Chapter 30: Advanced Training for Pastoral Counselors by Carroll A. Wise

Community Mental Health: The Role of Church and Temple
by Howard J. Clinebell, Jr., (Ed.)

Chapter 30: Advanced Training for Pastoral Counselors by Carroll A. Wise

Advanced training is the training of clergymen to be specialists in pastoral counseling. These are men or women who have completed their college degrees, and who have also graduated from an accredited theological school with a Master of Divinity degree or its equivalent. This means a total of at least seven years of previous preparation. In college they may have had work in psychology, sociology, and anthropology. In the theological school they will have had some work in psychology, sociology, and counseling, along with the standard theological courses. The work described here leads to a Ph.D. or a Th.D. degree upon completion. This requires at least three years, usually longer. The average student entering advanced training is around thirty years of age, has had a period of clinical pastoral training in an accredited institution, and three years or more in a parish. Most are married and have a family.

Advanced training in pastoral counseling has three major aspects. They are, first, the development of the student’s emotional, intellectual, social, and professional life; second, knowledge and understanding of human behavior in breadth and depth; and third, the ability to relate to others therapeutically through an understanding of psychotherapeutic approaches and processes.

Most directors of such programs would consider the first of these goals as the most important, though they would also give full significance to the others. We believe it is more important to develop persons who can be therapeutic, in the broad sense of the term, than it is to develop some kind of pastoral technicians. This conviction is grounded both in our religious faith and in our understanding of the processes by which persons grow, become distorted, and find their way back to wholeness. We are concerned to help each student develop his own potentials and uniqueness, to become, as much as possible, a full human being, and to avoid creating some kind of stereotype of a pastoral counselor.

This concern is manifest in all aspects of the advanced training of pastoral counselors. One is in making it clear to the student that his own personal therapy is a requisite for training on this level. The student’s personal therapy is his responsibility and is obtained independently of the school, from psychotherapists in the community. The following statement in the requirements for accreditation by the American Association of Pastoral Counselors is taken as a guideline for this experience:

It is required that a candidate for membership in this category (category III) shall have undergone sufficient personal psychotherapeutic investigation of his intrapsychic and interpersonal processes that he is able to protect the counselee from his (the counselor’s) own problems, and to deploy himself to the maximum benefit of the counselee.

A second expression of this concern for the growth of the student as a person is in the teaching methods. There are few lecture courses in such a program. Most classes are based on the seminar-discussion method, and many revolve around actual case material presented by a student from his profession experience. The teaching staff is composed of men who are both practitioners and teachers, men who are concerned with both theory and practice. Most courses are team-taught by a pastoral counselor and a psychiatrist or a clinical psychologist, sharing in the teaching-learning process. Thus the clinical and theoretical material is integrated; psychological and theological understanding is related; and the student is helped to think critically about his own work, to benefit from the insights of his peers as well as those of his teachers, and to honestly face the problems involved in his relationships with others. These sessions often verge on a therapeutic experience for the student, and frequently provide material which he works through in his personal therapy. The educational process is intensified and deepened through supervision in counseling.

Supervision as a form of teaching is conducted both individually and in groups. It is supervision of individual and group counseling, including marriage counseling. The counseling takes place in a number of different settings, such as parish churches, schools, hospitals, and pastoral counseling centers. The supervision is given by consulting psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, or pastoral counselors. The pastoral counselors doing supervision are accredited for membership in the American Association of Pastoral Counselors, Category III. By the time a student has completed the program he should have approximately four hundred hours of supervision.

The fulfillment of the second and third goals is achieved, not only through the educational methods, but also through the content of the curriculum. For a detailed description of the curriculum the reader is referred to the catalogue of any school offering such a program, and also to the statement of standards for membership in the American Association of Pastoral Counselors.

At Garrett the qualifying examination which the student takes about the beginning of his third year (and which requires the equivalent of five days of writing, plus an oral examination) covers five major areas. These are: (1) theories of personality development in health and illness, including psychopathology, (2) theories of counseling and psychotherapy and their application in practice, (3) the psychology of religious experience, (4) the relationship between the theological and psychological understanding of man, and (5) research theory and practice. Included in the above would be such topics as marriage and family processes and counseling, group processes and group therapy, an understanding of the viewpoints and work of the other helping professions. For further elaboration, the reader is referred to the "Standards for Membership" of the American Association of Pastoral Counselors, which deals with requirements for education for clinical work under supervision, and for personal therapeutic experience.

