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The Present Challenge of Pastoral Care and Counseling
On a dangerous seacoast where shipwrecks often occur there was once a crude little lifesaving station. The building was just a hut, and there was only one boat, but the few devoted members kept a constant watch over the sea, and with no thought of themselves went out day and night tirelessly searching for the lost. Many lives were saved by this wonderful little station, so that it became famous. Some of those who were saved, and various others in the surrounding area, wanted to become associated with the station and give of their time and money and effort for the support of its work. New boats were bought and new crews trained. The little lifesaving station grew.
Some of the members of the lifesaving station were unhappy that the building was so crude and poorly equipped. They felt that a more comfortable place should be provided as the first refuge of those saved from the sea. So they replaced the emergency cots with beds and put better furniture in the enlarged building. Now the lifesaving station became a popular gathering place for its members, and they decorated it beautifully and furnished it exquisitely, because they used it as a sort of club. Fewer members were now interested in going to sea on lifesaving missions, so they hired lifeboat crews to do this work. The lifesaving motif still prevailed in this club's decoration, and there was a liturgical lifeboat in the room where the club initiations were held. About this time a large ship was wrecked off the coast, and the hired crews brought in boatloads of cold, wet, and half-drowned people. They were dirty and sick, and some of them had black skin and some had yellow skin. The beautiful new club was in chaos. So the property committee immediately had a shower house built outside the club where victims of shipwreck could be cleaned up before coming inside.
At the next meeting, there was a split in the club membership. Most of the members wanted to stop the club's lifesaving activities as being unpleasant and a hindrance to the normal social life of the club. Some members insisted upon lifesaving as their primary purpose and pointed out that they were still called a lifesaving station. But they were finally voted down and told that if they wanted to save the lives of all the various kinds of people who were shipwrecked in those waters, they could begin their own lifesaving station down the coast. They did.
As the years went by, the new station experienced the same changes that had occurred in the old. It evolved into a club, and yet another lifesaving station was founded. History continued to repeat itself, and if you visit that sea coast today, you will find a number of exclusive clubs along that shore. Shipwrecks are frequent in those waters, but most of the people drown!
In this striking parable Theodore Wedel depicts the perennial danger confronting the church—irrelevance. The peril is especially acute in periods when the church is outwardly successful. The parable highlights the fact that the only relevance that really matters is relevance to the deep needs of persons—relevance to the places in their lives where they hurt and hope, curse and pray, hunger for meaning and thirst for significant relationships. Pastoral care and counseling are valuable instruments by which the church stays relevant to human need. They are ways of translating the good news into the "language of relationships," as Reuel Howe expresses it—a language which allows the minister to communicate a healing message to persons struggling in alienation and despair. Pastoral counseling is an essential means by which a church is helped to be a lifesaving station and not a club, a hospital and a garden of the spiritual life—not a museum. Counseling can help save those areas of our lives that are shipwrecked in the storms of our daily living, broken on the hidden reefs of anxiety, guilt, and lack of integrity. An effective caring and counseling program, in which both minister and trained lay persons serve as enablers of healing and growth, can transform the interpersonal climate of a congregation, making a church a place where wholeness is nurtured in persons throughout the life cycle.
Pastoral care and counseling contribute to the continuing renewal of a church's vitality by providing instruments for the renewal of persons, relationships, and groups. By reducing the crippledness of our ability to give and receive love, counseling can help us to be the church—the community in which God's love becomes an experienced reality in relationships. Thus, counseling is an instrument of continuing renewal through reconciliation, helping to heal our estrangement from ourselves and our families, from other church members, from those outside the church, and from an enlivening, growing relationship with God. It can create windows of new awareness, restoring sight to eyes previously blinded by our anxious, guilt- ridden self-concern—to the beauty, tragedy, wonder, and pain all about us. Counseling can allow us to discover fresh dimensions of our humanity. It can release our potentialities for authenticity and aliveness. It can help to release our trapped creativity—the potential creativity present in every person. By renewing us as persons, counseling helps empower us to become renewal agents in a church and in a society that desperately need renewing.
