How to find a Spiritual Director
Finding a Spiritual Director has not always been that easy in the UK. As I discuss in my article Contemporary Trends in Spiritual Direction, historically this ancient ministry has been rather hidden away, available only to those in the know within the Church, such as priests and monastics. You can find out more about this, and contemporary changes, in my article on The History of Spiritual Direction. In recent years things have begun to open up much more. More people have been specifically trained in this ministry, drawing on both traditional spiritual sources and contemporary psychological understandings, and there are now a number of ways you can search for and find a spiritual director:
The Retreat Association can give you the contact details of your closest, local 'list holder' of spiritual directors. These exist in various counties across England. They are either ecumenically run or affiliated with a particular tradition such as Catholicism or the Church of England. However, most welcome enquirers from all Christian traditions. You can contact them, tell them what you're seeking and they should be able to suggest a contact or two for you to approach.
The London Spirituality Centre now publishes a growing UK wide directory of spiritual directors on its website. This Directory of Spiritual Directors lists mainly those working out of the Christian tradition, with also some from the Jewish tradition, and many who are prepared to offer spiritual direction by Skype, Facetime and Email.
More spiritual directors are now setting up websites to take their work out to a wider audience. So, you can try searching for 'spiritual direction' in your town or county. Bear in mind, though, there are a wide variety of terms in use for this work - spiritual companion, spiritual accompaniment, soul-friend, spiritual mentor. So, you may like to search for these terms too.
Prayer Eleven is also a relatively new website with a find a spiritual director/ companion page, with links to local lists across the UK.
Once you have a contact or two, how do you then go about choosing your spiritual director?
Finding a spiritual director is a very personal and spiritual quest. So, I recommend having initial meetings with at least a couple of potential spiritual directors, where there is space to say something about yourself and what you are looking for from spiritual direction at this point in your life. Then to explore with them how they understand the process of spiritual direction and how they work, and also an opportunity for you to ask of them anything that may be important for you to know eg their spiritual background, training and experience. The spiritual director should also cover issues such as confidentiality, their code of practice, timings (how frequent meetings may be and for how long), any fees involved and how reviews are conducted.
It is worth remembering that spiritual directors will have different emphases in the way they work depending on their particular background and training. For some, their work springs more out of a matured commitment within a particular faith understanding, others approach their work from a more transpersonal perspective and may come from a psychotherapy background that understands the process of psycho-spiritual development. Others still may have a blend of both of these approaches. I describe a wide range of understandings of spiritual direction work in my article Describing Spiritual Direction.
To help prepare yourself, here are some questions you might consider reflecting on before seeing a spiritual director for an initial meeting:
What brings you to spiritual direction at this time in your life?
Would you like to meet with a male or female? Lay or ordained?
What spiritual affiliation or denomination would be most helpful for you? Or would you prefer a broad approach?
What time of day would best serve you for meetings?
How far are you willing to travel to meet with a spiritual director?
Each person seeking accompaniment needs to take reasonable steps to verify the competency of any potential spiritual director. As a ministry in many nations and many faiths, spiritual direction does not have a centralized certifying body that verifies qualifications of spiritual directors since each faith tradition handles spiritual directors differently.
Here are some questions you might ask them when you interview a potential spiritual director:
What training do you have in spiritual direction?
What is your experience as a spiritual director? How many years?
How would you describe your approach to spiritual direction work?
Do you have any particular focus or interests spiritually?
How do you continue to develop yourself in your work?
What supervision arrangements do you have in place?
What ethical guidelines do you abide by?
How much is your fee? (Some directors charge a flat fee; some ask for a donation based on what you can afford; and some don’t charge a fee.)
After each initial interview, you can then reflect on how good a fit that felt for you:
How did you feel in their meeting space? Did the setting feel comfortable?
What was the 'chemistry' like between you?
Did you begin to feel enough trust to share openly?
What did you enjoy about your interaction with this spiritual director?
Was there anything you didn’t like about that experience?
Of those you’ve met with, who are you most drawn to?
The London Spirituality Centre has a very useful leaflet on Choosing & Working with a Spiritual director that I recommend to help in this process.
The key thing is to find someone you feel some sort of good feeling-tone with, that allows you space to share openly, without any sense of judgement, and who you feel you can trust with your spiritual journey.
When you decide to start with someone, good practice is to have a few meetings (say 3) and then to do a review together of how the relationship and process is working before committing to then go on further, or not. The London Spirituality Centre leaflet above has a very good section on questions to think through for any review. There should then be a regular process for on-going reviews (say every 6-12 months), and the openness in the relationship always for you to say and talk through something if you're unhappy in any way, or wish to close the relationship.
Spiritual direction is a slow work of God. It can feel very invigorating initially to start working with a spiritual director, but the real test is how this relationship helps you and your spiritual journey over time. Deep trust takes time, authenticity and patience on both sides.