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April 29, 2013

5 steps to becoming a spiritual director

If you feel that you might have a calling as a spiritual director, the first step is to begin seeing a spiritual director yourself.

Step 1: Find your own spiritual director

Find a spiritual director and start meeting regularly—make this one of your spiritual practices, part of your self-care. What better way to find out whether spiritual direction is what you imagine it to be? Ask your director for help in discerning whether you might have a call to be a spiritual director yourself.

Step 2: Discern

Enter into a process of discernment. Take time to listen, think, and pray:

  • Pray for openness to either path.
    How does this prayer make you feel? Where does your mind wander to? Are you hoping for a yes? A no? Why? What really makes you want to be a spiritual director?
  • Be practical. What are the pros and cons?
    Spiritual direction isn’t the road to riches. I don’t know any spiritual director who doesn’t have some other source of income. After expenses for my own spiritual direction, training, supervision, taxes, and the occasional directee who isn’t able to pay my fee, I net a few hundred dollars a year. I do this work because I love it, and because I feel called to it. (For more about money, see Why charge a fee? And how much?)
  • Get help.
    Look to your spiritual director, your friends and family, a listening group, your dreams, your journal, a book, long walks with the dog, or whatever else helps you to notice the promptings of the Spirit and hear your own true voice.

A few books I appreciate on the topic of discernment are Inner Compass by Margaret Silf and Hearing with the Heart by Debra Farrington.

Step 3: Consider spiritual-direction training programs

Consider attending a program such as the DASD program at San Francisco Theological Seminary, which offers in-depth training, spiritual formation, and help with discerning your call.

For information about other training programs, see Spiritual direction training.

Step 4: Find your supervisor


If you begin to offer spiritual direction in some kind of formal capacity, it’s important to have an ongoing relationship with an experienced supervisor—especially if you plan to charge money for your spiritual direction services.

Step 5: Watch for confirmation

Return to step 1 and start over. Keep seeing your own spiritual director. Keep testing your call. Keep learning, and keep receiving supervision.

Is this work still yours to do? If not, then why are you doing it?

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