Pastoral counseling and care can be instruments of healing and growth by helping us develop what is most difficult to achieve in our period of history—depth relationships. Most of us can identify with the pain of the minister who said to his psychotherapist, "My life is characterized by a plethora of contacts and a poverty of relationships." This is the common blight that threatens the creativity of each of us in our touch-and-run culture—a culture oriented toward interpersonal superficiality. This is the blight that militates against the continuing rebirth of a church as a redemptive social organism, preventing it from becoming a place where persons experience transformation. This is what prevents a church from being a lifesaving station engaged in rescuing persons from our society's many forms of brokenness.
It is far from easy to relate to the depths of other persons. To do so is to come alive to their personhood—to their pain and potential, their emptiness or fullness, their unique blend of hope and despair. It is painful to relate to the depths of others because it inevitably exposes us to the dark rooms of our own inner world. Their emptiness reminds us of our own. Their anger and guilt cause ours to resonate. Yet only as we relate to others in depth can we become growth-enablers in their lives. Only those who have discovered new life in their own depths can become spiritual obstetricians, aiding the birth of new life in individuals and in the church. Pastoral care and counseling can help equip such obstetricians of the spiritual life, such enablers of the continuing rebirth that is growth.
When people touched Jesus' life, they experienced in him the healing power that comes from openness to oneself, others, nature, and God. They encountered a person whose life was a deep channel through which the source of all healing and growth—the loving spirit of God—flowed freely and fully.
When people touch my life or yours, what do they sense? The noisy static of our harried times, perhaps? As instruments for deepening and enlivening relationships, pastoral care and counseling can help bring continuing renewal to us as ministers and to persons in the church and in the community! Such renewal comes as a refreshing rain to a parched land.
The Contemporary Renaissance
In each period of history and every new environment, the church must find fresh ways of meeting the needs of troubled persons—new channels for its century-spanning ministry of caring, healing, and growth. Only thus can it remain relevant to the deep needs of people. The varied methods of pastoral care and counseling offer a widening channel of healing and growth in our period of church history.
One hopeful sign on the contemporary religious scene is the rising wave of activity in the field of pastoral counseling. Since World War II a surge of lively interest has been evident in the field. The ministry of counseling has been flowering with increasing vigor. Some of the signs of a remarkable vitality are: the growing availability and impact of clinical pastoral education, the strengthening of seminary education in counseling, the remarkable proliferation of church-related counseling programs, the emergence of pastoral counseling as a rigorously trained specialty within the ministry, the establishment of seminary graduate programs in pastoral psychology and counseling, the rise of the American Association of Pastoral Counselors, the burgeoning literature in the field, the commitment to restoring the spiritual and theological center of this pastoral art, denominational counseling programs, the current experimentation in the pastoral care ministry of the laity, the increasing number of women and the impact of feminist thought in the field, the growth of intercultural and global cross-fertilization in the field. It is thrilling to realize that we are in a renaissance period in the church's age-old ministry to the burdened. The challenge to each of us is to become a participant and contributor, not a mere observer, in this dynamic movement—a movement that provides fresh responses to the needs of those lying beside our modern Jericho roads, robbed of their self-esteem and beaten by the crises and tragedies of life.
If the pastoral care and counseling renaissance is to become the powerful force for growth and renewal that it can become in the eighties and nineties, certain decisive changes must occur. Pastoral counseling must find a new level of self-identity and maturity by deepening its theological roots, broadening its methodology, and discovering its unique contribution to the helping of troubled humanity, with reference to both its own heritage and the other helping disciplines. The minister as counselor needs a unique self-understanding of her or his image, role, functions, and goals. A minister's self-understanding must have a theological base derived from awareness of the grounding of what one does in the ongoing message, community, and tradition of the church. Major contributions have been made to this theological self-understanding in recent literature. The thrust of this book is toward broadening the methodology and enriching the guiding model of pastoral care and counseling.
A new chapter in the church's ministry to the heavy-laden is now possible. It can be a chapter without equal in the history of our faith. Never before have we had such rich resources as are provided by fresh developments in theology and in pastoral care, by fresh insights from the human sciences, and by innovative techniques from the psychotherapeutic disciplines. When these three streams converge in the pastoral care ministry, a broad river of healing and growth is released through a church. To cooperate with this powerful movement of the life-transforming spirit of God in our times should command our most disciplined self-investment. I hope the ideas and approaches described in this book will contribute toward this objective.
