Pastoral Counseling Identity

The identity of pastors as counselors was explored as Greenwald and his associates (2004) interviewed and worked with almost seventy individuals representing twelve different denominations. The purpose of this study was to get a better understanding between the care a pastor provides for others as it relates or differentiates from counseling. Greenwald (2004) provided data to clarify the difference between pastoral counselors and professional counselors. Many pastors have needed to refer counsel leaves for long–term care needs because of an adequate training. Pastoral counselors have not been viewed as professionals due to the lack of proper clinical training and education (Firmin & Tedford, 2007).

Greenwald et al. (2004) suggested that pastoral counselors pursue professional training in order to establish credibility among the greater counseling community in mental health. The correlational pastoral counselors described theological reflection as emerging after analysis of each individual client and then compartmentalizing the information gathered into a structured framework of “scriptural metaphors” (Townsend, p. 35). Unlike the formational pastor counselors that lean more towards psychotherapy this group favored the theological interpretation of any clinical experience.

Mendenhall & Ronsheim (2006) observed a pastoral counselor’s formation could greatly impact the needs of the Christian community by bridging the gap between the professional counselors and pastoral counseling. Roles have changed over the years. Today’s pastoral counselors have become greatly impacted by post–modern thought and ideas in the us reshaped the pastoral counseling context from individual eyes focused to the community context. According to Mendenhall & Ronsheim (2006) new counseling models have been developed and incorporated in meeting today’s counseling needs. Park (2006) explored the historical development of pastoral counseling as it has pertained to future endeavors. It was discovered that teaching methodologies from a historical perspective would greatly impact pastoral counselors in the future.

Further pastoral counselors pursuing training must prepare for a multifaceted education while recognizing new trends of counseling and adapting them to their present context. They further point out that methodologies that were once focused on pursuing the sacred while maintaining balance between rational and scientific discoveries that have influenced and shaped today’s contextual culture must be taken into account. Pastoral counseling must be willing to maneuver through the cultural maze while still representing the sacred and religious rather than spiritual vitality (Mendenhall & Ronsheim, 2006).

According to Parker (2006) for any pastor looking to provide counseling for church members must understand that there are roles that referred to a pastor’s identity as a counselor and boundaries that are provided for their protection and security as a clergy. Integrity and wisdom and ethical issues were explored providing literature for those in ministry over and I’m above the seminary degree. Townsend (2006) turned to research to help explain the role of pastoral counselor by having had focused on the correlation between the formation and consideration of the pastoral counselors theological interest and education.

At some point the individual must learn that the role of pastoral counselor has included a merger of clinical theory, understanding one’s view of theology, and how that has influenced the development of the pastoral counselor. This according to Frick (2010) it has been determined by the setting the individual practice. For some time counseling was looked at as a clinical program. Over the years counseling has become an intricate part of ministry in the church. Pastors are no longer spending time preparing for messages or offering care to the congregation but now are looked at or required to counsel members when needed.


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

Frick, E. (2010). Pastoral and psychotherapeutic counseling. Christian Bioethics: Non-ecumenical Studies in Medical Morality, 16(1), 30-47. doi: 10.1093/cb/cbq005

Greenwald, C. A., Greer, J. M., Gillespie, C. K., & Greer, T. V. (2004). A Study of the Identity of Pastoral Counselors. American Journal of Pastoral Counseling, 7(4), 51-69. doi: 10.1300/J062v7n04•04

Mendenhall, C. & Ronsheim, D. M. (2006). Expanding the Context of Care: Formation from the Inside Out and the Outside In. American Journal of Pastoral Counseling Volume 8, Issue 3-4. doi:10.1300/J062v08n03_15

Park, S. (2007). An Evolving History and Methodology of Pastoral Theology, Care, and Counseling. Journal of Spirituality in Mental Health, 9(1), 5. doi: 10.1300/J515v09n01•02

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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