Pastoral care as a source of counselling advice is one of the key areas of development for pastoral training.
For many people who approach religious leaders for counselling support, this may be their first approach for assistance and it may be the only opportunity that any service provider has to intervene in order to provide them with assistance. This places a great responsibility on the pastor, who needs to be able to tackle the approach appropriately and constructively, and also to determine whether further outside assistance is required and whether any outside approaches or referrals should be considered. Particularly in the most difficult cases, it will be important for the individual’s confidence and confidentiality to be respected in order to ensure that they continue to access support.
For many individuals, approaching a public sector provider, teacher or other authoritarian figure may be too big a step, but it may be easier to approach someone in a pastoral setting because the context can be less formal and may be perceived to be less threatening.
However, this does mean that those engaging with pastoral care require some of the tools of counselling in order to ensure that they are in a position to properly support their communities, and these questions are the ones that we will attempt to address below.
The first thing to consider is perhaps when use of counselling skills are appropriate in the context of Pastoral Care in the 21st Century. According to Gordon Lynch , we can deduce the appropriate use of assistance through recourse to our system of values. Values are the “compass” in this context. The set the initial direction and should then be honed and shaped through self-reflection on the situation and decisions taken by the pastor. For example, the individual’s sense of appropriate physical contact is tied up with social value norms, such as places where touching may be an appropriate physical expression of compassion and support, such as on the shoulder or elbow, and the social context of the relationship, such as the age and gender of the individual and the nature of their other personal relationships, e.g. are they married.
Others have also taken up the cause of values-based interventions, and the need for counsellors to use their own insights in order to know when to help and to help effectively. Famously, the importance of this intuitive skill has been set out by Daniel Coleman in his book Emotional Intelligence , which puts a case for explaining social success according to a person’s awareness of emotional states and ability to work within and manipulate the emotional states of others in order to live alongside them peacefully, to assist them or even to control them. Self- awareness and control are really important aspects to emotional intelligence, which Coleman tells us is a skill that can be developed and that will lead to successful interaction, without being...