Spiritual Direction is a relationship of respectful spiritual companionship, which supports the deepening of connection within a person’s relationship with the Divine and the development and sustaining of their own spirituality.
Spiritual Directors undertake formation before offering spiritual direction to others. This includes but is not limited to: reflection on ones own spiritual experiences, reading and reflecting on texts about spiritual direction and spiritual practice; practicing the art of spiritual conversations under observation during block courses; and offering spiritual direction as a trainee with regular supervision in the community.
Complimentary disciplines such as Spiritual Direction and counselling can work together to facilitate holistic healing. There are a number of other forms of ‘healing arts’ which can also be undertake alongside counselling , these include but are not limited to therapeutic massage, nutritional support, group or individual facilitated exercise, and creative arts.
Sandra (name changed) had been seeing a spiritual director monthly for a few years and decided to continue to meet her spiritual director monthly while also doing fortnightly counselling.
Sandra was going to counselling to address her experiences of childhood abuse; she found this counselling hard but helpful. She recognised and began to address patterns of behaviour and coping strategies which were no longer helpful to her. She had a safe place to talk about and connect with her feelings about what had occurred in her childhood and explore the life impact of these experiences.
It was helpful for Sandra to talk with her Spiritual Director about the ways she was noticing Divine comfort in her life, how she was bringing her anger about the abuse into her times of prayer and how maintaining a practice of meditation support her to feel calmer and seemed to support the healing process. Sandra also talked about her sense of frustration that God was not more active in protecting her when she was a child and was open about the despondency she felt from time to time that the growth and healing were so slow.
Sandra would sometimes talk in counselling about what was happening in Spiritual Direction and vice versa. Sandra had previously undertaken abuse counselling, which she had terminated a few sessions in. She recognised that an important part of why this previously had not worked for her was that her understand of the God at that time was that she was abandoned when she was in pain.
As a result of spiritual direction and attending retreats from time to time, Sandra now felt God’s presence with her in her pain. Her view of God was no longer harsh and tyrannical, it had changed and she now knew deeply that God was with her and that she was surrounded by love. Sandra felt there was a connection between being able to attend counselling and look at experiences which caused her a lot of pain because her spiritual life was also being nourished and this sustained her through the agonising discomfort she experienced at times in relation to the trauma she was addressing in counselling.
Article posted 21 June 2017
Joy is a professional counsellor with a private practice in Wellington. She is currently in formation as a Spiritual Director in a two year programme called Te Wairua Mahi offered by Arrupe NZ.