Pastoral counseling is an interesting field. In this field your main goal is to guide your clients into a deeper relationship with God. The goal is stated very simply, the challenging and cautionary part comes in when you think of what that one goal entails.
Do you know what Pastoral Counseling is? Probably not. Before I started taking this class I wasn’t so sure about what Pastoral Counseling was and how it differed from spiritual direction and “normal” counseling. There is definitely some gray area between these three disciplines, but the following is how I personally internalize the differences.
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!
We are living in a society where there is a crisis of self-worth. People are starving for attention, we struggle to take compliments, and regardless of the 9 positive comments we received throughout the day, the only thing we will remember is the one negative one. Not only will we remember the negative comment, but we will define ourselves by it because that one comment just revealed how little we already feel about ourselves.
I think it’s easy for most of us to get caught up in the lie that in order to minister to others we have to have everything figured out ourselves. Throughout my time in the counseling program this lie has been a constant struggle for me. When you’re working with other people’s wounds on a daily basis it’s so easy to look at your own and think “Really God? How in the world am I ever going to help them?”
One of the most frequent questions I get asked by people who know I am getting my Master’s in Counseling is how I am able to listen to my clients “problems” and not be affected by it. I think my response is somewhat surprising when I tell them, “I am affected by it.” It’s difficult to sit across from an individual day after day, listening to them bare their souls, their memories, their deepest, darkest secrets, their joys, and their triumphs and remain unaffected.
“Why has Jesus let me suffer so much?”
This was the question one of my clients asked me a couple weeks ago. I saw eyes filled with confusion and pain as she looked to me for the answer. It was an answer I couldn’t give her. Part of me felt helpless as I longed to give her some profound explanation that would bring some degree of consolation and understanding to her heart.
In my last blog I briefly touched upon the use of fiction novels in bibliotherapy. I know sometimes the idea of fiction being used in therapy seems a touch odd. I mean, you don’t hand a client Silence of the Lambs and tell them to try and get something therapeutic out of it. Silence of the Lambs is dark. It’s gritty. It’s got a cannibal in it for goodness sake, who ate a man’s liver with fava beans and a nice Chianti!
“Oh, my soul!” have countless poets proclaimed in pain. Shakespeare, Homer, Poe, and many more have derived the soulful expanse of their pain in simple but stunning statements such as this. Indeed, we can see and even feel in pain, something more, something as deep as our soul. It is as if the depth and intensity of one’s pain makes us question greater realities
Step Four: (D) Develop Concrete Growth-Action Plans Collaboratively
-Assist clients in developing practical plans to take action on the part or parts of the problem they have chosen.
–The plan should focus initially on parts of their problems that they have decided can be solved or at least improved.