The Nexus of Psychology and Religion: Paper

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Some thirty years ago, Charles A. Curran (1969) commented that many pastors and members of the clergy, regardless of their religious orientation or spiritual beliefs, had come to the realization that they required knowledge of the theories and techniques of psychology and psychiatry in order to meet the counseling needs of their parishioners, co-religionists, and congregational members.  Curran (1969) distinguished between counseling and guidance, noting that in the case of counseling, what is at work is a process through which a person arrives at the adequate integration of his whole self, while in guidance, an individual merely receives relatively practical advice on coping with difficulties or stress.

With the recognition that counseling provided by pastors and members of religious groups required a firm grounding in psychology and the social sciences, a number of efforts were undertaken to ensure that pastoral counselors would have the knowledge, skills, and competencies needed to move from simple education and guidance to true counseling and psychotherapeutic interventions (Hillman, 1967; Shelton, 1989).  It is due to these realizations, says Jordan (1997), that pastoral counseling firmly grounded in the academic discipline of psychology, has emerged as a field of both study and practice.

Part of the impetus for creating a formal course of study for pastors seeking certification in pastoral counseling was provided by members of the general public.  Jordan (1997) reported that in a 1992 poll taken by the Gallup Organization, some 66 percent of all respondents stated that they preferred a mental health counselor who represented spiritual values and beliefs.  Of the entire sample surveyed by Gallup, 81 percent of the respondents reported that they would prefer that their own values and beliefs were integrated into the counseling process.  Pastoral counseling, unlike many traditional counseling methods, has as its core, a strong and consistent value and belief system.

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