Lynette Harborne


Psychotherapy and Spiritual Direction – Interview


Lynette Harborne tells us all about the writing process of her book Psychotherapy and Spiritual Direction: Two Languages, One Voice?

Karnac Books: What made you write this book?

Lynette Harborne: This book grew out of my experience as a psychotherapist, spiritual director, supervisor and trainer. I found that I was being invited to teach on a variety of training programmes, including those for spiritual directors.  When preparing a day on the similarities and differences between therapy and spiritual direction, I started out with a Venn diagram, one sector representing therapy, the other representing spiritual direction and the intersection being the space being for similarities. As my preparations developed, I found I had to keep increasing the intersection until it took up most of the page – and that was when my thinking really changed.

Thai Art032Previously, I had accepted almost without question the received wisdom that therapy and spiritual direction were two very different activities.  In fact, I often heard spiritual directors asserting quite forcefully that ‘we aren’t counsellors’ – and I sensed there was some hostility in this assertion.  Equally I came across therapists who held the view that any mention of spirituality or religion was pathological and indicated distorted thinking. However,  as I engaged in my own psychotherapy and spiritual direction, I began to realise that the similarities far outweighed the differences and eventually came to the conclusion that, whilst the content might sometimes (although not always)  be rather different, the process and the experience was essentially the same.

KB: Could you briefly explain what the book is about?

LH: In the book, I explore the similarities and differences between psychotherapy and spiritual direction, with a brief overview of some of the common roots out of which both have grown.   I look at the distinction between the experience and diagnosis of depression and ‘dark night of the soul’, the power issues involved in both therapeutic and spiritual direction relationships, and the arguments for and against the use of prayer in counselling. I also consider questions of ethical practice and matters relating to training and I am curious about the apparent hostility that some spiritual directors show towards anything that speaks of ‘professionalism’ and, equally, the reluctance of some therapists to acknowledge  anything relating to spirituality.

From my examination of the practice of both activities, I propose that they are more similar than different and, bearing in mind common factors theory, I go so far as to suggest that spiritual direction should be considered a modality of psychotherapy.

KB: Where did the idea of the book come from?

LH: From my disagreement with what seemed to be the general view that therapy and spiritual direction were very different enterprises that I have described previously. When I first started training in both disciplines, I sort of accepted this assertion, but then I began to question  the ‘received wisdom’ – and one thing led to another!

732-counselling-london-psychotherapyMy experience of giving and receiving psychotherapy and spiritual direction has led me to the conclusion that, central to both, are healing and growth, leading to self-actualisation rather than self-centredness. In Christian language, this can be represented as  becoming the person that God has made me to be. In secular language, this can be represented as becoming a  fully-functioning individual.

KB: What were your motivations and feelings towards writing this book?

LH: One of my main motives for writing the book was the realisation that little has been written about spiritual direction in a United Kingdom context.  I read as widely as possible, trying to establish similarities and differences between spiritual direction and therapy, but most of it was from a north American context which is very different from that of the UK.  In north America there are numerous  full time first degree and Masters level training programmes for spiritual directors, something which just doesn’t exist in the UK.   The culture and attitudes towards both therapy and spiritual direction are also very different.  Whilst Spiritual Directors International (a reputable body encouraging the training and practice of spiritual direction)  is a world-wide organisation,  few of the articles published in its journal, Presence, relate to a UK background. I wanted my book to reflect my own experience of giving, receiving and supervising spiritual direction in a UK context.

KB: Would your book be of help to lay people as well or only professionals?

LH: I hope that anyone who is interested in personal and spiritual growth, psychology, psychotherapy, spiritual direction or practical theology will find some interesting ideas and discussion in this book.  However,  I do recognise (and state) that individual readers will find some chapters to be  of more personal interest and relevance than others.

KB: Did you receive any support in order to complete the writing of the book?

LH: The United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) provided a helpful framework for writing this book.   The fact that Karnac Books, having read my initial proposal, committed themselves to publishing it was also a huge encouragement at times when completion seemed a long way away!

I spent many years as a teacher in a College of Further Education, the ‘second chance’ sector of education, where I always believed in the importance of the relationship between teacher and learner. However, times changed, primacy was given to performance criteria and behavioural outcomes and I was drawn to train first as a counsellor and then as a psychotherapist.  At the same time, I was determined to integrate my personal faith into my therapeutic work and one way to do this was to join a spiritual direction training course.

My current work  includes  psychotherapy, spiritual direction, supervision, teaching and writing, and I am involved in the formation of seminarians and ordinands.  I am a UKCP registered psychotherapist and a BACP Senior Accredited Therapist and Supervisor. I am currently Chair of the Association for Pastoral and Spiritual Care and Counselling, a Division of BACP,  and a member of the Planning Group of the Continuing the Journey conference.   All these activities contribute to my understanding of the nature and process of my work.

KB: What do you think of psychotherapy today and how do you think the field will evolved?

LH: I should very much like psychotherapy to be more accepting of the spiritual dimension of all clients – and, linking this to the subject of my book, I would want spiritual directors to be better informed about psychological elements of their work, and I hope that some form of code for ethical practice for spiritual direction will develop.

KB: What are your future projects?

LH: My work relating to the dialogue between those engaged in psychotherapy and spiritual direction continues, with  particular emphasis on dissolving differences and encouraging  mutual understanding. This will also be the focus of my forthcoming studies towards a doctorate in practical theology.


KB: Thank you very much, Lynette Harborne.




Lynette Harborne is a UKCP registered psychotherapist and a BACP senior accredited therapist and supervisor, and the author of Psychotherapy and Spiritual Direction: Two Languages, One Voice? (Karmic Books). She works in private practice as a psychotherapist, supervisor, spiritual director, and trainer and is involved in the formation of seminarians and ordinands.

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