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Pastoral counseling is a form of therapy that combines conventional research based psychotherapies with spiritual counseling that’s grounded in biblical principles. Pastoral counselors aim to improve the health and well being of their clients by improving mental/emotional health and also spiritual well being and satisfaction.

Pastoral counseling makes a lot of sense for a lot of people. Clergy traditionally act as personal and spiritual advisers in everyday life and in times of crisis, and because they have always acted as confidants and counselors, it’s a very natural extension for such a person to augment his or her spiritual counseling skills with conventional therapeutic skills.

Likewise, since for many people the answers to life’s biggest problems are found within faith, seeking counseling from a member of the clergy also makes more sense than seeking assistance from a person and a process divorced from that link to God.

Who Are Pastoral Counselors?

Pastoral counselors are certified mental health professionals who are also members of the clergy or people with deep theological training and knowledge. In most cases, pastoral counselors will have:

  • A university degree
  • A degree from a seminary or theological institute
  • A master’s or doctoral diploma in some form of clinical psychotherapy

In some areas, clergy with less psychotherapeutic training may be permitted to call themselves pastoral counselors. Inquire before staring any therapy relationship about a counselor’s background education and experience – and as a general rule, know that more education is preferable to less.

Because pastoral counselors will have spent years studying in a conventional psychology discipline as well as significant time spent in theological training, these professionals come to the therapy table with a deep and rounded education.1

What Types of Problems Do People Seek out Pastoral Counseling For?

A pastoral counselor can help you grow as a person, get more satisfaction out life, overcome mental illness, overcome chemical dependency and improve your relationship with family – and with God.

Some problems that people seek assistance for from pastoral counselors include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Relationship troubles
  • Drug or alcohol abuse/addiction
  • Parenting issues
  • Faith issues
  • Trauma recovery
  • Anger management
  • Psychological testing
  • Child and teen counseling
  • Life dissatisfaction
  • Stress management
  • Many more

Paying for Pastoral Counseling

Many pastoral counselors work for non profit organizations, and so the fees per session may be cheaper than a comparable session with a conventional psychotherapist. Many if not most pastoral counselors will work on a sliding scale fee schedule for those with limited incomes, and insurance companies will generally pay for pastoral counseling, provided your policy allows for counseling services and your pastoral counselor has professional accreditation.

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Page last updated Dec 08, 2010

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