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Certificate in the Art of Spiritual Direction

Overview of Certificate Program

Spiritual direction is an ancient art that is integral to every religious tradition. It is the process of accompanying people on their spiritual journey - helping them process grief, reflect on pscho-spiritual wounds and gifts, and tell their sacred stories. Spiritual direction engages in a deeply transformational process of personal growth. The cornerstone of this learning is based upon self-knowledge at a time when wisdom is needed to address our planetary crisis. It is also about knowing our sacred and very special place in this Universe. Spiritual direction is not psychotherapy or counseling. It is an art form of the spirit.

The Art of Spiritual Direction certificate program is directed by Lauren Artress and John Hanagan, both of whom have professional training as spiritual directors and who have practiced and taught in this area for many years.

The uniqueness of Wisdom University's program is that it is rooted in the ancient wisdom traditions in which the pursuit of wisdom was the wellspring of virtue and spiritual growth. It is open to anyone who feels called to mentor friends and neighbors in the spiritual realm, or who is called to specific areas of ministry in which spiritual mentoring and advising are required areas of expertise.

The Art of Spiritual Direction is an "art-form" which is developed in stages that mutually inform and overlap with each other. In this program, you will be provided with tools, such as dream work, using the labyrinth, developing your interior castle, practicing body prayer, and deepening the relational skills between you and yourself and with others through artistic expression. As you gather these tools you will also develop the skill to use them. Developing skill requires practice. As your expertise and skill level increases through practice, you will discover the art of spiritual direction. You will connect with the Artiste in you who will know when to employ which tool, how to use it, and when to create a new one. At the highest level, art becomes healing.

People the world over are looking for other like minded individuals whom they respect as spiritual guides. With all the turbulence and disruptions going on in the social, political and economic spheres of life, the capacity to provide an empathetic ear, to assist traumatized and frightened people through whatever dark night that grips them, to provide them with hope and a new sense of self reliance, is a gift and a responsibility that will only be in greater and greater demand as time goes on. Becoming a spiritual guide is in some ways a crowning achievement for people of depth whose ultimate commitment is simply to serve their communities and those in need.

The Art of Spiritual Direction Certificate program consists of four Intensives and a 15-month Practicum to build the necessary skills to be an effective spiritual director. Each Intensive will have a brief overview so that no matter when you choose to begin you will always receive an orientation to the processes that we are sharing. All four elements of Wisdom University’s pedagogy (Sacred Practice, Seminar, Transformational Art and Integration Session) will be included and integrated throughout each day. Participants are required to attend all sessions.

There will be frequent opportunities to learn spiritual
direction skills through sharing our own stories,

dreams and experiences. Each day will include a skill building session that will utilize role-playing, fish bowl, dyad work, and other exercises. There will be opportunities for participants to assess their own and others’ abilities, competencies and areas of growth.


Spiritual Direction has many components and areas of concentration.  Students can specialize in specific areas such as dream counseling or in the domain of art and healing. Please consult with the Program Directors or Judith Yost, Dean of Students for any questions you might have at

Admissions Requirements

1. Certificate Students must have a Bachelors degree or its equivalency. An equivalency consists of documented training beyond a high school degree that is equivalent in hours and requirements to a Bachelors Degree.
2. A completed Wisdom University Certificate Application must be filed with the Office of Admissions.
3. Students are encouraged to belong to an academic research library in the area in which they live.
4. Students are encouraged to be in psychotherapy and/or spiritual direction during this certificate program.

Certificate Requirements

Those seeking certificates in this program are required to complete four intensives within a two-year time period, plus a practicum. The Practicum must be completed and the student able to demonstrate advanced skills in Spiritual Direction. In addition to all courses designated The Art of Spiritual Direction, courses can also be taken from a range of other related Wisdom University programs. For example, students might consider courses offered in the Transforming Trauma or Art and Healing programs, or from the regular schedule of courses. To determine whether a particular course serves to complete one's required courses, please consult with the Program Directors and/or Dean of Students.


The Practicum in The Art of Spiritual Direction is the central means of building skill and confidence as a spiritual director. It is a cornerstone to obtain certification as a spiritual director. Completion of the Practicum requires a minimum of 100 hours of spiritual direction accomplished during the two-year time. This Practicum includes a one-on-one supervision session in person or by phone with your mentor for a total of 8 hours throughout the program outside of the Intensives.

