Pastoral Counseling: Spirituality and Psychotherapy
by Amy Scholten, MPH
You may be…
Life is full of worries and problems. They affect our emotions and faith. We may not know how to cope or where to get help.
Some people seek help from therapists. Examples are psychologists, psychiatrists, and social workers. Others look for spiritual help. What about those who want spiritual help and psychotherapy? The answer may be pastoral counseling.
What Is Pastoral Counseling?
Pastoral counseling is a special type of counseling. It addresses a patient's healing and growth. But it uses spiritual and psychological methods. Problems are addressed in terms of faith, meaning and purpose. Psychotherapy is also used.
Religion and psychotherapy were first linked in the 1930s. Two men helped this to happen. One was the famous minister, Norman Vincent Peale. The other was Smiley Blanton, a psychiatrist. Over the years, it evolved to pastoral counseling.
Who Are Pastoral Counselors?
Pastoral counselors are certified mental health professionals. They have training in psychology and theology or religion. Those who are ACPE certified have master's or doctoral degrees.
Pastoral counselors go through a lot of clinical training. They also have supervised clinical experience.
Pastoral counselors are like other mental health counselors. They work with many problems. It depends on their training. For example, some may offer marriage and family therapy. Others work with addiction, grief, and serious mental illnesses. They provide short- and long-term counseling. They may also offer programs such as:
Pastoral counselors may work in:
How Do You Find a Pastoral Counselor?
Pastoral counselors are from many faith groups. But people from any faith (or no faith) can see one.
To find a pastoral counselor:
What About Fees and Insurance?
Some pastoral counselors are covered by insurance. Others are not. It depends on the state and state licensing. Others may offer sliding scale or reduced fees. Some work from churches and faith centers. These sometimes cost less.
Should You Try Pastoral Counseling?
Pastoral counseling has added benefits as a mental health option. Some feel that it offers more depth and meaning. However, many people do not try it. Some fear they would be pushed on a certain spiritual path. They worry that the counselor has a different faith. However, most pastoral counselors do not force their religious views. Instead, they help people explore and make their own decisions. Those who do use a certain faith will usually tell you. Ask about the counselor's views up front. If there is a poor match, find a different counselor.
The Association for Clinical Pastoral Education
National Board for Certified Pastoral Counselors
Canadian Association for Spiritual Care
Canadian Psychological Association
Mode of therapy: pastoral counseling. Careers in Psychology.Org website. Available at: https://careersinpsychology.org/pastoral-counseling. Accessed June 24, 2021
Pastoral counseling. Good Therapy website. Available at: https://www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/modes/pastoral-counseling. Accessed June 24, 2021.
Spiritual care: providing to children and their families. EBSCO Nursing Reference Center website. Available at: https://www.ebscohost.com/nursing/products/nursing-reference-center. Accessed June 24, 2021
What is clinical pastoral education? The Association for Clinical Pastoral Education website. Available at: https://acpe.edu/detail-pages/news/2020/09/11/what-is-clinical-pastoral-education. Accessed June 24, 2021.
Last reviewed June 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board
Last Updated: 6/24/2021
EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our Health Library Support team will respond to your email request within 2 business days.