My Relationship Is In Trouble, Could a Pastoral Counselor Help?


My Relationship Is In Trouble, Could a Pastoral Counselor Help?
There are all sorts of counselors out there - could a pastoral counselor help us?

There are so many types of counselors out there.  If your relationship is in trouble, who can you turn to? An LPC? LMHC? LMFT? LCSW? Psychologist? Pastoral Counselor?Lucy from Peanuts? Some other designation?  Is a pastoral counselor qualified to handle relationship difficulties?
Mental health professionals do come in a wide variety of flavors and even within a particular type of mental health professional there is a lot of variability about the expertise and specialization of individuals.  It is always important to be careful in the selection of a mental health professional and to understand the strengths and limitations in their training and background.
What is a pastoral counselor?  To address the question of whether a pastoral counselor is qualified, this question must first be answered.  There are individuals that call themselves Christian counselors (or other similar titles within other faith groups) whose training is primarily or exclusively within their church or faith group.  In contrast to this, pastoral counselors are qualified mental health professionals that also have specialized qualifications and training to integrate the spiritual dimension into their therapeutic practice.  In a few states, pastoral counselors are licensed as pastoral counselors.  However, most pastoral counselors hold regular licenses as mental health professionals (such as as professional counselors, mental health counselors, marriage and family therapists, social workers, or psychologists).  As a result, pastoral counselors are able to help people with relationship difficulties if they are able to do this using the techniques and training of the counseling profession that they are a part of.
Clearly, this means that a pastoral counselor trained and qualified as a marriage and family therapist should be able to help handle relationship difficulties (unless they have a very narrow specialty).  Pastoral counselors whose background is in one of the other mental health professions may be able to help, depending on their training and experience as well as state law governing that mental health profession (for instance, there are some states that do not allow professional counselors to work with couples).
In evaluating a particular pastoral counselor, here are some things you might want to explore to determine if you feel they are qualified to work on your relationship difficulties:

Article contributed by
Advanced Member

The Rev. Christopher L. Smith

Marriage and Family Therapist

The Rev. Christopher L. Smith, LCAC, LMHC, LMFT has served as a national leader around mental health issues both within the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and in professional counseling organizations.  He works directly with individuals, couples, families and supervisees as the Clinical Director of Seeking Shalom in New York City.  He also brings his insight to help a wider audience through writing, speaking and consultations.

Location: New York, NY
Credentials: LAC, LMFT, LMHC, MDiv
Specialties: Couples/Marital Issues, Forgiveness, Spiritual
Other Articles/News by The Rev. Christopher L. Smith:

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