Pastoral Counseling Differs from Traditional Psychotherapy

After a long career in the manufacturing industry and in the United States Air Force Reserve, Hubert Jaundoo became an ordained minister on May 30, 2011. Through the American Association of Christian Counselors, Dr. Jaundoo earned certification in pastoral and crisis counseling. For three years, Hubert Jaundoo provided direct ministry at a rehabilitation center, developing skills in interpreting the emotional and spiritual needs of patients and their families. He now serves as an assistant pastor at Bethesda Evangelical Lutheran Church in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Pastoral counselors differ from other mental health professionals in that they receive graduate level training in both theology and psychology. Their counseling curriculum includes the study of cultural systems as well as human development and personality. They learn counseling skills appropriate for work with individuals, married couples, and families. Pastoral counselors also acquire skills in facilitating groups and addressing community dynamics. As with other mental health professionals, they undertake supervised fieldwork to fulfill degree and certification requirements.

Individuals and families seek pastoral counseling when they want to combine a religious or spiritual perspective with mental health treatment. A 1992 Gallup poll found that 66 percent of respondents indicated that they preferred a mental health counselor who represented spiritual values and beliefs. Pastoral counselors often work with other mental professionals, such as psychiatrists, when the patient benefits from medication in their treatment.

Unlike traditional psychotherapists, pastoral counselors often believe that humans yearn for a stronger connection with the divine, which the psychotherapeutic process can help facilitate. Pastoral counselors may be particularly adept at understanding the religious history of the client and their family, identifying how it assists the clients in the formation of coping mechanisms, or observing how it contributes to an unhealthy pathology. In the therapy setting, these professionals may utilize Scripture and other religious resources. The May 1997 Harvard Mental Health Newsletter states that the unique perspective and orientation provided by pastoral counselors may be “a revelation of love, forgiveness, and good news to people who have been in bondage to their feelings and the past.”

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