Several years ago I began hearing the term spiritual direction. As I completed my ministry formation as a pastoral minister and then a hospital chaplain, I became more familiar with the term. I soon learned that spiritual direction is not directing at all. Spiritual direction is more of a presence and a companioning of another on his/her journey.
As I furthered my studies in clinical social work, I learned that the code of ethics in the National Association of Social Work guides a social worker to empower the individual on his/her journey. It seemed to be the same as a spiritual director especially since a clinical social worker may address spirituality and the initial assessment includes exploring the client’s spirituality.
Today as I write this article and have completed graduate degrees in both clinical social work and spiritual direction, I see the distinction. Social workers empower the individual by using mental health theories to alleviate and lessen a wide variety of symptoms to improve well being. Spiritual direction, in contrast, helps companion the individual in their relationship with God. The practice focuses on the person’s prayer life and/or how God is present.
Prayer may take many different forms and many different meanings. Our experiences of prayer are unique. If prayer is defined as a conscious relationship with God, then you will talk with a spiritual director about what happens when you are conscious of God. In prayer we engage in the friendship God initiated by creating us.
William Barry writes in the Practice of Spiritual Direction
God wants a mutual relationship with everyone and that spiritual direction is a ministry, the central task of which is to help others develop that relationship as God wants it to develop. The task is to facilitate the development of the relationship God desires by helping those who come to talk about, write about, or make art about what happens when they consciously respond to who God wants to be for them. (Barry, 2011 p. 8)
In spiritual direction, the director helps you to express your struggles, pain, joys, and gratitude and to share these with God; to notice God’s presence in your life and your prayer; to savor, relive and respond to your experiences of God. The focus is in on experiences of God not the ideas about God (Barry, 1987). Spiritual directors also help spiritual directees discern whether or not their experiences are of God, keeping in mind this self-revelation of God: God is “for” us, on our side. “God is always for us; God is, as Jesus’s parable tells us, the prodigal father who eagerly runs toward us wayward children to welcome us back into the family (Luke 15:11-32)”( Barry, 2011 p. 8).
Maureen Conroy, RSM ( 2008 ) states “that in her ministry of spiritual direction, sometimes she feels like a dancer instructing others how to move with the spiritual rhythm of relational love, or of a midwife, assisting in the birth of God’s life in the hearts and lives of many”(p.102). The image that comes to me is of an oar used to row a row boat. The oar creates a gentle ripple which reflects God’s love to the directee. The oar and the ripples illustrate sharing, listening, reflecting, and responding in the interconnectedness to the growing experience of the fullness of God’s life and love.
Spiritual direction is now being offered at Wholeness Healing Center. Please call 308-382-5297 for an appointment or for more information.
Barry SJ, W. (1987). God and You: Prayer as a Personal Relationship. New York, NY: Paulist Press.
Barry SJ, W. (2011). Our True Selves and Spiritual Direction. Presence: An International Journal of Spiritual Direction, 17, 6-10.
Conroy RSM, Maureen (2008). Pre-Practicum in Spiritual Direction and Directed Retreats.
Neptune, NJ: The Upper Room.
National Association of Social Workers. (1997). Code of Ethics.
Tags: companion the individual in their relationship with God, spiritual direction
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Licensed Clinical Social Worker
Licensed Mental Health Practitioner
Advanced Clinical Hypnotherapist
- Jodi Studnicka completed her practicum at Wholeness Healing Center in the Grand Island and Broken Bow offices. Jodi Studnicka, LCSW, LMHP joined Wholeness Healing Center in May 2011 after receiving her Master’s of Social Work from the University of Nebraska Omaha.
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