What to Expect in Spiritual Direction

In our last post, we introduced our current blog series to give you a better idea of what spiritual direction actually is. We highly recommend you take a look at Part 1: What Spiritual Direction Is (...and What it Isn't), in which we compare and contrast spiritual direction to other one-on-one caring relationships, such as pastoral counseling, mentoring, and discipleship. 

Welcome to Part 2: What to Expect in Spiritual Direction! In this post, Bryan and I thought it would be helpful to describe our approach to spiritual direction at CURATE, and even give a brief picture of what a typical one-hour session with one of us might look like. (For a few more details on spiritual direction at CURATE, check out our FAQ page.)

An Incarnational and Contemplative Approach to Spiritual Direction

First and foremost, our approach to spiritual direction is founded upon the truth and expectation that God is always present and at work in our lives, whether we are aware of it or not. God has entered our world in the person of Jesus Christ, and His Spirit continues to speak and move through all parts of our selves and daily lives. Sue Pickering writes, “God is at work in both directee and director and both bring their full personhood to the task of spiritual direction,”* including our thoughts, emotions, experiences, relationships, physical selves, and souls.

Most often, we just need to develop a listening ear so that we can become more aware of God’s presence and voice. Our spiritual journeys are not simply composed of mountaintop highs and deep valley lows. God is as present in the mundane, ordinary moments of daily life as He is in those peaks and valleys. Developing awareness of His presence is slow work, and it can be of great help to invite another person to listen attentively and help us to “dust for God’s fingerprints,” as our spiritual direction instructors used to say, so that we can intentionally respond to God’s invitations and communication with us.

Spiritual direction is about patiently uncovering what might lay beneath the surface of your experiences or responses to God. Sometimes that means stopping to linger with an emotion or an experience for a bit longer, and sometimes that means leaving room for silence for a minute or two. Sometimes that means giving you a full hour to simply process out loud. Our job as spiritual directors is to be hospitable, to prayerfully create and hold the space for you to process and discuss your life with God.

A Typical Spiritual Direction Session

While that incarnational, contemplative description sounds nice and fuzzy, it’s also helpful to have a practical picture of what a typical hour of spiritual direction might look like.

Most often, we each see our directees for one hour each month, but really it’s the directee who determines the pace and rhythm of meeting. Both Bryan and I have directees that we see each month, and others who contact us as needed. We’ve also offered one-time spiritual direction at retreats. The session takes place in one of our offices or at a local retreat center (or if it’s a virtual meeting, over Zoom, Skype, Google Hangout, etc.). I typically suggest that a new directee meets with me two or three times, then let the directee evaluate whether or not they want to continue.

Each session begins with prayer and a few minutes of silence, and then the hour belongs to the directee — with freedom to share honestly about their prayer life, relationship with God, and faith experiences. As the director, I ask questions to help the directee process such experiences more deeply, allowing space for self-discovery and awareness of God’s presence. I won’t correct or rebuke, and I won’t counsel, though I may suggest spiritual practices or experiences that could aid the directee’s spiritual journey. I hold everything shared in these sessions with respect and confidentiality (except in cases of mandated reporting, such as child or elder abuse, or self-harm). We are always willing and able to refer directees to another spiritual director, counselor or therapist, should that need arise.

Hopefully this post offers some clarification on spiritual direction! As always, send us a message or leave a comment if you have any questions or further inquiries!

*Sue Pickering, Spiritual Direction: A Practical Introduction. London: Canterbury Press Norwich, 2008. Pp. 26-27.