Spiritual direction is the practice of being with people as they attempt to deepen their relationship with the divine, or to learn and grow in their personal
spirituality The meaning of spirituality has developed and expanded over time, and various connotations can be found alongside each other. Traditionally, spirituality referred to a religious Religion is a social system, social-cultural system of design ...
. The person seeking direction shares stories of their encounters of the divine, or how they are cultivating a life attuned to spiritual things. The director listens and asks questions to assist the directee in his or her process of reflection and spiritual growth. Spiritual direction advocates claim that it develops a deeper awareness with the spiritual aspect of being human, and that it is neither
psychotherapy Psychotherapy (also psychological therapy or talking therapy) is the use of psychological methods, particularly when based on regular personal interaction with adults, to help a person change behavior and overcome problems in desired ways. Ps ...

nor counseling nor financial planning.

Roman Catholic forms

While there is some degree of variability, there are primarily two forms of spiritual direction in the Roman Catholic Church: regular direction and retreat direction. They differ largely in the frequency of meeting and in the intensity of reflection. Regular direction can involve a one- to two-hour meeting every four to eight weeks, and thus is slightly less intense than retreat direction, although spiritual exercises and disciplines are often given for the directee to attempt between meetings. If the directee is on a retreat (lasting a weekend, a week or even 40 days), they will generally meet with their director on a daily basis for one hour. During these daily meetings, exercises or spiritual disciplines such as
lectio divina
lectio divina
are given to the directee as fodder to continue his or her spiritual growth. The Spiritual Exercises of
Ignatius of Loyola Ignatius of Loyola (born Iñigo López de Oñaz y Loyola; eu, Ignazio Loiolakoa; es, Ignacio de Loyola; la, Ignatius de Loyola; – 31 July 1556), venerated as Saint Ignatius of Loyola, was a Spanish Basque Catholic priest and theologian ...
are a popular example of guidelines used for spiritual direction.

Historical traditions

Western Christianity

Christianity Christianity is an Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic Monotheism, monotheistic religion based on the Life of Jesus in the New Testament, life and Teachings of Jesus, teachings of Jesus, Jesus of Nazareth. It is the Major religious groups, world's la ...
, spiritual direction has its roots in
early Christianity The history of Christianity concerns the Christianity, Christian religion, Christendom, Christian countries, and the Christian Church, Church with its various Christian denomination, denominations, from the Christianity in the 1st century, 1st ...
. The
gospel Gospel originally meant the Christian message, but in the 2nd century it came to be used also for the books in which the message was set out; in this sense a gospel can be defined as a loose-knit, episodic narrative of the words and deeds of Jes ...
s describe
Jesus Jesus; he, יֵשׁוּעַ, '' Yēšū́aʿ''; ar, عيسى, ʿĪsā ( 4 BC AD 30 / 33), also referred to as Jesus of Nazareth or Jesus Christ, was a first-century Jewish Jews ( he, יְהוּדִים ISO 259-2 , Israeli pronunc ...
serving as a mentor to his disciples. Additionally,
Acts of the Apostles The Acts of the Apostles ( grc-koi, Πράξεις Ἀποστόλων, ''Práxeis Apostólōn''; la, Actūs Apostolōrum), often referred to simply as Acts, or formally the Book of Acts, is the fifth book of the New Testament The New Te ...
Chapter 9 describes Ananias helping
Paul of Tarsus Paul the Apostle,; el, Παῦλος, translit=Paulos; cop, ⲡⲁⲩⲗⲟⲥ; he, פאולוס השליח; – AD commonly known as Saint Paul and also known by his Hebrew name Saul of Tarsus,; ar, بولس الطرسوسي; el, ...
to grow in his newfound experience of Christianity. Likewise, several of the Pauline epistles describe Paul mentoring both Timothy and Titus among others. Tradition tells us that
John the Evangelist John the Evangelist ( grc-gre, Ἰωάννης, Iōánnēs; Aramaic: ܝܘܚܢܢ; ar, يوحنا الإنجيلي, he, יוחנן האוונגליסט cop, ⲓⲱⲁⲛⲛⲏⲥ or ⲓⲱ̅ⲁ) is the name traditionally given to the author of ...
Polycarp Polycarp (; el, Πολύκαρπος, ''Polýkarpos''; la, Polycarpus; AD 69 155) was a Christian bishop A bishop is an ordained, consecrated, or appointed member of the Clergy#Christianity, Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a ...
, the 2nd-century bishop of
Smyrna Smyrna ( ; grc, Σμύρνη, Smýrnē, or grc, Σμύρνα, Smýrna) was a Ancient Greece, Greek city located at a strategic point on the Aegean Sea, Aegean coast of Anatolia. Due to its advantageous port conditions, its ease of defense and ...
. Theologian John Cassian who lived in the 4th century provided some of the earliest recorded guidelines on the Christian practice of spiritual direction. He introduced mentoring in the monasteries. Each novice was put under the care of an older monk. Benedict of Nursia integrated Cassian's guidelines into what is now known as the Rule of Saint Benedict. Spiritual direction is widespread in the Catholic tradition: a person with wisdom and spiritual discernment, usually but not exclusively a priest or consecrated in general, provides counsel to a person who wishes to make a journey of faith and discovery of God's will in his life. The spiritual guide aims to discern, understand what the Holy Spirit, through the situations of life, spiritual insights fruit of prayer, reading and meditation on the Bible, tells the person accompanied. The spiritual father or spiritual director may provide advice, give indications of life and prayer, resolving doubts in matters of faith and morals without replacing the choices and decisions to the person accompanying.

