Classes a Pastoral Counselor Might Take
- Church History
- Developmental Psychology
- Marriage Counseling
- Crisis Counseling
Courses in a pastoral counseling degree program would include those from psychology and religion or theology since it is a field that combines both disciplines. This gives pastoral counselors the ability to provide mental health counseling to people within the context of their religious tradition.
Related resource: 25 Best Master’s in Pastoral Counseling Online Degree Programs
1. Church History
If the religious tradition in which the person is studying is not Christian, this course might have a different name, but whatever the religion, one of the courses in a pastoral degree counseling program is likely to deal with the history of the religion in some way. This gives the student a sense of how the religion has developed over the centuries, what changes and struggles it has undergone and what some of the major theological questions it has grappled with are. An overview of the history of the religion provides a framework for the courses that follow.
2. Developmental Psychology
Whatever focus a pastoral counselor eventually has, it is important to understand human development. At different stages of life, people have different needs, expectations, and challenges, and a course in developmental psychology examines all of these. This includes cognitive, emotional, social and other types of development. Developmental psychology also examines how environmental factors affect a person’s development and the debate between “nature versus nurture” in determining what drives people to behave in certain ways.
3. Marriage Counseling
People with a strong religious background may be more comfortable turning to a pastoral counselor to discuss their marital issues than another type of counselor. This is likely to be one of the courses in a pastoral counseling degree program since it is common for religious couples to look for a counselor with similar spiritual leanings. A class on marriage counseling would teach students methodologies for building better relationship skills, theories of relationships, trends in treatment and how to build stronger relationships or make changes in relationships.
Apologetics is the study of arguing and defending religious doctrine. Although apologetics is often associated with Christianity, there are apologetic texts in most religious traditions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and Judaism. Along with the history of the religion, apologetics complements the other courses in a pastoral counseling degree program by offering a student a way to place their psychology training within a strong religious structure.
5. Crisis Counseling
According to an article at the National Center for Biotechnology Information, veterans are often more likely to visit a pastoral counselor instead of another mental health professional because of a distrust of mental health practitioners. Pastoral counselors can play important roles in helping people in crisis, whether that is connecting them with other mental health resources or working with them through the crisis. A course in crisis or trauma counseling can help prepare a pastoral counselor for working with individuals who are in this situation.
Some schools offer degrees in pastoral counseling while others offer a certificate or other ways to combine educations in both psychology and religion. Some programs might offer all of their psychology classes within the context of a specific religious tradition. With these and other courses in a pastoral counseling degree program, students might go on to a career working with a church congregation, or they might work with a specific population, such as people in prison or a mental health facility.