Spiritual Direction

What Is Spiritual Direction?

Spiritual direction is time spent on the sacred ground of your soul with another person who is able to listen deeply, present both to you and to God with you—an anam cara, the Gaelic word for “soul friend.” A spiritual director has been trained to hold space for your story, your emotions, your experience (or lack thereof) with God. In spiritual direction, you may simply find a much-needed listening ear for all things related to your spiritual life. You may discover new ways of being with God in silence or imaginative prayer or creative play. You may explore pieces of your story that have left you feeling “stuck” for so, so long. Your entire self is welcome in spiritual direction, and your body and soul and relationships may come into the process just as much as the things we might usually think of as “spiritual.”


Spiritual direction is not a new thing. It has been practiced for millennia in all the Abrahamic traditions, including Christianity, and is the accompanying of another, witnessing to the spiritual life. It has looked different ways in different eras (we can still read some of the spiritual direction entered into by the men and women of past ages because they committed their questions and responses to paper in a practice of spiritual direction through letter-writing!) and different cultures.

In individual and group settings, director and directee meet in the presence of the One who transforms. According to late spiritual director Elizabeth de Smaele, who practiced in the Netherlands, spiritual direction “offers a voice of guidance and grace to those who are intent on growth, with special emphasis given to recognizing and responding to the presence of God in one’s life.” Eugene Peterson, in his course at Regent College “Tell It Slant: The Parables As Spiritual Direction,” suggested that spiritual direction is “listening truth into being.”


The language around spiritual direction may seem vague and mystical to those unfamiliar with the practice and with the contemplative aspects of Christian spirituality. It can be frustratingly difficult to understand what actually happens in a spiritual direction session, especially for those used to programs and other structured curriculum for the spiritual journey. In essence, spiritual direction is simply what it appears to be: an intentional time of listening to and following the voice of God in the life of the directee.


There are many metaphors for spiritual direction. Companionship, guidance, hospitality and listening are but at few. Our name, Anam Cara, is a term coined by the ancient Celts. A soul friend is one who journeys alongside in a deeper way than a friend might, stepping into the story of the other in a manner that acknowledges the holy and nurtures its growth.


The second image that guides us is that of a midwife. We operate with the assumption that everyone who contacts Anam Cara Ministries is in some way pregnant with the life of God. The role of a spiritual director is to come alongside as a midwife might, to nurture that life within them and to walk with them as it is brought forth into the world.


There are many options for both individual and group spiritual direction. You may find yourself in a season that simply needs another person with you in the mess that real-life faith can sometimes be; or it may be more helpful for you to have a group that can witness each other’s joys and pains, and listen both to and with each other and God. Spiritual direction is not therapy, or mentoring, or discipleship, or pastoral counseling—though it shares some similarities with these. In essence, spiritual direction is simply what it appears to be: an intentional time of listening and responding to God in the life of the directee.


You may enter spiritual direction because you’ve hit a crisis point in your faith and things seem to be crashing down around you. Or you may have gone through a process of deconstructing some things and are looking to sort through and see what is still there as you continue to relate to God, but in new ways. You may feel like everything is good; you just have this inexplicable longing to go “further up and further in” and spiritual direction seems to be drawing your attention. If you have more questions about spiritual direction, check out our FAQs below (or contact us!):

When might you seek out a spiritual director?
  • when desiring a companion on the way
  • when heading out on a path of growth
  • when finding oneself in the wilderness
  • when seeking God in the complexity of life
  • when needing wisdom from within and without
  • when making decisions on life direction
  • for discernment in decision making
  • when experiencing a season of deconstruction
  • when desiring new language or experience of God

Some topics spiritual direction explores:

  • exploring the image of God in one’s life
  • exploring, wrestling with or deepening one’s life of prayer
  • practicing the presence of God
  • witnessing to grief or loss
  • increased self-awareness and insight
  • strengthening human relationships
  • honoring hurt from religious experience
  • exploring a deeper intimacy with Jesus
  • anything! (spiritual direction is not limited to those things we consider “spiritual”)

Do you have further questions?

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is spiritual direction?

Spiritual direction is the practice of coming alongside people to assist them in attuning their hearts to the movement of God in their stories. In individual and group sessions, the director provides the gift of holy listening, a sacred practice of welcoming the presence of the other and of God in a contemplative and transformative experience.

2. Will a spiritual director tell me what to do?

In a word, no. Spiritual direction is not about proselytization, propaganda or control. The aim of spiritual direction is not to tell another person what to do or to control their spiritual journey. Your story is uniquely your own, including your experience of God. A spiritual director’s role is to assist you in discerning the movement of the Spirit of God in your life, and to help you to align yourself to that movement.

