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Pastoral Counseling Reflection Paper Essay


In this paper the student-author sets out her experience with pastoral counseling, current needs, expectations of the course, and describes her approach to pastoral counseling. This student author completed a Master’s Degree in Theology at Liberty University in order to fulfill the role of Assistant Pastor at the Christian Community Church, in Georgia, but has no formal or informal experience in Pastoral Counseling. In this paper the solution-based, short-term pastoral counseling model is explored. The reading materials presented in the initial part of the course has helped this student to move from a problem-focused method to a solution-focused method of problem solving.­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­ Solution-Focused Pastoral Counseling (SFPC) offers an alternative to a problem-focused counseling approach. (Kollar, 2011, p.9)

In a problem-focused counseling approach the counseling process often remain centered on the problem and not the solution. In focusing on the problem instead of the solution, the counselor could inadvertently reinforce the problem (Kollar, 2011, p.14). This student-author ascribes to the belief that in focusing on the solution and visualizing the required outcome both the counselor and the counselee become focused on the solution and use all their energy to come up with creative solutions to the problem.

The Reason for this Season of Training4
The New Tool Box4

This student-author serves as an Assistant Pastor at the Christian Community church in Cartersville, GA, where she is often called upon to pray with and help parishioners find solutions to their day to day problems, such as finding employment or housing. This student has no experience or training in pastoral counseling, and therefore hopes to learn as much as possible in this course. This student feels that she has been called to care for and console the many brokenhearted and broken-down souls living in the community and would like to obtain the necessary training to deliver quality care and consolation to these folks.


This student completed a Master’s degree in Theology but find that she is not sufficiently informed to conduct pastoral counseling at any level. Therefore, this student has embarked on a degree in pastoral counseling to become more qualified to give wise counseling. This student will make every effort to learn from professors, fellow students, lectures, web-engagements, and assigned readings in order to gain as much knowledge as possible.


This student feels that it is a privilege and honor to be accepted into Liberty University Theological Seminary. Reading the assigned material and writing at the graduate level is of great importance at Liberty University. Therefore, upon receiving the books, this student made it her business to go over The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association sixth edition and A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations 8th edition. This manual is not the easiest manual to read in the New Tool Box, however, since writing professional and graduate level papers are so important in this course, this student conscientiously read this manual in-depth to gain an understanding of writing in the APA format. Thus, the APA Manual was the first addition to the “new tool box.” The next addition to the tool box was The Quick Reference Guide to Biblical Counseling: Personal and Emotional Issues by Clinton and Hawkins.

This student read the introduction and quickly scanned subsequent chapters to get an overall picture of the contents of the book. This student will re-read each chapter in depth to garner as much information as possible. The authors touched on some very important subjects such as addictions, anger, bitterness, depression, divorce, forgiveness, loneliness, love and belonging, singleness, pain and chronic pain, etc. These are issues that most people struggle with; therefore, it is this student’s intention to spend quality time studying this book to get the most out of it. The authors break down each topic in the following manner: portraits, definitions and key thoughts, assessments, wise counsel, action steps, biblical insights, prayer starters, and then provide recommended resources (Clinton and Hawkins, 2009, pp. 10-11). This book will prove invaluable in assessing issues related to the course’s case studies. This book is especially beneficial to the student because it gives clear directions on what protocols to follow when a counselee presents with suicidal tendencies.

It also provides guidance on what to do when the suicidal person poses an immediate threat to others, themselves or their caregivers. Every pastor regularly encounters pastoral care issues that require counseling interventions (Johnson and Johnson, 2000, p.xi). Therefore, it is important for pastors and pastoral counselors to have a good understanding of psychological disorders so that they can determine the possible underlying issues of the various disorders that counselees may present with. The Pastor’s Guide to Psychological Disorders and Treatment offers summaries of the common features and symptoms of major psychological disorders, including presenting complaints, common features and symptoms and key indicators of the disease. The book closes with a section on self-help books. It describes what is self-help; the value of self-help books; problems with self-help books; and guidelines for evaluating self-help books.

These two reference guides by Clinton & Hawkins and Johnson & Johnson; along with Why Don’t We Listen Better? By Dr. Petersen are books that this student intends to study in depth in order to learn and apply the techniques presented in this pastoral counseling course. James Petersen’s book, “Why Don’t We Listen Better?” provides valuable insights on how to transform verbal confrontation habits into healthy communication habits. For this student, this book was an eye opener into the world of good communications skills. One example that stood out for this student was when Dr. Peterson was faced with a warring couple and did not have a clue what to do for this couple, so he just listened. He simply listened in a non-judgmental manner and repeated back to them what they had just said about each other. Using this method he was able to get each party to listen through him what each party was trying to convey with angry words and emotions. This experience gave Dr. Peterson a clue how powerful good communication can be as a relationship tool. It is indeed the oil that lubricates the engine of relationships. Without it the engine seizes and grinds to a halt (Peterson, 2007, p. 4,).

