The Pastoral Counselor

As, both, a Christian and aspiring Counselor, I find the idea of pastoral counseling pretty intriguing and attractive. The question is: what is TRUE pastoral counseling?

There is a plethora of different interpretations of what pastoral counseling truly consists of. Some believe pastoral counseling is any opportunity for the pastor to guide or comfort, in a particular setting.

What is Pastoral Counseling?

It seems that every source on this topic and every person asked has a different answer to the question, “What is pastoral counseling?” Some are in agreement; others are not.  To answer this question, I think it’s first necessary to ask why we are asking this question in the first place. What is the purpose of distinguishing pastoral counseling from other forms of counseling or from other modes of being in day to day life?

Who is Helping You Take Care of Your Soul?

Taking care of your self implies taking care of the physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects; for example nutrition, leisure activities, emotions, relationships, etc. Counseling may assist in taking care of your mental well-being which affects your emotional and physical health. The point that I am trying to make is that a clinical counselor helps you take care of your life, and so, who helps you take care of your soul?

What Makes Pastoral Counseling Unique?

Many Christians have heard of spiritual direction and most people have heard of mental health counseling but far fewer have heard about pastoral counseling.  Is pastoral counseling simply getting advice from your pastor or is it something more?  There is something more to pastoral counseling and the simplest way to understand the approach is to first explore what makes pastoral counseling distinct from spiritual direction and from Christian counseling and then look directly at what pastoral counseling is.

The Unique Pastoral Counselor

“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.”

With the many thoughts and images the term “pastoral counseling” evokes, it is not difficult to imagine why the disciple is so difficult to define.  Yet, with a culturally, historically, and religiously rich word such as “pastoral,” surely a counseling profession claiming the title must also contain a certain depth.  

Wark: Pastoral Counseling in the Context of Catholic Social Teaching

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.

Summers: Answers to Questions Unknown

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.

Summers: Receiving the Message Pastoral Counseling as Conduit

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.