Those applying for the Practicum will meet with the Directors of the Program to finalize your application. Your mentor will be appointed and your skill level—Basic, (Level I), Intermediate (Level II) and Advanced (Level III) will be determined in this consultation time. (See below for a brief overview of skills.)

Following the first Intensive, the student is expected to begin counseling others in some form of spiritual direction. If possible, these meetings will be taped. If this is not possible, a verbatim—written immediately following the direction session—will be necessary. (Securing permission and other initial concerns will be addressed in the first Intensive.)

Overview of Skill Level Development

Basic (Level I) is learning the basic and essential elements of the Art of Spiritual Direction.

Intermediate (Level II) is deepening the skills and building confidence in one’s ability, including developing self-knowledge about both one’s limits and one’s gifts.

Advanced (Level III) demonstrates confidence and a sophistication in using a variety of skills appropriate to the situation. It assumes a command of a body of spiritual knowledge—in whatever tradition(s) is appropriate—to use with a variety of directees.

The granting of the Certificate in Spiritual Direction requires expertise in the following three areas:

I. Managing the container for Spiritual Direction:

1. Ability to conduct an initial interview and create a contractual agreement with new directees including any authorization forms needed (i.e. taping)

2. Ability to create a safe environment for directee to share her/his life experience by setting clear boundaries, answering questions about the training and background of the director.

3. Ability to discern when the person is not an appropriate candidate for spiritual direction and know how and where to refer the person.

4. Ability to conduct a successful termination process.

II. Developing Basic through Advanced Skills:

1. Ability to effectively listen to directee with a dual focus on content as well as emotive expression. (Level I, II and III)

2. Ability to accurately reflect feeling and content back to directee (Level I, II and III)

3. Ability to interact—without judgment—at appropriate times and sustain silence when necessary (Level I, II and III)

4. Ability to witness a person’s spiritual process without distraction from one’s own process (Level I, II and III)

5. Ability to listen to dreams (Level I) Work with dream content (Level II) Effectively facilitate exploration of dream material (Level III) Encourage the integration of the dream material into directee’s life.

6. Ability to reframe what the person is experiencing and articulating (Level II and III)

III. A Body of Spiritual Knowledge and Practice:

1. Ability to relate to the directee’s spiritual context and able to offer images, metaphors and insights about the challenges of the spiritual journey (Level I, II and III)

2. Ability to ask needed questions when one cannot relate to the directee’s spiritual context/beliefs (Level I and II)

3. Ability to offer guidance for some form of spiritual practice that deepens directee’s self-knowledge (Level II and III)

4. Ability for the Director to know him or herself well enough to know how to select directees in light of inclinations, gifts, deficits, complexes and abilities. (Level II and III)

Frequently Asked Questions

May I attend one of the Intensives without the goal of obtaining certification?
Students may attend the Intensives as part of their graduate degree program without the goal of certification. Students can also take the Intensives with the goal of obtaining a certificate without entering into a graduate degree program. It all depends on what the student is seeking.

The skill building sessions that will be held during each Intensive will apply to all participants as life-enhancement skills. The skills of active listening, neutral response, reflection of feeling, deeper inquiry, handling personal feelings without projection, tabling issues, scheduling conversations that are potentially threatening and other concerns can enhance and enrich all of our lives.

What is the difference between the skill building sessions and the Practicum?
The Practicum will occur in between the Intensives for those wishing to pursue certification. The skill building sessions will be woven into the Intensives.

What if I can’t attend all four Intensives in sequence?
Students can take the Intensives in any order. Also, students may take other Intensives offered by the university that are relevant to Spiritual Direction. For example, there are Intensives on Transforming Trauma and Art and Healing. To ensure the right selection and combination of Intensives, students should consult with their Student Advisor.

Can I contract for more supervisory time if needed?
Yes, you may arrange for extra supervisory sessions with your mentor.

Tuition and Fees

The tuition and fees structure for the Certificate Program in the Art of Spiritual Direction can be reviewed by clicking here.



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