Struggling with feelings of depression? Anxiety? How about low self-esteem or anger management issues? In spite of all this, what about other spiritual struggles such as mistrust in a God-given purpose for your life, or a lack of belief in God’s love and forgiveness? Mental health issues are usually seen as requiring a different kind of help than the form of assistance required for one’s spiritual dilemmas. Although seeking help from a counselor and a spiritual director is always an option, pastoral counselors are clinically and spiritually equipped to professionally aid both sorts of issues in a person’s life. Pastoral counseling provides healing strategies for mental and spiritual challenges, offering us a more well-rounded, integrated and effective approach in our journey towards restoration.
David Benner, PhD, writes in Strategic Pastoral Counseling that pastoral counselors provide a brief, structured therapeutic approach which utilizes contemporary counseling theory without forgoing important elements and resources of the pastoral ministry. For example, pastoral professionals will explore the feelings, thoughts and behaviors of a person, collaboratively construct a plan of action to achieve one’s goals, and evaluate the progress as one sojourns on their remedial path. This well-known model for help in the clinical mental health counseling approach remains applicable in the realm of pastoral counseling as well, and proves beneficial for spiritual issues in addition to mental health challenges.
There is an abundance of resources that pastoral counselors may ask their clients to adopt during the counseling process. Assigned readings is one commonly used tool. The beauty of working as a pastoral counseling is having the ability to provide readings that serve the integral psychological and spiritual facets of a person. For example, a person may be asked to read Jesus Calling written by Sarah Young. This daily devotional incorporates small passages for each day of the year written from the perspective of God to us. At the end of each day’s passage, bible verses are cited which the passages are founded on. Not only does this book offer a daily reminder of God’s love, mercy and a divine plan for our lives, but it also encourages peace and calm – perfect antidotes for a person struggling with anxiety, depression, and many other mental health concerns. There is a wide variety of books applicable in psychologically aiding a person in a Christian-influenced way, as well as books primarily written to serve spiritual issues that include psychological input.
Resources given to clients in the pastoral setting are endless. Pastoral counselors have a unique opportunity to provide tools, techniques and strategies in counseling tailored to the multi-faceted parts of who we are. Ultimately, the goal of the pastoral counselor is to improve one’s overall wellness and to help persons become the best versions of themselves. The professional wisdom of these practitioners, partnered with the help of the Divine Healer, is bound to bring about fruitful outcomes for those receiving pastoral counseling.