Skip to content

What Type of Counseling Training Do Pastors Have?

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. Pastors can provide the people of their church with varying counseling services such as family counseling, group counseling, etc. While not all pastors are counselors as well, the ones that do pursue professional counseling are trained to help their parishioners with mental health issues and other topics that are commonly covered in counseling sessions

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. Whether you are researching what is ahead on your path to becoming a pastoral counselor or you are considering finding emotional support in your church, you have come to the right place. Keep reading to learn more about what type of counseling training pastors need to have…

Undergrad Training

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. Unlike counseling psychologists who are required a master’s degree or doctorate degree, pastoral counseling does not require the same level of education.

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 or other training programs while in college to gain more experience depending on the types of counseling they want to be well versed in. They may decide to work in a substance abuse rehab center or a clinical mental health counseling facility. Pastors can also do internships in their churches. Regardless of where they choose after or during their courses, pastoral counselors will be able to achieve their career goals once they have worked hands on in mental health services.

Graduate Training

For pastors that do decide to further their education past the basics, there are options. 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 counseling, family counseling, career counseling, addictions 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 or other hardships and mental health issues that require learning new coping skills.

According to American Counseling Association, requirements can vary depending on the state pastors choose to practice in. It is important to do research before making school and work commitments.

Featured Programs

Marriage and Family Counseling

One of the common counseling specialities for pastors is marriage and family services 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 therapy, pastors help their parishioners learn to communicate in healthy and effective ways, strengthening their marriage and family. They can talk with individual family members about any problems they have and find ways for the family to work together to overcome those issues.

Group Counseling

Most pastors will also gain some group counseling experience while in grad school. Professional counselors put on 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.

Getting on Track for Pastoral Counseling

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.

For more information on the types of counseling training that pastors are required to have, the varying career counseling options, and state licensure requirements, take a look at the American Counseling Association.

Related Resources:

What are the Different Types of Counselors?

Top 30 Affordable Private Universities for Graduate Degrees in Counseling

Top 25 Master’s in Career/Professional Counseling