Being in grad school, having a calling to become a counselor, and being a practicing Christian Catholic, all these aspects kind of do drive me to be a Pastoral counselor. So far I know two things that Pastoral Counseling is not; it is not spiritual guidance and it is not counseling for the clergy only. Pastoral counselors are interested in people having mental health and spiritual health, like I mentioned in my previous writing, we also care for your soul.
Now, how do we do this? How can we, therapist and client together, take care of your soul? Based on my experience and that of classmates here are some practical techniques and approaches that will help clinically and spiritually:
Scripture reading; it is beneficial to read the bible to strengthen your faith. Spirituality can be the most important personal strength for some of us. Having a good sense of your faith and spirituality helps in building hope which positively affects all the areas in your life. In reading the bible we also have to think about what we read, meditate, ponder, reflect so that we find those answers that we are looking for. Have some silence throughout the day.
Personal retreats; structured DIY retreats or daily prayers help in guiding our prayers and independently building a prayer life. There are several books with daily prayers that make it easy for clients to follow and not to forget about it. Not only prayer books but spiritual books can be very useful in Pastoral counseling. Clients do benefit from learning about their religion or from learning about the way God works in our life; whatever the needs are books are a great way to have clients do homework and to have something to take away from the session.
Rosary like prayers combined with relaxation techniques can be useful when dealing with anxiety. Breathing techniques are beneficial and have to be structured and guide; the client has to focus their attention on something while they breathe counting or repeating a mantra. Breathing in and breathing out the name of Jesus is a prayer and a relaxation method. Instead of counting numbers we can have the client pray the rosary or repeat a short prayer like “Jesus I trust in You” as form of mantra.
I am in love with the last technique, I do it myself. You don’t necessarily have to have anxiety symptoms to practice a breathing technique; relaxation techniques help you gain awareness and control of yourself. As a personal retreat I use a consecration to the Virgin Mary in 33 days that I think is very practical and easy to follow for anyone. Whatever your favorite prayer is or your favorite saint or virgin, I think it is wonderful to be able to invite them to be part of our treatment and walk with us. Extra support never hurts.