Obviously such a program must be under the direction of a trained and experienced pastoral counselor, one who qualifies for the highest level of membership in the American Association of Pastoral Counselors. Depending on the size of the program he needs one or more associates who also are highly qualified pastoral counselors. Beyond this an interprofessional faculty is a necessity. This means teachers or supervisors who are psychoanalysts, psychiatrists, specialists in marriage therapy, clinical psychologists, research psychologists, social workers, and others. (Community resources such as psychiatrists, psychoanalysts, clinical psychologists, and social workers are used on a part-time basis as teachers and supervisors. In some instances they are given faculty appointments as "Adjunct Professors.") Thus the relationship between the pastoral counselor and other helping professions is a matter of continuing discussion. Through the interprofessional faculty, other disciplines make a very valuable contribution to the training of the pastoral counselor. In addition the entire faculty of the school is utilized in the program, as the student is expected to understand the relationship of his discipline to cognate disciplines. Where there is affiliation with a university, this faculty is also utilized. For example, in the combined Garrett-Northwestern University program, the student receives excellent training in modern research design and methodology through the psychology department of the University, and also guidance in adapting modern research methods to religious data.

There is a great deal in such a program which would also be found in the training programs of other helping professions. But there is a unique aspect to the training of pastoral counselors, and that is the pastoral or religious orientation. All the men accepted into such a program are committed to the religious ministry and are ordained by some faith group. Such student groups are ecumenical; Catholic priests and Jewish rabbis as well as Protestants of all theological persuasions are accepted. The goal of such training is to equip a man or woman for the work of counseling as a pastor or as a teacher in the field, and also as a competent research person in the field.

There is a continuing emphasis on the integration of scientific and philosophical material with the religious and theological point of view of the student. There is no attempt to indoctrinate the student in any particular theological point of view. Each student is helped to relate what he is learning to his own background and faith group. He is encouraged to examine his personal religious experiences and beliefs and to understand the purposes they serve in his life and ministry. This includes looking at the negative aspects of his religion as well as the positive. Students are encouraged to an understanding in depth of the personal, social, and historical-cultural processes in religion. Aesthetic, symbolic, and ritualistic aspects are studied. The ecumenical nature of the student group and faculty helps to broaden the understanding of the student. Religious issues which emerge in actual counseling experiences are discussed in individual and group supervision. Thus the religious dimension of such experiences as guilt and anxiety, love and hate, faith and fear, hope and despair, autonomy or control, insight or defensiveness -- to mention only a few -- receive attention. It is this concern to bring an understanding of the religious dimension to the therapeutic process which distinguishes pastoral counseling from other helping professions.

Perhaps this is the place to mention some of the unique contributions of pastoral counseling to community mental health. First, pastoral counseling maintains and develops the long tradition of the religious ministry in the care and cure of souls. Pastoral counseling is thus an essential part of total pastoral care and fulfills a necessary function in the total work of the pastor. Cooperation with members of other helping professions is both possible and necessary for the welfare of persons in a manner not possible in previous periods of human history.

Second, pastoral counseling provides the opportunity desired by many in our culture to receive personal help through the religious community and the pastor. Pastoral counseling thus becomes an extension of the basic pastoral relationship and expectancy, and is related to the other functions of the clergyman and of the religious community. Within the religious community there are resources of profound value to mental health, but they need to be used with skill and understanding. These resources may play a significant role in the mental health of the total community.

A third contribution lies in the unique meaning of the pastor and the pastoral relationship. To the various dimensions to be found in any therapeutic relationship there is the added religious symbolic meaning. The pastor represents, in addition to the religious community, the realities of his personal faith, culminating in the image of the God to whom he is devoted. The deeper meaning of the faith of the pastor is reflected unwittingly in his relationships, and becomes a source of identification within the religious dimension.

Fourth, because of his specialized training in religion, the pastor is able to understand and deal with religious elements within the intrapsychic, cultural, or relational aspects of the experience of the counselee. This means distinguishing between healthy and unhealthy aspects of a person’s religion; recognizing both the existential and pathological sources of anxiety, the significance of religious defenses, regression, and growth; and giving whatever encouragement he feels is indicated to positive religious directions. Many secular counselors are justifiably uncomfortable in dealing with religious aspects of a counselee’s experience.

In conclusion then, we would restate our main goal in this training as assisting the student to move toward the fulfillment of himself as a human being, with the additional understanding of those disciplines and the appropriation of those skills which are necessary to the pastor in the counseling process. We ask of our students a high level of excellence both academically and professionally. We seek to offer an educational and religious environment which encourages the development of breadth, depth, and wholeness within the student. We expect the student to develop the kind of religious understanding which quietly bears witness to its value and reality and hence does not have to be compulsively sold to others. To the extent that we succeed in this, the student then becomes the kind of pastor who can help others find a religious faith which is viable for them.