Pastoral counselors integrate principles of behavioral science with theological and spiritual beliefs to help a broad spectrum of patients lead healthy, fulfilling lives. These patients can be individuals, families, or entire groups. The goal of pastoral counseling is to combine the wisdom and comfort of traditional belief systems with the scientific knowledge of the human psyche.
Pastoral counseling degrees teach students how to use multiple approaches to address emotional issues which impede an individual’s ability to transition through certain stages of crisis. The first step of treatment is to apply principles of theology and cultural comprehension to make a psychoanalytical assessment of a patient. From there, the counselor can recommend the appropriate kind of psychotherapy for further treatment. By keeping the patient’s best interests in mind, pastoral counselors might recommend a patient seek assistance from a traditional psychologist or some other specialized physician.
In a four year Bachelor’s in Pastoral Ministry degree program, students study the Biblical Gospels and evangelism to learn how to incorporate these elements into their counseling and psychology practices. Special emphasis is placed on learning about the long-term emotional health and development throughout an individual’s life. For a well-rounded education, many students also take business-related courses in addition to their pastoral counseling classes.
In a master’s degree program in pastoral counseling, students are prepared for licensure as mental health professionals. Studies at this level concentrate on various aspects of counseling such as family therapy and addiction counseling. A master’s level education in pastoral counseling prepares students to develop spiritual sensitivity and combine it with clinical competence.
At the doctoral level of pastoral counseling education, students can study under a Doctor of Philosophy or Doctor of Theology to supplement their academic education in spiritual counseling. Students are also responsible for completing a written dissertation along with successfully completing a set number of hours working in a clinical setting.
Whichever path one chooses, most pastoral counseling courses are offered by many online degree programs as well as accredited colleges and universities.
Pastoral counselors can enjoy careers as outreach directors who attempt to improve the overall health of a community. Pastoral counselors also serve as church administrators who help guide the local church in its goals of promoting positive health improvements in the minds and bodies of its community. As a youth minister, one can help young members of the community participate in positive, healthy activities instead of falling prey to and indulging in bad habits.
Another possible career choice is as a mediation worker, who uses an organized process to help individuals communicate with one another and resolve any conflicts or disputes. As interfaith counselors, these professionals are equipped with knowledge of other faiths and how to help communication with individuals of other faiths in order for them to appreciate the view point of others.
Pastoral counselors’ incomes are on the rise in response to increasing population levels and urbanization. The constant influx into urban centers and increase in population are combining to result in many social pressures and downfalls. Pastoral counselors are essential to limit and defuse these societal ills.