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Brief History On Pastoral Counseling

Religious communities have traditionally sought to provide religion-based solutions for those in trouble. Their leaders have listened intently to personal problems for centuries, and have developed religious counseling responses to those who suffer from mental and emotional illness and relational difficulties. Traditional religious counseling contin­ues to help many of these people. It was recognized long ago, however, that in many cases specialized professional therapy was necessary for effective treatment and healing.

The intimate link between spiritual and emotional well-being began to receive serious attention by religious leaders in the early 1900s when the Rev. Anton Boisen and other founders of the Clinical Pastoral Education movement, placed theological students in supervised contact with patients in psychiatric and general hospitals and other settings. Innovative educational program brought disciplined training to the historical connection between faith and mental health.

The integration of religion and psychology for psychother­apeutic purposes began in the 1930's in several contexts, including (a) the collaboration of Norman Vincent Peale , a renowned minister, and Smiley Blanton, M.D., a psychiatrist, to form the American Foundation of Religion and Psychiatry, now the Blanton-Peale Institute in New York City, NY; and (b) collaboration between clergy and psychoanalytically oriented psychiatrists (including Helen Flanders Dunbar) in the NE USA.

Pastoral counseling has evolved from religious counseling to pastoral psycho­therapy which integrates theology and other faith tradition knowledge, spirituality, the re­sources of faith communities, the behavioral sciences, and in recent years, systemic theory.

In their awareness of the spiritual dimension of human wholeness, Pastoral Counselors stand in good company. One of Carl Jung's contributions as an analyst and therapeutic theory developer was to emphasize the fundamental importance of spirituality in psychology. Another influential writer, Abraham Maslow, emphasized self-actualization, which some equate with spiritual development. William James, the influential early twentieth century psychologist, studied religious experience as an expression of levels of growth. Psychiatrist Karl Menninger , who believed in the "inseparable nature of psychological and spiritual health," was a pioneer in the integration of the psychological and theological disciplines. M. Scott Peck, M.D, author of the best selling The Road Less Traveled  and a psychiatrist, also expressed this belief.

"It only makes sense that religion and psychology - each of which is concerned with the fullness of the human experience - should be recognized as partners, because they function as partners within the human psyche," said Dr. Arthur Caliandro, Senior Minister Emeritus, Marble Collegiate Church, New York City.

Today, pastoral counseling accounts for three million hours of treatment annually in institutional and community-based settings.



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