Eastern Orthodoxy

Eastern Orthodoxy comes from the same pre-schism traditions, but the role of a "spiritual director" or "elder" in Orthodoxy has maintained its important role. The original Greek term geron (meaning "elder", as in gerontology) was rendered by the Russian word starets, from Old Church Slavonic starĭtsĭ, "elder", derived from starŭ, "old". The Greek tradition has a long unbroken history of elders and disciples, such as Sophronius of Jerusalem, Sophronius and John Moschos in the seventh century, Symeon the Studite, Symeon the Elder and Symeon the New Theologian in the eleventh century, and contemporary charismatic gerontes such as Porphyrios (Bairaktaris) of Kafsokalivia, Porphyrios and Paisios (Eznepidis), Paisios. Sergius of Radonezh and Nil Sorsky were two most venerated startsy of Old Muscovy. The revival of elders in the Slavic world is associated with the name of Paisius Velichkovsky (1722–94), who produced the Russian translation of the Philokalia. The most famous Russian starets of the early 19th century was Seraphim of Sarov (1759-1833), who went on to become one of the most revered Orthodox saints. The Optina Pustyn near Kozelsk used to be celebrated for its startsy (Schema-Archimandrite Moses, Schema-Hegumen Anthony, Hieroschemamonk Leonid, Hieroschemamonk Macarius, Hieroschemamonk Hilarion, Hieroschemamonk Ambrose, Hieroschemamonk Anatole (Zertsalov)).[1] Such writers as Nikolay Gogol, Aleksey Khomyakov, Leo Tolstoy and Konstantin Leontyev sought advice from the elders of this monastery. They also inspired the figure of Zosima in Dostoyevsky's novel The Brothers Karamazov. A more modern example of a starets is Archimandrite John Krestiankin (1910-2006) of the Pskov Monastery of the Caves who was popularly recognized as such by many Orthodox Christianity, Orthodox living in Russia.


In Judaism, the Hebrew term for spiritual director differs among traditional communities. The verb ''Hashpa'ah'' is common in some communities though not all; the spiritual director called a ''mashpi'a'' occurs in the Chabad-Lubavitch community and also in the Jewish Renewal community. A ''mashgiakh ruchani'' is the equivalent role among mitnagedim (adherents of the ''Musar movement, Mussar'' tradition). The purpose of ''Hashpa'ah'' is to support the directee in her or his personal relationship with God in Judaism, God, and to deepen that person's ability to find God's presence in ordinary life. Amongst Lubavitchers this draws on the literature and praxis of Hasidism as it is practiced according to Chabad standards, and to Jewish mysticism, Jewish mystical tradition generally. Spiritual mentorship is customary in the Hasidic world, but not necessarily in the same way.


In Sufism, the term used for spiritual master is ''murshid'', Arabic for "guide" or "teacher". He is more than a spiritual director and believed to be guiding the disciples based on his direct connectivity with the God in Islam, Divine. The murshid's role is to spiritually guide and verbally instruct the disciple on the Sufi path after the disciple takes an oath of allegiance or Bay'ah (''bai'ath'') with him. The concept of Murshid Kamil Akmal (also known as Insan-e-Kamil) is significant in most tariqas. The doctrine states that from pre-existence till pre-eternity, there shall always remain a Qutb or a Universal Man upon the earth who would be the perfect manifestation of God and at the footsteps of the Islamic prophet Muhammad.

See also

* Direction of prayer * Ho'oponopono * Murshid * Pir (Sufism)



Spiritual Direction
New Advent (1913 Catholic Encyclopedia)



* * * * * * * *
* *--do.-- (1900) ''A Book of Spiritual Instruction: Institutio spiritualis''; translated from the Latin by Bertrand A. Wilberforce. London: Art and Book Company *

Later period

Later writings on spiritual direction: Top ten reading list for spiritual directors
January 19, 2013. *
Teresa Blythe
Spiritual Direction 101: The Basics of Spiritual Guidance
'' Apocryphile Press, * * * * * * * * * * * Hughson, Shirley Carter (1952) ''The Spiritual Letters of Father Hughson of the Order of the Holy Cross''. West Park, New York: Holy Cross Press; London: A. R. Mowbray, 1953

External links

North America

Spiritual Directors International

Spiritual Direction in California

Spiritual Direction in Alberta

Spiritual Direction in Calgary

Spiritual Direction in Manitoba

Spiritual Directors in British Columbia

Tyndale Association of Spiritual Directors
Toronto, Ontario
Evangelical Spiritual Directors Association

United Kingdom

an organisation facilitating Christian spiritual directors in the United Kingdom
London Centre for Spiritual Direction
an organisation that trains and supports spiritual directors, and promotes spiritual direction
Ignatian Spirituality Course
a training course for spiritual directors in London, UK.


Fullness of Life Centre (Inc.)
provides spiritual direction, counselling and professional supervision. Services are available in-person and through secure video conferencing.
Kardia Formation P/L
provides spiritual direction, supervision and a formation program for spiritual directors.
Jesuit College of Spirituality
provides Ignatian programs of formation for spiritual directors, supervisors and leaders as a member of the University of Divinity, Melbourne.


{{DEFAULTSORT:Spiritual Direction Spirituality Religious behaviour and experience