Sanity and Sanctity
The Counselor and Multiple Relationships
in the Church
Russ Llewellyn, ThM, PhD
Pastoral counseling and psychotherapy in church settings provide a unique environment in which dual relationships often play an essential role in the pastor-therapist-client relationship. One of the reasons that dual relationships are especially important for pastors is that they are very often the first person to whom people turn during times of mental or spiritual anguish. Dual relationships in this context are relationships in which the pastoral counselor or psychotherapist has more than one role or relationship with clients. Common examples of dual relationships in pastoral counseling are when therapists work with clients who are also fellow members of the congregation, fellow committee members, or associates in church business (Geyer, 1994; Montgomery & DeBell, 1997).
Most counseling by Christian counselors has an inherent duality in its practice due to clients’ conscious intent to integrate faith into the psychotherapy experience. In such settings, clients hire clinicians to provide dual skills: clinical expertise and specialization of Christian spiritual integration. This duality commonly manifests itself in a single therapy setting when working with clients who view spirituality as part of their mental health. In addition, there is also the very common dual role that occurs in the relatively small church community, where