Pastoral counseling is unique in the sense that there is a spiritual focus. It is important to look at the person in a holistic way, with the spiritual aspect being an important component of this. “Be Healed” by Dr. Bob Schuchts is a wonderful book that I believe would accompany pastoral counseling in a beautiful way. Dr. Bob breaks healing into three parts: Encountering Jesus, Facing our Brokenness, and Healing our Wounds.
As a pastoral counselor, it is important to explore with a client where they are spiritually. Have they encountered Jesus for who He truly is? The journey of counseling and healing can be difficult and remaining in the Lord’s truth and love is essential in order to persevere with hope. I believe a starting place in pastoral counseling is to look at where the client is spiritually and if they truly know and experience the Love of Christ. Section 1 of Dr. Bob’s book talks about Christ as the Good Teacher, the Compassionate Healer, and a Beloved Son. Parents are meant to be an image of God’s love for us, but in ways that they fail, we so often portray that onto Jesus and the Father. Helping a client come to understand who Jesus really is and to encounter His unconditional love for them is foundational to the pastoral counseling process. Looking at Scripture and what Jesus says about His love for us is a beautiful way to encourage clients to encounter the Truth of God’s love and address ways they have misunderstood God’s love for them.
“The devil may try to use the hurts of life and sometimes our own mistakes to make you feel it is impossible that Jesus really loves you (St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta).” This is why encountering Jesus comes first because it is essential to face our brokenness with Christ, asking Him to take the lead on this journey of healing and reveal what needs to be looked at and healed. When we can experience Christ’s presence amidst the brokenness of our lives, there is hope not despair as we seek to stay close to Him, for Christ came to heal our brokenness. Dr. Bob gives an explanation of wounds and where they come from as well as insight into the roots of our own brokenness and sin. For example, I once met with someone who was struggling with an eating disorder and after further discussion and prayer it seemed the root of the struggle was partly due to not having a great relationship with their father, and as a young child, this person internalized that they have to be perfect to earn love, since love did not seem freely given. In this example, it is important to understand the connection between striving to be perfect with a lack of love experienced as a child, while seeking to keep Christ in the center and encounter his love throughout the journey of facing brokenness.
Healing comes primarily through Christ and the Sacraments within the Church. Reconciliation, Eucharist, and Anointing of the Sick are all Sacraments Jesus gave us so that we may experience His Healing. He has given us His Holy Spirit in Baptism and Confirmation to empower us. As a Catholic Pastoral Counselor, I believe the Sacraments are the most important component of the faith and the very place Christ heals. Helping clients get connected to a community of faith and seek the Sacraments, as well as praying with Scripture and receiving prayer are all part of this journey of healing and important topics within pastoral counseling.