What is Christian Pastoral Counseling?
There perhaps as many definitions of Christian Pastoral Counseling as there are individual beliefs about the Christian faith. To bring clarity to our clients, the following presents our general policy and understanding of what Christian Counseling / Pastoral Counseling is with regard to how we view and practice it. This is not a universal definition; this is a statement of faith and application of Christian scripture and believe as we understand it.
Christian pastoral counseling has been in existence since the foundation of the Christian church in the first century A.D. Prior to the Advent of Christianity, the roots of pastoral or Biblical counseling is found in the Jewish Bible, which Christians refer to as the Old Testament. There’s a substantial amount of wisdom provided in scripture through books such as proverbs as well as the general writing throughout the Christian Bible. In fact the nature of counseling is well established in the Judeo-Christian heritage back thousands of years.
The Greek root-word for Psychology is Psueke, meaning ‘soul’ and is found 105 times in the New Testament. Psychology therefore best understood as the study or care of the soul. However, one might also call it the coming along side or bearing an other’s burden as seen in the New Testament (Galatians 6:1-3). Other Biblical examples of soul care include mandates to offer competent counsel, exhortation, chastisement, or even general advice has long existed as part of the ministry offered by people of faith in our traditions.
Christian counseling or pastoral counseling, taken from the entirety of the Holy Bible, supporting documents and writings of church fathers, rabbinical sources, and many other academic texts and sources, provides irrefutable evidence that counseling existed long before the invention of what is now regarded as psychology or professional counseling.
“The church has been so seduced by psychological counseling for so long that anything that seems at odds with the current counseling practices is usually considered a consequence of ignorance.” T.A. McMahon
“Preaching is personal counseling on a group basis.” Harry Emerson Fosdick
Most of the psychological theories that we hold to be reliable in the modern age, whether they intended or not, reinforce what we have known for centuries in the practice of worship through the ministry of helps within the church. This understanding is reflected in the ordering the mind (2 Corinthians 10:5), living in such a way that is pleasing to God (Ephesians 5:10; Romans 12:1;Romans 1:12; 2 Corinthians 5:9; Galatians 6:8; 1 Thessalonians 2:4) and seeking to live in harmony with others brings a level of success and happiness.
“All Scripture is given by God. And all Scripture is useful for teaching and for showing people what is wrong in their lives. It is useful for correcting faults and teaching the right way to live.” Timothy 3:16-17
“The instructions of the Lord are perfect, reviving the soul.
The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.
The commandments of the Lord are right, bringing joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are clear, giving insight for living.” Psalm 19:7–8
The following is our general policy statement on what constitutes Christian pastoral counseling at Virginia Beach Christian Counseling:
Our Definition: Christian Pastoral Counseling is best described as counseling by a Believer in Christ, often but not limited to ministers, pastors, or lay persons as disciples of Christ, using learned skills of empathetic attending and communication (1 Thessalonians 4:9) that supports the goals and needs of an individual, leaning primarily on the theoretical underpinnings of the Holy Bible and supporting scriptural and non-scriptural documents which are historically supportive of the coming alongside and bearing one an others burdens (Galatians 6:1-3) in an expression of faith and worship (James 1:27; Psalm 72:12, 13; Psalm 82:3; Isaiah 58:7; Psalm 10:18; Acts 20:35).
“Neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship God, but in spirit and in truth” (John 4:21–23).
Christian counseling when performed by a Christian Pastoral Counselor is an act of worship. It is rendering to God a tithe of talent based on how he has equipped that pastoral counselor to care for those in need.
Our Faith-based Mandate: Jesus commanded His disciples (all of His disciples) to tend to his sheep and to minister to those in need. He did not place a limit upon who those individuals were. Instead He set us to be a light that shines brightly and witness of him, salt to flavor the culture around us, and to feed his sheep in general. The Old Testament or Hebrew Scriptures describe fasting and religion acceptable to God as serving those who suffer, are impoverished, oppressed, sick, and suffering. Since our Christian commission is to go forth and make disciples, part of Christian Counseling is to expand individual understanding of how God views His aspired expression of human relationships and general health in the pursuit of life.
Our Agency Ethical Code for Application of Christian Pastoral Counselors:
- There is no assumption that all Pastoral Counselors are church pastors or leaders, but are nonetheless uniquely trained, equipped, or skilled as evidenced by a combination of formal education, counseling skills training, and properly supervised experience.
- We believe that God inspires all true science, medical understanding, and understanding of psychology and human behavior, where it is consistent with his demonstrated creative and scriptural Revelations. With that understanding, we agree that while many psychological theories might deny the existence of God, they also contain elements of truth which are supported by Biblical Truth.
- Leaning upon this theoretical and theological understanding which underpins the practice of counseling as seen in the Bible, Christian Pastoral Counselors are therefore able to and entitled to use all techniques that have been discovered or determined throughout the course of history that are helpful and guiding individuals couples and families towards emotional, mental, and spiritual health.
