Counseling Programs: Secular or Pastoral?

Shared Counseling Program Experiences—“Something Beautiful for God”

By: Tara Mastoris

My boyfriend, Anthony, and I are both in graduate counseling programs. Anthony does not go to Loyola’s Pastoral Counseling program. He attends another school’s clinical counseling program. I thought it would be interesting to share Anthony’s experience of being a faithful person in a secular program versus my experience of being a faithful person in a faith-based program.

Some difficulties Anthony finds being in a secular program:

1. It can be frustrating at times going to school with people who do not turn to faith in the counseling process (mentioning God and/or a Higher Power in counseling conversations seemed so foreign in the classroom environment).
2.  Anthony expected faith to be incorporated more into the classroom than it is. This became especially obvious when one of his professors discouraged prayer and talking about prayer with clients.

Some benefits Anthony finds in his program:
1.  Though faith is not prominently discussed, Anthony is encouraged by the informal discussions about faith among his classmates.
2.  In our conversations, Anthony has begun to discover more about the pastoral side of counseling. In his future practice, God will be the center of the therapeutic relationship between him and his clients.
3.  Anthony believes he is more aware of God’s presence in the counseling process because he has a growing awareness of the absense of faith discussions in classes.

Some of the benefits of a pastoral program for me:
1. I love that prayer is an integral part of the classroom discussion.
2.  Prayer has served as a vehicle to learn more about my classmates. Through conversation and prayer, I have been able to participate in their journeys.
3.  The faculty is committed to integrating spirituality and counseling.
4.  I am able to evaluate my progress not just as an academic student, but I am also able to reflect upon my spiritual growth.

I love Mother Teresa’s following words: “You can do what I can’t do. I can do what you can’t do. Together we can do something beautiful for God.” Anthony and I have discovered that the differences in our counseling programs have allowed us further reflection on the types of counselors we hope to be.  

When we share our different experiences and use our strengths and gifts to the fullest in whatever we pursue, we can “do something beautiful for God.”

2 thoughts on “Counseling Programs: Secular or Pastoral?

  1. Spirituality offers another dimension that we can add to our clinical arsenal of treatments and interventions. When a secular counselor says things like “I have faith in you” or “I believe you can do this” exactly what “faith” or “belief” is being relied upon? Intellectual? There is something more to be experienced in a counseling relationship that cannot be found in books or rhetoric. It goes along the lines of where two or more people are gathered . . .

  2. Hi Tara:

    Thank you for sharing your posting highlighting the differences between the two counseling programs that you and your spouse are participating in. I think it is excellent that you are able to highlight the similarities and especially the differences between the two programs. My take, is that there are even different ways in which our approaches to pastoral counseling are handled which depend upon one’s faith practice and tradition.

    As the only Baha’i( in the entire Pastoral Counseling Department (MA, MS, CAS, PhD, and Faculty), my journey has been unique. More of my story is scheduled to be posted on the Meaning Making Blog in the coming weeks.

    I say all of this to thank you for sharing both yours and your husband’s perspective on the counseling profession both from the clinical and pastoral perspective in education.

    Peace be unto you and I look forward to receiving your feedback to my comments.

    Have a great rest of your day and evening,


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