Pastoral counseling by its very nature incorporates spiritual beliefs and realities into the counseling process. One way in which it does so is by informing the pastoral counselor regarding his or her beliefs about human nature and views of the person. As a Catholic pastoral counselor, then, part of my job is to allow my beliefs to be shaped by Catholic social teaching.
When I first started doing my practicum and internship, I often had this sinking feeling believing that any clinical work that I would be doing would not pertain to a future in pastoral counseling believing that I would be dealing with other problems or with a more faith based population.
There’s this notion (I’m not sure how widely it is held, but it exists) that those in the counseling field are in the field initially to learn how to fix themselves, or those in their environment, or perhaps both. And really, I don’t imagine that is too far off the mark, considering the amount of introspection it takes to be able to reach into someone’s world, pull out the themes and major characters of their life and give it back to them in a new, healthy perspective that evokes positive change–all while being able to model that kind of lifestyle in a way that convinces the client it is possible.
So, in my last blog, I sort of jogged around the idea of Pastoral Counseling being an avenue for God to work through the counselor and the client in ways that help both of them grow in faith and in health. I mean for this blog to be a continuation of that, but to highlight another avenue of how Pastoral Counseling calls the counselor to be closer to God through the vessel of the client’s experience’s. First, as you will find is typical of me, I will offer a real life example.
“As situations in the lives of others hold our clients mentally, spiritually, physically and emotionally hostage, I pray that God bless me with the ability to disarm the spirit of captivity with prayer, faith, and love as a Pastoral Counselor”. God bless!
Over these past few years, I have spent my time learning more and more about psychological theories, theological concepts, Marian apparitions, Group dynamics and so many other things as I study to become a Pastoral Counselor at Franciscan.
A couple of weeks ago, we briefly discussed (in response to Benner’s chapters 3 & 4) issues related to the implementation of pastoral counseling—that is, the kinds of practical decisions, approaches, and techniques pastoral counselors might use when meeting with clients. I also asked you to think about resources or counseling practices that you have or would use with clients that can be seen as unique to pastoral counseling.
Readings thus far have tried to address the question of “What is pastoral counseling?” As a discipline, pastoral counseling is, in some ways, still in search of an identity.
What do Edgar Allan Poe and Kanye West have in common? How about William Shakespeare and Taylor Swift? Nothing? Wrong. They all use literary devices in their writing! Whether it be poetry or songs, the literary devices are there and they are turning good writing into great writing.
In many ways, clinical counseling and pastoral counseling have a significant overlap in techniques used and in necessary skills. Lack of active listening, empathy, respect, and authenticity would make any class of counseling ineffective, and perhaps not genuine counseling at all.