The First Session, Part 2

We’ve seen in a previous post how the first brief spiritual direction session has six stages: “a social stage, a transition stage, a storytelling stage, a goal-setting stage, a reflection stage, and a housekeeping stage.”

And we’ve seen how a couple of simple questions can lead to the directee sharing a story about how the sacred is moving in their life and the they have considered responding.

CandleIn addition to those questions, Duane Bidwell, author of Short-Term Spiritual Guidance, offers a few more:

  • In what ways have you noticed God at work in your life recently?
  • What are your habits in prayer?
  • What events in your life awakened your desires to become closer to God?
  • What parts of the story of your journey of faith are the most important right now? Which ones do I need to know to understand how you’ve come to the place you’re at now?

The next step is to set some goal for the session. Here’s what Bidwell has to say about that process:

As the spiritual director listens to the story being told, she should note the yearnings and motivations-stated and unstated, conscious and unconscious-that are part of the narrative. These yearnings help the director and the directee identify the particular goals of a spiritual direction relationship—what the directee hopes will change as a result of spiritual direction.

Bidwell notes that for some people seeking spiritual direction, the goals become clear as they state their reason for seeing a spiritual director: “to learn new ways of prayer, for example, or to understand a particular experience of God.”

For others, the director may need to “ferret them out through careful listening and thoughtful questions.”

Once the director and directee have moved through story-telling and goal-setting stages, “the director’s attention turns to reflection on the presence of God in the directee’s life.”

“Here the task is threefold,” says Bidwell: “to highlight the perceived strengths of the directee’s spirituality, to name the ways in which God seems to be acting in the directee’s life, and to discern an appropriate response to God’s presence and action.”

This reflection stage “is not complete,” according to Bidwell, “until the director and directee have discerned an appropriate and intentional response to God’s presence and action in the directee’s life.”

And I love what Bidwell says about response: “The director should encourage such personal responses while taking care to ensure they are specific, small, simple, and behavioral.”

“The best responses,” he says, “require the directee to do something rather than to feel or think something; they also build on something the directee is already doing rather than requiring an entirely new behavior.”

Discerning these sort of behavioral responses in a limited number of sessions is one of the real strengths of brief spiritual direction in a pastoral setting.

Now that the session is winding down, it’s a good time to reaffirm confidentiality and to decide whether or not another session is desired.

And that, my friends, is what a short-term spiritual direction session looks like.


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