Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit



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

The practice of Spiritual Direction involves listening, reflecting, and communicating, all the while being informed by reference to core values. Developing these skills, as well as an understanding of what they mean in an Ignatian context, is deeply empowering. This unit introduces the ministry of Spiritual Direction in the Ignatian tradition, how it is defined, and the historical context of its development. Ignatian spiritual direction is about prayer, but it is not just about prayer—it is also about all human experience in crossing the threshold between prayer and everyday life. Students will explore what it means for a person to have an experience of God in an Ignatian sense, the theological implications of God’s self-communication, the meaning of being contemplative in action, and how authentic spiritual growth shows itself in discerned action. They will develop their capacity to listen contemplatively and begin to practise giving and receiving spiritual direction under supervision. The aim of this unit is to help students to develop foundational knowledge, understanding and skills in spiritual direction through the lens of Ignatian spirituality.  

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.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Articulate clearly and critically the parameters of the ministry of spiritual direction in the Ignatian tradition (GA5)

LO2 - Use concepts, principles and theories drawn from the lens of Ignatian spirituality to help explain the experience of God’s self-communication (GA5)

LO3 - Demonstrate, under supervision, the capacity to listen empathically to a directee and an aptitude for co-discerning that person’s experience of God and the consequences in discerned action (GA1, GA5)

Graduate attributes

GA1 - demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 


Topics will include:

  • An overview of the history of spiritual direction
  • What specifies spiritual direction in the Ignatian tradition
  • The Purposes of Ignatian Spiritual Direction
  • My Self in Ignatian Spirituality
  • The Spiritual Life of the Director
  • A Grammar of Experience
  • God’s self-communication
  • A Disciplined Asceticism of Love of God, Others, and Self
  • Listening
  • Conversion
  • Contemplation in action

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 assessment strategy of this unit is to enable students to demonstrate their development of three different kinds of thinking which characterise the course as a whole: critical and reflective thinking in relation to practice; analytical thinking in relation to concepts, principles and theories; and imaginative and constructive thinking in relation to future orientations.

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 OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Critical reflection on practice: This 1,200-word task is designed to assist students to deepen their knowledge and understanding of spiritual direction in the Ignatian tradition. It is to be completed after the student has undertaken the practice supervision task under supervision, and in light of the feedback from the supervisor pertaining to learning outcome 3.


LO1, LO3

GA1, GA5

Book Review. The purpose of this 1,300-word assessment task is to provide students with an opportunity to reflect on and develop their understanding of concepts, principles and theories of giving spiritual direction in the Ignatian tradition.


LO1, LO2


Individual Formation Plan. In this 2500-word assessment task students will use the Profile of a formed Spiritual Director in the Ignatian tradition as a template, to assess both their strengths and the areas in which they need to develop.


LO1, LO2, LO3

GA1, GA5

Representative texts and references

Barry, William & William Connolly. The Practice of Spiritual Direction. 2nd Ed., Rev. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2009.

Tetlow, J. A. Handing on the Fire: Making Spiritual Direction Ignatian. St Louis, MS: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 2021.

Borbely, James. Developing Competence as a Director in the Ignatian Tradition. Unpublished Manuscript, 1992.

Dyckman, Katherine Marie and L. Patrick Carroll. Inviting the Mystic, Supporting the Prophet. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1981.

Fowler, James W. Stages of Faith: the Psychology of Human Development and the Quest for Meaning. New York, NY: HarperOne, 1995.

Guenther, Margaret. Holy Listening: The Art of Spiritual Direction. London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1992.

Harborne, Lynette. Psychotherapy and Spiritual Direction: Two Languages, One Voice? Boca Raton, FL: Routledge, 2018.

Houdek, Francis Joseph. Guided by the Spirit: A Jesuit Perspective on Spiritual Direction. Chicago, IL: Loyola University Press, 1996.

Moon, Gary W. and David G. Benner. Spiritual Direction and the Care of Souls: A Guide to Christian Approaches and Practices. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2004.

Pickering, Sue. Spiritual Direction: A Practical Introduction. Norwich: Canterbury Press, 2008.

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