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WHAT ABOUT PASTORAL COUNSELORS?

People looking for marriage counselors often need info regarding pastoral counselors.

The following is a simplified picture giving an overview and showing the structure of pastoral counselling. It also indicates a minimum of other info needed. The organisational structure of the discipline of pastoral counselling can be illustrated by a pyramid with four levels or categories. (For mobile phone viewers: 1. is ground level and 4 top level).



4. Pastoral therapist (Private practice)

(A Christian, graduate, independent)



3. Pastoral counselor (Organized)

(A leader tasked by the church)



2. Pastoral care (Church organized)

(Church member for the church)


1. Mutual care (Spontaneously) (Any Christian or church member)



1. The ground or basic level represents “spontaneous and mutual caring.

This is a spontaneous caring for those in need around you. It is caring for all by all. It is for any Christian or church member, everybody is invited. The caring will consist of any action that may bring relief, help, support, healing or hope etc.


2. The second level represents “organized caring.”

It is often caring or service due to an instruction from the church or a request from somebody to the church for help. In other words a church member tasked by the church. This help is mainly focused on a specific need for which a certain caregiver that is skilled is chosen. A minimum training and skills are required learned for applying to a certain need or specific circumstances.


3. The third level represents “pastoral counselling.”

Pastoral counselors are often officiants of a church. These are church leaders tasked by the church. A basic training and specific skills are acquired to handle a variety of personal and sometimes more complex problems. Counselling will be according to Biblical principles and will have an emphasis on spiritual support like prayer, quotes from Scripture, Bible verses or even prophecy.


4. The fourth or top level represents “pastoral therapy.”

Pastoral therapists are professionals in counselling and operate often independently and are probably not directly in service of and accountable to a church. They are Christians, graduates and mostly working independently. Academic schooled in psychology as well as theology with proven experience is required before they can register with a national overseeing body as pastoral therapists.


Counselling will be with application of psychological knowledge accompanied by the recognition of and adherence to Biblical principles. It may include spiritual support like prayer, quotes from Scripture or the Bible or even prophecy.


The difference in the approach of pastoral therapists versus psychologists is that in the first mentioned a spiritual dimension is recognized and catered for while in the latter the existence and importance of the human spirit is generally denied. The spirit is not part of the study of psychology. The same goes for the spiritual concept “God.” Thus in psychology the approach is humanistic. God does not feature. Therefore universities do not cater for the training of pastoral psychologists any more.

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