When it comes to seeking guidance and support, spiritual direction is an extremely helpful and accessible source. I've been meeting once a month virtually with my current spiritual director for the past 2 years and have benefited from having someone who can help me make sense of my spiritual musings and see God in my life.
Spiritual Direction vs. Therapy
I want to note that although it’s incredibly beneficial, it’s different from therapy. Therapy, also known as counseling or psychotherapy, is a form of mental health treatment that helps individuals address and overcome emotional, behavioral, and psychological issues. A licensed therapist or counselor will work with you to identify underlying issues, develop coping strategies, and promote overall well-being.
Therapy can be incredibly helpful if you are dealing with specific problems or symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, or addiction. A psychiatrist can also prescribe medication to help you manage your mental health symptoms. I’m currently in therapy as well and taking an SSRI for depression. Read my blog on my first 3 months on an SSRI.
In terms of cost and time commitment, it varies. Both therapy and spiritual direction are typically 50-60 minutes each session. Spiritual direction is typically a monthly meeting, while frequency of therapy sessions can range depending on the treatment you need. Spiritual direction can be more accessible financially. I've seen a wide range of $50-100 per meeting. Many spiritual directors offer a sliding scale and wouldn't want finances to be a deterrent for you to seek the support you need.
What is Spiritual Direction?
Spiritual direction is a form of guidance that specifically helps you explore and deepen your connection with your spiritual beliefs and practices. This is important to note. You can find a spiritual director from a variety of religious and spiritual backgrounds. Your spiritual director will help you connect to your own religious/spiritual practices and can also recommend other ones.
Most of the time, a spiritual director is not a licensed therapist but they usually have some sort of spiritual training. This may include a priest, rabbi, imam, or lay person with training in spiritual guidance.
The Goal of Spiritual Direction
The goal of spiritual direction is not to solve specific problems or address symptoms, but rather to help you understand and live out your unique spiritual path. One of the key benefits of spiritual direction is that it can help you gain a deeper understanding of yourself and your purpose in life. Over time, as your spiritual director gets to know you, they can point out patterns they see in your life and recommend resources that may be helpful for you. Spiritual direction can also help you learn how to apply spiritual principles to your daily life. In addition, spiritual direction can help you to find peace in difficult times and to develop a deeper relationship with your own inner wisdom or the voice of God.
You can think of a spiritual director like a spiritual friend; someone who you can share your spiritual experiences, questions, and doubts with, and who can help you identify God in your everyday life or help you unwind difficulties in your religious experience or view of God. Having someone to talk with about these topics can be incredibly helpful if you feel isolated or disconnected.
Navigating Life's Challenges
In short, therapy and spiritual direction are both valuable forms of guidance that can help you navigate life's challenges. While therapy is focused on addressing specific problems and symptoms, spiritual direction is focused on personal growth and understanding your life. Both can be incredibly beneficial for someone going through a faith crisis or shift of beliefs, and they can even complement each other. It is important to understand the differences between the two so that you can choose the right type of guidance for your needs.
Bonus: How to Find a Spiritual Director
I found my spiritual director through the Spiritual Directors International website. My favorite thing about the website is how specific you can get using their search parameters. I was able to narrow down exactly what I was looking for (seriously, their search parameters are fantastically granular!) and the website gave me about 5 potential options. From there, I checked out their websites/social media presence if they had them, and even signed up for a few of their newsletters. After getting a sense for who they were, I chose mine, and it's been such a great match.