Many people when first hearing about spiritual direction wonder how it compares to counselling and coaching. Each of these practices are so valuable and there are indeed similarities between them. You will notice that all three place an emphasis on listening and asking appropriate questions that help you process where you are and where you are going. Having said that, it is important to note that each has a different purpose, intention, and methodology. I should note, I’m not a coach or a counsellor — so I hope in writing this that I don’t do either of those practices an injustice.
Coaching will often have a focus on operations, problems and solutions — ‘how can I do this better?’ ‘How can I achieve this?’ Or, ‘how can I fix this?’. Counselling (which takes many forms) is therapeutic in its manner and psychological in its approach — and it is particularly helpful in working through emotional issues and mental health conditions. Both these are important and valuable practices — and I would encourage you to engage with a good coach or counsellor if they provide what you need at this time.
So, what is it that is particular about spiritual direction? The practice of spiritual direction is marked by an attentiveness to God in the life of another. There is an underlying assumption is that the Spirit is actually involved and present in the life of the person receiving direction and within the conversation itself. Because of this approach, you will find that spirtual direction sessions have a prayerful and contemplative feel to them. The person offering spiritual direction is not trying to tell you what to do or think, but rather draw your attention to the Spirit’s activity in you life, helping you to articulate what you notice and how your feel led to respond. This attentiveness is facilitated by prayer, contemplation, and meditation — for example, there maybe times during a spiritual direction session where there will be space for you to engage in a particular prayer practice.
I hope this starts to give you more of an idea of what spiritual direction is. I would love to help you with any more questions or queries, or if you would like to experience spiritual direction yourself. Please do get in touch.