For anyone going into Catholic pastoral counseling, a strong understanding of Catholic Social Teaching is important. The teachings of the Catholic Church shed wonderful light on the dignity of the human person and man’s relationship with other people and the world around him as God intended it to be.
Before coming to Franciscan, I thought I had a fairly well formed faith and saw the world through those eyes of faith. I came from a strong parish, a strong youth group, and many strong friends. It appeared I had it all. There was one thing about my faith that over the years has been challenged, formed and tested. The one way in which I feel it has changed the most has been in not seeing the world in such a black and white manner.
As this semester has been flying by, I am reminded again and again of the importance of having a deep spiritual life to even entertain the idea of being a pastoral counselor. Other than my own personal desire to grow closer to God, there’s also the desire to do so for my clients so that I can help them in their spiritual life. One way that I can deepen my spiritual life is to learn more about virtues and focus on different virtues that I may be struggling with.
As this semester continues, I have learned more about the unique opportunities and techniques associated with pastoral counseling. Based on what I have learned so far, I can see that the uniqueness of Pastoral counseling provides many advantages as well as certain limitations that should be considered by anyone who wants to be a pastoral counselor. One of the main advantages of pastoral counseling that I see is the ability to more directly incorporate our Catholic faith into therapy.
I had believed pastoral counseling to be much like what my own family had provided to other families when I was growing up. To briefly explain, they were part of a filipino community where the idea of counseling itself was never really an option. In our culture, counselor’s duties were delegated to the elders of the community, who would help the younger generation sort out their problems by using their own experience.
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.
Pastoral Counseling can have two components; community counselor and/or Christian counselor. As a trained community counselor one draws from understanding of human behavior (emotional, social and physical) and psychological norms. The problems are addressed through using various counseling techniques, interventions and resources.
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.
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.