Pastoral psychotherapy is a distinctive form of talk therapy whereby the full resources, theoretical knowledge and clinical methods of psychology and psychotherapy are brought together with pastoral theological method and practice.
There is an adage that goes, if you don t believe in something, you will fall for anything…In each one of us there is an intrapsychic space where belief in something finds a ready home. Beliefs come in all shapes and sizes and they propel us into the world of meaning making. Beliefs make sense to individuals, communities and societies. Beliefs can have positive or negative consequences, particularly negative beliefs about oneself can cause arrest or a form of stuckness whereby positive change and growth become insurmountable challenges.
Pastoral psychotherapy acknowledges and helps identify assumptions and deeply held beliefs which often prevent one from recognizing one’s natural abilities or realizing one’s true potential. In a one to one, couple, family or group setting personal insight and deepening awareness in addition to acquiring new behavioral tools will result in positive wellbeing and healthier relationships.
It is specifically a form of talk therapy whereby a qualified clinician accompanies the person, couple or family through exploration and reflection on the issues and challenges which inform one’s reality and lived experience. Intrapsychic conflict and unresolved personal issues express themselves in our overall health and wellbeing or lack thereof while often our interpersonal relationships are compromised.
Through a guided process of active listening, discussion and reflection the person learns to reframe issues or problems which have defined their lives in a safe and confidential environment. Pastoral counselling is a process you commit to with a therapist when you seek positive change in your life. Thought patterns, feeling states and behaviours are assessed and evaluated so that healthier, positive and more constructive interpersonal interaction is promoted through personal wellness and improved overall health and wellbeing.
Pastoral Counselling does not come in a one size fits all format but each session is informed by one’s unique narrative and personal circumstances. There is always flexibility which allows for a variety of counselling techniques, psychotherapeutic interventions and styles. The counsellor in concert with the person will create a care plan which will focus and address the issues and challenges embodied in the person’s lived reality.
Pastoral Support and Counselling with Church Professionals:
Who heals the healer, the title of a poem by Terry Donovan reflects aptly the reality which priests and religious encounter in our ever changing societies and communities. It can be difficult to set aside time, energy and resources to engage in personal work which helps deepen the meaning we attribute to ministry, i.e that space or interaction between the minister and the ministered.
Prayer remains the fountain and source of all positive ministry and the well which sustains life giving pastoral care. For generations of men and women authentic prayer cemented a wholesome ministry, informing right relationship and justice. At various times in the past priests and religious were more numerous, natural therapy was more easily attained and support networks sprang more freely and readily.
Many Church professionals can be reluctant to deliberately engage in personalized care and support. Many feel that s/he can manage fairly well without it, others don’t wish to attract attention or believe that they they don’t merit such care. Frequently many do not have financial resources to embark on such work without involving superiors while to do so may seem to be admitting some deeper need for help which may not necessarily be the case.