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Pastoral counseling is a branch of counseling in which ordained ministers, rabbis, priests
and other non-ordained, lay persons provide therapy services. The therapists integrate
modern psychological thought and method with traditional religious training and are able
to address psycho spiritual issues in addition to traditional spectrum of counseling
services. "Pastoral Counseling" is differentiated from "Pastoral Care", "Christian
Counseling", or "Biblical Counseling". And while Pastoral Counseling is not
synonymous with pastoral care, the roots of pastoral counseling can be traced back to a
type of pastoral theological education generally recognized as Clinical Pastoral Education
(CPE). CPE was developed by Dr. William A. Bryan and the Rev. Anton T. Boison at the
Worcester State Hospital in Worcester, MA, in the 1920's.
Legitimate pastoral counseling affirms the client's own spiritual journey and faith
community even though these may be different from the counselors, thus it precludes
proselytizing and "evangelical" efforts to induce the client to change faith communities.
Pastoral counseling has enjoyed a long and important history (e.g., Collins, 1988;. Estadt,
Blanchester, & Compton, 1983; W.R. Miller & Jackson, 1985; Wicks, Parson, & Capps,
1985). Historically, clergy have found success in integrating psychological knowledge
within their role and repertoire (Richards & Bergin, 1997). According to the American
Association of Pastoral Counselors "an overwhelming number of Americans recognize
the close link between spiritual faith, religious values and mental health, and would
prefer to seek assistance from a mental health professional who recognizes and can
integrate spiritual values into the course of treatment." Thus, it is important to have
mental health counselors that are able to integrate the spiritual health and mental health in
the course of counseling.
Only six American states license the title "Pastoral Counselor": Arkansas, Kentucky,
Maine, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Tennessee; however graduates of counselor
education programs may qualify for state licensure as marriage and family therapists or
as professional counselors. Currently all 50 states and the District of Columbia license
professional counselors. Many pastoral counseling programs that prepare students for
state licensure gain accreditation through the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling
and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). CACREP accredits master's degree
programs in career counseling, college counseling, community counseling, erotological
counseling, marital, couple, and family counseling, mental health counseling, school
counseling, and counselor education and supervision.
Many pastoral counselors will find their professional identity with the American
Counseling Association (ACA) and/or in the American Association of Pastoral
Counselors (AAPC). To hold membership in the American Association of Pastoral
Counselors, the counselor must have post-graduate studies in both the theology of their
own faith community and a second degree at a masters or doctoral level in
psychotherapy, as well as 1500 hours of supervised practice. AAPC membership includes
Christian, Jewish, Buddhist and many other faith communities. "Under the auspices of
AAPC, pastoral counseling adheres to rigorous standards of excellence, including
education and clinical training, professional certification and licensure. Typical education
for the AAPC-certified pastoral counselor consists of study that leads to:
* a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university
* a three-year professional degree from a seminary
* a specialized masters or doctoral degree in the mental health
field (American Association of Pastoral Counselors, www.aapc.org)
Thus pastoral counselors possess extensive education and training to be able to integrate
spiritual and religious aspects of healing and wholeness into therapy. Pastoral counseling
prepares its students for licensure in counseling and equips them to meet the religious
and/or spiritual needs of the client as it relates to the therapeutic process.
In the United States pastoral counselors typically have one or more of the following
degrees or credentials: a M.S or M.A. in Pastoral or Professional Counseling, D.Min,
D.Th., Th.D., D.D., M.Div, MTS, S.T.D., Licensed Clinical Pastoral Counselor (LCPC.),
Licensed Pastoral or Professional Counselor (LPC), Certified Pastoral Counselor
(C.P.C.), National Certified Counselor (NCC), Master of Arts Clinical Christian
Counseling (M.A.C.C.C.), Th.M. The pastoral counselor should have clinical training as
part of their educational experience.
Distinctiveness of Pastoral Counseling
“What distinguishes pastoral counseling from other forms of counseling and
psychotherapy is the role and accountability of the counselor and his or her understanding
and expression of the pastoral relationship. Pastoral counselors are representatives of the
central images of life and its meaning affirmed by their religious communities. Thus
pastoral counseling offers a relationship to that understanding of life and faith. Pastoral
counseling uses both psychological and theological resources to deepen its understanding
of the pastoral relationship.” (Hunter, 2005)
* List of counseling topics
* Christian Counselors
* Clinical pastoral education
*  American Association of Pastoral Counselors
*  American Counseling Association
*  The Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related
* PCC Discussion of secular vs Christian licensing issues
Hunter, R.J. (2005). Pastoral Counseling. Dictionary of pastoral care and counseling.
Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.
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Categories: Religious occupations | Practical theology | Counseling | Psychology stubs |
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