3. Are you associated with a church?

Anam Cara Ministries is a non-denominational, ecumenical ministry that is not formally associated with any specific church body. We welcome directees from all denominations and faith journeys.


Our founder, Tara Owens, is a member of the International Anglican Church of Colorado Springs, Colorado. She has journeyed through and with several denominations, including the United Church of Canada, the United Methodists, the Christian & Missionary Alliance, and several non-denominational Bible churches—for each of which she is very grateful. While Tara lives out her faith in the Anglican tradition, her practice is ecumenical and welcoming to all.

4. What typically happens in a spiritual direction session?

Spiritual direction sessions are typically 50 minutes long. A session generally begins with a time of silence and centering, as well as a short time of prayer, if that is comfortable for you. Then, you and your director will often spend time discovering and dialoguing about the movements of God in your life recently. Other times, the session could focus on entering into silence well or exploring new prayer forms.  The session will usually end with a time of prayer or silence as closure.


A spiritual direction session is a place of openness and safety, where you and everything you bring are welcome. Everything that happens in a spiritual direction session is confidential.

5. Are all spiritual directors the same?

No, there is a wide variety. Spiritual direction is practiced in many faith traditions, so it’s important to at least have a general idea of your preferred faith tradition when you seek out a spiritual director.


The education programs available for spiritual directors also vary from state to state and country to country. The length and depth of training ranges from two-week programs to two-year intensive masters degrees. While proficiency and wisdom in spiritual direction are not necessarily related to education, this is something to take into prayerful consideration as you seek out a spiritual director.


Certification is also a topic of discussion in the spiritual direction community.  In Canada, the Canadian Council of Professional Certification (CCPC) sets standards and issues certifications for a Certified Spiritual Director (CSD). If you are interested in the requirements, you can click here to learn more.


In the United States, there is currently no universal form of certification or oversight. Instead, the designation CSD is issued through a variety of different organizations with a variety of different standards for certification. There is now a global certifying body for both CSDs and Certified Spiritual Director Supervisors (CSDSs) called CCPC Global. It evolved from CCPC, and you can learn more about it here.


Tara Owens has a Masters of Theological Studies with a concentration in Spiritual Formation from Tyndale Seminary in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, which is a non-denominational evangelical seminary. She certified through the CCPC Global as a CSD and as a CSDS. She is a member in good standing of the Tyndale Association of Spiritual Directors (TASD), Spiritual Directors International (SDI), Spiritual Direction Colorado, ESDA, and the Spiritual Formation Network of Colorado Springs. As such, she is bound by the code of ethics for the TASD, SDI, and CCPC Global.

6. How does spiritual direction differ from discipleship?

In discipleship, just as in mentorship, the person to whom the disciple comes takes an active, directive role. This often involves study, exercises to be completed, and lessons to learn in a successive pattern that is designed to track growth.


While spiritual direction does involve some teaching, that is not the main thrust of the direction sessions. Your director may sometimes give you exercises to try or may teach in regards to methods of prayer or other topics, but the predominant role of a director is as a listener and guide. Much as you wouldn’t expect your guide up Mount Everest to stand at the bottom and instruct you in the methods needed to reach the summit, a director takes the path with you, listening, watching, and only occasionally intervening when he or she sees that you may be veering close to a cliff edge.

7. How does spiritual direction differ from counseling?

Spiritual direction is quite explicitly neither counseling nor therapy. Counseling seeks to redress specific areas of wounding or dysfunction and equip the client with tools—both psychological and social—that will enable them to lead full, functional lives. Therapy aims to deal with the issues, both presenting and underlying, that brought the client to therapy in the first place and enable them to move out of the counseling setting into their lives independent of the therapist.


While healing may occur in a spiritual direction session, the focus of spiritual direction is deepening your relationship with God and with those around you. There is no sense that the directee needs to move on from spiritual direction. In fact, spiritual direction relationships lasting 10, 20, or even 30 years are considered healthy.

8. How often would I meet with my director?

In general, our directors meet with directees monthly or every two weeks. Occasionally, life circumstances warrant meeting with the directee once a week. However, that intensity of direction is only meant for a season before returning to a twice-a-month schedule.

9. How do I get started?

The first step is to contact Tara Owens, by email or by phone (719-233-5568), to discuss your desire to enter the spiritual direction relationship.


