Credit points


Campus offering

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  • Term Mode
  • Semester 2Online Scheduled



Teaching organisation

Students should anticipate undertaking 150 hours of focused learning in this unit. This may include online activities, reading, webinars, preparation of assessment tasks and so on. Webinars may be offered either weekly over a twelve week semester, or in intensive blocks.

Unit rationale, description and aim

Spiritual Direction and Supervision take place in the context of distinct professional relationships against the backdrop of important values frameworks that make meaning of these relationships. For this reason, spiritual directors and supervisors have a special accountability to their clients and to key community stakeholders, such as churches and professional bodies. They are required to be persons of integrity (defined as the integration of professional knowledge and skills, with relevant values and ethical frameworks), working in accord with recognised community benchmarked safe standards. This includes a knowledge of and adherence to the highest ethical standards, ensuring cultural safety in both their practice and the practices of those with whom they consult. In this unit, participants will engage in learning activities designed to strengthen their self-awareness as persons in professional helping relationships with individuals, groups, and the wider community. They will consider ethical perspectives, codes of practice and the ways in which these bear on their theological or other values frameworks, and cultural understandings. The overall aim of this unit is to heighten practitioner awareness of safety issues in relation to organisational cultures and professional practices, directed at the prevention of abusive practices. 

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

Learning Outcome NumberLearning Outcome Description
LO1Show close familiarity with the relevant code of ethics for Professional Supervision or Spiritual Direction and the ways in which this responds to personal values commitments in professional practice as well as key stakeholder requirements and recommendations
LO2Explain how the ethical principles from the relevant code of ethics in professional practice responds to a range of ethical dilemmas and ethical issues in practice so as to enable practitioners to meet benchmarked competent personal and professional identities and accountabilities
LO3Analyse and review ethical challenges in organisational cultures that support or inhibit ethical practices in relevant contexts including cultures of safety that support anti-abusive practices


Topics will include: 

  • Foundations of Ethical Practice in Professional Practice and Spiritual Direction — Basic Concepts;
  • Codes of Ethics for Professional Supervision and Spiritual Direction;
  • Findings and recommendations of the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse;
  • Ethical relationships and practitioner mental health — strategies for practitioner self-care;
  • Ethical best practices in creating safe work environments that diminish the possibility of abusive practices;
  • The role of contracting processes in professional helping relationships – exploring the limits of confidentiality;
  • Ethical obligations in relation to suicidality and other mental health challenges;
  • Individual, Group and Peer Supervision;
  • When to make a referral to (and networking) with other helping professionals - strategies;
  • Legal obligations in Australia and its various states and territories for regulated/self-regulated, unregistered (by APRA) health care professionals;
  • Mandatory Reporting in supervision and spiritual direction;
  • The nature of intimacy and power in helping relationships (physical and emotional boundaries);
  • Unethical practices such as dual relationships;
  • The concepts of safety and risk, and risk management;
  • Record keeping.

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit involves 150 hours of focused learning, which reflects the standard volume of learning for a unit in a university qualification of this Australian Qualifications Framework type.

The unit is normally offered in scheduled online mode, a way that blends the use of online delivery of learning materials and activities that can be undertaken synchronously and asynchronously. This means that students can undertake some learning activities on their own at times that do not depend on the availability of others, and other learning activities that are undertaken interactively with other students and teaching staff at the same time. Using scheduled online delivery means that students do not have to be at the same place as each other, but can interact remotely.

In order to benefit from this mode of learning, students need to be independently motivated. Units offered in the course normally follow a cycle: students complete preparatory activities before meeting together; in webinars, students work collaboratively with each other and the lecturer to clarify, extend and apply what they have learned; and after each collaborative session, students reflect critically on their personal experience and observations in light of materials covered in the unit. As the cycle is repeated, students bring new understandings to bear on further issues and ideas, so that each cycle of learning deepens the one before. Students co-construct a supportive and encouraging learning community through their active participation in classes as well as through offline engagement, such as through discussion boards.

Assessment strategy and rationale

The unit will be assessed using three strategies: the first task measures participants’ knowledge of relevant ethical and legal frameworks; the second tests students’ capacity to identify situations of potential personal, ethical and or legal risk and to apply elements of risk mitigation; and the third requires students to undertake reflective analysis of their own feelings and attitudes with regard to ethical norms.

All assessment tasks are designed for students to show their achievement of each learning outcome and graduate attribute. They require students to demonstrate the nexus between their learning, dispositions, and spiritual practice, and the evidence on which this demonstration is based.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning Outcomes

Take-home exam: This task is designed to enable the student to demonstrate a thorough knowledge of the relevant ethical and practice literature of the unit.



Response to Ethical Dilemmas (Oral - 15 mins): This task is designed to enable the student to demonstrate their capacity to identify the complexity of the ethical context when responding to ethical dilemmas.


LO2, LO3

Reflective analysis (1500 words) undertaken with reference to student journal. This task is designed to demonstrate the capacity for critical self-reflection.


LO1, LO2, LO3

Representative texts and references

Australian Ecumenical Council for Spiritual Direction. “Code of Ethics for Spiritual Directors (Revised March 2019).”

Companions in the Ministry of the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises. “Code of Ethics.”

Corey, Gerald, Marianne Schneider Corey and Cindy Corey. Issues & Ethics in the Helping Professions. 10th Edition. Boston: Cengage Learning, 2019.

Banks, Sarah. “Everyday Ethics in Professional Life: Social work as Ethics Work.” Ethics and Social Welfare 10, No 1 (2016): 35-52

Borys, Debra S. and Kenneth S. Pope. “Dual Relationships between Therapist and Client: A National Study of Psychologists, Psychiatrists, and Social Workers.” Professional Psychology: Research and Practice 20 (1989): 283-293.

Burkard, Alan W., Sarah Knox, Michael Groen, Maria Perez and Shirley A. Hess. “European American Therapist Self-Disclosure in Cross-Cultural Counseling.” Journal of Counseling Psychology 53 (2006): 15-25.

Gardner, Fiona. Being Critically Reflective. Houndmills: Palgrave MacMillan, 2014.

Gula, R. M. “Power”. In Just Ministry: Professional Ethics for Pastoral Ministers. New York: Paulist Press, 2010.

Lebacqz, Karen and Joseph D Driskill. Ethics and Spiritual Care: A Guide for Pastors, Chaplains and Spiritual Directors. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2004.

Mason, K. Preventing Suicide: A Handbook for Pastors, Chaplains and Pastoral Counsellors. Westmont, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2014.

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