A Definition of Pastoral Counseling
American Association of Pastoral Counseling
Pastoral Counseling is a unique form of psychotherapy which uses spiritual resources as well as psychological understanding for healing and growth. It is provided by certified pastoral counselors, who are not only mental health professionals but who have also had in-depth religious and/or theological training.
Across the nation, more than 3000 pastoral counselors provide a variety of services including treatment for persons with mental disorders; counseling for adults, adolescents, children, families and couples; substance abuse treatment; wellness programs; religious retreats; spiritual direction; clinical training; consultation to corporations; outreach preventive services in prisons, military settings and schools; and community education.
At any time, individuals, couples or families can be confronted by uncertainties and life experiences which threaten to exhaust emotional and spiritual resources. The loss of a love one, parent-teen conflict, loss of job or the care of an elderly parent are just a few of life’s transitions and crises that can be depleting.
While some individuals turn to a psychologist, social worker of psychiatrist, others want support and the opportunity to discuss their problems or illness in a spiritual context.
A 1992 Gallup poll asked 1,000 men and women about the context in which they would seek counseling. 66% said they would prefer to receive counseling from a person who represented their spiritual values. 81% said they wanted their own spiritual values respected and integrated into the counseling process.
Religious communities are one of the principal gateways for individuals seeking assistance with depression, grief, marital conflict, substance abuse, family violence, juvenile delinquency and AIDS, among other issues and societal problems. However, most religious leaders have neither the time of the training in psychotherapy to do extensive, in-depth work. If a situation or crisis requires more than a few informal sessions, it’s time to see a certified pastoral counselor.