stories with an ear for discerning that movement of the Holy Spirit in your life. God is the true guide and director, while the human spiritual director is like a coach or midwife, assisting you in noticing and responding to the inner voice of God. The director is primarily interested in your experience of God and how you can respond to God’s invitations to you. Noted Spiritual Direction writer, William A. Barry, says in his book Spiritual Direction and the Encounter with God, “Spiritual directors take it as their central task to help people to develop their relationship with God and to live out the consequences of that relationship.”[5] That process is a spiritual journey into the truth about God, yourself, your relationships, your work, and the world.

Spiritual Direction is NOT:

            Spiritual direction is not counseling, coaching, mentoring, discipling, nor a quick fix or a way to make you a better, more holy person. All these things may occur in your spiritual journey through your growing awareness of the presence of God and what he is calling you into.

Spiritual Direction is:

The premise of Spiritual Direction is that God is present and active in your daily life in a multitude of (often unnoticed) ways. When you, as a directee slow down, begin to reflect, and take a long, reverential look at what is happening in your life, you notice the experience of the presence of God. The more you know yourself the more you know God; and the more you know God, the more you know yourself and your direction and purpose. Knowing God and yourself leads naturally into transformation, healing, and action. “The aim of spiritual direction is to encourage and enhance that connection with, and awareness of, God in all things and in all places in our lives.”[6]

Spiritual direction is a conversation of the heart and uses all our human faculties (intuition, emotion imagination, senses and intellect) to discern God’s presence and will for you as you understand it. The spiritual director pays attention to your spiritual experience and points of self-discovery, to explore with you, God’s will and purpose for your life.

What Does a Spiritual Direction Session Look Like

A spiritual direction session is the gathering of three persons, the person seeking direction (directee), the spiritual director, and the Holy Spirit. Of the three attendees, the Holy Spirit is the true director. The session agenda is “directing our attention to the presence of God in our lives.”[7]

Sessions are usually one hour long, once a month. The session begins and ends by looking to the Holy Spirit to guide the conversation.

People seek spiritual direction for many reasons – times of transition, experience of life trauma, need for clarity, longing, seeking guidance for next steps. Many directees engage spiritual direction as a regular spiritual practice. The regularity of sessions is determined by the directee.


“What exactly do spiritual directors do? The simple and most direct answer I can give is that they help others attend to God’s presence and revelation and prepare to respond to him. In other words, they help people attune themselves to God.”

David Benner, Sacred Companions


In looking for spiritual direction, I wanted someone who would take my life of prayer and my pilgrimage with Christ as seriously (or more seriously) than I did, who was able to hear the distinct uniqueness of my spirituality, and who had enough disciplined restraint not to impose an outside form on me.

Eugene Peterson

[1] The History of Spiritual Direction, https://www.spiritual-life.co.uk/single-post/2015/06/03/the-history-of-spiritual-direction

[2] Wikipedia,


[3] Ibid, History of Spiritual Direction.

[4] Ibid.

[5] William A. Barry, SJ, Spiritual Direction and the Encounter with God (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2004), 98.   

[6][6] Ibid, History of Spiritual Direction.

[7] Spiritual Direction, Gordon Smith, p.11.