Pastoral counseling is an interesting field. In this field your main goal is to guide your clients into a deeper relationship with God. The goal is stated very simply, the challenging and cautionary part comes in when you think of what that one goal entails.
We are all children of God, and as a counseling intern, I find it such an honor to love and care for people the way that my degree allows me to. Counselors are called to care for people, help them understand their worth as a person, enjoy their life to the fullest, and help them find their way when times are hard. Pastoral counselors have an added advantage, they are able to meet with people in a religious setting and use the resources of the Church to help their clients. Being able to talk about someone’s personal relationship with God as well as the ability to call the client on in holiness is an amazing privilege that pastoral counselors have.
My opinion is that pastoral counselors have the freedom to treat the client from a holistic perspective. Not only can they help the client work on their mental and emotional health, but they can also address the client’s spiritual health, which is equally as important. In some of the readings we have done, authors have described pastoral counselors as shepherds to God’s flock. I absolutely love this analogy; (well, one reason being that I am apart of the Love of the Lamb household) I think that it illustrates beautifully how we are called to find out where the client is, walk with them, provide a safe place of trust and respect, and to help them find their way.
I think that pastoral counselors also have a greater responsibility than clinical mental health counselors. They not only have the responsibility of a counselor, in the sense that they are to help their client’s with their emotional and mental health, but they also have the responsibility to help them develop a closer relationship with God and to ensure that they are spiritually healthy. For the counselor is able to discuss presenting problems or other issues that might arise from all aspects of the client and be able to call them on and follow God closer. Pastoral counselors can pray with their clients and speak about the client’s gifts and vocation in life and be able to set spiritual goals with them.
As a Catholic in the counseling field, although I may not be a pastoral counselor, I feel that I will treat my clients in the same way. Although I will not be able to pray with clients in most secular practices or know the willingness of each client to talk about religion with them, I find myself having the same goals for myself in the session. My goal with each client, whether in as a pastoral counselor or a clinical mental health counselor in a secular setting, is to have the client leave feeling hopefully and full of worth. I challenge myself to see Christ in each one of my clients, to love them as my neighbor and to use my gifts and abilities to best serve them.