What is a Spiritual Counselor?
Spiritual counseling is a form of psychotherapy known for its tactful integration of spirituality with psychotherapeutic guidance and care. A “pastoral counselor” usually refers to one who has pursued graduate level education in counseling and been ordained as a minister. Often, this individual will have a doctoral degree. Several states are involved in proper licensing for the pastoral counseling profession. This special licensing is for ministers who receive payment for providing counseling services. Aspiring individuals who choose this path should be willing to provide a full range of counseling services to individuals at all stages of life.
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Spiritual Counselors Offer an Important Service
Spiritual counselors guide individuals on their paths toward emotional healing and spiritual growth. Often, people are searching for a meaning or purpose in life or they might be dealing with challenges or obstacles in their way. They might be learning how to manage issues of pain and grief. There are many different paths that people take with their spiritual lives, so counselors are as diverse in the forms of spirituality they integrate into their practice. The systems range from Judaism and Christianity, to Islam and Buddhism. Some spiritual counselors are not so orthodox in their approaches; instead, they may approach therapy from a more universal, and non-denominational, perspective. Spiritual counselors that excel in their profession usually display the following traits: good listeners; compassionate; caring; insightful; “spiritually mindful.” Spiritual counselors also maintain the flexibility to integrate other counseling modalities in their practice.
“Spiritual counselor” is a term that is usually used to encompass a broad range of perspectives. It may include orthodox, religious perspectives, or be more steeped in mystical, New Age, or Native American beliefs. Spiritual counselors may or may not have a graduate degree. A spiritual counselor may come from a different background than traditional counseling training.
How to Become a Spiritual Counselor
Voluntary certifications are a substantial way for spiritual counselors to convey through official documentation that they have achieved a substantial level of training and qualifications. Spiritual counselors may seek certification through the American Institute of Health Care Professionals. This adds a level of prestige.
The following are probable solid prerequisites:
- Certification as an addiction counselor, or stress management consultant
- Having a Bachelor’s degree in psychology
- Having worked in a chaplain ministry under professional direction and guidance
- RN status
Counselors should remain aware of, and closely adhere to, the laws of the state in which they practice. With therapists who are licensed, specific therapy practices are allowed. Even if one is not licensed, every state regulates the counseling profession to some degree. Stay aware of ethics, laws, and regulations. This will benefit you greatly no matter what area of counseling you pursue.
Spiritual counselors benefit from having a suitable background in human services, health care, or religion. Read up on online programs in spiritual counseling to ensure that you are pursuing the correct one. Check around with authoritative sources to corroborate that you are on the right path.
Loyola University Chicago offers The Masters of Arts in Spirituality (36-hour degree program with two concentrations):
- The MA in Spirituality: Contemporary Spirituality concentration
- The MA in Spirituality: Spiritual Direction concentration offers two options:
- Spiritual Accompaniment track
- Ignatian Exercises track
Salary and Career Outlook for Spiritual Counselors
According to The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, general counselors make an annual average salary of between $26,110 and $72,810.