The Purposes of this Book
The primary objective of this book is to help ministers (and seminary students) develop maximum skills in the basic caring and counseling methods required for an effective ministry of healing and growth. Subsumed under this generic objective are more specific purposes: (1) It is a purpose of this book to describe a new holistic growth and liberation centered paradigm for pastoral care and liberation counseling with spiritual and ethical wholeness at its center (chapters 2, 5, & 6). This guiding image is essentially multidimensional, focusing on the growth of whole-persons-in their-relationships. It seeks to integrate intrapsychic and interpersonal healing and growth with constructive change in the wider structures and institutions of people's lives. This paradigm (which builds on my earlier revised model) offers a conceptual basis for integrating the other functions of ministry with pastoral care— preaching, leading worship, church management, teaching, facilitating small groups, serving the community, and working to make institutions more growth-enabling. The paradigm distinguishes and shows the interdependence of pastoral care and pastoral counseling.
(2) It is a purpose of this book to overview the mission, theological foundations, historical heritage, and uniqueness of pastoral care and counseling (chapter 3).
(3) It is a purpose of this book to review the fundamental procedures to all caring and counseling (chapter 4). These basic procedures provide a foundation for the use of the methodologies described in subsequent chapters.
(4) It is a purpose of this book to set forth a differential typology of pastoral care and counseling as a way of understanding the full range of a minister's opportunities to facilitate healing and growth. Pastoral care and counseling are not one entity with one methodology. Instead they are a wide range of helping and growthing functions requiring a variety of methods. To respond to the varied needs of those who seek help, a pastor must be able to shift gears in caring and counseling—to utilize approaches appropriate to the particular resources and problems, strengths and limitations of each person. Pastors must be able to utilize different facets of their own personalities freely and flexibly. With persons floundering in catastrophic crises, for example, pastors need to use their supportive, caring "Parent" side to give such persons stability in coping with enormously stressful situations. To help persons who have never achieved constructive inner values or controls to guide their lives, the minister must be a firm, accepting, but not a permissive parent figure. In contrast, counselees with rigid, punitive consciences need to experience a minister's more self-accepting, grace-full and playful side. It is not that a minister puts on a varied act in each case. To do so would destroy the interpersonal integrity that creates effective counseling. Rather, the pastor employs different dimensions of his or her multifaceted personality, responding to the varying needs of different counselees.
It should be made clear that different counseling methods often are employed at various stages of a counseling relationship, sometimes during the same session. Just as a carpenter needs a variety of tools to build a fine piece of furniture, a counselor requires a variety of methods to help persons rebuild a marriage or a destructive value structure. As experienced pastors know, the varied counseling and caring opportunities that confront them require both flexibility and ingenuity in applying everthing they know about persons and about counseling. What they have learned from their own growth struggles is often more useful than sophisticated knowledge of counseling techniques. But the more counselors know about counseling theories and methods, the better use they can make of their unique life experiences and personality resources. It is the intent of this book to encourage readers to increase their versatility and effectiveness by developing their own differential approaches to caring and counseling.
(5) It is a further purpose of this book to highlight those types of caring and counseling that are essential and therefore normative in a persons-centered, general (nonspecialists) ministry: shortterm crisis help (chapters 7 and 8); grief-related caring and counseling (chapter 9); marriage and family enrichment and counselings (chapters 10 and 11); referral counseling (chapter 12); educative and small group counseling (chapters 13 and 14); and training lay caring teams (chapter 16). These types constitute the heart of a parish minister's caring and counseling. Most persons in general ministries do not have the time, even if they have the required training, to do long-term, reconstructive pastoral psychotherapy. This type of healing work is primarily the function of those in specialized ministries of counseling who have graduate academic and clinical education in psychotherapy in addition to seminary. The chapter on pastoral psychotherapy (chapter 15) aims at describing what persons in general ministries need to know in order to recognize those needing referrals to specialists and provide appropriate pastoral care while parishioners are experiencing this type of depth therapy. This chapter also points to some newer therapies that provide insights and methods useful in a generalist ministry. Ours is a period of amazing fecundity in the field of psychotherapy. We in the church must experiment with fresh approaches as we search for resources to enhance our effectiveness in the ministry of caring and counseling.
Excerpted from Basic Types of Pastoral Care & Counseling by Howard Clinebell. Copyright © 1984 Abingdon Press. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
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