The rejuvenation of pastoral counseling in both church and community is shown by the abundance of church-based counseling centers and the extensive Internet offerings of pastoral counseling educational resources.
Most denominations are encouraging their ministers to develop pastoral counseling skill-sets that enrich their pastoral care. Seminaries are strengthening their offerings in pastoral psychology and counseling, including programs for the Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Buddhist, and Hindu faiths. Chaplaincy programs apply principles of pastoral counseling to enhance preparedness for service in hospitals, prisons, the military, and university campuses.
The rise of the Psychology of Religion Division within the American Psychological Association underscores the prestige of pastoral counseling as contributing valuable principles to the mental health field—namely, for working with the universal spiritual needs of humankind.
An ever-growing assortment of journals and books specifically relating to pastoral counseling and pastoral psychology stimulate and nourish the worldwide development of indigenous pastoral counselors serving church and society.
Thus today there is unparalleled interest in pastoral counseling, both among professionals called to this field and among those many people interested in receiving it. Jews, Christians, Moslems, Hindus, Buddhists, and other spiritual seekers often prefer a counselor of their same “faith-family” as a trusted resource in time of need.
What distinguishes pastoral counseling from secular therapy? The expectation that the pastoral counselor is qualified to address not only psychological but spiritual needs.
These spiritual needs include:
- finding a meaningful relationship with God
- handling inner conflicts between guilt and grace
- discussing categories of good and evil
- exploring issues regarding salvation and the afterlife
- discussing angelic protection or demonic oppression
- finding support during illness
- grieving over the death of a loved one
- seeking purpose and security in an anxiety-ridden world
- longing to transform self-confusion into wholeness and holiness.
While the pastoral counselor shares with the secular mental health professional a concern for what best serves the well-being of counselees and helps to resolve their presenting problems, the pastoral counselor enjoys unique ethical permission to utilize religious resources, rituals, and sacraments that transcend the boundaries of scientific psychology.
An extraordinary gift that pastoral counselors can offer counselees, which is not a prerogative for psychiatrists or psychologists, is a prayer of blessing from God or a discerning word from Scripture.
For more about the Compass Therapy approach to Christian Counseling, read: