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Basic Type of Pastoral Care and Counselling

The present challenge of pastoral care and counseling
Pastoral counseling is an essential means by which a church is helped to be a lifesaving station and not a club, a hospital and a garden of the spiritual life. Counseling can help save those areas of our lives that are shipwrecked in the storms of our daily living, broken on the hidden reefs of anxiety, guilt, and lack of integrity.
Pastoral counseling and care contribute to the continuing renewal of a church's vitality by providing instruments for the renewal of persons, relationships, and groups. Counseling is an instrument of continuing renewal through reconciliation, helping to heal our estrangement from ourselves and our families, growing relationship with God.
When people touched Jesus' life, they experienced in him the healing power that comes from openness to oneself, others, nature, and God.
A historic liberation-growth model of pastoral care and counseling
Where there no vision, the people perish - Proverbs 29:18
Without an enlivening vision, persons in ministry, like churches and nations, perish, in the sense of losing their inner vitality.
To say relevant to the world of the eighties and nineties, any model of ministry must be open to the future. In our world of continuing change, pastoral care and counseling must be guided by an evolving vision.
Pastoral care and counseling involve the utilization by persons in ministry of one-to-one or small group relationships to enable healing empowerment and growth to take place within individuals and their relationships.
The general shape of the model
Here are the major themes in the liberation-growth model:
(1) The overarching goal of all pastoral care and counseling is to liberate, empower, and nurture wholeness centered in Spirit.
(2) Spiritual and ethical wholeness id the heart of all human wholeness.
(3) Pastoral care and counseling must be holistic, seeking to enable healing and growth in all dimensions of human wholeness.
(4) Crises and losses in the lives of individuals and families, and social crises and transitions in their wider society.
(5) Enabling people to increase the constructiveness of their behavior as well as their feelings, attitudes, and values is crucial in the helping process.
(6) Pastoral care can and should occur in all the diverse functions of ministry, including preaching, worship, and social action.
The six dimensions of wholeness
Pastoral care and counseling seeks to empower growth toward wholeness in all of the six interdependent aspects of a person's life:
- Enlivening one's mind
- Revitalizing one's body
- Renewing and enriching one's intimate relationships
- Deepening one's relationship with nature and the biosphere
- Deeping and vitalizing one's relationship with God.
Wholeness at each life stage
Pastoral care and counseling are most effective when they are developmentally-oriented. There is an abundance of opportunities for new growth at each stage of the life journey. Each stage fortunately, each stage also bring new strengths, resources, and problems of one's present life stage involves discovering and developing the new possibilities of the stage.
Crises as growth opportunities
There are two kinds of crises-developmental crises that occur around the normal stressful transitions in the life journey and accidental crises that cause unexpected stresses and losses that can come at any life stage. One goal of caring and counseling is to enable people to respond to their crises as growth opportunities.
The mission, biblical bases, and uniqueness of pastoral care and counseling
A congregation's ministry of care and counseling have both an inreaching and an outreaching mission to persons, wherever they may be in need. Frequently the pastor is the only person they allow to enter their private hells. In their desperate need, they open their hearts to the pastor, whether or not he or she deserves that trust. Many people in need see the minister as a competent, trusted shepherded they ask to walk with them through their shadowed valleys.
The relationship between the practice of pastoral care and counseling and our biblical heritage id like a two-way street. The insights from the heritage illuminate, inform, and guide the practice of these pastoral arts, and this practice brings to life basic biblical trusts by allowing them to become incarnate and experienced in human relationships. In counseling, the biblical truths are illuminated by being applied and tested in the arena of human struggles and growth! Is is in this sence that pastoral care and counseling are ways of doing theology!
Biblical images of wholeness
The biblical record emphasizes repeatedly the remarkable potentialities of us human beings. The psalmist describes us as being created "little less than God"(Ps.8:5). The first of the two creation stories in Genesis asserts that we are made in the image or likeness of God(Gen 1:27). In the anthropology of the Jewish Bible, all aspects of persons, not just their minds or spirits, are seen as created in the divine image. To develop our unique personhood in the likeness of the divine, is the goal of the Christian life. Facilitating this development is the purpose of all ministry including pastoral care and counseling.
As pointed out earlier, the good news according to John describes Jesus' purpose in coming as being so that people could have "life... in all its fullness"(John 10:10). Life in all its fullness is the biblical way of speaking of Spirit-centered holistic health or wholeness-centered-in-Spirit.
