Unlike pastoral counselors who use a therapeutic method based on a theory such as: Adlerian, Freudian, Person-Centered, Gestalt, or Cognitive Behavioral, spiritual directors are much more free-form. We generally do not give homework to our directees, nor do we set goals for them. We are taught that the directee sets the agenda. Our job is to listen for the Holy Spirit, discern God’s action, and to assist in cooperating with it. The Holy Spirit is the actual spiritual director.
We say things like: “What do you think God is inviting you to in that situation?” “Where is evidence of God acting there?” “Have you prayed about it?” “Why do you perceive that God is not responding to you?” and “What do you discern when you pay attention to your interior movements?”
During my spiritual direction internship, we (my spiritual directees and I) had an education process to go through and a steep learning curve. Some of them discontinued the process, and others never were really engaged in it at all. Perhaps spiritual direction was not what they expected? Analogous to when Vernon Ware lamented about his counselees in his excellent article “The Nerve of Some Clients,” perhaps my directees had one idea of what their experience of spiritual direction should be and I had another.
I am in my last semester in the M.A. in Spiritual and Pastoral Care program on the spiritual direction track. I am in the throes of writing my professional seminar paper and working out how I will respond to resistance in spiritual direction . . . more to come on that subject in an upcoming blog article.
I am far from having all the answers, but what I do know is that I want to meet my spiritual directees in the middle somewhere so that we can take each others’ hands, and together navigate that sometimes arduous journey of the spiritual life. I want us all to one day see God’s loving face smiling back at us. After all, isn’t that the purpose of why we are here in the first place?