What is The Difference Between Therapy and Spiritual Direction?

‘Getting a little tripped-up by the term “spiritual direction?” There is very little “direction” involved! And that is just one difference between therapy and spiritual direction…

The biggest difference between therapy and spiritual direction (in pictures!)

When people give us the blank stare of, “What did you say you do for a living?”, we often offer a mash-up: “We’re kind of like a therapist meets a chaplain…” ‘Not entirely accurate. But close! If you are looking to explore the difference between therapy and spiritual direction, the following breakouts may be helpful for you. As you explore each category, notice what feels like the right fit for you:

A bit more detail…

So many kinds of care! If it feels overwhelming to delve, trust that. Or, you may be in an exploration stage and need detailed information on where to reach:

Now that I know the difference between therapy and spiritual direction, what next?

You know yourself well. Even if you are in the grip of vulnerabilities or old wounds, you have a sense of how you want to be with your own resilience, healing, and growth.

You might ask yourself, “Is what I am facing into an issue of mental health? Would I benefit from strategies for coping, and possibly even medical intervention?” If yes, do resource yourself through your doctor, crisis lines, and mental health support systems. Sometimes the shortest path to getting immediate care can be via your local distress centre, or distress call line.

‘Not sure just where you’re at with all of that? One thing that a spiritual director will do for you is gently point you toward other professions if the scope of care is not within their qualifications.

Many of our participants are engaged in more than one caring modality. It is not unusual for a directee to meet with a spiritual director and a therapist or counsellor. If you are engaged in a 12 Step program, or seeing a psychiatrist, having the companionship of a spiritual director may offer another arm of support to your process.

What does Still Lake Listening offer?

Wherever you find yourself in this disruptive and wonder-filled journey of Self/God exploration, Still Lake can come alongside you. You can engage one-on-one, in small groups, or in neutral spaces (like a contemplative walk, or a coffee shop conversation). Wander through our journal for more on this:

Courage for your own journey

As you hold the difference between therapy and spiritual direction with ongoing wonder (Could this be for me?), trust what arises. Could that be The Knowing you need to point you in the way that will serve you well — body, mind, heart, soul?

There is something a bit mysterious and at-just-the-right-time about this kind of listening care. There’s the readiness of your own Soul and self to get down into it; the crossing of paths — ideas and people who all seem to be saying the same things. It’s like your life is speaking to you — giving you messages all pointing to tackling your own Way of Being just a bit differently. As you explore the difference between therapy and spiritual direction…and counselling and pastoral care and (who knows!) maybe finding a shaman, may you find just the right Thing for you!

Maybe this is less about requiring transformation, and more about deeply exploring the Who of You? Being spaciously non-judgmental and a bit wonder-struck about who you have been all along, and who you are now discovering yourself to be new ways?

The Map You Make Yourself (By Jan L. Richardson)

You have looked

at so many doors

with longing,

wondering if your life

lay on the other side.

For today,

choose the door

that opens

to the inside.


Travel the most ancient way

of all:

the path that leads you

to the center

of your life.

No map

but the one

you make yourself.


No provision

but what you already carry

and the grace that comes

to those who walk

the pilgrim’s way.


Speak this blessing

as you set out

and watch how

your rhythm slows,

the cadence of the road

drawing you into the pace

that is your own.


Eat when hungry.

Rest when tired.

Listen to your dreaming.

Welcome detours

at doors deeper in.

Pray for protection.

Ask for the guidance you need.

Offer gladness

for the gifts that come

and then

Let them go.


Do not expect

to return

by the same road.

Home is always

by another way

and you will know it

not by the light

that waits for you

but by the star

that blazes inside you,

telling you

where you are

is holy

and you are welcome

here.

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