Princeton Seminary | Student Counseling - Spiritual Direction

Student Counseling

Spiritual Direction

Some people come to counseling for guidance in faith development, spiritual disciplines, or discernment of call. While students are encouraged to talk about their faith in counseling, individual and group spiritual direction also provide a unique setting for exploring these issues. Local spiritual directors are available to help students and spouses deepen their capacity to “listen for God” in and out of the classroom, in all of life’s experiences. Information about spiritual direction at PTS and a list of local directors is available through the Office of Student Counseling, Chapel Office, Student Relations & Senior Placement, Field Education, and Multicultural Relations.
Current Spiritual Directors Directory

Feature counseling spiritual drection 2020
Top row from left to right: Patricia Deeney, BJ Katon-Narvell, Deborah Hunsinger, Laura Craig, Jan Koczera, Richard Herman. Bottom row from left to right: Deanna Sass, Karla Drost, Bo Karen Lee, Ruth Workman, Mary Lou Hatcher, Betty Wright-Riggins.

Individual Spiritual Direction

“Spiritual direction helps me look at my own experience in a contemplative way. I’m paying more attention to the real holiness in everyday.”
– Gary Becker, Spiritual Director

Students and spouses who have pursued individual spiritual direction during their time at Princeton Seminary routinely report that it has been an invaluable component of their faith formation. Many love having an opportunity to simply focus on where they are in their faith journey with a caring, trained “companion” who can help them hear the meaning in what they are saying and mine what they are experiencing.

Most people meet with a spiritual director on a monthly basis for an hour. Some directors will meet with students on campus and others prefer to meet with students in their own offices off campus. The 23 directors on the general referral list are not employed by the seminary and students are responsible to contact the director to set up sessions and discuss location and fees.

Spiritual Direction & Discernment Groups

“I absolutely appreciate my spiritual director. Our time together has been so fruitful. I am so very blessed to have her as a fellow sojourner on my journey here at PTS. I think EVERY student – every person, actually – should have a spiritual director.”
– MDiv graduate

Spiritual Direction groups of students or spouses honor the call to a deeper relationship with God within a small community. Assisted by a trained Spiritual Director, participants focus on articulating God’s presence in the whole of life through prayerful listening and responding to each other.

The groups normally meet on campus every other week throughout a semester for an hour and a half. There are four to five individuals or three couples in each group. Participants agree to regular attendance and hold what is shared as sacred and confidential.

There is a copayment for group spiritual direction which is billed to student accounts at the start of the group series. There are two ways to participate: join one of the existing groups, or form your own group and a director will be assigned. Financial aid is available.

Spiritual Direction and Counseling?

Differences, Overlap, and Guidelines if Pursued Simultaneously

Spiritual Direction is about listening for God’s “voice” and glimpsing God in all aspects of life. A spiritual director is a companion on your spiritual journey who helps you savor the sacred, embrace Mystery, connect head and heart, and remember who you are as a beloved child of God. Direction may include silence or intuitive reflection on scripture. Directors can support the development of spiritual practices and help with discernment. They are more like midwives than “directors”. Individual direction is often once a month for an hour. Group direction enables deep connection as participants hold sacred what each person shares.

Counseling often begins when distress has exceeded one’s capacity to cope. Concerns may include anxiety, depression, grief, lifestyle changes, skill-building for a better relationship with oneself or others, and reprocessing and integrating difficult or traumatic life experiences. Counseling is hard but good work; it can increase self-understanding and responsibility, resilience, freedom, relational harmony, life balance, peace and overall wellbeing. There are countless approaches to counseling and support groups can be helpful. A person may complete what they want to do in only a few sessions, or it can take much longer. Weekly sessions are often needed, at least in the beginning. As Barbara Brown Taylor puts it in her book, Learning to Walk in the Dark, “We go to counselors when we want help getting out of caves. We go to directors when we are ready to be led further in.” (p. 129)

Areas of Overlap: Counseling and direction involve relationships of deepening trust, honesty, and care for the needs of the directee or client. Both require curiosity, truth-seeking, patience, and grace. A “good fit” results from agreement on the purpose and approach.

Guidelines: Counseling and direction can be mutually enhancing but are different and should not be sought from the same person. Counseling may need to precede direction; a director may encourage taking certain issues to a therapist. Both practitioners need permission to consult with each other as needed.

Please note: Spiritual Directors are considered Title VI and Title IX mandated reporters by PTS.

Educating faithful Christian leaders.

PhD Student

Isaac Kim, Class of 2015

“One of the biggest lessons I learned was how to be charitable to views other than my own. Christian charity was shown to me, not just in the readings for class, but from the professors, and the Seminary community.”