Three Distinctions:
Spiritual Direction, Supervision, and
School of Spiritual Direction
SDS: Spiritual Direction Supervision
! Within a compassionate, contemplative approach,
spiritual direction, supervision, and consultation have
some similarities, as well as some differences.
! It is important to know the distinctions between these
three particular modalities to make better use of what
each can provide and to honor the limitations of each.
! The next three slides address a few of those similarities
and differences.
! The final slide consists of a table that briefly describes the
focus, the purpose, and the process related to each
Some Similarities and Differences
!Spiritual direction, supervision, and consultation are
concerned with the individual’s faith life:
!In spiritual direction the focus is on the faith life of the
!In supervision the focus is on the faith life of the director as
a spiritual director
!“In spiritual direction the director concentrates on the
experiences of directees with God and on their resistance to
those experiences. In the same way, the supervisor of spiritual
directors concentrates on their experiences as directors and the
lived beliefs that color their responses to their directees.”
– Barry and Connolly
!In consultation, the focus is on specific aspects of the
directee’s faith life that the director needs particular
assistance in addressing (e.g., an ethical question or
concern, when a suggestion for a prayer practice might
be advisable, how to address certain concerns the
directee might have, etc.)
Some Similarities and Differences
!Spiritual direction, supervision, and consultation
rely on the lived experience of the individual:
!In spiritual direction, the essential ingredient is the
directee’s lived experience of and with God
!In supervision, the essential ingredient is the director’s
lived experience with their directee in the course of
doing spiritual direction
!In consultation, the essential ingredient is the
directee’s particular area of struggle in their lived
experience of and with God that may require more
more skills, creative thinking, or information than the
director presently possesses on his or her own.
Some Similarities and Difference
!Spiritual direction, supervision, and consultation
necessitate a clear focus:
!In spiritual direction, not focusing on the religious
dimension of the directee’s experience may inhibit
their deepening relationship with God
!In supervision, not focusing on director’s experience
of giving direction may inhibit their growth as a
spiritual director
!In consultation, not clearly stating and understanding
the issue or problem that the director sees in the
directee’s experience will inhibit the ability of
supervisor and director to effectively and
collaboratively identify possible ways of addressing
the issue
FOCUS! On the Directee: Directee’s
relationship with God and
prayer life, interior
movements in the service of
On the Director: Director’s
interior movements, reactions,
thoughts, feelings, embodied
feedback, verbalizations !
On a Problem: A specific or
particular problem or issue
related to the Directee!
PURPOSE! To accompany the
Directee in deepening their
friendship and intimacy with
God: increasing in
awareness of how God
communicates with the
DIrectee personally and
directly and nurturing a
greater interior freedom
from which flows a
personal, heart-felt
To assist the Director in
recognizing, being with, and
exploring areas of challenge,
potentially hidden disordered
attachments, and growing
edges so the Director can
enter into greater freedom
and become more helpful in
promoting the Directee’s
relationship with God. !
To provide a sounding
board for the Director, to
help them address a
specific issue or problem
that the Directee is or might
be facing.!
PROCESS! The process of spiritual
direction is a “prayer
process in which a person
seeking help in cultivating a
deeper personal
relationship with God meets
with another for prayer and
conversation that is focused
on increasing awareness of
God in the midst of life
experiences and facilitating
surrender to God’s will” – D.
“A contemplative supervisory
process is much like a dance
where the partners move
between silence, word, and
silence, and it is the
discernment of the
movements of the Spirit which
guides the rhythm of the
dance steps.” –M. McDonnell!
Within the contemplative
space of supervision, the
process of consultation shifts
to a collaborative
interaction in which the
Supervisor and Director
explore together a
particular need, problem or
issue that Directee has that
is perceived by the Director
with which the Director
needs guidance.
Three Distinctions (*to be used for the Lectio assignment)