Reverend SOS

Psychological Strategies for Spiritual Accompaniment (I)

When we accompany someone, it will help us to consider some aspects of psychological content that serve as a structure to facilitate the personal development of the person who asks us for spiritual direction.

Carlos Chiclana-May 2, 2020-Reading time: 3 minutes

This will also serve to take care of ourselves and make it a higher quality of care. We can establish the framework and foundation of that relationship; encourage it to be an asymmetrical relationship that is created bidirectionally; communicate effectively and facilitate learning and results.

1. Know who I am

What leads us to establish this relationship of help is our eagerness to serve God and others. Whoever approaches us does so with the confidence that a spiritual companion is close to God, that he or she has a particular vocation and that, precisely because his or her heart is closely united to that of Christ and is dedicated to Him, not only is there no risk of foolishness, but the companion will be extremely careful, will maintain the necessary limits and will stay away from anything that goes against what is healthy and holy in this relationship.

Thus, we will put supernatural commitment and human skills to do our best. Therefore, I need to know if I have the right skills to be an accompanier, to develop them and to enrich them. I will train myself before dedicating myself to accompaniment.

It is often helpful for the companion to have prepared him/herself with personal psychological work, which consists of getting to know his/her psychological structure, personality, life events and past relationships that have influenced his/her personal development, possible psychological wounds, etc., and to have psychological strategies in place so that previous experiences do not interfere with the care of people. It will serve to have their past, their personal problems and their inner dynamics in order, so that, in the future, in their tasks of accompanying other people, they do not confuse their emotions or situations with those of the person they are helping. This work can be done by a spiritual director with some training in psychology or by a faith-loving psychologist. 

Thus, as in other professions, this personal preparation helps so that psychology itself does not interfere in the performance, to know how to take care of oneself personally and not to fall into the burnout syndrome. It will be of great interest that those who will be exposed to normal and problematic accompaniments, normal and problematic group dynamics, listening to great joys and great problems, etc., have sufficient human preparation to know how to regulate themselves emotionally, in addition to the supernatural means. 

2. Know who you are and what you want

In principle, the person who asks us for accompaniment has come to me for different reasons that it is necessary to know. We have to situate ourselves well in his life and his interest, to be able to face the beginning of the relationship adequately. Who he/she is, how he/she got here. It will be helpful to know his past, other previous experiences of accompaniment, his formation, faith experience, education received, personality traits, characteristics of his family of origin, etc. The better we know him/her, the more finely we will be able to accompany him/her. All this is done progressively, giving us time to establish a real human relationship, with effective communication, which will deepen with the dedication of time and interest. 

We will progressively clarify your needs, and we will see if your initial request coincides with your real needs or not. Sometimes we already realized it at the beginning, and it is very beneficial to wait until the interested party perceives and appreciates it, without accelerating the times.

3. Establish an agreement on the objectives of these conversations.

It will be of interest to establish a basis for this conversation: Why do you want to talk to me? Why are you interested in talking to me? What are your objectives and what can I give you? The interested party should be the one who requests the accompaniment. You can agree to remind them, to reserve the time, but chasing someone to be accompanied is not usually very helpful unless the person asks to be helped in this way and it is seen to be beneficial.

Make it clear what you are talking about - it is usually that you can get closer to Christ -, adapting it to the personal style that each one can understand, according to who he/she wants to talk to.éIt is not the same for a pre-Communion child as for an old man in an ascending life or a young man in discernment. You talk to me because you become aware that you come here to be better, to seek holiness; and I can help you do that, because you know that I respect human and Christian values and that gives you confidence that I will guide you properly.

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