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What is a Spiritual Counselor?

Are you curious about what a spiritual counselor does? Are you wondering how you could become one? Perhaps you’re thinking of declaring a major in counseling, and you’ve been intrigued by the possibility of such a non-mainstream counseling specialization. Perhaps someone you know has been advised to seek the services of a spiritual counselor. Whatever your reasons for wanting to understand more about spiritual counseling, the following discussion will give you the insights you seek.

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Definition of Spiritual Counselor

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services defines a spiritual counselor as being a practicing member of an official, recognized religious group who has completed at least one unit of clinical pastoral education from an accredited program.  This individual could hold a bachelor’s degree from a counseling degree program and should have completed training on various topics relating to spirituality, death and dying. A primary emphasis is on being able to provide ecumenical counseling services to those who are nearing the ends of their lives. It is mandatory for this training to have been completed within 90 days of being hired in a spiritual counselor’s role.

Although the role of spiritual counselor is one that you can attain primarily through education, you do need the stamp of approval from an active leader in an organized religion. This has to be presented in the form of written proof. You can show either a letter or a certificate from a religious authority stating that you have been ordained and are in good standing with the religious body you represent.

Education Requirements for Spiritual Counseling

To become a spiritual counselor, one must be prepared to take on many years of schooling. There are many education requirements that future professionals may need to acquire. In some states, these professionals are considered equipped to enter the career field with only a bachelor’s degree. They will however have to complete the proper certification program. The certification process requires that students undergo the required training for the intense topics that spiritual counseling covers. For example, death, dying, etc. In most states, these certificates are required for all professionals looking to enter the field.

However, many states actually require spiritual counselors to obtain a master’s degree in order to practice spiritual counseling. Some even require professionals to enter into a Doctorate or PhD program as well. If students acquire these continuing education units, they will have many opportunities in this career field.

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Spiritual Counselor Job Titles

There are many job titles that may fall under the umbrella of spiritual counseling. Christian counselors or Biblical counselors can sometimes be referred to as pastoral counselors. Chaplain is a common job title in situations where one spiritual leader provides spiritual counseling services to people of varying faiths on behalf of a secular organization. You’ll find chaplains working for colleges, hospitals, police forces, military groups and even governing bodies. Many religious organizations across the world have at least one individual whose job falls under these titles.

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Spiritual Counselor at Work

After becoming a certified spiritual counselor, people in this career field will go on to acquire a wide array of jobs dedicated to helping many individuals. The work of these individuals is admirable and highly sought after in many ways. In their job, they provide an opportunity for their patients to better understand their own beliefs when they are feeling confused and work through a possible spiritual crisis. They provide a safe space to talk, share, listen, and understand.

While a spiritual counselor works in mental health and is considered to be a health care professional, they can do perform their job in non-traditional ways. Their counseling sessions can take place in a private practice, a community setting, long and short term care facilities, group homes, the legal system, and more. They also commonly work out of a house of worship or a religious organization.

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How Much Do Spiritual Counselors Earn?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics groups spiritual counselors in with other types of clergy when reporting employment data such as salaries. As a group, it is members of the clergy employed by medical hospitals, hospices, nursing care facilities and specialty hospitals who tend to perform end-of-life counseling services to the dying. The following are mean salaries for this group of clergy as of the year 2016:

  • Specialty hospitals: $57,540
  • General medical hospitals and surgical hospitals: $51,730
  • Facilities providing home health care: $51,030
  • Nursing homes and facilities providing skilled nursing care: $47,530

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Department of Education Influences

If you’re familiar with the US government principle of separation of church and state, it may shock you to learn that the US Secretary of Education and the Department of Education would have any involvement with the field of spiritual education. Surprisingly, they do. This involvement comes about because the US Department of Education recognizes the ACPE as the sole accrediting body in charge of overseeing the standards for training programs that educate pastors and other spiritual leaders about how to assume the role of spiritual counselor.

Spiritual counselors are crucial health care professionals for those who are seeking counseling that aligns with their religious beliefs. They may use their theological training, their own beliefs regarding a higher power, and their desire to help people to cover a full range of counseling topics.

We hope these figures and insights are helpful to you in understanding the role that spiritual counselors play in contemporary society. Now you have a better understanding of how spiritual counselors are educated, who oversees their training standards, how much they earn and some of the job titles employers use when seeking to hire them.

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