Pastoral Counseling Preparation

Pastoral Counseling Preparation

In a study conducted by Firmin & Tedford (2007) over thirty evangelical Baptist seminaries were surveyed on the amount of counseling courses required or offered as electives for Master of Divinity students preparing for pastoral ministry. Most required less than two classes of training but most seminaries offered only one. The article provided a table of seminaries divided by their denomination and program. As a seminary professor Elias (2006) worked to help change the lack of counseling courses provided for seminary students. The Apostle Paul’s model of pastoral influence and care for the church in Corinth greatly influenced the development of a course offered at the seminary level.

Part of a pastor’s preparation has included self-reflection. Nolte & Dreyer (2010) explored the life of Henri Nouwen and the contributions that were made in the development of pastoral care. Part of the process of preparation has included an aspect of the pastor’s own life and how “woundedness” (p. 1) becomes part of the pastoral counselor’s formation. For now the diagnostic pastoral counselor must rely on the DSM-IV and interpret findings within the context of church setting (p. 37). This can only be accomplished if the individual understood what pastoral counseling formation entails.

Townsend (2006) defined “formation” as a framework that pastoral counselors created for themselves through experience that organized the counselor’s perceptual field and cognitive–emotional interpretive frameworks (p. 31). Townsend (2006) reported that constant comparative analysis uncovered a model that pastoral counselors used, thus correlating theological reflection and formation (p. 33). Though many of the participants unsuccessfully explained the exact model of theological reflection that was used, microanalysis determined several approaches to theological reflection: Formational Approach, Correlational Approach, Diagnostic Approach, Feminist and Liberative Models (Townsend, 2006).

The Virginia Institute of Pastoral Care (VIPCare) provided formation as an endeavor that might possibly last the pastor counselor’s life (Hill et al., 2006). Counseling theories are seen through the formation of models at the Virginia Institute of pastoral care. This institution has created a program that helps clinical pastorals using education. In addition, it prepares pastors for most chaplain services in either hospital settings or within the church.

VIPCare developed a model that has incorporated supervised training better known as Clinical Pastoral Education, C.P.E. (Hill et al., 2006). It’s training provides caregivers with the proper education to interact with those in hospitals, hospice care, military environments, just to name a few. This program helps individuals learn how to work alongside those from other cultures and other religious beliefs. As long as one’s belief does not cause harm of others. Some sort of book is at the center of most major religions. For the Christian, the Holy Bible provides inspiration and help for those in need. It is a source of hope for many who read it. It is valuable to counselors as they provide care for those in need.

C.P.E. is an interfaith program that helps prepare those called to some ministry role. It is designed to help facilitate and teach individuals with previous religious education. It is a professional program with real-life interaction between those in need of help and those giving help in a supervised environment. It also helps make the connection between spiritual and pastoral care. This program has provided those seeking to provide continuing education as part of the pastoral counselors formation where academic critics may be applied to one’s degree or certification (Hill et al., 2006).

This type of program has been geared for students interested in a ministry focused on counseling and caring for others (Hill at all, 2006). The goal is not an intellectual one but rather part in preparation in developing the pastoral counselors formational process (Hill et al., 2006). Each formation was specific to each individual and the author stressed that it could not be generalized. This self-assessment was reported to be an essential aspect of the psychotherapeutic process of being a pastoral counselor.


Elias, J. W. (2006). From a distance: pastoral care and theological education. Teaching Theology & Religion, 9(1), 44-52. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9647.2006.00260.x

Firmin, M. W., & Tedford, M. (2007). An assessment of pastoral counseling courses in seminaries serving evangelical baptist students. Review of Religious Research, 48(4), 420-427. Retrieved from

Hill, H. R., Slemp, D. C., & Maloy, W. V. (2006). A model of formation: the Virginia institute of pastoral care. American Journal of Pastoral Counseling, 8(3/4), 197-207. doi: 10.1300/J062v08n03̱14

Nolte, S. P., & Dreyer, Y. (2010). The paradox of being a wounded healer: henri j.m. nouwen’s contribution to pastoral theology. Hervormde Teologiese Studies, 66(2), 1-8. doi: 10.4102/hts.v66i2.861

Townsend, L. (2006). Theological reflection and the formation of pastoral counselors. American Journal of Pastoral Counseling, 8(3/4), 29-46 doi: 10.1300/J062v08n03̱03


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