A goal of pastoral counseling is to guide individuals towards greater wholeness within themselves and in their relationships with others.
Six dimensions of this growth have been described:
- enlivening the mind
- revitalizing the body
- renewing and enriching intimate relationships
- deepening one’s relationship with nature and the biosphere
- growth in relation to significant institutions
- deepening and vitalizing one’s relationship with God.
Pastoral counselors represent a valuable resource for psychiatric referrals as they are uniquely qualified to address certain mental health issues—including bereavement and coping with terminal illness. Pastoral counselors trained in behavioral sciences can help assess and treat patients who prefer psychotherapy that reflects their spiritual beliefs.
Patients experiencing loss or dealing with bereavement are often struggling with theological questions and can benefit from therapy from a pastoral counselor. Chronic or terminal illness likewise can bring up existential questions, and pastoral counselors can explore with the patient the meaning of suffering, providing spiritual healing when medicine offers no cure.