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What is a Pastoral Therapist?

Pastoral Therapists are trained and licensed mental health professionals with specialized training in religion and spirituality; in addition to their clinical qualifications, most have attended seminary, some are trained as chaplains, and many are ordained clergy. Pastoral Therapists sometimes use the title Pastoral Counselor or Chaplain.

Most jurisdictions license therapists from a few different disciplines: psychologists, psychiatrists, clinical social workers, mental health counselors, marriage and family therapists, and nurse practitioners; a few jurisdictions provide a special license for people with particular training in working within religious traditions.

What do Pastoral Therapists do?

Pastoral Therapists are particularly trained and eager to help people use their spiritual beliefs, practices, and traditions to assist in addressing life's challenges. In additional to counseling, approaches may include meditation, prayer, mindfulness practices, and contemplation. Pastoral Therapists generally work with individuals from any faith tradition (or no faith tradition), though many people prefer to work with a Pastoral Therapist from their own tradition.

What Organizations Certify Pastoral Therapists?

There is no single organization that credentials Pastoral Therapists. There are, however, a few organizations that carefully screen individuals who can document sufficient training in a combination of counseling and religious disciplines. These include:

What Should You Look for In a Pastoral Therapist?

Look for a person who is both licensed in a mental health field and credentialed by an interfaith body like the ones listed. Alternatively, try to find a person who has both a license as a mental health clinician and an advanced degree from an established seminary. If it is important to you, you can also inquire into the person's religious beliefs and background.