For Those Seeking Connection
Consider the big questions in life.
Do any of these resonate with you?
These are deep questions. Spiritual directors and spiritual companions go to work every day – listening, asking questions, offering compassion – to help people find their own answers. Workable answers. Answers that are both personal and practical. That build inner strength and equanimity.
A spiritual director/companion honors your birthright to discern your own spiritual path.
Spiritual directors and companions serve all society by helping each person find balance and compassion.
For more: Read this post on “What Makes a Good Spiritual Director” by Executive Director Rev. Seifu Anil Singh-Molares.
Spiritual direction or companionship is often offered as a one-to-one or group experience in private sessions with spiritual mentors who have most likely completed extensive formation for this practice and service.
It is up to you to choose a spiritual director or companion who has the training, formation and experience that suits your needs.
A spiritual director or companion includes and relies on your own understanding of Spirit: To God, to Allah, to refuge in the Buddha, to the Universe, to Nature, or however you name the ground of all being. Spiritual direction and companionship includes this connection as a third partner in the process.
And if you don’t know or have a sense of that connection, a spiritual director or companion can help you discern that, without coercion and with deep respect for your own ability to discover and articulate the ways in which you naturally connect.
While it may be appropriate at times to discuss personal and relational struggles in the context of spiritual direction/ companionship, a spiritual director/companion is not a psychotherapist, nor does the spiritual director/companion provide such services.
We recommend you engage with our resource, Guidelines for Ethical Conduct, before entering a new relationship with a spiritual director or spiritual companion.
What is Spiritual Direction?
Listen to Executive Director Rev. SeiFu Singh-Molares on "The One You Feed" Podcast
In this episode, Rev. SeiFu and Eric Zimmer talk about the role of a Spiritual Director or Spiritual Companion in helping us find our way on our own spiritual path.
Comparison of Helping Relationships:
Nurturing Mental and Spiritual Health and Wellbeing
Though it can look similar, it is very important to note the differences between spiritual companionship and mental health support. With a wide variety of helping relationships available, the chart below can help you to compare which companionship modality is right for you.
|One-to One Helping Modalities||People involved (Who comes? Why?)||Goal/Purpose (Why stay?)||Relational Process (What happens?)||Techniques (How does it work?)||Content (What to talk about?)||Assessment (How is it going?)||Professionalization|
|Spiritual Direction or Companionship||A person who is mentally stable, and is seeking spiritual growth and maturity||Developing and integrating one's deepest Truths; discover, attend to, and savor presence of these Truths in everyday life||Telling of stories; open responses; silence; waiting; noticing together the stirrings, longings, and revealings within oneself||Sharing; listening; discernment; and contemplative practices, e.g. silence, prayer, meditation, quieting of the ego||Daily life, relationships, deepest desires, struggles, prayer, deeper meaning, and one's responses to these prompts||Discernment; mutually agreed-upon evaluation; a sense of integration of one's deepest truths||Potential for fees or exchange of services; variety of training programs; not accredited; professional guild|
|Religion-Based Care||A mentally stable practitioner or member of a religious community in need of specific religious rites or services||To receive spiritual support in a time of need, transition, and growth||Spiritual leader offers a service; practitioner receives its spiritual benefits||Depends on the service needed. Examples may be: house visit, sick visit, liturgical service, ritual, programs, etc.||Revolves around the specific life events of the service being offered||Formal methods like boards, elders, bishops, etc., depend on community||Fees for services, not for visits; training usually in seminary; oversight depends on denominational structure|
|Religion-Based Counseling||A mentally stable person with areas of dysfunction who seeks a religious perspective||Facilitate growth, personal integration, and freedom of choice through increased self-knowledge and awareness of spiritual truth within a religious context||Talking, getting it out; advice giving; support; resolving issues; client and counselor discern religious meaning together||Understand the source of the issues; provide techniques and ideas for how to become more free; model healthy interactions between client and counselor||Relationships; life experience related to areas of pain, shame, and guilt; discover religious truth in the healing process||Increased sense of freedom, independence, integration of religious truth in one's everyday life||Fees might be covered by parish or by person; academic training programs; accredited institutions offer training|
|A mentally stable person with a specific problem seeking help finding a solution||Alleviate pain and disorder, resolve inner conflicts, and promote growth and integration||Talking; analysis; often learn “through” relating with the counselor||Get “under” the issues; teach or model techniques; problem solving, challenging||Relationships; life experience related to areas of pain, shame, and guilt; discover places for healing||Developmental comparison to others in similar stages; increase in personal freedom, independence||Usually involves fees; academic training programs; certification monitored by state and national standards|
|A mentally unstable person; unable to function||Get back to—or achieve—healthy functioning; recover from trauma||Depends on form of therapy; return to stability and functioning||Will vary depending on the school of practice, e.g. pyscho-somatic, shock, hypnosis||Life dimensions related to the problem||Diagnosis by skilled practitioner||Usually involves fees; specialized training programs; certification monitored by state and national standards|
|Coaching or Mentoring||A mentally stable apprentice, often a “junior” seeking to model an admired “senior”||Set and attain specific goals in chosen area of life; increase one’s capacity; learn a particular trade||Often marked by a specific time period with specific steps based on goals||Intake; setting goals; assessing progress; imitating; teaching, networking; encouragement||Usually centered on a specific area like, health, career, relationships, etc. or balance between areas||Acquisition of skills; accomplish goals; vitality of relationships; life balance||Can involve fees or other benefits; variety of courses and training; areas of specialization; life experience|
|Discipleship||A mentally stable community member seeking to be formed in a particular religious tradition||Become familiar with one’s tradition or orientation; be held accountable by others in living out one’s religious truth||Teaching; modeling; witnessing;||Sharing religious truths with others; personal testimony; communal gatherings||Components of religious truths such as beliefs and practices; assessing one’s growth and ability to witness to these truths||Adherence to disciplines; commitments to the community; increase in numbers; deepening personal engagement||Fees unlikely; often done by volunteers who are recognized and authorized by a particular community|
|Sponsorship||A mentally stable person seeking guidance from another individual who has experience in the tradition ( e.g., AA*, RCIA**)||Become familiar with the tradition in order to choose whether to follow it or not||Teaching content such as practices, beliefs; sharing stories and experiences; learning from others in the past||Storytelling; accountability; checking in regularly and frequently||Sponsor relays information about the tradition; sponsee asks questions, integrates content into daily life choices||Sponsee chooses each and every day and also at a certain “conversion” point to belong to the group or tradition||Fees unlikely; stipends or donations from the sponsoring group possible; mostly done by volunteers who are recognized for their adherence to the group|
* Alcoholics Anonymous, Twelve-Step Recovery
** Rite for Christian Initiation for Adults
© 2015 Christine Luna Munger
Director, Episcopal House of Prayer, Collegeville, MN, USA
Revised with permission from author, 2021
Find a Spiritual Director or Spiritual Companion
Locating and interviewing a spiritual director or companion is an important step in your spiritual journey. SDI’s desire is to provide an easy, inviting way for seekers to connect with a spiritual director or companion, to find a training program and/or a retreat center. We also help existing spiritual directors and companions find supervisors and additional training resources.