The biblical understanding of wholeness makes it clear that humans are not God, even though they are made in the divine likeness. Awareness of one's finitude, limitations and brokenness is essential, alongside awareness of one's remarkable potentialities. Without this, one easily falls into self-idolatry and the narcissistic pride that alienates persons from nurturing interaction with other people, the biosphere and God.
The Uniqueness of pastoral counseling
Ministers need to understand their uniqueness as counselors, vis-a-vis other professionals who do counseling and therapy, so that they can maximize their special contributions to helping the troubled. The heart of our uniqueness is our theological and pastoral heritage, orientation, resources, and awareness. This is our frame of reference and the area of our special expertise. The awareness that the transpersonal Spirit of God that is the core of all reality, should influence profoundly everything we do including our counseling. Dietrich Bonhoeffer's familiar statement, "God is the 'beyond in the midst of our life,"can be used to describe the unique focus of pastoral care and counseling. This transpersonal awareness is central in all counseling that is truly pastoral.
The unique training of pastoral counselors id their dual education in both the theological and the psychological/psychotherapeutic disciplines.
The foundation of all types of caring and counseling
Many people are looking for an ear that will listen. pastoral counseling actually beings when the first contact is made by a person to seek help.
During the first counseling session, several things should occur. (1) The foundation is laid or strengthened for a growing therapeutic relationship as the person experiences the minister's warmth, understanding, and caring. (2) Through focused listing and empathic reflecting of the parishioner's feeling, the catharsis of painful, bottled-up feelings begins, and (3) the pastoral acquires a tentative understanding of the person's "internal frame of reference" how life looks from within his or her world.
Counseling consists of the establishment and subsequent utilization of a relationship; the quality of which can be describes as therapeutic(healing), maieutic(facilitating birth and growth) and reconciling(restoring alienated relationships). This is the psychological environment where effective problem-solving, healing, and growth, can best occur.
The process of listening and reflecting in a warm caring way serves several other impotent functions:(1)It allows counselors to check the accuracy of their perceptions. (2) It lets counselees know that the minister is trying to understand their inner world of meanings and feelings. (3) Responding to feelings lances the psychic wound, permitting the poison of powerful pent-up feelings to drain off so that normal healing can occur.
Empathic listening is active listening demanding an emotional investment in the other and relative openness to one's own feelings.
The fundamental counseling skills
The essential helping skills needed by counselors have been identified. Several approaches to learning these one at a time have been developed.
- Attending and caring behavior, including frequent eye contact, expressing interest by one's posture and one's facial expression.
- Careful listening and observing of non-verbal message.
- Empathetic responding by paraphrasing the main thrust of the significant feelings and issues one has perceived, and their meaning to the person.
- Confronting as need and appropriate, in the context of valuing and affirming the person.
- Understanding the meanings, issues, and dynamics of the problem and making recommendations for help based on this diagnostic insight.
Facilitating spiritual wholeness: The heart of pastoral care and counseling
As you ought not to attempt to care the eyes without the head, or the head without the body, so neither ought you to attempt to care the body without the soul... for the part can never be well unless the whole is well... and therefore, if the head and body are to be well, you must being by caring the soul.
Pastors are called to be enablers of spiritual wholeness throughout the life style. An understanding of humankind's fundamental spiritual needs and the ability to help people learn to satisfy these more growthfully are essential assets in all counseling that is truly pastoral.
Paul Tillich points out that the threat of nonbeing producing existential anxiety has three forms-the threat of fate and death, emptiness and loss of meaning, guilt and condemnation. This anxiety permeates our whole being.
There are no psychological or psychotherapeutic answers to existential anxiety. Is is existential in that it is inherent in our very existence as self-aware creatures. But its impact on the individual can be either creature or destructive, depending on how it is handled.
The only constructive means of handling existential anxiety is an authentic religious life, enabling the actualization of the image of God within the person. Existential anxiety is transformed to the extent that we are able to live in eternity in the midst of our transitory lives.
Counseling on Ethical, value and Meaning Issues
Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him. People need sound values and meanings to be healthy. Growth toward Spirit-centered wholeness must include growth in life-guiding values and ethical commitments. Many who seek pastoral help with personal problems are suffering from distorted, immature, or vacuous consciences. Often they are unaware of the ethical roots of their pain.
Counseling on ethical, value, and meaning issues is not just one special type of pastoral counseling. These issues are present, at some level. in all human dilemmas and problems, often in subtle or implicit form.
As Don Browning makes clear, the church is called to be a community of moral inquiry, guidance, and formation. The minister's role is to facilitate this process in the congregation and to his society. Biblical wisdom about ethical values and moral health are much more than the context of pastoral care and counseling.
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