Formation Guidelines

Background to the 2016 Formation Guidelines

The following document introduces the Guidelines for the formation of Spiritual Directors in Australia.

In developing Guidelines the AECSD recognises that there will be a creative tension between understanding spiritual direction primarily as a charism on the one hand, and primarily as a profession requiring strict adherence to standards and all that implies on the other hand.

In light of these two facets or dimensions the AECSD has recognised that the wider spiritual direction community would more benefit from Guidelines, not Standards. The difference between the two is that Guidelines point in a definite direction and are used as an instrument in the recognition of spiritual direction formation programs. Standards require strict adherence as a requirement for recognition by the sector. The inclusive nature of the Council’s membership in Australia is indicative that the term ‘Guideline’ be the more appropriate term to utilize in this respect.

Please note too that in setting these Guidelines, AECSD’s aim has been to recognize formation programs which meet these Guidelines. AECSD is not involved in recognizing individual spiritual directors.

Two interrelated questions arise:

  • What is the Australian Ecumenical Council for Spiritual Direction seeking to do in setting these Guidelines?
  • Why are such Guidelines necessary?

In response to the first question, AECSD seeks to;

  • recognise spiritual direction formation programs meeting the Guidelines
  • assist existing formation programs to incorporate (additional) elements of the Guidelines into their programs
  • assist emerging programs to plan and conduct their early formation processes
  • foster new initiatives in the formation of spiritual directors
  • offer Guidelines which will help to ensure that members of the formation teams are experienced, qualified, competent and committed
  • offer public acknowledgement and ongoing monitoring to such programs for the formation of spiritual directors.

This final point leads to the second question: Why are such Guidelines necessary?

First and foremost, the Guidelines help to ensure that the most important group of people, those who come to us for spiritual direction, are ministered to by competent, well trained and committed individuals who have been formed to listen with a contemplative heart.

Secondly, the AECSD recognises we live in an increasingly litigious society with high expectations where whatever the service being offered to persons those services meet their requirements – be that doctor, counsellor…or spiritual director. In other words, as   spiritual directors, we are being held to increasingly higher levels of accountability. AECSD’s Formation Guidelines aim to address this need and give assurance to the spiritual direction community that this development in society – the expectation of higher levels of accountability – has been recognised.

The reputation of many professions depends on the Standards it sets for programs that wish to be recognized within their fields. AECSD’s Guidelines address the two developments noted above (those from within the spiritual direction community and those from the wider community) through the encouragement and recognition of programs which are working firstly towards incorporating elements of these Guidelines, and then with the support of the AECSD, recognising them as meeting those Guidelines.

Click here to download the Guidelines.

The Checklist for Contemplatively Forming Tomorrow’s Spiritual Directors, Appendix B can be downloaded here.