Counselling in the Pastoral and Spiritual Context

Counselling in the Pastoral and Spiritual Context

Counselling in the Pastoral and Spiritual Context

Counselling in the Pastoral and Spiritual Context


This book explores the practice of counselling not only in the context of traditional ministries of pastoral care within the Christian Church but also in the context of other world religions and among counsellors with a concern for the spiritual dimension of life. A detailed account is given of the development of pastoral counselling in Britain; parallel movements in other major world religions are examined. An attempt is made to engage sympathetically with the theory and practice of a wide range of approaches to counselling in a context which embraces both the rapidly growing Christian counselling movement and more humanistic understandings of spirituality. The author draws out the implications of metaphors which have shaped our understanding of pastoral care and counselling, finding in a narrative understanding of religious faith and in the spiritual journey of Thomas Merton, a model which respects the contribution of the secular therapies and affirms the integrating potential of faith. This book will be of interest to clergy and lay people in churches and other faiths who seek an understanding of counselling in pastoral and spiritual contexts. It will also have more general appeal to practitioners who wish to explore the relationship of counselling in this context to forms of counselling elsewhere.


Counselling in a pastoral or spiritual context is characterized by complexity. Fifty years ago it might have been possible to confine our exploration to a study of the pastoral care offered by the ordained ministers of the Christian Church (who were nearly all male). This is no longer possible. For one thing there is now much greater diversity of ministry within the Church, both lay and ordained, and many women and men regard themselves as offering a counselling ministry. For another, there are many people on the fringes of the Church, and even outside it, who would regard the counselling they do as having a pastoral or spiritual dimension.

Even within the Christian (or post-Christian) tradition of Britain in the 1990s there are very different understandings of the nature of counselling. On the one hand there are those who call themselves pastoral counsellors heavily dependent upon the secular therapies; on the other, avowedly Christian counsellors base their approaches upon what they believe to be Biblical truth, and they are much more ambivalent towards the insights of psychology.

There are other considerations that introduce complexity into the study of counselling in a pastoral and spiritual context. In the rich diversity of our multicultural society, the different religious traditions each have their own ways of providing personal support for people. Any comprehensive study of counselling in a pastoral and spiritual context must also take into account the contribution and insights of different cultural and ethnic groups.

Counselling in the pastoral or spiritual context has much in common with counselling in other contexts. Yet even in the midst of . . .

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