Spiritual Direction Certificate: Course Descriptions

The Spiritual Direction Certificate Program at Divine Mercy University is an online program presented in eight-week modules. Students complete weekly coursework on their own schedule in an asynchronous learning environment. Here is what you can expect:

  1. Each course requires on average about 7-10 hours of work per week.
  2. The skills-related courses (SDC 300 and SDC 500) involve some group work via video conferencing and include a required four-day residency.
  3. None of the SDC Program courses carry transferable credit to the degree programs of Divine Mercy University.

SDC 100 Life in Christ and Spiritual Direction: This course introduces students to God’s plan for the human person and His desire that all “have life and life in abundance” (John 10:10). Students delve into the Catholic Christian understanding of the human person and the progressive development and complete flourishing that are part of God’s plan for each person. This fundamentally positive model views the person as possessing intrinsic dignity, as free and able to make responsible choices, relational and connected to others and society, as seeking well-being, moral character, and spiritual growth, and destined by God to unity and charity with Him and fellow human beings; meanwhile, each person also experiences the mysterious reality of sin. Students then move onto the nature of spiritual direction, its history, and the identity of a spiritual director.

SDC 200 Human Development for Spiritual Direction: This course explores the biological, psychological, social, and spiritual facets of human growth and development. This course focuses on basic processes and theories involved in the development of human relationships, as they illuminate challenges and opportunities in the spiritual life and in the spiritual direction relationship. Students will learn how awareness of human development can enlighten the process of spiritual growth and the dynamics of spiritual direction.

SDC 300 Relating Skills for Spiritual Direction (with Week 7 Residency): This course introduces foundational skills essential to become an effective spiritual director. Students focus on developing listening skills, and building healthy relationships with directees. Emphasis is on empathetic listening, developing and deepening directee narratives, the nature and boundaries of the spiritual direction relationship, and its correlation with other helping professionals. Students will participate in sessions with peers in order to practice and demonstrate basic spiritual direction skills. The course ends with a 4-day residency to assess and deepen these skills. On completion of this course, students are asked to begin accompanying two people on a monthly basis for 1 year as spiritual companions.

SDC 400 Discernment and Spiritual Growth: Theory and Practice: This course builds on the previous courses and looks specifically at the factors that contribute toward or impede spiritual development and flourishing, including the growth and influence of vice and virtue, sin and grace, as well as the human and social realities that can affect growth of the supernatural life. Students are introduced to recognizing the movements of the Holy Spirit within their own interior and that of others, and thus distinguishing what arises from psychological or emotional factors from the spiritual.

SDC 500 Advanced Spiritual Direction Skills and Practicum (Putting Out into the Deep with Week 2 Residency): This course provides students with an initial experience in ministering to directees from diverse backgrounds. This experience requires 48 hours of direct service, face-to-face beginning in Week 3 and continuing through SDC 600 conducting introductory sessions and initial meetings, developing an appropriate spiritual direction relationship, and conducting regular sessions. Students will participate in supervision groups in which they will anonymously review their spiritual direction sessions for discussion and evaluation. Student progress is monitored throughout the course and includes a formal evaluation at the middle and end of the course. Students will be able to demonstrate the necessary competencies in the areas of relating with the directed, review of personal history, summarizing the work of the Spirit in the person’s life, use of different methods of spiritual direction and managing workload and schedule. The course begins with a 4-day residency in Week 2 to assess and deepen students’ understanding, practice and embodiment of the needed spiritual direction skills.

SDC 600 Advanced Prayer and Situations: This course explores mature stages of spiritual growth, including the ongoing development and stages of prayer, passive purifications of the spirit, and the spiritual movements of persons as they develop more deeply in their walk with the Lord. Students focus on the growth of Christ within the soul and union with God through the different stages of this growth and the collaboration that the person can contribute through a life of grace, prayer and discernment, living of virtue and service to others. Students also learn how to recognize and refer directees that require psychological counseling or other specialized interventions.

Year One


SDC 100

Ongoing Conversion, Deepening Discipleship, and the Foundations of Spiritual Direction


SDC 200

Human Development for Spiritual Direction


SDC 300

Relating Skills for Spiritual Direction


300 Residency

On-site Residency of 4 days held during Week 7

Year Two


SDC 400

Discernment and
Spiritual Growth:
Theory and Practice


SDC 500

On-site Residency of 4 days held during Week 2 of SDC 500


SDC 500

Advanced Spiritual Direction Skills and Practicum


SDC 600

Advanced Prayer
and Situations