Spiritual direction and coaching are two separate types of work with overlapping similarities.

At the most basic level coaching helps clients achieve a very specific goal. Typically a coach will guide the client toward those goals by asking questions that allow the client to arrive at the answer that best meets their outcome. This empowers the client. Another way that a coach can help is in the setting of specific goals and holding the client accountable along the way to achieving their goals. There are often stated goals that the client wishes to achieve. The goals may be arrived at through an assessment, a questionnaire, a wheel of life or the client will have some specific goals in mind. Typically a client meets with a coach for several visits early on and perhaps weekly for a time and may end the relationship when the goal(s) have been reached.

Spiritual Companionship is far more often a long term relationship that rarely has a specific goal as a desired outcome. It is a journey, or pilgrimage, toward a deeper relationship with a higher power. If there is a goal that might be it.

While it is certainly possible and even likely deep personal issues will arise in the context of spiritual direction I believe that, at the deepest level, people hold the solutions to their own issues. If it is a psychological issue then I would refer to a qualified therapist. If a spiritual direction session is therapeutic it is completely coincidental.

Confusion can arise since a spiritual director may we be a life coach, a psychotherapist, or a pastor, however setting clear boundaries will clear things up. In spiritual direction it is rarely up the director to offer advise. The journey is to assist the client to discern the will of Spirit in their lives. I had a client who was seeing me for SD and drifted into a struggle with some personal issues then discussed her desire to reclaim her spiritual practice. We were coming to the end of our time and she asked, “What should I do Kim?” We were out of time for our meeting that day. What I felt was the best response was to say “It feels to me that we moving from spiritual direction and I just want to say that. One does not give advice in spiritual direction but in pastoral care that may very well happen. It feels to me as if that is the direction we are headed here.” At that point I offered her a suggestion.

It is vital to have clear boundaries in such matters so moving between spiritual direction, coaching, pastoral care or counseling can happen with ease and clarity of intention.

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