Ignatian Spiritual Direction Focus on Discernment
"Ignatian Spiritual Direction addresses what is in one’s daily life as they pray their way through life’s complex decisions and concerns, and in the interpretations of their spiritual experiences in those everyday life circumstances, as to discover where God is leading them in their life."
Fr. Joseph Tetlow, SJ paraphrased from Handing on the Fire
Is Spiritual Direction Therapy?
Yes and No.
Therapy for the Soul for today, the tomorrows, and for eternity.
But it is not what the healthcare system calls therapy today, which also uses the term counseling,
but there is an overlap in skills used, while the focus and ends are different.
What are the differences?
Psychological Therapy: The mind is the focus for emotional health. It is a problem-solving focus with crisis management treatment for individuals in their relationships with the self and others for emotional health and well-being. God is not part of the dialogue focusing on the temporal time frame. Assessment (or diagnosis), planning, and treatment with an end goal set within a time frame.
Pastoral Counseling: The focus is on the mind and soul in relationship with God and others. It is a problem-solving, crisis management faith-based care where God is a primary partner for emotional health and well-being. Combines psychological treatment protocols and within one's faith tradition. Assessment, plan, and treatment with an end goal within a set duration considerations within a temporal and eternal telos.
Spiritual Direction: The soul and all its facilities ( intellect, memory, and will), one's desires, and direction in life (both temporal and eternal) in relationships with God, others, and the self as the central focus. This is a form of pastoral counseling where two people come together listening to the whispers of the Holy Spirit's direction for one to grow in holiness for service. It is multi-dimensional, using all of the skills in counseling - assessment, planning, and 'treatments (such as prayer). Healing, health, and well-being are accompanying results. The focus and frequency change over time, for the intermittent goal is temporal, while the end goal is eternity. It may also have an aspect of mentoring and disciplining.
Mentoring: It is caring for the development of another to improve one’s external actions, where the companion acts as a coach.
Disciplining: It is an instruction process where the companion is the transmitter of knowledge.
What is the Training of a Spiritual Director?
Some have formal education with advanced post-graduate credits (certificates) in spiritual direction from universities, some may have short-term or long-term study within an organization or a parish, while some may have no formal theological or pastoral education yet are called to a ministry of holy listening as companions.
Spiritual directors can be lay, religious, or ordained and work in retreat houses, monasteries, or within parishes as part of their regular duties or in private practice. Many spiritual directors work part-time in this ministry and have degrees and training in other disciplines which may or may not be related to ministry, counseling, or religious formation. Many now are full-time.
Am I looking for a Spiritual Director or a Spiritual Companion?
A Spiritual Director who is trained utilizes all the skills of counseling to help one in developing a conscious, intentional, and active relationship with Christ, integrating it within a formation model of a solid foundation of the Church's teachings, along with an understanding of the stages of growth in the spiritual life, prayer, and human development.
A Spiritual Companion walks alongside and accompanies another in their spiritual journey as a spiritual friend, as does a Spiritual Director, yet does not have the formal or has limited training for the roles of instruction or guiding, or counseling.
Are there Fees for Spiritual Direction?
Depending on the training of the director, where they work and live, fees may vary. Those in full-time ministry working in retreat centers are paid stipends that are collected by their organizations, while those directors who minister in parishes generally do not, since it is part of their services for their local church as employees. All other spiritual directors collect fees directly from the directees. Fees vary depending on the locale and the directors' level of training, and ongoing formation costs.
A Response to a Question from a Directee
Dear spiritual director,
If the spiritual direction is about helping one grow in their relationship with God, how can it help me since
I am uncomfortable sharing about my prayer life? For me, such is too personal and intimate.
Dear friend in Christ,
Prayer is (as one’s encounter and relationship with God), as it should always be, intimate between you and God and not anyone else.
In spiritual direction, prayer as a method (as a way), is what is shared and handed down in our tradition to help one grow in their relationship with God. A spiritual director's role is to:
help one notice areas in their prayer life they may have overlooked
offer practical considerations such as helping one organize time
share different methods of engaging from the Church’s tradition
help one how to listen for those prompts where they are coming from (Holy Spirit or the ‘ bad spirits’), or
teach about the discerning of spirits
support one to notice and sort out distractions or attachments
suggest tools to mitigate the normal wandering of the mind to increase attention and focus
affirm how one is proceeding
You described a desire to grow in your prayer life - with that as your starting point consider taking that desire to prayer to see what God has to say about it with you. The 'questions to consider’ I sent are there to help one notice where some of the distractions ( such as normal daily issues or those that He brings up for healing) or attachments (spiritual) so as to ask for the graces to be freed from them to continue to grow in Christ.
My hope is that what I have written here will help a bit. I am not yet familiar with how much knowledge you have regarding the rules of discernment and your experiences in applying them. We can talk about that if you wish. Being busy for its own sake is not a good. Yet I do my best with God’s grace to keep to a healthy schedule of activity and rest to be in this ministry as a lay person.
If more comes up in between sessions, I suggest to directees, as I do for my own spiritual director, to note them down when they come up. Then, before we come together to review your thoughts and experiences, you discern and decide what to share, what seems pertinent, or what needs a bit of clarification.
Till then, know you are in my prayers.