The Difference Between Therapy and Spiritual Direction
“Converted anxiety is hope. Anxiety is dreadful expectation; hope is expectant desire. They are like cousins to each other. Pray for the conversion of your fretful anxiety into promising hope. If you are anxious just now, you are almost already hopeful.” —Br. Curtis Almquist, SSJE, from “Brother, Give Us a Word,” Society of Saint John the Evangelist.
There is sometimes confusion between the ministries of a therapist and a spiritual director. We learn early in spiritual direction training that a therapist helps people deal with life on life’s terms.
A spiritual director is a caretaker of the soul, one’s connection to God. Sometimes leading people to realize their connection to God can help them deal with life on life’s terms; and often learning to live with life can reconnect us to God in a new way. Becoming the person God created us to be—living a connected life—can sometimes make our path even more difficult, more challenging.
A spiritual director will listen to what is going on in a person’s life; but he or she will be looking for the God connection at every pause. A therapist will be looking at every pause for ways to lead the person to find a solution or to deal with pain. A spiritual director focuses on one thing: seeing God at work in that person’s life.
My favorite part of being a pediatric radiologist was caring for babies. When I meet with someone for spiritual direction, I like to imagine that person’s soul as a newborn they have offered over to me for a brief time, to be cared for and nurtured and then gently returned to them wrapped in a warm blanket—resting and smiling in peace as they leave.
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