What it is not
Sometimes contrast can help us understand.
Consider what Roger Short (2017), says that Spiritual Direction is not:
Spiritual direction is not psychotherapy. In psychotherapy the agenda for the relationship is set by the seeker’s dysfunction. The process of psychotherapy involves treatment, often with seeker and therapist meeting weekly for an extended length of time. The therapist helps the seeker through the dynamics of relationship with the seeker. The goal of psychotherapy is the seeker’s health. [italics added]
Spiritual direction is not pastoral counseling. It is not mentoring, nor is it discipling. Jeannette A. Bakke characterizes each of these relationships in her book, Holy Invitations, as follows: In pastoral counseling the agenda is set by the counselee. The process of pastoral counseling involves problem-solving, crisis management, and/or healing past wounds. Typically, pastoral counseling is limited to no more than six sessions. The pastoral counselor helps by facilitating; and the goal of pastoral counseling is the counselee’s well-being. [italics added]
Spiritual direction is not mentoring. According to Bakke, in mentoring the agenda is set both by the mentor and by the mentee within a particular context. For example, one employee might seek out another employee for mentoring within the context of the workplace they share. The process of mentoring involves development of the mentee. The mentor helps by coaching the mentee; and the goal of the mentee is improvement within the context shared by the mentor and mentee. [italics added]
Spiritual direction is not the same as discipling. Paraphrasing Bakke again, in discipling, the agenda is set by the discipler. The process of discipling involves teaching. The discipler helps by transmitting information or instruction. The goal of the disciple is to incorporate learning in his or her life, as the discipler has incorporated it in her or his life.[italics added]
Contrast the characteristics of all the relationships listed above with the agenda, process, method, and goal of the relationship between the spiritual director and directee. According to Bakke’s view, within spiritual direction the agenda is set by the Holy Spirit. The process of spiritual direction involves noticing, paying attention, and praying. The spiritual director helps by listening and praying. And the goal of spiritual direction is transformation of the directee into the image of God. [italics added] (para. 2-6).
Spiritual Direction is not authoritarian – you can easily ignore a Spiritual Director.
It is not professional – a collection of polished skills that manipulate you to do what the director wants.
Spiritual Direction is not remedial – only for those who mess up.
Instead, it is relational. It is another human being relying on God to help and guide the process. It is another person listening in on your conversation with God and helping you pick up things that you have missed or that you don’t
know how to do.
Short, R. (September 7, 2017). Adult discipleship blog: What spiritual direction Is not. North Alabama Conference of The United Methodist Church. https://www.umcna.org/postdetail/what-spiritual-direction-is-not-9274346