In spiritual direction, a person seeks to grow in his or her relationship with the Lord God, which is the most important and most fundamental of all relationships. This relationship with the Lord emerges from the depth of the human heart, which is a most sacred space because it is the place where the Lord reveals himself to the human person (cfr. CCC 2563).
When another human being is given permission to enter into the space through spiritual direction, that “entrance” must respect the sacredness not only of the human heart and conscience, but especially of the Lord God himself.
In this sense, spiritual direction is most properly considered the point of encounter of three individuals: the Directee, the Director, and most importantly, God himself. The Directee and Director are both attentive to the Lord, and seek to hear Him through the process of spiritual direction, and in an ongoing fashion throughout the relationship. This is fundamental. Without the Lord’s presence, spiritual direction loses its very heart and essence, and is capable of bringing forth no good thing in the spiritual realm. Anything that impinges upon the ability to keep God in the center of the process and relationship should be considered foreign to spiritual direction and is to be avoided. This most fundamental truth of spiritual direction is the basis of what has been developed as a “Code of Ethics” for spiritual direction and commonly accepted best practices. But above and beyond any codes or practices is this utter orientation to the Lord. If anything takes away from that orientation, regardless of whether it is in a code or “best practice”, it is to be avoided.
Here are some ethical guidelines offered and accepted by Spiritual Directors International:
Spiritual directors recognize the limits of:
a. energy by restricting the number of spiritual directees
b. attentiveness by appropriate spacing of meetings and spiritual directees
c. competence by referring spiritual directees to other appropriately qualified persons when necessary
Spiritual directors assume responsibility for personal growth by:
a. participating in regular spiritual direction
b. following personal and communal spiritual practices and disciplines.
Spiritual directors meet their needs outside the spiritual direction relationship in a variety of ways.
Spiritual directors honor the dignity of the spiritual directee by:
a. respecting the spiritual directee’s values, culture, conscience, spirituality, and theology
b. inquiring into the motives, experiences, or relationships of the spiritual directee only as necessary
c. recognizing the imbalance of power in the spiritual direction relationship and taking care not to exploit it
d. establishing and maintaining appropriate physical and psychological boundaries with the spiritual directee
e. refraining from sexualized behavior, including, but not limited to: manipulative, abusive, or coercive words or actions toward a spiritual directee.
Spiritual directors, when presenting themselves to the public, preserve the integrity of spiritual direction by being in right relation with persons and organizations
To read more of the guidelines, download a pdf version here
Select information borrowed from:
Guidelines for Ethical Conduct © 2014 by Spiritual Directors International
"Ongoing Conversion, Deepening Discipleship and the Foundations of Spiritual Direction"; Respecting Holy Ground: Together in the Presence of God © Divine Mercy University 2019