Psychology majors looking at working as counselors may wonder about the type of counseling training that pastors have. A pastor is a religious leader who works for a church. That individual is responsible for speaking in front of parishioners every Sunday and meeting with them to go over their needs. Those who work as counselors can also assist individuals in need of help and work with families or small groups. Though pastors usually do not have as much training as licensed counselors do, they will still get some training as they go through college and graduate school.
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Going to college is the first step in becoming a pastoral counselor. They usually need to obtain a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science in Psychology, though some may get a degree in religious studies instead. Students typically need to complete a minimum of 120 credit hours of classes to earn their degrees. Those who want to work as counselors can do internships while in college to gain more experience. They may decide to work in a rehab center or a clinical mental health counseling facility. Pastors can also do internships in their churches.
Once they finish an undergrad degree and go to graduate school, those pastors will need to pick a concentration in one area such as marriage and family counseling or working with adolescents. They will usually do internships that require 100 to 150 hours of fieldwork or more, but the school may also require that they do a practicum and spend an equal amount of time in the field. Pastors can also elect to do some of their graduate training in a church setting such as holding sessions for parishioners dealing with the loss of a loved one.
Marriage and Family Counseling
A common type of counseling training pastors have is marriage and family counseling training. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these counselors make more than $50,000 a year. Pastors who work in the field may make less because they get paid by their churches and offer counseling as a duty of the job. With marriage and family counseling, pastors help their parishioners learn to communicate in healthy and effective ways, strengthening their marriage and family. They can talk with individual members of the family about any problems they have and find ways for the family to work together to overcome those issues.
Most pastors will also gain some group counseling experience while in grad school. Group counseling sessions require that the pastor take on a leadership role in front of a group. He or she is responsible for overseeing the daily needs of the group and making sure that each member has the chance to speak. Many schools allow counseling majors to do internships and practicums in rehab centers and other facilities. They can sit in on sessions to see how the group functions and then run some of those sessions in the future. Pastors learn how to run group counseling sessions in the church through this type of training.
The amount of experience and fieldwork that counselors must do can vary across states. Those who attend graduate school will have the chance to do both practicums and internships. The type of counseling training that pastors have can include work at the undergrad and graduate levels.