In pastoral counseling, the pastor as counselor is concerned with spiritual problems.
In other types of counseling the spiritual aspect is often totally ignored.
The pastor is also concerned with psychological problems.
He is also aware that physical problems may be contributing to a spiritual or
A counseling pastor is concerned for the whole person.
Pastoral counselors can use some practical techniques to recognize psychological
and spiritual problems.
Isaiah 50:4: "The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know
how to speak a word in season to him that it is weary."
These words are so fitting for pastors who are counseling.
People coming to the pastor for counselor want to know why he or she and others
behave as they do.
The person who is depressed is looking for some relief.
The woman of loose morals is frustrated by her failure to find security.
Another person suffering from guilt wants to do what he can to be free from that burden.
Parents want to know the best way to raise their children.
Some parents will want to know why their adolescent is so rebellious.
The teenager wants to understand himself.
Pastors, there are five schools of thought in secular psychotherapy.
I studied these theories in college and seminary.
We should have some knowledge of these five schools.
The first school is centered around the psychoanalytic theory that Sigmund Freud
developed in the early 1900s.
It is based on the stage of the development of man (oral, anal, oedipal, and latent),
and on a structure of personality which was the id, ego, and superego, and a
technique of solving unresolved, unconscious conflicts.
The technique that is used in this theory is " free association."
This is where a person in a session discusses whatever comes to his mind.
The therapist listens and makes comments at times, and hopes to help the
patient work through conflicts that originate in his infantile years.
This therapy could require hundreds of hours, and does not emphasize
It does not deal with the spiritual aspect of man, and it offers no select effective way
to deal with true guilt.
The second school of thought is the Interpersonal Theory of psychology.
This theory teaches that man is a product of society, and his personality is
determined more by social factors than by biologic ones.
Alford Adler was the first to emphasize the importance of social factors
in personality development.
The third school of thought is centered around a practical, common-sense approach,
called Reality Therapy developed by William Glasser.
This theory is based on the value of " doing right," facing reality, and being responsible.
This theory focuses on the present, not the past, and on behavior, not feelings.
The approach of Reality Theory is to help a person work out practical solutions
to his problems.
This theory says that all who need psychiatric treatment suffer from failing to fulfill
two basic needs in life -- love and self-worth.
In contrast to conventional therapy they do not look for unconscious conflicts,
nor do they permit the person to excuse his behavior on the basis of
They do affirm the morality of behavior and attempt to distinguish between
right and wrong.
The fourth school of thought was originated by Eric Berne in the 1950s and 1960s.
This school is known as TA or Transactional Analysis.
This school of thought is based on three ego states in man: parent, adult, and child.
This theory states that when we transact with others we always relied on one
of these three ego states.
TA is a responsibility-oriented and goal-oriented practical therapy, and much
emphasis is placed on the importance of giving " strokes" or encouragement
and recognition to others.
I will be giving most of my attention to Transactional Analysis on this site.
I found it to be a school of thought that was practical, and is one in which
even children can understand themselves, their parents, their friends and others.
The fifth school of thought is known as Behavior Modification.
This therapy stresses overt behavior and conditioning responses.
This school had its beginning with a Russian psychologist named Ivan Pavlov.
The emphasis is on positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, desensitization,
reciprocal inhibition, conditioned avoidance, and the concept of extinction.
The secular schools of human behavior have provided us with much significant
We have learned that all of us have certain defenses by which we handle stress.
Some of these defense mechanisms are healthy and some are unhealthy.
Sublimation can be a healthy subconscious defense mechanism when a person would
handle anxiety by sublimating it in some productive direction.
Denial can be an unhealthy subconscious defense mechanism where a person fails
to recognize obvious facts or implications.
We have learned that the basic personality trend is set by the age of six, and now it is thought
that it is set even earlier than that.
Such individual characteristics as being a perfectionist, as being dramatic,
as being withdrawn, as being explosive, and by being passive are developed early
and are largely determined by the social factors around us.
But as pastors we know that God can change people even though their
personalities strengths and weaknesses are determined at an early age.
When a person accepts Christ, the Lord works both through other Christians
and through His Word to strengthen the positive trends in one's personality
and to overcome the weaknesses.
Pastors, we can help people face reality and be responsible.
We can help them to find practical solutions to their problems.
We will see that psychology and psychiatry don’t have to be complicated,
but can also be practical.
We can help them by developing a learned observation and by insight that God
will give us, and them to understand how they are relating to others,
and how they may need to change in order to be more adult and mature.
It is said that 42 percent of the people who will seek counseling will turn to their ministers.
So it goes without saying that pastors should develop some knowledge and expertise in counseling.
I was blessed to have a good relationship with physicians, psychologists, psychiatrists,
and other healthcare workers.
Pastors must develop a relationship with others who can provide needed wisdom
We must recognize that pastoral counseling is a ministry of a pastor who is seeking
to help individuals recognize, understand, and solve his or her own problems
in accordance with the Word of God.
As pastors we believe the Bible is the final standard of authority.
Therefore, Christians are not left to wander through the many philosophies and
to depend on their own logic to correctly identify a system of right and wrong.
Our definition of right and wrong is based on the Bible.
Of course the Bible is not primarily a book of rules on rights and wrongs.
It gives guidelines, eternal principles, and spiritual nourishment and life.
Jesus made this clear to us as He in John 6:63:
" The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life."
The Bible definitely gives pastoral counselors a framework, and it is the best framework.
It gives insights into human behavior, and it puts everything into a proper
It tells man who he is, and where he came from, and where he is going.
It tells the purpose of man, and the nature of man.
When you use these facts with the truths of the Bible, the pastor as counselor has
a vantage point from which to truly help individuals solve their problems.
Pastoral counseling is unique because it depends not only on man's willpower
to be responsible, but also on God's enabling, and the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit
to conquer man's problems.
We know that problems do not disappear when we accept Christ, but after that vital
decision we have a new wisdom and strength to deal with them.
Pastoral counseling also offers an effective way to deal with the past as well as
with the present. Pastoral counseling is based on God's love.
Because God loves us, His love flows through us, and we love others and feel
a responsibility toward them.
Of course every pastor who is counseling hopes that the non-Christian will accept
Jesus as Saviour and Lord for this is a person’s first step to find forgiveness
for their sins, eternal life, and a lasting peace.xiety