Do pastoral counselors treat mental illness?

A pastor counselor is trained to recognize certain illnesses but so that they can refer a patient to a professional trained to treat them.  A pastoral counselor is part of a network.  They often refer patients to psychiatrists, family doctors, dietitians, substance-abuse counselors and even financial counselors.  A pastoral counselor does not treat mental illness but often provides spiritual and emotional support to those dealing with mental illness.  

Is a pastoral counselor a licensed professional counselor(LPC)?

A pastoral counselor and an LPC are not the same – although some people can be both.  An LPC is a clinical counselor.  They are licensed and regulated by various governmental boards and professional associations. Pastoral counselors are credentialed and regulated by religious organizations and may be influenced by professional associations.  Pastoral counselors are not licensed by a civil government or authority.

A major difference between a clinical and a pastoral counselor is the basic philosophy of the counseling process. Clinical counselors only interact with their client through the professional setting and are strongly discouraged from interaction outside of that
professional relationship. A pastoral counselor may have a relationship with the person outside the formal counseling setting.  The perspective client can determine which best meets their needs.

Another big difference are world views and values. A clinical counselor is limited in the degree that they can discuss and direct the client from their own values. Counseling theory, as taught in the behavioral sciences, is to dictate the perspective and advice given.  A clinical counselor who is Christian is allowed to discuss their values with a client only if they specifically ask, but giving advice based on such values is not always allowed.  A pastoral counselor will give advice and counsel based on both religious values and behavioral science theories.  The methodologies are free to be openly explored.  The counselor is expected to counsel from the viewpoint of the religion the are associated with.

What is the difference between a pastoral counselor and a Christian counselor?

The term “pastoral counselor” is a legal term that identifies the type of counseling the therapist provides.  The terms “Christian counselor” or “Biblical counselor” can be interchangeable with the term “pastoral counselor” in many cases.  However not all pastoral counselors are Christians nor use the Bible.  A member of the clergy that belongs to another religion such a Hinduism, Islam or Judaism can also be a pastoral counselor.  Thus it is a legal term and does not necessarily mean the therapist is a Bible-believing Christian.  All of the counselors at PostumCafe are members of the Seventh-day Adventist church and have attended a Seventh-day Adventist university at some point during their formal education.

What type of education does a pastoral counselor have?

Clinical counselors must meet the requirements of the civil governing authority to maintain their license.  That is often the Department of Health with jurisdiction over that geographic area. Pastoral counselors often have equal or even greater educational backgrounds based on the religious organization they are affiliated with. There are multiple levels of competency in both clinical and pastoral counselors. Potential clients need to look at the educational and experiential background of any counselor they consider consulting.  Knowing the pastoral counselor’s religious beliefs (Adventist, Evangelical, Catholic, Jewish, Islam, etc) is also very important.  Here at the Postum Cafe, a background of each counselor is provided for potential clients.

Will health insurance pay for pastoral counseling?

Most health insurance does not pay for pastoral counseling because its purpose is to pay for health-related expenses only.  Pastoral counseling does provide help for emotional issues but is considered to be spiritual help by health insurance companies.  It is for that reason that Happiness Ministry created the Postum Cafe so that pastoral counseling can be available at an affordable price.

What issues can pastoral counseling help with?

The pastoral counseling available at the Postum Cafe can help with these issues:

  • Premarital counseling
  • Grief counseling
  • Postpartum counseling
  • Marriage issues: conflict in the home and/or parenting
  • Divorce therapy: emotional issues during the process of divorce
  • Post-divorce therapy: adjusting to a new life
  • Step-family and blended family issues
  • Co-parenting: working with an ex-spouse to raise children
  • Single parenting
  • Substance abuse
  • 4th and 5th Step work (part of 12-step recovery program)