What’s the difference and which is right for me?
SPIRITUAL DIRECTION IS CULTIVATION OF YOUR BAPTISMAL GRACE
Spiritual direction is an ancient practice in the Church which has taken on different forms over the millennia. Today, Catholic spiritual direction can be understood based on these five words: companionship, personalized, freedom, growth, and discernment. Please visit this page http://www.straphaelcounseling.com/spiritual-direction if you would like a better understanding of what is meant by each of these words describing spiritual direction.
In short, spiritual direction deals with the growth and cultivation of the seed that was planted in your soul at Baptism. The Catechism states… “Thus the whole organism of the Christian's supernatural life has its roots in Baptism” (CCC #1266). Therefore, ongoing spiritual direction should be sought by Catholics who seek to progressively develop their spiritual life through prayer, the Sacraments, virtue, and discerning the movements of the Spirit that lead to clarity in discovering God’s will. If you are excited about this and you feel you are functioning in life at an acceptable level, spiritual direction is for you!
COUNSELING DEALS WITH HUMAN ISSUES
To further distinguish between the two, counseling on the other hand, is a practice that addresses deeper-seated issues which ordinarily cause distress and impact functioning in work, at home, and/or in social life. Topics that frequently come up in counseling are: traumatic experiences, unresolved problems, difficult interpersonal relationships, general feelings of anxiety and depression, compulsive behavior such as addiction, anomalies in healthy brain functioning etc. A general rule of thumb is that if your ability to function in ordinary life, or your ability to fulfill your obligations, is limited in some way, than counseling would be a good place to begin.
THESE TWO BUDDIES = GRACE AND NATURE
In many cases spiritual direction AND counseling can go hand in hand. St. Thomas Aquinas stated that “grace builds on nature.” If we understand psychological growth as nature, we can recognize how through counseling important human qualities can be developed which dispose the soul for growth in the spiritual life. In the case of someone who is just beginning to address a notable psychological problem it might be wise to focus first on psychological growth through counseling before seeking spiritual direction.
Defining spiritual direction and counseling in this way should give some insight into which of these two practices (or both!) is better for you at this moment in your journey.