Cari D. Dawson

Cari D. Dawson, MTS, MA, JD is a Life counselor who draws upon her training and experience in spiritual direction, Jungian dream work, grief counseling and hospice chaplaincy. She has a depth of knowledge and resources in these areas as well as addiction counseling & teaching, and her earlier work in the corporate world and legal profession, which often come into play in the counseling session. She meets with clients in the Portland, Oregon area.

Spiritual Counseling

What Is Spiritual Direction?


Not everyone knows what I mean when I say I meet with clients as their spiritual director. Often, the reaction is, “Well, that must be for really religious people” or “I don’t go to church” or “I attend religious services every week so I’m fine” or a blank look or more to the point, “What do you mean by that?”

Spiritual direction is a process in which you meet with a trained professional who accompanies you on your intentional life’s journey to wholeness as a human being. You might call it spiritual life coaching.

In the first half of life, we are usually preoccupied with discovering our talents, completing education and training, finding our place in our professions and our personal lives—dating, marriage, child bearing, sometimes divorce—achieving financial security, working out the depth and breadth of who we are to the world around us, trying on our various personas or masks. Ego building. As we move closer to and beyond middle age, we may hear an often muted call to something more, something deeper. We may start asking existential questions, wondering about our unique purpose in the larger realm of our existence. This does not mean to say that there are not an exceptional few souls who hear this call and seek answers to the big questions much earlier in life. 

Regardless of where we are philosophically or spiritually, regardless of our religious background or apparent lack of it, possibly our rebellion against it, we may sense that there is something which seems to have been directing our lives to the place where we are now. Some call it Fate or Destiny, some call it soul. We wonder in brief moments which stream into our hearts: What is my Life really about?

Spiritual direction is about discerning your soul’s unique destiny by discovering more about yourself that is deep within you, your desire to become closer to the ever-present call to wholeness. Carl Jung called this process individuation. Jungian analyst, Anne Ulanov, describes individuation in mystical terms as “being on the receiving end of a conversation with an Other who addresses us through the Self—the greater center of the whole psyche.” The Self is that part of us within where we meet the Divine. Spiritual Direction is where we meet with a spiritual midwife to facilitate, enhance and support this process.


What Education and Training are Necessary?

Spiritual directors come from all forms of spirituality. I consider myself “Interspiritual” with a strong Jungian perspective, including the use of dreamwork. I draw upon and synthesize aspects of different traditions that work for me. More importantly, I actively listen and communicate with you about what works for you. I completed my spiritual direction training in Miami in 1999, attended seminary, and became a board certified chaplain in 2004. I worked as a hospice and hospital chaplain for 12 years, and a grief recovery specialist for 20 years.  I also have training and experience in addiction counseling.  For a complete resume of credentials, please click here.


What Happens in Spiritual Direction?

In spiritual direction, you reflect deeply on the experiences of your daily life. Gradually, as you contemplate, you may begin to recognize patterns, a tapestry, all the pieces of your life and how they fit together. You may feel the presence of some larger guiding aspect in your life and come to realize how this guiding aspect is truly with you every day and everywhere. You discover that this guidance coming from within is calling you to closer relationship with your Life’s higher purpose. Spiritual direction is about assisting you in answering that call. 

Spiritual direction is really not about being directed. Rather, it is very much about being encouraged to draw closer to your spiritual center—the Divine as you uniquely understand it. Spiritual direction invites you into this relationship whether you attend a church, mosque, synagogue, temple, or none of these; whether you identify as religious, spiritual, humanist, agnostic or atheist. The Divine seeks you where you are, in the ordinary and mundane, in the swamp lands of significant emotional loss and grief, in the faces of children or the sick and elderly that touch you in mystical moments of knowing.


Discerning the Right Spiritual Director for You

The privilege and responsibility of a spiritual director is to journey with you as you deepen mindfulness of your life’s ultimate purpose and you begin to see the presence of a guiding spirit in your Life. Your spiritual director should be a good fit for you and you should ask about education, training and life experiences that are important to your entering into a relationship with this individual. Spiritual directors should continue tending their own spiritual life by engaging in ongoing education, confidential peer supervision, and also meeting with their spiritual director and/or therapist.  It is my practice to engage in all of these aspects of self care and professionalism.

Regardless of whether your relationship with a spiritual director continues for many years or for only a short period of time, it is very important to be comfortable with the person you choose. It is okay to terminate the relationship if you reach a point where it no longer works for you.


Where We Meet


The spiritual direction session takes place in the context of a confidential one-on-one session with your spiritual director, at least once a month, for approximately 60 minutes.  I meet clients in a peaceful setting in South Beaverton. In rare circumstances, if you are unable to travel, I will come to you.


What Does It Cost

There is an agreed upon fee for these professional services, with sliding scale starting at $65, depending upon your financial ability and circumstances. However, I will adjust downward if paying the minimum creates a financial hardship for you. 


How To Get Started

Some spiritual directors offer a complimentary first meeting; some do not. I ask that interested individuals review my credentials, possibly read relevant articles I have written on a blog I co-author, Women Becoming.  One post, “Responding to Life’s Transformative Challenges”  provides some insights into what guided me to this point in Life. Then, email me to set up a complimentary phone consultation to ask further questions, assess whether you feel that we would be a good fit; and if you choose, set up an initial meeting.   

When searching for a spiritual director, I turned to Cari who had been instrumental in helping me through grief recovery after the loss of my husband. Cari was the perfect choice because underlying her thoughtful counseling is a profound spirituality. Cari comes from diverse perspectives giving her a depth that is rare. Cari has helped me through some major transitions, including serious health issues and moving into a new community. She has helped me put family tensions into perspective. Cari is compassionate and non­judgmental. I greatly appreciate having Cari as my spiritual director. She helps me see the infinite in the ordinary.
— S.D.
Cari has worked with me on a weekly basis for about two years and helped me through an assortment of very difficult challenges. I was lost and confused in the beginning but in her kind and gentle way she helped me through the struggle and has brought me to a place of peace and clarity.
— S.R.

© Copyright, Cari D. Dawson.  All rights reserved.
Located in Portland, OR