Wikipedia points out that pastoral counseling is different from Christian
Counseling which is generally a more conservative, more Bible-centered, less clinical approach to therapy. Pastoral counseling is also distinct from pastoral care,
a field in which military and hospital chaplains and other trained clergy provide emotional support and guidance to individuals in need.
Pastoral counseling is distinct from mainstream psychotherapy because psychologists and psychiatrists are
not typically trained to deal specifically with issues of spirituality and religion. However, some pastoral counselors say that they do not talk about religion at all with certain clients.
Pastoral counselors may refer clients to other health care professionals, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist, for evaluation and medication. In many cases, pastoral counselors work as a team with other health care providers. For
example, research demonstrates that most people who suffer from clinical depression respond best to a treatment regime combining psychotherapy and
medication. In these cases, a pastoral counselor will work with a psychiatrist to assure that medications are being monitored and discuss the client's progress and needs.
Pastoral counselors are found in every major Protestant denomination, as well as the Roman Catholic church and Jewish faith, and they work with people of faiths different from their own. However, in practice, clients often prefer to
work with a pastoral counselor who shares their faith and beliefs. You should consider meeting with a pastoral counselor if you are experiencing emotional difficulties and wish to address these matters in the context of religion and spirituality.
American Association of Pastoral Counselors references a 1992 Gallup survey that found significant preferences from respondents about seeking help from professional therapists
who integrate spirituality with treatment. Following up on those findings, the AAPC commissioned a study in 2000 that found that a large majority (83 percent) of Americans link spiritual faith, religious values and mental health, and 75 percent of respondents
would prefer to seek assistance from a mental health professional who recognizes and can integrate spiritual values into the course of treatment.
A certified pastoral counselor will typically have an M. A. or Ph.D. in one of the counseling fields, as well as thorough training in a particular religious tradition. Many pastoral counselors are also ordained clergy—ministers,
priests and, increasingly, rabbis. Practitioners in the United States are subject to the standards of the American Association of Pastoral Counseling and many are either licensed as a LPC or LMFT as well. While many pastoral counselors are licensed
by the state, most states do not require it due to their clergy exemption clause. However, laws vary significantly from state to state in this matter.