- Modern science has agreed that human beings are psycho-social – biological – Spiritual Beings. We recognize from Scripture that this is an accurate statement. Therefore, we believe it is appropriate sometimes necessary, and therefore we are permitted to apply techniques that are often found in secular counseling or psychology when practicing Christian pastoral counseling, provided they do not usurp the free will of our clients, or contradict scripture.
- We understand and agree that there are times when pastoral counseling is not appropriate for some clients. This tends to especially be the case in a areas of human health maintenance which are typically recognized as medically organic disorders. Such disorders are generally referred to by more obvious diagnostic categories such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, intellectual impairment, and other situations where counseling in life skills training, philosophical or belief systems, prayer, application of scripture, or other efforts of choice and introspection are not enough to bring about resolution.
- With those limits in mind, we believe in the autonomy of individuals to seek and receive such help as a Christian Pastoral Counselor is able to competently provide, provided such help is not forbidden in the Bible, provided that they do not cross the border between proper Council and medical treatment.
- Further declare and agree that a Christian Pastoral Counselor should not to provide written or testimonial diagnosis to clients, unless licensed or clinically supervised by credentialed practitioners who are legally recognized as competent to provide such diagnosis.
- If properly trained, Christian Pastoral Counselors may rely upon their training and understanding of diagnostic categories to inform their own framing of presenting issues, provided that they do not offer such diagnosis to clients.
- The Christian Pastoral Counselor shall not provide diagnostic services for the goal of informing clients or other individuals of any DSM-5 diagnosis.
- This provision does not prevent the Christian Pastoral Counselor to use publicly available resources, instruments, or tools openly available to the public, or ones for which he or she is trained and authorized to use, but does limit such use to the soul purpose of assisting clients in understanding the application of techniques, skills, or relationships in other-than-mental-health issues.
- Finally, it is our belief and understanding that we are mandated to render fidelity and obedience to God first and to Civil governance second:
- That the authorities under which we live cannot usurp or prevent such expression of worship and faith, provided that the Christian Pastoral Counselor does not act beyond the scope of their education, training, experience, or credentialing as it individually applies.
- That the Christian Pastoral Counselor must not misrepresent himself or herself as a Licensed Professional Counselor which is a legally protected term, nor by any other legally protected title that would imply that he or she is a licensed professional counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist, as is proper and correct in obedience to civil law and to not so designating does not violate our obedience to God.
- Proper identification is required of the Christian Pastoral Counselor to prevent purposeful or inadvertent misleading of the public. Therefore, the Christian Pastoral Counselor shall refer to his or herself only as a Pastoral Counselor or Christian Pastoral Counselor, unless other legitimate credentials or educational titles also apply.
“Be careful not to allow anyone to captivate you through an empty, deceitful philosophy that is according to human traditions and the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” Colossians 2:8
“He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ.” Colossians 1:28
As Christian Pastoral Counselors we at VBCC offer the following services:
- Individual counseling for Life issues, issues a faith, Hertz and traumas, and other issues which limit the clients personal well-being, relationships, self-actualization, grief, loss, or trauma,or spiritual growth.
- Marriage enhancement, conflict resolution, and other marriage skills counseling designed to increase levels of connection, reduce Strife hurt or anger, and to otherwise increase the functionality of a marriage. This may include premarital counseling, as well as other issues that have interfere in the sanctity or the functionality of marriage.
- Family counseling, which is designed to help the adults and The Offspring within the family to function cohesively, as well as intrapersonally within the family system. Family counseling is difficult to Define what is generally seen as applications of parenting skills, relationship, conflict resolution, overcoming trauma and difficulties, and dealing with grief and loss.
- Group counseling is counseling that is provided to more than two individuals who are not related and have a common goal, common set of issues, or other identifiable needs that bind them together. Group counseling generally is confined to psycho-educational counseling, or training groups. However, group counseling can also include skills training and other forms.
- Community Counseling workshops and forms. This public expression of counseling tends to be of an educational nature and is presented generally more in a workshop or lecture format, sometimes with breakout groups which would then become group counseling, or other formats. They can also include support groups where members Drive their own group management, process groups where facilitators maintain safety but do not control content and other forms of community or open forum services.
As Christian pastoral counselors do not, and may not offer any of the following services:
- Treatment of identifiable disorders such as: Major Depressive Disorders, Anxiety Disorders, Psychotic Disorders, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Schizophrenia, Bi-Polar Disorder, or other Mental Health Disorders as outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual version 5, when such disorders are the primary reason that a client presents themselves to the Christian Pastoral Counselor for help, or become recognizable as the cause of a client’s primary life dysfunctions. Such major disorders are beyond the scope of Christian Pastoral Counseling unless the counselor is also credentialed to provide for these issues. (The existence of anxiety, depression, evidences of trauma, and other diagnostic features can commonly occur in the course of life, and do not necessarily indicate that a disorder is evident, and such features are not a barrier to the services of a Christian Pastoral Counselor, provided that the features do not indicate the actual presence of a disorder which rises to the level of need for treatment.)