In general, the educational methods of the school are best described as experiential, interactive, communal and reflective.  We are concerned with the formation of the whole person. The content covered falls into the following three categories. This training in spiritual direction fits soundly within the discipline of practical theology.   


 1. Knowing God and Self: the spiritual formation of the spiritual director

The spiritual formation of participants includes the use of spiritual assessment tools, reflection on individual journeys of spiritual growth, gift inventories, personal stories, extensive engagement in silent retreats, and receiving spiritual direction and supervision.

Our educational focus is experiential learning. 

Participants will be asked to keep a journal of their prayer life and their points of spiritual growth and insight.  They will track what is happening to them for the duration they are enrolled in the school.  We understand “spiritual formation” to be the cultivation of one’s attentiveness and responsiveness to the love and leading of God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit).

Participants will write papers and reflect together on some of the main theological themes of Christianity: creation, fall, redemption, sin, suffering, forgiveness, grace, God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, community, etc.  The point of these papers is to integrate these theological categories into one’s own personal experience (and vice versa), and to articulate how these themes find their way into the work of spiritual direction.

The point of knowing oneself in the Christian spiritual tradition is to know oneself as a human being; to know oneself is to come close to oneself, to own oneself as a human person who is both sinner and saint.  This knowledge is far beyond a theoretical knowledge but is rather an intimate ownership of the scandal of our own humanity which is the gateway to both humility and wisdom.  It is out of this wisdom and humility that a spiritual director functions best.

The end goal is that a person will practice spiritual direction with a deep ownership and awareness of their own humanity, how God has been and is with them in their humanity, and how God has shaped them for this particular ministry.

Sessionals and aspects of training that address this category of learning are:

  • Knowing God, Self and the Tradition
  • Sharing Sacred Stories
  • Introduction to the Enneagram
  • Gifts of the Spiritual Director
  • Themes in Scripture
  • Retreat days following The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius
  • Day of Contemplation: Justice
  • Day of Contemplation: Creation 
  • Receiving personal spiritual direction


2. Knowing the Practice: development and training in specific skills 

Some of the key skills in spiritual direction are also found in the fields of psychotherapy, counselling and the like, for example, empathic listening, “unconditional positive regard,” and appropriate and fitting questions.  However, the skills of spiritual direction are better understood within the Christian spiritual tradition, and include such things as: presence, wisdom, discernment, compassion, and guidance.

The work of spiritual direction is focused on matters of the heart and soul, an individual’s life in God, and their life of prayer with this God.  The concern of spiritual direction is, as Connolly and Barry describe it, the depth dimension of all of life, namely God---and how people are experiencing and responding to this depth dimension.  A spiritual director is trained to be attentive to this depth dimension of human experience. 

The skills part of the training in spiritual direction will come in the form of 1) participating in silent retreats with prayer and reflection with a spiritual director; 2) receiving spiritual direction for the duration of the course; 3) specific training sessions in listening and responding; 4) specific training and education in theological understanding, and in presence, wisdom, discernment and compassion.

A brief word about discernment: since one of the main assumptions about spiritual direction is that God deals directly and personally with each individual, the need for a discernment of spirits is critical.  Training in discernment will be an ongoing and fundamental aspect of training in spiritual direction.  How do we know something or other is from God?  The training in discernment will touch on numerous areas: how we live on a daily basis, and how we hear and make choices about vocation, calling.

One important way that we provide skills training for students is through practicum placements which we hope to accomplish through placements in congregational settings.  We believe this connection to faith communities is critical.  Each student will be required to complete a certain number of hours giving spiritual direction as well as a certain number of hours receiving spiritual direction.

Sessionals and aspects of training that address this category of learning are:

  • Introduction to Spiritual Direction
  • Topics in Spiritual Direction (cultivating contemplative presence, resistance)
  • Skills Training (dyads, triads, groups, observation, supervision, self-reflection)
  • Discernment I: Ignatian Discernment
  • Discernment II: The Quakers and Others
  • Thematic Scriptures for Prayer and Spiritual Direction
  • Supervision and How to prepare for it
  • Practical matters and Professional concerns
  • Peer Supervision/Self Care & Professional Development
  • Practicum retreat and practicum
  • Group Direction
  • Group Discernment


3. Knowing the Tradition: history, theology & themes of spiritual direction 

The intention of this part of the training is to provide foundational knowledge in: 1) the historical context and practice of Christian spiritual direction and spirituality, 2) the many human themes that arise in the work of spiritual direction, and 3) current themes in the relationship between psychology and Christian spirituality. 



Sessionals and aspects of training that address this category of learning are:

  • A Taxonomy of Prayer
  • Ways of Prayer, Stages of Prayer
  • Days of Contemplation: Justice and Creation
  • Guided Imagery and Prayer
  • Themes in Scripture
  • St. John of the Cross and the Dark Night of the Soul
  • Theological perspectives on emotion, affectivity and feeling
  • Themes in the History of the Care of Souls
  • Overview of Christian Spiritual Traditions – Six Streams
  • Reading the Spiritual Classics
  • Stages of Faith Development
  • Life Transitions
  • Grief and Loss
  • The Process of Forgiveness
  • Suicide Awareness and Understanding
  • Issues in Abuse: Emotional, Physical, Sexual.
  • Dreams and the Spiritual Life: What do we do with them?  What do they mean?
  • Psychology and Spirituality: Depression, desolation, and the Dark Night.
  • Psychology and Spirituality: How do we grow and change?
  • Psychology and Spirituality: The relationship between psychology and Christian spirituality.
  • Psychology and Spirituality: Sexuality and spirituality.
  • Psychology and Spirituality: Perspectives on imagination.