Charlotte offers free pastoral counseling and mentoring for those living the West Kentucky area. She is currently accepting clients to complete her January – May 2018 Internship Experience with Regent University. Is pastoral counseling right for you? You may find the following information helpful as you consider your spiritual/mental care options (adapted from the Summit Church counseling FAQs).
How does pastoral counseling/mentoring differ from licensed professional counseling?
Simply put, pastoral counseling is a “doing life together” relationship of mutual care that occurs in natural community, allowing for the most free expression of a Christian world-view, while licensed professional counseling is a private, fee-based relationship forged on the basis of a particular need where there are clear role differences between the helper and helpee.
Seven Differences Between Pastoral and Licensed Professional Counseling
Authority and Accountability: A pastoral counselor is accountable to the local church or ministry board under which he or she serves. A clinical counselor is accountable to the state licensing board (e.g., LPC, LMFT, LCSW) whose credential he or she holds. The entity to which a counselor is accountable sets the standards by which that individual can practice and serves as the point of appeal if a counselee believes the counselor behaved unethically.
Diagnostic System: A licensed professional counselor defines the counselee’s struggle according to the criteria of the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders in order to operate in compliance with the managed care system; which allows the financial advantage for the counselee of paying for counseling through their insurance. In this sense, clinical counselors work predominantly from a perspective that counselees struggle with “mental illness” because their practice is part of the healthcare system.
Pastoral counselors work predominantly from a perspective that the source of the counselee’s struggles are “problems in living” (i.e., beliefs and values enacted in choices and relationships) or “meaning of life” issues where temporal struggles are interpreted in light of their eternal significance. A pastoral counselor operates from a worldview that utilizes the categories of Scripture to advise a counselee as they navigate life struggles of sin, suffering, or identity. Note: There are many clinical counselors who hold a high view of Scripture and many pastoral counselors who are clinically-informed. This distinction is not mean to portray that pastoral and clinical counseling are mutually exclusive. The same could be said for the “treatment strategies” point below.
Values: A clinical counselor seeks to work within the value structures of each counselee and not impose their values on their client. A pastoral counselor believes that Scripture provides the values that contribute to human flourishing because the Bible reveals God’s intent for how people and relationships were designed to function.
Compensation: With a clinical counselor, counselees are usually able to process their counseling expense through their insurance. The pastoral counseling services at Paducah First Church of the Nazarene are offered free of charge as part of our ongoing ministry to the West Kentucky area community.
Treatment Strategies: A clinical counselor works with the counselee to identify goals and selects best-practice therapeutic strategies to reach those goals based upon the leading diagnosis in the counselee’s life. A pastoral counselor also incorporates therapeutic strategies, however, he or she seeks to make practical application of Scripture to the problems in living the counselee has identified. The pastoral counselor encourages these to be lived out in the context of Christian community to reach the counselee’s desired goals.
Training: A clinical counselor has standardized educational and supervised experience criteria which are set by the state in which he or she practices. A pastoral counselor’s education and experience may vary. It is important for the counselee to understand the education and experience level of their pastoral counselor. For more information about Charlotte’s education and training click here (About Page).
Professional Cooperation: When other professionals are involved in the counselee’s life – physicians, social workers, psychiatrists, attorneys, etc – these professionals are more accustomed to working with a clinical counselor and there may be situations that make meeting with a clinical counselor decidedly advantageous for the counselee. When these professionals consult with a pastoral counselor, they do so more as a clergy member providing life history or a character witness than as someone providing a mental health assessment.
How do I know if my struggle is significant enough to get help?
This is a question many people wonder about. We know we shouldn’t wait until things are “that bad” but we want things to be “bad enough” to merit the time and energy of pastoral counseling relationship. Below are nine areas of reflection that may help you make the decision best for you. The more of these you identify with these areas, the more likely pastoral and/or professional counseling would be a wise step for you.
“I don’t have anyone I feel like I can talk to.” (Isolation) Being alone with your struggle may be the strongest indicator that it’s going to get worse. Pastoral counseling provides an outlet for you to get comfortable talking about your struggle. The pastoral counseling ministry at Paducah First Church of the Nazarene will encourage you to begin connecting with a local church community so that this isolation relief can begin to occur in more natural, day-to-day relationships.
“I don’t know what to do next” or “What I’m doing isn’t working.” (Confusion) Another major factor that causes a struggle to get worse is a sense of powerlessness that emerges from confusion or ineffectiveness. Pastoral counseling can provide additional strategies and recommend new resources to offset the sense of powerlessness when we’ve done everything we’ve known to do and it hasn’t provided relief.
“You are trying to hide your struggle.” (Shame) Hiding is isolation on steroids. When we are tempted to hide our struggle the confidentiality of pastoral counseling can provide a safe context to begin breaking that habit.
“My struggle is getting progressively worse.” (Depth) Whether it is intensity of unpleasant emotions, level of dishonor in conflict, or sense of desperation about circumstances, when you can tell that your struggle is trending in a bad direction in spite of your efforts to change, then pastoral counseling is a wise step to prevent allowing the struggle from becoming more rooted in your life.
“My struggle is dominating my thoughts or emotions.” (Frequency) Do you notice that the struggle is beginning to consume a larger percentage of your waking hours and/or disrupting your ability to sleep? Even if the intensity is remaining relatively constant, an increase in the frequency of your struggle can make pastoral counseling a wise step towards reclaiming this part of your life.
“I am withdrawing from or losing interest in things I enjoy.” (Loss of pleasure) When we lose interest in things we normally enjoy that is an indicator that we are experiencing a level of time or emotional pressure that is unsustainable. Pastoral counseling can provide a context to think about what can and needs to be done.
“My ability to function at home or work is being affected.” (Productivity) When your life struggle impacts your ability to fulfill your basic life roles, then it is likely to begin deteriorating your sense of value as a person. That is a very emotionally dangerous way to think about life. Pastoral counseling can be helpful in assisting you to navigate the sense of failure you feel and the ways you can address the struggles that made it hard for you to fulfill these life roles.
“I think everyone around me is wrong, lazy, or an idiot.” (Blame-Shifting or Cynicism) When our attitude towards life means either everyone else is wrong, or we’re wrong, we should assume that’s a big red flag. It also likely means we’ve burned many of our relational bridges. Pastoral counseling can be a context to see things more clearly while we take steps to mend the bridges we’ve burned.
“I am beginning to escape or numb myself through substances or mindless activities.” (Addiction) When we are satisfied to escape or numb our struggles in a manner that does nothing to resolve them, we are surrendering. The likely result is that our numbing or escaping activity will become addictive because, as the struggle inevitably grows, so will the duration of time given to our numbing or escaping activity. When you see yourself entering this pattern, pastoral counseling is highly recommended. We can also connect you to other professional resources in the area as needed.
I’m ready to get help. What do I do?
To make an appointment with Charlotte, please fill out the contact form on this site or call 270.349.4766. You may fill out in these forms Pastoral Counseling Informed Consent plus Pastoral Counseling Intake Form and bring them with you. Or if you’d rather, you can do it onsite at your first appointment. We look forward to meeting you!