Pastoral counseling is a therapeutic field that has been in practice for centuries and allows for a blend of faith-based principles with current counseling practices across all belief systems.
A 2015 Pew Research Center study revealed the nearly 90% of American adults believe in “God or a universal spirit” which makes pastoral counseling a thriving profession for those who wish to help others.
They work with individuals and groups to help people find peace or acceptance through communal spirituality in a wide range of facilities such as schools, hospitals, or workplaces.
How to become a pastoral counselor
Pastoral counseling, like other forms of counseling, is based on a blend of theory, practice and deep insights. This article looks to the pastoral counselor education requirements and pastoral counseling licensing and highlights how a bachelor’s degree in psychology can make for an excellent foundation for a career dedicated to helping others from a spiritual perspective.
Pastoral Counseling Education Requirements
Like many fields of counseling, becoming a pastoral counselor can require extensive post-secondary education as outlined by the American Association of Pastoral Counselors (AAPC).
Beyond an undergraduate degree, candidates who wish to complete these pastoral counselor education requirements may pursue graduate work in the form of a Master of Divinity or related fields like Theology, Biblical Studies, or specifically Pastoral Counseling.
These programs offer students the opportunity to refine their understanding of key counseling principles further. Students also learn how faith-based practices can accentuate those methods and how the universal aspects of spirituality can emphasize healing. The one requirement that the AAPC demands is that they are appropriately accredited to ensure the adequate substance of their curricula.
Pastoral Counseling Licensing
Once undergraduate and graduate programs are complete, candidates can pursue pastoral counseling licensing, or credentialing, with their regional division of the AAPC. The final requirements to apply for this certification depend on the states in which you want to practice and the type of practice you hope to pursue.
If you plan on offering marital counseling or other therapeutic counseling beyond your pastoral practice, for instance, you will most likely need to pass a certification exam, such as the National Counselor Examination (NCE).
If your practice will be solely pastoral, though, the only certification often needed is that offered by the AAPC. With this certification in hand, candidates can pursue an array of pastoral counseling positions in whichever environment they wish.
The Benefits of a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology
Before this graduate journey begins, those who hope to pursue a career in pastoral counseling can garner a great foundation by first completing a bachelor’s degree in psychology online. One of the best skills that a pastoral counselor can bring to a session is the ability to understand their counselee’s experience and perspective so that effective support and advice can be offered. Psychology programs can fuel professional development by encouraging students to consider the many elements of the human psyche.
From courses that help to dissect the nuances of personality to those that investigate cognition and the processes by which memories are formed, students gain substantial exposure as to how the human mind thinks and behaves.
At the same time, students working toward a psychology degree will emerge with the essential interpersonal skills for relating to and interacting with future patients, a pairing that is crucial for future graduate work in counseling or the theological realm.
The Spiritual Satisfaction
A faith-based approach in a bachelor’s degree in psychology online is all the more beneficial for those who hope to become pastoral counselors in the future.
Programs that integrate spirituality into their curriculum, like that offered by the Central Christian University of Kansas, foster among students the ethical and moral applications of spirituality throughout each course so that graduates are instilled with these principles and can carry them to the next phase of their career.
With this exposure to spirituality through their psychology degree program, graduates can be prepared to tackle the challenges of advanced study to join the thriving field of pastoral counseling.
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Jill L. Snodgrass, PhD, “Why Pastoral Counseling.” American Association of Pastoral Counselors.
Accessed 15 January 2019 from: https://www.aapc.org/page/WhyPastoral