Many people are not aware that there are two types of counselors. The few who do know are confused about the differences between a Pastoral Counselor and a state Licensed Professional Counselor. In some aspects they are very similar, but in many ways they are very different. Traditional Licensed Professional Counselors and Pastoral Counselors are two different counseling routes that can be taken to get the help you or a loved one might be searching for.
“We can look at scripture and God’s perspective on it in the Bible; this is God’s truth about these issues. For example when it comes to divorce, we can look at the word and find God’s perspective on what divorce looks like. We believe that is the right thing to do. While a secular counselor that is a Christian may be able to talk about it, they can’t approach it as an absolute truth, and God views in absolute truths,” said Dr. Al Jones, Head to Heart Restoration Ministry. “We do a lot of marriage counseling, but we also do a lot of individual counseling dealing with wounds from the past or when someone suffers with a divorced parent or issues of rejection or if they feel unloved. Finding a foundation in Christ is another step toward healing.”
Some of the marked differences are that in the eyes of the government you’re considered clergy with a counseling focus. That enables Pastoral Counselors to take a very direct Jesus-focused approach to counseling. Using scripture and prayer and biblical principles is what drives the type of Pastoral counseling.
“Our main focus at Head to Heart is providing counseling and helping people to overcome life’s issues from stress and anxiety and conflict through Godly prayer and counseling,” Dr. Jones said. “We go straight into how Jesus is the center of what we do. Head to Heart believes that allowing God to be the center of each session, allowing Him to come in and heal broken places, hopefully will bring complete freedom to people. We don’t believe in a Band-Aid approach; not to say there aren’t times when talk therapy isn’t important. I’m not saying that there aren’t times when secular counseling serves a purpose — and a good purpose — but if someone is truly looking for a God-centered approach to counseling, they’re going to have a much harder time finding it though a state-licensed counselor.”
“State licensed counselors have much tighter boundaries as far as sharing their stories,” said Pastor Tom Coker, Head to Heart. “Counselors who have been licensed by the state are held to different ethical standards, which mandate an individual’s right to be free from religious influence.”
Pastoral Counselors believe that we are created by God in his image. They believe that we yearn for a transforming connection with God and that Jesus-focused counseling can mediate the loving and healing nature of being who God created you to be. They often pay special attention to the religious and family history of the client, noting that it may contribute to their underlying problems or provide resources for coping and healing. “A few years back I was going through some rough times. I came to Head to Heart Ministries to try and sort out some things and try to understand what was going on in my life… we prayed about some specific things that were causing hurts in my life,” said L.S., former Head to Heart client. “God answered our prayers and brought about some miraculous changes in my thoughts and my life.”
Choosing a counselor involves some understanding of the nature of the problem, the type of counseling desired, and the circumstances of the client. The more a person knows about the differences in counselors, the services available through those counselors, and the goals of counseling, the more likely the client will find a counselor who will be helpful.
“I have been working with Head to Heart Ministries over the past few months. It has truly been a blessing to me at a very difficult time in my life,” said S.H., current Head to Heart client. “My counselor has given me wonderful Spiritual insight, which has helped me evolve as a greater child of God. Through this awakening I have developed a great relationship with my Heavenly Father, which grows stronger every day.”
The choice between a Licensed Professional Counselor and a Pastoral Counselor may be simply a matter of appropriateness to the circumstances of the client. But the difference may also be much greater than many realize. This is a serious matter and should be given due consideration before going to a counselor. Understanding the difference between secular and pastoral counseling is key in choosing the right help that is needed.
Head to Heart School of Pastoral Counseling is a Certified Academic Institution (CAI) of the National Christian Counselors Association. For more information call 512.733.8000 or visit headtoheart.org online.
article by Ariel Rosentswieg