Seeking Advice: The Joys & Challenges of Counseling

In my Introduction to Pastoral Counseling class this past fall, Dr. Dee Preston Dillon asked the class to consider what is the “best and the worst” of being a pastoral counselor.  My greatest challenge is having feelings of inadequacy to provide support and guidance to my clients. Related to this challenge is also what I believe to be the greatest opportunity, the possibility of healing for my clients through grace. My counseling can serve as medium for that grace.

I have continued to reflect on this question. Taking a page out of David Letterman’s Top Ten, I’ve started the conversation with my own Top Three. I welcome my colleagues to comment on my post naming their own “challenges” and “joys.” 


3. Value Dissonance
In my Human Development class this spring we discussed what happens when clients’
personal values are not aligned with our own and their choices do not appear to serve in their best interest. . My role as a counselor is to help clients define their intentions in seeking counseling and to be ethical in helping them make choices which are congruent with their intentions, regardless of what those choices may be. I realize this is easier said than done and welcome advice from my colleagues on this issue.
2. Lack of self-awareness
Self-awareness is a life-long process and as frustrating as it is to discover new “blindspots.” These are the experiences that provide opportunities for the greatest learning and growth.
1. Being able to keep the faith
I imagine there will be many days when I will question my abilities as a counselor. I hope that I can seek support from good colleagues and be open to God’s grace in getting me through these times.

3. The ability to both be a travel companion and a wayfinder for clients.
We are all on a journey and it is the role of the Pastoral Counselor to walk with our clients while also helping them discern their path.
2. “Aha!” moments
Just like the name of this blog, we are “meaning makers.”  I look forward to the first time I realize when I facilitated an “Aha!” moment for a client.
1. Transformative relationships
Pastoral counselors can help transform their clients’ lives. As I hope for the possibility of transformation for my clients, I know that my relationships with them will also be transformative for me, thus deepening my own spiritual development.

2 thoughts on “Seeking Advice: The Joys & Challenges of Counseling

  1. I hear you clearly, especially with value dissonance. I have clients with alcohol abuse problems who want me to help them find a way to make it okay for them to drink. Their goal is to find a way to make alcohol not be a problem in their lives. Of course, my solution and their solution clash like oil and vinegar. We can mix it up for a little while, but then we separate.

  2. Thanks, Barbara. The example you share reminds me that there will be times that a counselor and a client will need to agree to disagree, and ultimately it is their decision how to live his or her life.

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