After reading the Preparing for Spiritual Direction page, you can download the Anam Cara SD Consent Form and return it as an email attachment.

10. How much does it cost?

The rate for spiritual direction with Tara Owens is US$75/hour, plus applicable fees. If you are in financial distress, other arrangements can be discussed. This cost can be paid via check or verified PayPal.


However, each spiritual director runs their practice differently, as they continue to discern and live out their call to holy listening, their responsibility to the communities they serve, and their own families and needs. Some directors do not charge at all, some ask for donations, and others charge a fee but have a sliding scale.


If you’re looking for a low- or no-cost introduction to spiritual direction, many of our apprentices are open to taking on new directees.

11. Where is Anam Cara located?

Anam Cara Ministries is located in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The ministry, however, is both national and international.

12. Do you only meet locally with directees?

Tara meets with local directees in person in her office in Colorado Springs. She can also travel in the Colorado area to meet with directees, which incurs a travel fee per mile in addition to the fee per hour. Beyond the Colorado area, Tara meets with directees over the phone or via Zoom. The latter is her preferred method for at-a-distance meetings, as it affords greater interaction at a variety of levels.


With a small number of directees, Tara also conducts a ministry of writing, in which letters are exchanged as a method of soul care. This practice of letter writing is an ancient one, undertaken by spiritual companions such as St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila.


A few of our other spiritual directors offer distance options as well. If you are interested, we suggest you first download and read Spiritual Direction At A Distance and speak with Tara before deciding if this is right for you. Tara can be reached by email or by phone (719-233-5568).

13. Is spiritual direction all that Anam Cara and Tara do?

Definitely not! In addition to being a spiritual director, Tara runs the Anam Cara Apprenticeship in spiritual direction, which is a relationship-based learning in the ancient tradition of apprenticeship. Tara also plans and leads contemplative experiences and retreats, teaches classes related to spiritual formation, and leads rabbinic Scripture study both in person and online. For more information, visit our Formation & Training or Resources & Events pages.


Tara also writes on topics of spiritual formation and spiritual direction, both here at Anam Cara as well as for the International Anglican Church. She has written two books (Embracing the Body: Finding God in Our Flesh & Bone and At Play In God’s Creation: A Contemplative Coloring Book) and numerous articles. She served as the Senior Editor of Conversations Journal, an ecumenical journal of spiritual transformation, for seven years. Her work has also appeared in Presence: An International Journal of Spiritual Direction.

14. Shouldn’t spiritual direction be unnecessary if the church is being the Church?

Ideally, the answer to that question is yes. However, we’re a long way from the ideal Church. We’ve forgotten—or not been taught—the very things that would allow us to truly be soul friends to one another. We live in a busy, distracted society and often congregate in busy, distracted churches, looking for the newest program for godliness.


Spiritual direction reminds us how to slow down, showing us what it means to truly listen to one another. It helps us practice the spiritual disciplines of silence, solitude, and guidance. It equips us not only to have a deep, transformative relationship with God, but also enables us to move in peace and love toward others. And when we have worked on interior freedom with a spiritual director, we often become agents of peace and change in our churches and our world.

15. What are others saying about Spiritual Direction?

What Is Spiritual Direction? from Metamorpha.com

16. Who can I talk to if I have more questions?

Please feel free to contact Tara by email or phone (719-233-5568) if you have any questions.

Looking for a spiritual director? Start here…

Spiritual Direction Ostiary

At Anam Cara, we believe that the process of finding the right spiritual director deserves the same amount of care and accompaniment as spiritual direction itself. Seeking a director is a courageous and vulnerable process, and we have someone whose role is to help match you with a few spiritual directors who might be right for you. The term ostiary has its roots in just such a role. An ostiary is another term for a doorkeeper, especially of a church or sacred structure; someone who ushers you in and helps you to find your way into the places and relationships you need.

Rachel Reed is both a spiritual director with Anam Cara and someone who is adept at listening inside your story, desires, concerns, and hopes with compassion and grace. If you’re looking for a spiritual director, but would like a little more companionship in that journey, contact Rachel at rachel@anamcara.com or use the button to book a free consultation.

