What is pastoral counselling?



The term ‘pastoral counselling’ was coined in mid-20th century America when counselling was in its infancy. Initially, it simply meant ‘the counselling done by pastors’ as opposed to any other of the professions offering counselling (such as careers advisers or social workers). In the United States, pastoral counsellors have most often been theologically trained ministers who have also undertaken a qualification in counselling. In Britain, pastoral counsellors are more likely to be lay members of faith communities – most often the Christian faith – who have undertaken a professional counselling training. Pastoral counsellors seek to integrate their counselling practice with the theology and spirituality of their faith community. Pamela Cooper-White (2004:131) describes pastoral counselling in these terms:


Pastoral counselling, or psychotherapy, is defined as a distinctive form of counselling in which the full resources, theoretical knowledge, and clinical methods of secular psychology and psychotherapy are brought together with pastoral theological method and practice to provide a holistic approach to psychotherapy that honors and integrates the spiritual dimension of each patient’s life and experience.


Pastoral counselling seeks to hold open a space between ‘secular’ counselling (where some practitioners can be uncomfortable with religion) and ‘Christian’ counselling (which can be obsessed by it) – a space in which it is possible for psychology and theology, faith and counselling practice to remain in dialogue and for religion to be seen ‘as a source of meaning and a resource for living’ (Lyall, 2001:15).


Pastoral Counselling Resources




Cooper-White, P 2004 Shared Wisdom, Minneapolis, Fortress Press

                              2007 Many Voices, Minneapolis, Fortress Press


Lyall, D  2001 The Integrity of Pastoral Care, London, SPCK



Last updated: 15/10/10