Faithful Guidance – The Importance of Pastoral Counselors
The term “pastoral counseling” can hold a variance of meanings to different individuals. To some, this brings to mind an image of a male pastor who helps clarify God’s direction in a person’s life. To others, this term specifically relates to a professional counselor who only helps those practicing the Christian faith. Although these associations may stand true for some, the authentic identity and duty of a pastoral counselor in today’s society goes far beyond these fundamental connotations.
This particular field of counseling is unique in that it seeks to encompass professional knowledge about the wellness of the human psyche as well as the human soul. Each and every person is ultimately a spiritual being functioning in a material world by way of a physical body. Popular western healthcare modalities tend to focus solely on the physical ailments of a person, whether that be concerns for one’s body or mental health. Pastoral counselors are different; these individuals receive special training emphasizing care for the physical and spiritual well-being of each person; it is a holistic view of healing.
Although humans are fundamentally spiritual beings, the avenue chosen to encounter that spirituality varies soul to soul. Based upon personal preference and knowledge base, pastoral counselors are capable of serving people with any or no spiritual/religious association. They seek to integrate whatever spiritual beliefs a person may have into the therapeutic healing process. With this said, pastoral counselors are typically known for helping individuals with Christian faith. Characteristically, Christian persons will seek the help of a pastoral counselor who will not only understand the Christian faith, but also live by it.
For myself personally, I am a practicing Roman Catholic and follower of Christ. As I quickly approach the completion of my Master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, the idea of one day becoming a formal pastoral counselor myself deeply intrigues me. From personal experience and knowledge of others’ testaments, it is apparent that truly effective and lasting therapeutic healing only fully occurs when used in adjunct to one’s spiritual faith. In Christian tradition, it is believed we do not merely have a body or have a soul — we are a body; we are a soul. This two-fold essence of who we are is undisputable. For this reason, the physical and spiritual curative components of pastoral counseling directly applies to our restoration. This validates the importance and need for pastoral counselors in a world where so many desperately search for wholesome guidance.