Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2019-2020 (archived)

Module THMN42630: Theological Approaches to Spiritual Direction

Department: Theology, Ministry and Mission

THMN42630: Theological Approaches to Spiritual Direction

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2019/20 Module Cap None.


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • This module is designed to provide students with the opportunity, conceptual understanding and depth of knowledge to reflect on their own prayer lives and the needs and contexts of their ‘directees’, and from there to develop their proficiency in prayer guiding and spiritual accompaniment. This development will be both in terms of the skills used and more substantially in the theological and ministerial framework within which those skills have been deployed in the tradition and praxis of the Church.


  • Prolegomena
  • Introduction to spiritual direction: what is it and what is it not; terminology.
  • Historical Models of spiritual direction from the Christian tradition:
  • Desert Fathers and Celts
  • Ailred of Rievaulx and the Cistercians
  • The Carmelite tradition
  • The Ignatian tradition
  • The Anglican tradition
  • Ministerial and Professional
  • The relationship between director and directee.
  • Models of direction, e.g. teacher, midwife, host (as in hospitality).
  • Common problems in the director / directee relationship.
  • Supportive resources for the director.
  • Moving on in spiritual direction.
  • Practical Theology Helping the directee notice and relate to God about key interior facts.
  • Criteria for evaluating religious experience, including insights from Systematic Theology.
  • Insights from other disciplines: psychology and psychotherapy
  • Issues of discernment: advanced work on Ignatius.
  • Skills Training
  • Listening skills.
  • Insights from counselling and psychotherapy.
  • Personal dynamics.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • By the end of the module, the student will:
  • Have a deeper understanding of the way that prayer is shaped in the life of the Church and of the individual, including by interaction with other disciplines such as Systematic Theology and Psychology.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Be able to critique methods of prayer and approaches to the spiritual life as described in some of the ‘spiritual classics’ and explore their relevance for contemporary society.
  • Be able to evaluate the relative merits of some of the current approaches to the work of spiritual direction and to formulate appropriate questions for future research.
  • Be more able to reflect critically on their own prayer lives and be able to demonstrate this.
  • Have an understanding of and an ability to demonstrate some of the skills necessary in ministry to guide and accompany others on their prayer journeys.
Key Skills:
  • Be able to demonstrate clear written and verbal communication of their ideas.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Teaching will be either in one residential block, from Monday lunchtime to Friday lunchtime or as two residential blocks. Contact time in the form of lectures and seminars will amount to 30 hours. Further details will be issued before the beginning of the course.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 75%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 4000 words 100%
Component: Role-play Component Weighting: 25%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Video-taped of a spiritual direction session, supported by a written self-evaluation. 30 minutes 100%

Formative Assessment:

Formative assessment will include a 2,500 word review of a spiritual “classic” with written feedback. Students will also be required to lead seminars on which there will be verbal feedback. Students will also receive verbal feedback on their performance in the skills workshops. Students will also receive written feedback on all their summative assessment.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University