What is Pastoral Counseling?

By Sara Miller

This is the first in a series of articles on pastoral counseling and spiritual direction. While this introductory article will explore the idea of “pastoral counseling,” the rest of the series will profile individual counselors and spiritual directors at the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center.

Pastoral counseling is not that different from other counseling or therapy. Counseling, including pastoral counseling, is a way of dealing with personal or relationship concerns, issues, or problems that a person encounters in their life. Adding the word pastoral to counseling adds a sense of openness to airing spiritual questions, and pastoral counselors may have a greater comfort level with dealing with those questions though all clinicians can be attuned to the spiritual. An important note to go with pastoral counseling is that there is openness to the spiritual questions being asked but the client has to ask the questions because the counselor will not automatically assume the client wants to talk about matters of faith.

Spiritual Direction can deal with the same questions that are brought to therapy, the difference is that the issues are looked at in a different light. Spiritual directors practice the art of deep listening, to be with the directee as they explore their relationship with God. There is not a real goal in mind other than to listen and find where God is working in the midst of the life of the directee. Directees come seeking a spiritual companion who will listen deeply and journey with them through the process of exploring their relationship with God.

The following counselors at the Center contributed to the writing of this article, and will be profiled in this series:

Christine Dietz, Ph.D., L.I.S.W, Diane McClanahan, M.Div., and Kathy Reardon, R.N., M.S., are all spiritual directors. Christine is also a licensed mental health clinician.

Ellery Duke, Ph.D., M.Div., is a licensed psychologist and pastoral counselor. He also serves as the executive director of the Center. Mark Minear, Ph.D. and Amy Spangler-Dunning, L.M.H.C, M.Div., are both clinicians at the Center who also have masters degrees from seminaries.

Andrea Severson, M.Div., intern mental health counselor, is completing her mental health counselor degree from Drake University with plans to pursue licensure. Kay Riley, M.A., is a co-director of Prairie Fire along with Kathy Reardon. Sarah McElhaney, L.M.F.T., is a licensed marriage, family therapist.

Sara Miller

Sara Miller

Sara Miller served as an intern with the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center January – March 2016, during her senior year at Simpson College.

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