What Should Someone Expect in Spiritual Direction?

spiritual directionOne resource for personal development that grows straight out of Ignatian spirituality is spiritual direction. A spiritual director walks alongside a person as a spiritual companion and, somewhat, as a guide. “Director” is a bit misleading, because a true spiritual director does not give much direction in terms of suggesting what a person should do or telling her if she is right or wrong or otherwise. A spiritual director is not a teacher, not a drill sergeant of the soul. He or she offers presence and a listening ear. When called for, a spiritual director offers wisdom as well, and sometimes will help the directee imagine and dream and pray.

St. Ignatius was quite clear about God’s ability to work directly with the person, and in fairly strong terms he encouraged spiritual directors to stay out of God’s way and allow “the Creator to deal directly with the creature.” This doesn’t mean that the spiritual director sits there silently like the stereotypical analyst. He or she enters conversation with you, and your topic of conversation is generally about your relationship with God—although there is much flexibility in what vocabulary you use or what concepts about the interior life you explore.

Generally speaking, this is what you can expect in spiritual direction:

  • A person willing to walk alongside you on your spiritual journey. This person can walk with you in silence or in dialogue, in peaceful times or terrible times. The point is presence.
  • A companion who will listen attentively and reflect back to you what you are experiencing and discovering.
  • Confidentiality—what you talk about in your time with the spiritual director will go no further.
  • Encouragement and hope; an effective spiritual director always carries hope for you and gently nudges you toward the wisdom and grace God is already pouring into your life.
  • Reverence and respect for the spiritual movement in your life. A wise spiritual director recognizes that God speaks to people in many different ways. The spiritual companion listens to you describe your experience as it makes sense to you, in words and phrases that are meaningful to you. Although he or she may help you connect your experience with spiritual concepts such as grace or the movement of the Holy Spirit, there’s no attempt to rewrite your experience to be anything other than what it is.
  • A person wise enough to understand when you need help that is different from spiritual direction. An attentive spiritual director will notice if you appear to be physically, emotionally, or mentally ill and will encourage you to get the support you need. In other words, a spiritual director recognizes that she is not your social worker or psychiatrist and will not try to fill those roles.
  • A person with whom you are safe to talk about your interior life in all its complexity and unfolding beauty.
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Vinita Hampton Wright
Vinita Hampton Wright edited books for 32 years, retiring in 2021. She has written various fiction and non-fiction books, including the novel Dwelling Places and spirituality books Days of Deepening Friendship, The Art of Spiritual Writing, Small Simple Ways: An Ignatian Daybook for Healthy Spiritual Living, and, most recently, Set the World on Fire: A 4-Week Personal Retreat with the Female Doctors of the Church. Vinita is a spiritual director and continues to facilitate retreats and write fiction and nonfiction. She lives with her husband, two dogs, and a cat in Springdale, Arkansas.


  1. How do I find a spiritual director? I am 83, retired professor of Christian Education and Spiritual Formation, and chaplain.
    I still need that person who comes alongside, listens and points out areas for growth.
    It would probably need to be on zoom, facetime, some online interaction.

    • Norma, start with a local parish or retreat center for recommendations of spiritual directors.

      Denise Gorss
      IgnatianSpirituality.com Editor

  2. Thanks Venita. Very timely. Bro Ramon Callo, a Salesian Brother (not priest) has been my SD the last 4 years. He is amazing. Last week, in an Ignatian Retreat led by Bro Mon, he shared he has been assigned by his Order on a new assignment. To be part of the International Formation Team focused on what? Center for Spirituality for their order globally. SOS. Need to reach out and find a transition SD to replace Bro Mon. Do pray the Lord flourishes his ministry. Imagine a Salesian Brother gifted in spiritual direction. Not a priest. Chosen from 10,000 Salesians to be part of a Formation Team based in Rome made up of all priests. St Ignatius must be singing praises on what God has done with his Exercises. It has spread beyond the confines of the Jesuit Order and with someone like Bro Mon Callo, the charism started by Ignatius has gone truly global. Allelluia.
    Pray that I find a “new” experienced SD in Manila, Philippines near Molito Alabang. Any suggestions?

  3. As a Spiritual Director I am constantly amazed,awestruck, and humbled when I hear words coming out of my mouth that are God’s words. The richness of grace is such a gift to me during every session.

  4. My spiritual director is indeed God’s gift to me when I told God how lonely I was in my faith.I desperately wanted to share and talk about God.We have know each other for 9 years and she is such a good listener and a role model too.Her questions help me to reflect more deeply. How much I have grown is such a joy to her,myself and GOD too,I’m sure.


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