Pastoral Counseling: What Is It? Who Can Benefit? How Does It Help?

Last Update on July 15, 2021 : Published on July 16, 2021
Pastoral Counseling

A unique combination of psychological and religious counseling, pastoral counseling, is a mode of therapy that incorporates clinical practices of psychology and spiritual resources in fostering healing and growth.

A pastoral counselor is a trained mental health professional with an in-depth knowledge of religious or theological, and spiritual aspects and training. Pastoral counselors, with the help of prayer, scripture teaching, and community participation, help a person in distress toward healing and transformation.

In this article, I’ll help you understand what pastoral counseling is, who can benefit from it, and how pastoral counseling helps when it comes to improving mental wellness.

What Is Pastoral Counseling?

Many people feel comfortable seeking guidance and support from their religion or religious scriptures. When it comes to pastoral counseling and other forms of psychotherapy, pastoral counseling can be defined as a combination of traditional psychotherapy and teaching of life and faith.

In pastoral counseling, a counselor uses psychological practices and theological resources to guide you on the path towards healing. Spirituality and religion play an important role in the lives of many people and combining the healing principles of psychology with philosophic principles of theology can help foster a person’s healing, growth, and transformation process.

For years, people have been turning to their spiritual and religious leaders for guidance, answers, and support related to their mental health struggles.

In the 1930’s Norman Vincent Peale, a minister, and Smiley Blanton, a psychiatrist, formed the American Foundation of Religion and Psychiatry also known as the Blanton-Peale Institute.

Pastoral counseling is based on the foundation of clinical psychology and pastoral education where a pastoral counselor is not only a clergyman but a trained and certified mental health professional.

In the 1960s, the American Association Of Pastoral Counselors, or AAPC was formed to offer formal accreditation, training, and certification in pastoral counseling.

Who Can Benefit From Pastoral Counseling?

The majority of people seeking counseling prefer mental health professionals with spiritual or religious beliefs. However, many people are not religiously inclined and may not benefit from pastoral counseling.

On the other hand, people with strong religious beliefs seeking counseling might benefit from pastoral counseling.

If you’re:

  • Looking for a faith-based approach to counseling
  • Uncomfortable with traditional psychological counseling
  • Facing terminal health issues
  • Concerned about validation of your beliefs
  • Faced with negative reception about your beliefs

Then, you might benefit from pastoral counseling! You can also click here to connect with religious counselors.

Pastoral Counseling And Mental Health

While pastoral counseling can help you receive a faith-based approach to healing, there is still a need for traditional psychological principles to make this model a versatile therapy. Not only a pastoral counselor can provide professional mental health treatment but they can also provide more spiritual and religious guidance.

Pastoral counseling can guide people seeking:

Furthermore, it can also provide help to those seeking counseling related to:

  • Terminal or chronic illness
  • Religious or spiritual conflict
  • Mental health issues related to one’s religious beliefs
  • Crisis of faith
  • Struggling to find their place in the community
  • Struggling to adjust to a mental health condition

Licensed pastoral counselors can be ordained priests, rabbis, ministers, imams, or other religious or spiritual leaders. These leaders who provide religious counseling are trained psychotherapists with backgrounds in religion and spirituality.

Not all licensed pastoral counselors have extensive training and education, however, those who do are licensed to diagnose and treat several mental health issues.

Benefits Of Pastoral Counseling

If you’re seeking professional help from someone who has a religious background and utilizes theological practices, pastoral counseling can benefit you.

Some benefits of pastoral counseling can be:

1. Confidentiality is taken very seriously. The relationship between a pastoral counselor and their client is as confidential as a relationship between a professional psychologist and their client.

2. Comfortability is important. Many people find being in the care of their religious or spiritual house more comfortable. If a person is comfortable in their house of worship, they might feel at ease in opening up about their problems.

3. Shared connection. Many people find talking to a psychologist uncomfortable and restricting, They also might feel nervous in a different setting. With pastoral counseling, a person might feel a shared connection with their therapist that can make them comfortable opening up. 

Note: If your crisis requires more than just a few sessions of counseling, it is recommended that you seek professional mental health consultation first before approaching a pastoral counselor.

Does Pastoral Counseling Help?

While research studies are indicating that pastoral counseling is a verified and effective model of therapy and counseling, there are many areas where pastoral counseling may lack.

Pastoral counseling is, for the lack of a better word – comfortable. And while in many cases, it can be beneficial, it can lead to forming a multi or dual relationship between the counselor and the person seeking counseling. It can create an imbalance when it comes to the personal and therapeutic relationships of the counselor and their client.

As I said, in some cases, it can be helpful but in some, it can create a confusing relationship.

Every counseling and therapy has its pros and cons. If you’re looking for professional psychotherapy where there will be hardly any religious or spiritual conflict, then pastoral counseling is not for you.

Pastoral counseling incorporated principles of psychology with theology and spiritual resources to foster healing, growth, and transformation.

I hope this article helped you understand what is pastoral counseling and how it can help. If you have any concerns, you can write to us at or follow us on social media.

You can also let us know in the comments below what you think about pastoral counseling.

Take Care!

About The Author

Swarnakshi Sharma
Swarnakshi Sharma

Swarnakshi is a content writer at Calm sage, who believes in a healthier lifestyle for mind and body. A fighter and survivor of depression, she strives to reach and help spread awareness on ending the stigma surrounding mental health issues. A spiritual person at heart, she believes in destiny and the power of Self. She is an avid reader and writer and likes to spend her free time baking and learning about world cultures.

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