This student found this book, especially the Talker-Listener card that provides a handy tool for practice, to be an invaluable addition to her new tool box. The Talker-Listener card is a foldable, stand-up card that serves as a third party prompt in the talker-listener process. It is a simple idea, but one that could prove useful in counseling situations. Petersen convinced this reader of the need to develop three essential characteristics as a people-helper – empathy, genuineness, and warmth (Peterson, 2007, pp. 209-213). According to Dr. Carbonell, “understanding personality patterns is one of the keys to improving your relationships and solving the people puzzle” (Carbonell, 2008, p.7). In his book Dr. Carbonell outlines the following four temperament models of human behavior: “D” -Active/Task-oriented; “C” – Passive/Task-oriented; “I” – Active/People-oriented; and “S” – Passive/People-oriented. Carbonell describes each personality type in detail; relates how others see each personality type; relates feelings and thoughts; vision and passion; leadership style; following style; respond best to; conflict management style; strengths and uniqueness; overuses and abuses; and guard against warnings; relating style; and conclusion drawn about each personality style.

This information is vital in helping the student pinpoint the personality style he or she is dealing with. Thus the student will be able to solve the people puzzle by understanding personality patterns, since most of the problems in life arise out of personality conflicts (Carbonell, 2008, p. 231). The knowledge gained from reading each of the assigned text will help this student to use non-judgmental listening and a mature caring attitude when dealing with counselees. The reading materials have also helped this student to increase empathy, genuineness and warmth which are very essential for the nurturing of the human spirit. According to Petersen, “Everyone gets healthier, happier, and more confident around therapeutic people. On the other hand; in the presence of thera-noxious folks, we feel less healthy and secure and lose our energy and vitality” (Peterson, 2007, p.212). These reading materials has helped this student to move from a problem-focused method to a solution-focused method.­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­ Solution-Focused Pastoral Counseling (SFPC) offers an alternative to a problem-focused counseling approach. (Kollar, 2011, p.9)

In a problem-focused counseling approach the counseling process often remain centered on the problem and not the solution. In focusing on the problem instead of the solution, the counselor could inadvertently reinforce the problem (Kollar, 2011, p.14). This student-author ascribes to the belief that in focusing on the solution and visualizing the required outcome both the counselor and the counselee become focused on the solution and use all their energy to come up with creative solution to the problem. Focusing on the solution helps the counselee to become unstuck and back on track in their lives, marriages, and families (Kollar, 2011, p.15). This solution focused approach to problem solving helps both the counselor and the counselee, as it allows them to shift the weight of the problem off their shoulders and focus on the possibilities—which are endless. The first edition of Solution-Focused Pastoral Counseling: An Effective Short-Term Approach of Getting People Back on Track by Charles Allen Kollar is about “Imagineering.”

It focuses on principles that help both the counselor and the counselee put their focus on the solution to the problem by using their imaginations to visualize scenarios that would facilitate achieving a solution to the problem. This student strongly endorses this solution based approach to problem solving both in my own life and the life of people I counsel and aspire to counsel. What this student find most endearing about this approach to problem solving is that; using this technique can be enjoyable and spontaneous for both the counselor and the counselee. This technique allows both the counselor and the counselee to envision a future without the problems dominating—thus allowing them to chart a course in a positive direction (Kollar, 2011, p.15).


The insights gained from the introductory readings will allow this student to use a solution focused approach, instead of a problem focused approach when dealing with counselees. These insights will also help this student to avoid labeling a person, as this can result in limiting our understanding of an individual as a whole person (Kollar, 2011, p. 257). Instead this student will view the counselee as a unique human being, made in the image and likeness of God, with God given gifts and the potential to be a whole and productive member of society. Finally, it is the belief of this student that equipped with quick reference guides, definitions of psychiatric issues, good listening skills, ability to understand different personality types, and a solution-focused approach to problem solving; this student will be able to make a difference in the life of others. These are all valuable additions to a new tool box of skills and resources that will prove invaluable in the counseling career of this student.


Carbonell, M. (2008). How to solve the people puzzle: Understanding personality patterns. Blue Ridge, GA: Uniquely You Resources

Clinton, T., & Hawkins, R. (2009). The quick reference guide to biblical counseling: Personal and emotional issues. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Johnson, W. B., & Johnson, W. L. (2000). The pastor’s guide to psychological disorders and treatments: A quick and easy reference source to understanding mental health disorders! New York: The Haworth Press.

Kollar, C. A. (2011). Solution-focused pastoral counseling: An effective short-term approach for getting people back on track (Updated & Expanded ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. (Original work published 1997)

Petersen, J. C. (2007). Why don’t we listen better? Communicating and connecting in relationships. Lincoln City, Oregon: Petersen Publications.

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