Our discourse on pastoral counseling continues with focus on implementation of pastoral counseling and what to expect from a pastoral counselor. People go to therapy for mental, emotional or behavioral problems; Catholics are advised to seek pastoral counseling for same problems whenever such interferes with their practice of the faith.
All Christians are called to partake in the pastoral ministry of Christ (John Paul II, 1988), that is the Christian Soul Care albeit differently: Christian friendship, pastoral ministry, pastoral care, pastoral counseling, and spiritual direction (Benner, D. G., 2003), p. 16. Pastoral counselors undertake this ministry also as professionals. The Association for Spiritual, Ethical, and Religious Values in Counseling (ASERVIC, 2009), on cultural competence and Religion noted the importance of competence in the ethical integration of religion and spirituality into counseling.
Jesus Christ is the model pastoral counselor: the wonder-counselor (Isaiah 9:5), the author and finisher of our faith, whom we look unto (Heb. 12:2). Indeed he is the best! I got my first counseling skill by imitating his meek and humble heart (Mt 11:29). This technique enables me to be unassuming, non judgmental, and non condemnatory. This approach very much resonates with my understanding of the human person basically and ontologically as a relational being: to self, to others and to God. Any dissonance with self, God and others is observable by the negative pattern (sin) and the consequent dysfunctionality ad intra and ad extra. Treatment plan would target the restructuring of the cognition to help the reconnect with the mystery of his being.
The Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is my counseling approach. In practice I work to incorporate bible therapy into the CBT theoretical model. First the Christian client would be allowed to tell his story, and when this has been done I select bible pericope(s) that closely fits into his story. The bible tells a story of the salvific plan of God for humanity encapsulated in the experience of Israel as God’s chosen people. In the same way the life of each and every one is also an unfolding of God’s eternal plan accomplished in his son Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:4). This is bible-centered approach to counseling. The bible is all time relevant, and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Closely related to this model is the biblical affirmative technique which would use the tools of scriptural texts and verses that affirms or validates the individual based on the affirmative word of God. Some other specific techniques I could work with include spiritual genogram, prayer therapy, meditation, retreat, touch therapy, and religious activities.
Pastoral counselors could conduct counseling for individuals or family after a tragedy, death or bereavement, marriage problems, pre-marriage counseling, divorce, before a critical surgery, etc. The pastoral counselor will be ready to be your friend, help carry your burden and journey together as co-pilgrims on the mystery of life. Working with a particular faith community or parish might be advantageous since it would enable the counselor to participate fully in the parish life and ministry, however the pastoral counselor could as well render the desired help even outside the confines of the parish. In working with a client the pastoral counselor might want to establish the number of sessions ab initio since pastoral counseling is short-term and structured. In working with clients I intend to make termination of counseling spectacular and unique to every client. This would involve a kind of Christian celebration to mark the transformation gained during treatment, and continued growth expected there from. This is another skill learned from Jesus model when he told the man healed of leprosy to go show himself to the priest (Lk 5:14). The father in parable of the lost son had celebration for his son’s homecoming (Lk 15:22-24).
The pastoral counselor utilizes other necessary counseling skills in empowering and helping the client through facilitating growth that is consistent with the person’s goals. The counselee is always responsible for his choice, decisions and actions. What is unique in pastoral counseling, however, is the fact that the counselor is instinctively interested in and sensitive to the transcendent striving of clients, keenly aware that the client’s journey is unique, involving the mystery of the interaction of God and the individual human person (Estadt, Blanchette & Compton, 1991) p. 8.
- Association for Spiritual, Ethical, and Religious Values in Counseling (2009). Competencies for integrating spirituality into counseling. Retrieved from http:// www.aservic.org/
- Benner, D. (2003). Strategic Pastoral Counseling. Baker Academic: Grand Rapids, MI.
- Crabb, L. (1975). Basic Principles of Biblical Counseling. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan
- Estadt, B. K., Blanchette, M. C., & Compton, J. R. (1991). Pastoral Counseling. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
- Goodall, W. I. (2013). Pastoral Counseling: 10 Key Principles. Retrieved from enrichmentjuornal.ag.org/199803/096_key_principles.cfm
- Holy Bible.
- John Paul II (1988). Christifideles Laici, n. 14