Founder & Executive Director

Tara Owens (CSD, CSDS) is the founder and executive director of Anam Cara Ministries, where she has been accompanying others in their journeys with God for 15 years as a certified spiritual director and supervisor. Her deep longing is to see others move toward wholeness with themselves, with God, with their communities, and with the world. Tara holds a Masters of Theological Studies in Spiritual Formation, combined with a certificate in Death, Dying & Grieving, from Tyndale Seminary, and the Advanced Certificate in Supervision from the Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education at Fordham University. She pioneered and leads the Anam Cara Apprenticeship, which is a relationally-delimited training in spiritual direction. Tara also teaches rabbinic Scripture study groups and trains others in the process of wrestling with God and the Word in community, and leads an intentional community of sojourners in the Anam Cara Abbey. In addition to her work with Anam Cara, she teaches for the Potter’s Inn Soul Care Institute, and is on staff with Paseo for their spiritual direction training program, Stewards of the Mystery, and guest lectures at various seminaries, churches, and non-profits. Tara is the author of two books, Embracing the Body: Finding God in Our Flesh & Bone (IVP, 2015), and At Play In God’s Creation: A Contemplative Coloring Book (Franciscan Media, 2016), and was the Senior Editor of Conversations Journal for 7 years. She lives out her own wrestlings in the mountains of Colorado with her husband, daughter, and rescue dog, Brother Juniper.


In addition to individual and group spiritual direction, Tara is available for speaking and teaching engagements. At the moment, Tara is not taking any new individual directees, but you can contact her if you’d like to be put on the waitlist or have her match you with one of the other Anam Cara spiritual directors. She also runs retreats and develops guided contemplative experiences. Tara can be reached by email or by phone (719-233-5568).

Director of Sacred Community

Jeremy Frye is a spiritual director, supervisor candidate, retreat leader, and Director of Sacred Community for Anam Cara Ministries. One of his deepest joys is companioning people on their journey toward living into and out of their belovedness. His vocational pilgrimage began with serving for 20 years in full-time pastoral ministry in the local church, which has given him a profound understanding of and compassion for those whose personal spirituality and professional contexts converge (sometimes easily and sometimes causing great distress). He is deeply acquainted with grief and loss as well as the good but difficult work of the disordering and reordering of one’s faith. Jeremy has completed a certificate in Soul Care from the Soul Care Institute, through Fuller Seminary, a 2-year apprenticeship in spiritual direction through Anam Cara, and is currently enrolled in the Companioning Center’s program for Supervision Training. Jeremy lives with his wife, two children, one dog, six chickens, and whoever else needs a place to rest their head at An TĂ©armann (Gaelic for the refuge), their little urban homestead in East Nashville, Tennessee. He is taking both local and at-a-distance directees and supervisees.

Anam Cara Peregrini

In the Celtic tradition, Peregrini were traveling missionary monks who were attached to an abbey or monastery but “wandered” or lived outside the abbey. At Anam Cara, our Peregrini community is made up of spiritual directors scattered across the country who share our heart and vision for spiritual friendship. Take a few minutes to get to know these lovely people!


Rachel Reed


Jamie Bonilla



Craig Hamlow


Niecy LoCricchio



Suzie Richard


Dale Gish


Bryan Hehr

Bryan Hehr


Annalise Hume



Janine Westlund



Jo Newell


Heather Swanson


Will Forsythe


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Kate Laymon



Nish Weiseth



Julie Mihevc


Commune | Creating Space for Body and Soul

Elizabeth Peterson


Sandy Davis


Brandon Booth


Current Anam Cara Apprentices

We’re excited to introduce you to our incredible community of apprentices at Anam Cara Ministries. These delightful folks are all in various places in their journey of apprenticeship, but we believe in their hearts for God and those whom He loves. Each one carries a God-story that will enrich and bless your own walk with the Trinity.

Brandon Booth


Janine Young Headshot

Janine Young



Emily P. Freeman


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Devany Bourdo



Polly Baker



Kate Davelaar Guthrie



Jess Lyons



Holly Phillips


Jenny -1 (1)

Jenny Gehman



Justin McRoberts



Lauren Winner


Ivy Clark


Joy Hoot


Graduates of the Anam Cara Apprenticeship

The Anam Cara Apprenticeship graduates people on a relational rather than time-delimited basis. Each of these apprentices has proven not just competency but also individual agency and dedication to the art and practice of spiritual direction. Our graduates often go on to be a part of the Peregrini Program at Anam Cara Ministries as associated spiritual directors.

Our current graduates are:

  • Jo Newell
  • Becki Parr
  • Kaylene Derksen
  • Sandy Davis
  • Will Forsythe
  • Heather Swanson
  • Jeremy Frye
  • Ashley Cleveland
  • Chad Conant
  • Lindsey Rowe
  • Nancy Good
  • Craig Hamlow
  • Josi Larson
  • Niecy LoCricchio
  • Rachel Reed
  • Suzie Richard
  • Angie Tingle