What is Pastoral Counseling?

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what is pastoral counseling

From time to time, it is wise to take another person’s advice. Pastoral counseling and pastoral studies can come in many forms for different religious communities, and as a result, there may be different points of view to consider. For anybody seeking an answer to a vexing problem, pastoral counseling may give them the answer they seek with a religious addition.

Many priests, pastors, ministers, imams, rabbis, and other religious leaders offer pastoral counseling.

What is Pastoral Counseling?

Counseling, in general, is intended to give a person or a group of people solutions to their problems. By the same vein, pastoral or religious counseling is when a person uses their religious beliefs and knowledge of psychology to administer therapy.

If you’ve heard of the American Association of Pastoral Counselors, then you should know that the pastoral counselors of the AAPC have now joined up with the ACPE. Pastoral counselors often have experience and knowledge in behavioral sciences and counseling experience in a scientific setting, but also counsel their clients with religion.

Who is Pastoral Counseling for? 

Pastoral counseling can be an appealing choice for individuals based on several factors. A 1992 Gallup poll revealed that 66% of respondents preferred mental health professionals who shared their spiritual beliefs and values, while 81% of those seeking mental health treatment expressed a desire for counselors with similar values.

This data suggests why some individuals turn to religious leaders or counselors who align with their faith. While pastoral counseling can be beneficial for people of diverse backgrounds, it is particularly well-suited for those seeking mental health assistance or guidance within a theological or spiritual framework.

People may opt for pastoral counseling when they:

  1. Wish to address mental health concerns from a faith-based perspective.
  2. Feel uncomfortable in formal counseling settings.
  3. Confront end-of-life issues.
  4. Are concerned that secular counselors may not understand or respect their religious beliefs.
  5. Have had previous negative experiences with secular mental health professionals.

When Should I Start with Christian Counseling?

Are you facing the end of your life and are questioning your faith?

Is there another mental health issue you need to address right away in a faith-inspired healing perspective? If the answer to either question is yes, then it’s advisable to check out a pastoral counselor as soon as possible. Anytime you feel that you could use some help, it is a good time to consider seeing a pastoral counselor

Benefits of Pastoral Counseling

Therapy can be used for any emotional or mental trouble, whether you approach it from a faith-based perspective or not. Should you value your faith, you can learn to cope with the root of your problems. Private practices offered by certified pastoral counselors help you move on from grief, address what in your life should be re-evaluated, and how you can become a better person.

Whether you’re an individual or a family needing assistance, pastoral counseling can assist you in the following:

  • Marriage Problems
  • Death
  • Community Conflict
  • Spiritual Assessment
  • Substance Abuse
  • Unify Your Body with Your Spirit & Mind

Limitations of Pastoral Counseling

There are certain limitations to pastoral counseling, and it may not suit everyone. Even individuals who place significant importance on their faith may discover that keeping religious and counseling matters separate is more appropriate for their specific needs.

It’s crucial to find a pastoral counselor whose views align with your own or do not conflict with your beliefs. For instance, while some pastoral counselors are supportive and inclusive of the LGBTQ+ community, others may hold different, less accepting views or, in some cases, may even be detrimental to LGBTQ+ individuals seeking their guidance.

Before commencing pastoral counseling, it is advisable to inquire about the counselor’s perspectives and beliefs. If there is a mismatch or discomfort, it may be advisable to seek a different counselor who is a better fit for your needs.

Online vs. In-Person

Both online and in-person counseling is beneficial to your behavior and spiritual health yet offer some distinct differences worth noting. 

Online Counseling Advantages:

  • Done in the Comfort of Your Own Home
  • Great for People with Physical Disabilities that Limit Movement
  • Can Be Done at Any Time
  • No Expenses for Driving, Flying, etc.
  • Several More Options than Just In-Person

In-Person Counseling Advantages:

  • More Personal
  • Easier to Participate in Rituals and Community Events
  • Doesn’t Require Internet
  • Isn’t as Reliant on Electricity

Naturally, both methods of approaching both pastoral counseling degree and therapy are valid and can assist in your spiritual issues. One example of where pastoral counseling can benefit you a lot involves marital troubles, and marital therapy is easy to do through both methods.

How Does Pastoral Counseling Work?

Whether you choose an in-person therapist or an online therapist, it is essential to note on how it works. Pastoral counseling stems from advice about your faith, so it often involves religious beliefs. Pastoral counselors are trained mental health professionals, so their therapy is very similar to psychotherapy or nonreligious therapists in methodology, while mainly differing in the end goal.

Think about it this way: a therapist’s job often involves listening to their client’s problems. If the client is true to themselves and letting everything out, then the counselor can give the most appropriate advice for the situation. For those who lie and do not provide genuine issues, you may get information that is irrelevant to your situation. Henceforth, it’s best, to be honest with your religious advisor. Keep in mind that they keep confidentiality just as well as other medical specialists, so you don’t have to worry about private info leaking.

Utilizing both psychology and theology, an excellent pastoral counselor can link psychological concepts such as conditioning and homeostasis to religion and spiritual guidance. There’s always an answer somewhere, and sometimes it takes a deeper introspection to find it. They understand this and are willing to help guide you until you find the answer you’re looking for.

How To Choose the Best Online Pastoral Counselor

Some people prefer online counselors, so it’s essential to understand how to find the right one for you. Now you could just Google ‘online pastoral counselor,’ but that’s bloated with ads and may not be the best option for your religious community or specific needs. Oftentimes you have to be more precise and find a website that appeals to your faith and customs in a language you understand.

Several websites specialize in counseling, and these often tie into other church specialties such as pastoral counseling. You can find general pastoral therapy for general spiritual problems on several sites if you’re unsure if you need help. If you do know the specific problem, such as how to combat substance abuse, then a specialized pastoral counselor is the best option for you.

The History of Pastoral Counseling

The history of pastoral counseling can be traced back to the intersection of religion and psychotherapy, which began to take shape in the 1930s. Prior to this, religious counseling and support had existed since the inception of religion itself.

The aftermath of World War I brought about a heightened demand for therapeutic assistance, with many individuals turning to religious leaders for guidance rather than solely relying on the medical community.

Over the years, there was an informal blending of these two models, and in the 1930s, the formal integration of psychotherapy and religion occurred with the establishment of the American Foundation of Religion and Psychiatry in New York City. This foundation was founded by the renowned minister Norman Vincent Peale and the noted psychiatrist Smiley Blanton, now recognized as the Blanton-Peale Institute.514

Since then, pastoral counseling has evolved into a distinct field, achieving professional certification in 1963 through the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education.


A crucial element to look for when seeking online counseling is to see if there is a review system implemented most pastoral counselors. Reviews are the perfect way to see if a specific counselor is the right one for you, especially since you might not personally know anybody who uses that online counselor. Highly rated counselors are often coveted while you can safely ignore the ones with one star most of the time.

Speaking of reviews being instrumental to online mediums, you need to understand what reviews can bring to the table for you. When you see somebody rated highly for online counseling for families, you should realize that the pastoral counselor may be a perfect fit for your family troubles. Similarly, if you see one specializing in marriage being rated high for that but no reviews are about the loss of a loved one, that counselor may not be the right one for you.

Are you ready to place your mental well-being at the forefront? Discover the advantages of online counseling through reputable platforms such as Betterhelp and Faithful Counseling. Begin your journey toward a happier, healthier you today. Initiate your counseling path now


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