In the words of Jean LaPlace from the 1975 book “Preparing for spiritual direction”, spiritual direction is defined as “the help one person gives another in assisting her to become herself in the faith.” This unbiased perspective of what is the role that God plays in each human’s heart (which is same, and nuclear) is what makes “Preparing for spiritual direction” such a great book, not just for future spiritual counselors, but actually for anyone who wants to understand his own conscience; similarly, it’s not just a good book for people who practice Christianity, but for any member of any religion, since it aims for an universal conception of God; Creeds are but perspectives, and despite the existence of many branches, the source is but One; and the source is within each man’s heart. A counselor is someone who has come to terms with his own heart, which grants him the ability to make fellow humans come to terms with theirs. The book is a clear and practical guide to assist any priest in offering counseling and spiritual direction. It’s structured in five parts, which reflect the progression that must be undertaken by anyone who wishes to be a spiritual director.
First and foremost, one needs to be able to direct his own conscience, before he can except to be able to effectively help others; one cannot possibly expect to stabilize other spirits unless he has settled his own spirit first. Inner peace invites outer peace, in the same measure that inner turmoil only brings about outer confusion. So, the spiritual director must direct his own conscience before he attempts to illuminate anyone else's.
Second, we who follow this path must understand the nature of the spiritual dialogue; we must understand prayer, and we need to learn listening to the silent voice of the heart, which is no other but the voice of God. We must learn to realize the universal currents that bind the whole of humanity together, we must learn to see God in our own lives before we expect to point out how god manifests in the lives of those we seek to advice. The spiritual director is a person of prayer and experience, who understands and accepts his strengths as well as his shortcomings, his sins as well as his virtues; he's someone who learns to understand and cope with his feelings, and trough such knowledge he is able to understand others and help them manage themselves.
Third, LaPlace elaborates quite clearly on the details regarding the formation of a Spiritual Director. Not only must he be able to listen to his own inner voice, but he must also be able to listen to others, and reach out to them in order to help them find their own strengths. The director must be both a witness and a friend; he must be someone who helps, either by asking or listening, but especially by being able to discern the appropriate time for each. His every effort must be focused in bring about awareness, and he should direct the advisee into learning to direct his own conscience.
Fourth, the author talks of the kinds of spiritual direction. According to Laplace, all persons should be regarded equally by the spiritual director, and there should be no distinction between persons, religious or otherwise and even priests. Although, each particular case prompts for a specific guidance; we must learn to adjust our methods accordingly. The spiritual director must be a sharp observer of human differences, in order to determine which road is more suitable to lead each person to himself.
Finally, the last section of the book is about the psychology of the directed, which is a refining of the spiritual director's formation. This part offers practical advice about counseling and directing