Training to become a spiritual director


So the other day I was talking to a consecrated virgin and she was telling me about how she had took some classes or something on how to become a spiritual director. I forgot exactly what the course or program was called and I was wondering if anyone had any ideas.

So what’s a good program in which you can train to be a spiritual director?


If you Google “spiritual direction training” you’ll find many different programs. I don’t think it’s the kind of thing that lends itself to online classes, so you’ll need something local or be willing to travel to some other location.

I went through a three-year program myself. The program was run by a Catholic organization, but the program was open to non-Catholic Christians and didn’t have a particularly Catholic focus.

I think there’s a basic question of what exactly you are looking for and why. Do people often come to you for spiritual guidance/counsel? Do you feel called in this direction? Where and when do you see yourself practicing spiritual direction? For me, three years was a big commitment of time, money, and energy, so I needed to know why I was doing it.


You can get it via a Theology degree from a Catholic University.
We did the Lay Ecclesial Ministry program this way as an intro and then went on to Spiritual Direction via a Masters in Theology.
Ask your Pastor for advice on the offerings in your area, or the Formation leadership in your Diocese.


Clare, for what it’s worth, you and I have had very different experiences with theology degrees. Mine didn’t include anything like spiritual direction. I guess if the OP wants to go that route he/she should check out the course offerings and requirements for the degree.


That 3 year program sounds like what she was talking about. But yeah I would definitely want mine to be Catholic. Yeah I’m assuming from an experience I had that a lot of empathy will be involved, and that is difficult to translate through text.

Well I’m discerning for the priesthood and have actually finally found a community I believe is perfect for me. In the meantime while I get my passport n stuff I had a friend come to me that needed some help with scruples, fear and other spiritual things. She said because I guess of my lack of empathy and over analysis that I wasn’t good at it basically… lol. But still has come to me and I have tried to show more empathy and not get too judgmental about certain things. She is extremely sensitive though, major majorly scrupulous, very fearful and apparently has some psychological issues. Pointing things out about how to stop being scrupulous and certain advice can have a negative effect, because she knows this is the case. (But then why are you asking my advice if you don’t want advice because you know the answer? lol.) But the fact is I think the Holy Spirit said a few good things that she was very receptive to. However my own lacking has perhaps hindered the fruit of what could have been done to help. I mean she is really sensitive, I think a priest gave her some advice and now she fears him. Her scruples are making her start to hate confession, which used to be her favorite sacrament.

Now keep in mind I do not take this lightly. And a brief comment from a priest helped me to understand even more that I should take this extremely seriously. If I am called to be a priest then spiritual direction will be essential and extremely important to learn. I feel as if God put her here not only to help her but me as well. Because of the fact that her state is pretty extreme and may be one of the most difficult cases I encounter. Therefore even more importance and caution should be implemented for the sake of her Soul. I’ve made a few mistakes but reconciled them, but she misinterprets things a lot and takes things personally that are more figurative, general or even aimed at myself. And so this is why I ask about any means in order to strengthen me in this regard.


Yes. Good clarification, Thanks!


If you should become a priest, a background in spiritual direction could be very helpful. For what it’s worth, there was a priest in my program. He said that the seminary didn’t give him the background he needed and he was being called on for spiritual direction from a variety of people. (There were also three sisters in my cohort. Again, they hadn’t received such training as part of their formation but were often being asked for spiritual direction as part of their ministries.)

I think that scrupulosity is a difficult problem to deal with since it combines both psychological and spiritual aspects. You’ve really been thrown into the deep end of the pool!


For those who are priests or thinking of it, I recommend the Institute of Priestly Formation. I’m not a priest, but I’ve worked with a few who completed the IPF Spiritual Director training. They were excellent spiritual directors and great priests.

Beyond that, I can’t offer any advice.


Spiritual theology isn’t really taught in seminaries. Furthermore, a priest’s education doesn’t stop after seminary. The FSSP does not allow its priests to offer spiritual direction until they’ve been ordained a priest for five years, during that time they are to continue their learning and study spiritual theology from books such as Tanquerey’s Treatise on Ascetical and Mystical Theology, oans Garrigou-Lagrange’s Three Ages of the Interior Life.


Oh? That’s good to know. My FSSP priest has been giving talks on Garrigou-Lagrange’s Three Ages of the Interior Life so I guess he can give spiritual direction. :slight_smile: I’ve never really had a regular go-to spiritual director, gotten advice from people and in confession. Sometimes scheduled long confessions. But as for a regular it just hasn’t happened. I suppose that would help too, to actually get a spiritual director, I’ve had to learn a lot of things the hard way.


FWIW, a friend approached our pastor who had thoughts about becoming a spiritual director. Although he advised her about classes given at a nearby seminary, he told her a degree or specialized training does NOT make an authentic spiritual director. In a sense, it is a calling from God and special gifts and graces are needed. He specifically asked her if her desire to pursue this came from her own aspiration. When she answered in the affirmative, he advised her that people are normally called into this specialized area by others who recognize their giftedness and their focus on personal holiness. She registered anyway, went one semester and said she had prayerfully discerned this was not something she should pursue.


Tigg, I think you have a good perspective here.

I agree that training can’t make a spiritual director. On the other hand, it does show a level of commitment from a person. Anyone can call themselves a spiritual director, no matter their background. (Hence, “caveat emptor” for people seeking direction.) So someone with certification/education/background at least says they’re serious about it, it’s not a game to them.

I also agree that one sign that this is where you are called is that people seek you out for this type of discussion. That’s also one of the signs that the program I was in looked for. I think that for most of us, it was an opportunity to get formal education in an area that people already seemed to think we knew about.


Thank you! We’re on the same page.


I would ask your local diocese regarding the availability of any training programs in your area. I know the two programs in Montreal, Quebec, require students to do the following: 1) Have been in spiritual direction for a good year before beginning. 2) As one does the academic work, they do internships and work under spiritual directors before they are qualified. These two programs range between 2 to 4 years so it will take some time to complete. 3) Continue spiritual direction throughout the program.

I imagine other programs will have these three components. If they don’t, I would question the authenticy of them because internships will give a person a great accountability system and help one learn how to direct one through God’s wonderful journey he has planned.


The new community known as the Brides of the Victorious Lamb would know. I believe SD training was part of their formation because they intended to be such.

What’s been said above is SD “viewed through a Jesuit lens,” as my own Dominican SD put it.

Dominicans are very hands-off; refer the directee to the spiritual classics; and have them check in if there’s a problem.



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