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Faith is Hard to Define. Can Spiritual Directors Help?

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For some seeking spiritual connection, this results in a hybrid approach. Alissa Ballot, 65, another of Ms. Pannier-Cass’s clients and a retired lawyer in Chicago, was already a member of a synagogue when a retreat introduced her to spiritual companionship. She has found greater self-understanding by writing poetry at Ms. Pannier-Cass’s suggestion, she said. Spiritual direction is helping her “become the me that God intended and created me to be.”

Lucinda Clark, a spiritual director in Charlotte, N.C., said that in her experience, more Black clients, including clergy members, are seeking spiritual direction after George Floyd’s death and the anger and protests that followed.

“That has been one of the main issues,” said Ms. Clark, 51. “‘How can I operate and work in my ministry in an environment that is unknowingly sometimes rejecting me and sometimes knowingly?’ And so, some people are coming because they’re hurt. They don’t know how to move forward.”

Ms. Clark, who completed a three-year spiritual direction program at Charlotte Spirituality Center, became a spiritual director after what she describes as “a dark night of the soul” in which she questioned certain ideologies in her church. She concluded that while she is rooted in Christianity, there are many paths to God.

Afterward, “I just knew that I needed to journey with other people, to partner with other people, so they didn’t feel alone,” she said. “I thought, ‘I don’t know the name of this thing that I’m supposed to do. I just know that I’m supposed to do it.’”

When she came across spiritual direction in an internet search, “I was like, ‘That is it!’” she said. In her sessions, she often asks questions to help clients reflect on what they’re experiencing, from a hard day at work to a disconnection in their relationship with God.

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