AECSD Update on Supervision for Spiritual Directors July 2020

The provision of appropriate, high-quality supervision for spiritual directors is a concern which has been on AECSD’s radar for some years.  In 2018, AECSD embarked on a project to identify emerging needs for supervision training and provision, in order to discern how to support the development of, and access to, high-quality supervision for all those involved in the ministry of spiritual direction.

AECSD first conducted a survey of spiritual directors, supervisors, and formation programs, to gather data on the availability and quality of supervision for spiritual directors in Australia.  The top three issues identified by respondents were: the need for clarity about what constitutes good supervision for spiritual direction; the need for improved access to relevant formation and ongoing development for supervisors; and the existence of barriers to accessing good quality supervision, especially in rural and regional areas.  The survey findings were presented at a one-day Supervision Forum at the 2018 AECSD Gathering.  It was evident that there is a high level of interest and energy within the spiritual direction community around supervision.

The survey indicated that supervisors seeking to supervise spiritual directors access a range of formation options and that some combine them over time.  Following a recommendation from the Forum, in 2019 AECSD contacted programs offering formation for supervisors of spiritual directors, to gather information on their focus, structure, prerequisites, qualification awarded etc.  Available programs include those open to people working in any pastoral ministry, of which some lead to an academic qualification, while others do not.  Another, smaller group of programs focuses exclusively on formation for supervision of spiritual directors.  These providers believe strongly that supervision of spiritual directors is a distinct specialism requiring specific formation.

This exercise highlighted a question regarding the desirability or otherwise of programs being recognized by the Australasian Association of Supervision.  Graduates of AAOS Recognized Supervisor Training Programs with at least 2 years supervisory experience can apply for supervisor membership of AAOS, while graduates of other programs must demonstrate their eligibility for supervisor membership based on recognition of prior learning.  The desire for AAOS supervisor membership, and / or to be able to supervise a variety of practitioners, may lead to a tension for some people between seeking these outcomes versus accessing a program specifically focused on formation for supervisors of spiritual directors.  AECSD will continue to explore the salience of AAOS membership for spiritual direction supervision.

Next steps Two key themes emerge from the project so far: 1) there is a need for more formation options specific to the supervision of spiritual directors; and 2) there is a need to articulate the elements of a good formation program for supervisors of spiritual directors.  Having taken this time to gather information and to discern, the AECSD has decided to develop Guidelines for Supervision Formation Programs, along the lines of the existing Formation Guidelines for Spiritual Directors.  The Guidelines will allow for flexibility in program models.  A small working group is being established to lead this development over the next few years, reporting to the Council and consulting with relevant stakeholders at key points.  The working group will consist of two Council members and three supervision formation practitioners with significant experience and wisdom in this field. 

The Council thanks you for your participation in the conversations so far, and will continue to invite your input into the Supervision Formation Guidelines as they develop.