I had believed pastoral counseling to be much like what my own family had provided to other families when I was growing up. To briefly explain, they were part of a filipino community where the idea of counseling itself was never really an option. In our culture, counselor’s duties were delegated to the elders of the community, who would help the younger generation sort out their problems by using their own experience.
Pastoral counseling is unique in the sense that there is a spiritual focus. It is important to look at the person in a holistic way, with the spiritual aspect being an important component of this. “Be Healed” by Dr. Bob Schuchts is a wonderful book that I believe would accompany pastoral counseling in a beautiful way. Dr. Bob breaks healing into three parts: Encountering Jesus, Facing our Brokenness, and Healing our Wounds.
Pastoral Counseling can have two components; community counselor and/or Christian counselor. As a trained community counselor one draws from understanding of human behavior (emotional, social and physical) and psychological norms. The problems are addressed through using various counseling techniques, interventions and resources.
Meet Father Michael, a priest and pastoral counselor from the Diocese of Omaha, Nebraska, who uses YouTube as a resource to reach parishioners and others in need of a word of encouragement. A priest is usually trying to meet the responsibilities in a parish and his commitment to care for the needs of individuals, families and small groups. Counselors and pastors are beginning to realize the power of media to reach clients and parishioners.
While there are similarities to clinical counseling, a characteristic of pastoral counseling that vastly differs from many approaches to counseling is that it is holistic in nature. Rather than separating a client’s issues or pieces of themselves, the practice of pastoral counseling works to treat the whole, integrated person. This practice stems from the Christian beliefs that one can only truly be understand in their entirety.
Pastoral counseling is a special form of counseling with many unique characteristics and techniques. Not only does it have the benefit of the traditional modes of counseling, it also has the benefit of incorporating divine assistance as well as a wealth of historical examples and teachings that date all the way back to the foundation of the world.
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.