Spiritual Direction

Curious About Spiritual Direction with Coracle?

Are you looking for a Spiritual Director or for someone else?

For the past 5 or 6 years, I have been assisting people who are curious about finding a spiritual director to discern whether they are really looking for a spiritual director or for some other type of helper to walk with them in their journey with God. (You can learn more about Spiritual Direction through Coracle here).

Since our hearts, souls, minds, and strength are interconnected, there is no aspect of life that is off-limits for an individual to bring to spiritual direction—but some stories may require the support of another type of helper in addition to a spiritual director or may be more appropriate for a different type of support before the person has an openness for what a spiritual direction relationship has to offer. To help those who come to me clarify what type of helper they are looking for, I typically describe several different categories of helpers (using some very broad brushstrokes) to help identify some distinctions. I invite them to notice if what I am describing as spiritual direction is what they are seeking.

Spiritual directors are part of a family of helpers that also includes physicians, therapists, counselors and pastoral counselors, coaches, mentors, disciplers and potentially others. (It’s a big family!) Each helper has a unique lens through which they focus and which orients them in time, in their purpose, and also shapes the nature of the relationship with the one seeking support. All of these helpers typically pay attention to the stories of those who come to them for what they offer.

Physicians, therapists, counselors, and pastoral counselors tend to focus on what’s wrong or has been broken in the past and identify a specific problem or wound or trauma as being the part of the person to be focused on in their sessions (i.e., the “medical” model). The practitioner/expert will offer the patient or client a pill, practice or process to help solve the problem or fix what is broken so the person can be healed and live in a normal present. This professional relationship is typically constrained to the practitioner’s office.

Coaches assume the individual has agency, gifts, and strengths in the present moment and have a positive orientation towards helping the coachee identify vision and goals for the future. The coach brings expertise in the process of change and growth and the coachee brings expertise in their life context, skills, and abilities. Together, they develop a path to move forward; identifying obstacles and supports needed to achieve the coachee’s desired future outcome and to flourish in all of life. Depending on the type of coaching, this professional relationship may be bounded by the coach’s meeting space or it could be grounded in the life space of the coachee (e.g., leadership coaching occurring at the coachee’s business.)

Mentors tend to provide more informal relationships that are less “professionally” defined than physicians, therapists and coaches—unless the mentors are assigned for a program. Mentors are usually someone (living or not) admired by the mentee because of who they are and what they have accomplished. The mentee desires to learn from the mentor and their story. Interaction usually happens through “being with,” telling stories, (maybe reading the mentor’s books if they are deceased or famous), and sharing aspects of life relevant to the one being mentored. Connections can occur in many types of spaces, both formal and informal.

Disciplers typically focus on a topic to study and then apply the learning to some aspect of life. Often sacred scripture, a popular book, a program or formal curriculum is offered to facilitate intellectual learning. What has been studied is then intended to be practiced or implemented by the disciple’s into their life. The disciple’s learning can be focused in a one-on-one relationship or in a group and can happen in many different types of spaces. Disciplers may have more than one role in the disciple’s life.

Spiritual directors believe the Holy Spirit is the true director and they have many different ways of offering their charism, although the common lens is to pay attention to God’s Presence in the present moment. The spiritual director joins with the Spirit and the one seeking to deepen their relationship with God in all of life (past, present, and future) and notice invitations. How the director names the other (e.g., as directee or the one being companioned or client) may provide insight into the director’s framing of the relationship. Together, the spiritual director and the other notice and name how God is present in the story being told.

The person’s story is usually offered verbally and includes the story being lived in the moment through the mind, the heart, the body and the spirit. The purpose of direction is to support the individual’s relationship with God. While a problem may be fixed or healed, a vision may be cast, stories may be told or something may be learned through spiritual direction—those outcomes are byproducts that come by paying attention to God’s presence and invitations, rather than the purpose of the interaction.

If you are someone who likes metaphors to spark your imagination, here are a few that have been used for spiritual directors….

  • Witness, one who is fully present and witnesses the life, story, suffering, insights, questions of another as they seek God.
  • Companion, one who walks with another on their journey with God.
  • Mirror, one who reflects back what they see and hear in the other and the story being told both verbally and non-verbally about their journey with God.
  • Guide, one who has been on a journey before and can help guide another on their journey.
  • Sherpa, one who accompanies the adventurer on their journey with God and helps to carry the heavy baggage needed for the journey.
  • Chef, one who has expertise in the methods, tools, and “ingredients” of life and can rely on experience, principles, intuition, and wisdom to create delicious meals (instead of requiring a recipe) and can create space for new meals to be created.
  • Midwife, one who supports and helps the one in labor give birth to a deepening relationship with God. The birth can also be some aspect of life being birthed, or something being created.
  • Artist, one who creates and has a tool box to offer. One who helps the directee create beauty and experiences awe at the beauty of the creation of their life with God. The artist has many tools available, but only brings them out in service of the spiritual direction.
  • Sage, one who has the wisdom of years and experience with God and is available to (when appropriate) offer guidance and wisdom to one seeking God.
  • Teacher—in the tradition of Jesus, one who asks deepening questions, who shares stories, offers compassion, honors the will of the other and who is present to the joys and suffering of the one who is seeking.

After reading this brief description of what spiritual direction is (and is not), are you are curious? Do you have questions? Would you like to explore the possibility of finding a spiritual director for your own, unique journey with God? If so, please reach out and we can explore the possibilities. I’d be delighted to support your discernment of how God might be at work in your longing. I can be reached at

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