Anglia Ruskin University
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What constitutes good practice of spiritual direction and what is the contribution of supervision to that practice?

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posted on 2023-08-30, 15:03 authored by Lynette Harborne
Little has been written on the practice of spiritual direction in the United Kingdom and I was unable to locate any relevant empirical research into what practitioners and recipients consider constitutes good practice. Furthermore, whilst supervision for spiritual directors is recommended by some organisations, I could not find any research relating to its contribution to good practice. My research question therefore became “What constitutes good practice in spiritual direction and what is the contribution of supervision to that practice?” In order to address the above question I adopted a phenomenological approach within a paradigm of practical theology and designed the research in two phases. The first phase consisted of a focus group and a questionnaire, from which qualitative and some contextual quantitative data were collected. In the second phase I conducted six individual interviews with participants who had been selected by purposive sampling and who all held significant roles in the training and provision of spiritual direction in the UK. The research revealed the primacy of the personal spiritual life of the director and of the director/directee relationship. It also identified that spiritual direction is a charism indicating that spiritual directors have a significant part to play in the missio Dei. These conclusions offer a horizon in which all the research outcomes can be examined creatively and constructively, particularly those that emerged in relation to the tension between professionalism and charism. The results of the research also identified that the limited amount of experience of some directors raises questions of competence, and that prohibitions on charging for spiritual direction by some institutions may be inhibiting the development of good practice and accountability. The contribution that supervision makes in providing a place in which to examine all the above issues was established. This research makes a contribution to what is known about the telos and practice of spiritual direction in the UK and provides a foundation for the future development of both spiritual direction and supervision.



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