After a full day of working a residential site for internship, in the hopes of growing in the field of clinical counseling, I needed to meet another student briefly before returning come back to my Steubenville apartment, to simply relax or to look at other school related project. However, the course of life sometimes leads us in strange and different ways, and just before I was about to enter the city on Route 7 north, I began to hear a noise on my driver’s side. Rather quickly, I realized that a tire on my driver’s side was flattening, and I would have to pull over to assess the damage. I was equipped to handle the tire change with all the proper tools and the spare tire, but since it was a busy highway in which cars remained in both lanes, I decided it was unsafe to replace the tire and I called for assistance. My insurance related road-side assistance, for some reason, was unable to find a tow truck in the Steubenville area, and I had to give up on their help and call for help myself. The first company that I called was able to send out a truck, and it was about forty five minutes waiting for the tow truck to arrive while in the meantime, I was visited by one kind gentlemen who stopped out of his goodness and two law enforcement officers, one from the Jefferson County sheriff’s office and one State patrolman who dropped down two safety flares. The tow truck driver arrived, the tire was changed, and we parted ways. Plans were changed, and life moved forward.
Often it seems that are busy and hectic lives, the plans we make are slightly delayed or completely derailed by some unforeseen new event which shifts our time and energy in new ways. In addition, some change may also happen to a family member or friend which brings about a similar shift. Such as a lovely and still pond on a summer day, it is generally desired that we hope our lives to be peaceful and quiet. We prefer the still in our hearts and soul to the noise and change of those unplanned and abrupt moments which challenge us to new places. It may be as simple as changing plans with a friend after a tire on your work commute becomes flat, or it may be a complicated experience of a son or daughter desiring to change from their Catholic upbringing to another religion or any other potential change. It may be that in the more difficult moments of shifting changes that we may need the good counsel of a helping professional to help you through the difficult moments.
When we are a member of a faith community, and we are faced with a difficult moment in our life, such as the example of a child or family member moving from their Catholic or Christian faith to another religion, it may be wise to seek good counsel in those trying times.
So, if live moves us in the direction of seeking the help of a pastoral counselor, what should be expectations be for this profession? In addition, what would the relationship look like in real terms? A pastoral counselor should be a licensed professional by the State board of his working location, and in our modern world, it may also be performed in a distance relationship. S/he is bound by ethical boundaries to hold confidential information within the counseling relationship short of specific knowledge of various harmful situations which require a mandated reported to various legal authorities.
Still, a pastoral counselor, most often times known and referred by one’s own pastor and/or priest, in addition to being a skilled profession in the field of counseling, will be able to guide and counsel you through the life changing situation with through the lenses and scope of the Christian faith. Within the session, it may be a way to have an empathic and trusted person simply listen to your concerns, in order to guide you and provide the skills to handle the new changes in a compassionate and loving way. Most often, the pastoral counselor will be able to work with moral or faith concerns, through theological reflection or church teaching, not as a problem solver, yet a professional who may equip a person to handle another’s life change and to be an affirming presence to the family member or friend experiencing the change. Ultimately, the pastoral counselor who is most effective should be a trustable person who understands the God is our source of grace and mercy in times of need, and s/he should be willing to lead the client closer to God within the norms of the counseling profession.
Marshall L. Myers is currently a second year Franciscan University of Steubenville Graduate Student in the Clinical Counseling program. He is currently working at two internship sites, Crossroads Counseling which is a non-profit agency with a drug and alcohol recovery emphasis and Fox Run, which is a residential facility for children under eighteen years of age whom have experienced trauma. He has lived in Steubenville, OH since 1999, and he is originally from Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Marshall is a convert to the Catholic faith, and he hopes to blend the deep richness of the faith into his counseling profession wherever God may lead the journey.