As a student in the Clinical Mental Health Counseling graduate program, I have learned to do assessments, diagnose, create treatment plans, and use techniques and skills to help my clients attain their goals. Many of my classes involve thorough discussions about ethics, legal issues, and boundaries (document everything!).
So, what is pastoral counseling exactly? Is it counseling with a priest/pastor? Am I just going to be talking about my faith life? Or do I talk about my personal problems and struggles with someone who prays a lot? These were some of the questions I had in regards to what pastoral counseling is before I started taking the class.
In some ways, “pastoral counseling” is a very precise phrase that is used to describe a very vague idea. Professionals in the counseling field have put forth a wide variety of ideas about what it is that distinguishes pastoral counseling from clinical mental health counseling or spiritual direction, the two fields that are most closely related to the general concept of “pastoral counseling.”
The goal of pastoral counseling is freedom—freedom from whatever prevents the person from living life to the fullest. Fulfilling one’s greatest potential is the goal in all types of counseling, whether in a pastoral or clinical setting. But what makes pastoral counseling unique is that this type of freedom finds its roots in Jesus Christ.
I know the burning question that must be on your mind right now. What is a pastoral counselor? The obvious answer is…wait for it…a pastor, who is a counselor. Right? Well, the answer is maybe!
The basic question of this blog is “what is pastoral counseling.” If you break apart the title of pastoral counseling, you have pastoral and you have counseling. Now take a second and think about what comes to mind when you read those two words. Got it? Good.