Meet Father Michael, a priest and pastoral counselor from the Diocese of Omaha, Nebraska, who uses YouTube as a resource to reach parishioners and others in need of a word of encouragement. A priest is usually trying to meet the responsibilities in a parish and his commitment to care for the needs of individuals, families and small groups. Counselors and pastors are beginning to realize the power of media to reach clients and parishioners. The internet has become a resource and platform to promote new ideas and techniques. It can even be used to bring people back to the church.
While there are similarities to clinical counseling, a characteristic of pastoral counseling that vastly differs from many approaches to counseling is that it is holistic in nature. Rather than separating a client’s issues or pieces of themselves, the practice of pastoral counseling works to treat the whole, integrated person. This practice stems from the Christian beliefs that one can only truly be understand in their entirety.
Pastoral counseling is a special form of counseling with many unique characteristics and techniques. Not only does it have the benefit of the traditional modes of counseling, it also has the benefit of incorporating divine assistance as well as a wealth of historical examples and teachings that date all the way back to the foundation of the world.
In our counseling classes, we learn that we are called to guide our clients on their journeys. We don’t give them advice, but we simply help them along the path to find their path. In the pastoral counseling profession, we are blessed to be able to talk about a great source of strength. We are allowed the privilege of incorporating faith into practice. This includes being able to openly pray with clients, exploring our clients’ faith experience, and guiding them to develop a deeper relationship with Christ through struggles and life experiences.
A common conundrum for counselors of all types, and health care professionals, is how to handle dual relationships. They can be tricky, awkward and uncertain things for everyone. What do you do when the person who just told you their hard secrets greets you in the grocery store?
When Christians (and in particular, Catholics) begin to investigate pastoral counseling as an option for their needs and struggles, one question often arises early in the process: what does pastoral counseling actually look like in practice? What makes it different than so-called “regular” counseling?
The Pastoral Counseling approach in conjunction with the training of Clinical Mental Health Counseling is, in my opinion, one of the best and most holistic approaches toward this helping profession. I will specifically reference Pastoral Counseling from the Christian and even Catholic viewpoint in this article.
Overlap between counseling and pastoral counseling skills can appear to be fairly large in their practicality but in reality there is often a lot of pastoral skills and techniques in actual clinical mental health counseling.
One technique in particular that could be effectively used in a pastoral setting is the concept of unconditional self-acceptance that comes from REBT. This very foundational pillar of REBT is essential to the health of the whole person: body, mind and spirit.