Counseling as Pastoral Care
"Counseling is an instrument of renewal through reconcilation, helping to heal
our estrangement from ourselves, our families, our fellow church members,
from those outside the church and from a growing relationship with God,"
according to Howard Clinebell.
Pastoral counseling is a response to the need for someone to really care for the troubled.
A significant percentage of those who seek our help will not belong to a church.
They turn to us because the do not know where else to turn.
Regardless of our training, we do not enjoy the privilege of electing whether or not to counsel
with our church members. They will turn to us for advice. We have a responsibility to do no harm.
We are unique among counselors. Those who seek our help perceive us as a religious authority.
We are a symbol of all that is right and holy in the world.
Many hear God through us. The context of our counseling is pastoral.
This makes it nurturing and shepherding.
Since the college offers complete courses on counseling, I am only going to touch the basis.
The Minister's Limitations and Advantages As Counselor
We need to understand our role as counselor. We also must recognize our limitations.
Here are some limitations.
Time. The time and emotional energy expended in counseling can be considerable.
If we counsel more than 10 hours per week, we will neglect other important duties.
The minister should concentrate on developing skill in short-term counseling and referral.
Since none of you are going to follow my advice and refer clients after four to six sessions,
I will continue my practical advice for counselors.
The minister's training gives proficiency in a variety of areas.
However, most of us will not do long term harm if we preach a poor sermon, or fail to visit
a sick individual, or even get the names wrong during a wedding.
Counseling is different.
We can really screw up a life if we don't know what we are doing in counseling.
Most of us will never get the training to do serious in depth psychological counseling.
We are not psychotherapists.
Counseling often gives rise to the projection on the counselor of strong feeling of love or hate.
It is dangerous to do long term counseling with anyone who holds a prominent position
in the power structure of the church.
In fact, I think it is foolish to do long-term counseling with any member of the church.
Even if you help them, you will probably loose them as a church member.
Every time they look at you, they are reminded of their past trauma.
They often times believe you remember their problem and are judging them.
On occasion, they over compensate and expect you to be their buddy rather than their pastor.
Either way it is dangerous for you.
Again, I advise you to refer all church members if the problem can not be resolved in three sessions.
During sessions we should:
The minister should ask himself, "Is this person likely to benefit from the counseling
- Attempt to discover how the person sees his/her problem.
- Find out if he/she is hurting and how.
- Encourage the ventilation of his/her feelings of resentment.
- Accept his/her right to those feelings.
- Demonstrate warmth and interest in helping.
which my time, training, and native abilities permit me to provide?
Is there some agency in the community that is set up to provide the specialized help
that his person needs? Why do I want to counsel this individual?"
Counseling in general aims at some degree of constructive change in the relationships,
behavior and functioning of persons. If we can not accomplish this goal then we have
no business doing in depth pastoral counseling.
We must not allow our pride to lead us where angels fear to tread.