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.
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.
As a Counseling Graduate Student here at Franciscan University, learning how to incorporate our Catholic faith into our counseling is a key part of our education. This semester, I have had the opportunity to reflect on the specialty of pastoral counseling in a class specifically dedicated to explore the unique purpose and role of pastoral counseling in the mental health field.
What is pastoral Counseling? My first thought when I hear those words is an office inside the parish of my Catholic Church. Even though I have not experienced pastoral counseling in that setting, the stories of other parishioners begin to flood my memory. The wife seeking answers about the lack of communication in her marriage after thirty years, or the friend who just heard that it was best if she aborted the baby because there was something wrong with the “fetus.”
Pastoral counseling had been a part of my life since I was a child, and was integral to forming my identity and understanding of a catholic sense of community. I considered myself to have a unique upbringing; as an only child, over the years I witnessed my parents form a charismatic Filipino community called Bukas Loob Sa Diyos (Open Your Hearts to God) after having newly immigrated to Canada.
We live in a culture that praises individualism and self-sufficiency. While it is necessary to learn and discover one’s individual self, a superficial focus on identity can lead to extreme selfishness and egotism.
My personal reflections of what I am studying in pastoral counseling takes me back to my protestant roots and my years of studies in preparation for ministry. I would like to address three key points that Brenner (1998; Care of the Soul) discusses which are congruent to my own beliefs; 1) pastoral care, 2) pastoral spiritual counseling and 3) pastoral counselors licensed for community counseling.