Table ofContents

Abstract 3

Introduction 4

Identity of Pastoral Counselor 4

Ethical Boundaries for Pastoral Counseling 5

Cheston’s “Ways Paradigm” for Pastoral Counseling 6

Way of Being with the Client 6

Way of Understanding the Client 7

Way of Intervening into Client’s Life 7

Implementing Paradigm into Pastoral Counseling 8

Partnerships to Support Professional Growth and Development 8

Synthesis of Issues to be addressed by Ethical Guidelines 10

Confidentiality 10

Manipulating the Client 10

Directive Approach 10

No Romantic Relationships 11

No Voyeurism 11

Maintain Biblical Boundaries 11

No Counseling to Family members, Friends or Acquaintances 12

Conclusion 12

References 13


Identityand ethical guidelines are very important in any profession becausethey are the framework which creates ethical employees and ethicalorganizations. However, for the Christian church, identity andethical guidelines are particularly important for pastoral counselorsbecause the Christian service is a commission from God himself. It isquite important for pastoral counselors to embrace their identity aspublic servants and ministers of God. Christian based counseling hasto be characterized by the grace of God in addition to making animpact on the world. Furthermore, Christian counselors also have tofashion their therapeutic strategies in a way which positivelyaffects the world. Ethical guidelines are quite important becausethey create necessary boundaries for the pastoral counselingprofession.


Paradigmswhich outline identity and ethical boundaries for pastoral counselingare quite important because they set the necessary thresholds neededin creating enhanced outcomes from the profession’s services. Forthe pastoral counselor, realizing identity is quite important becauseit provides a framework of how the counselor connects with clients.In fact, the pastoral role is not limited to people of Christianfaith rather it includes people from various cultural backgrounds.Ethical boundaries are quite important because the actions and wordsof pastoral counselors should reflect biblically sound principles inorder to get rid of contradictory behavior. While there are differentparadigms concerning identity and ethical boundaries for pastoralcounseling, there has to be similar ground of uniformity instructure. This easy will describe a research based paradigm forpastoral counseling, identify professional partnerships to supportthe professional growth and development, and finally build a concisesynthesis of issues to be addressed by an organization’s ethicalguidelines.

Identityof Pastoral Counselor

Theidentity of the pastoral counselor surrounds the fact that the rolehas a dual responsibility to foster a sense of sacredness in theirwork and also to advocate for depth in their educational approaches.In fact, pastoral counselors should be able to communicate theirprofessional identity based on a profound appropriation of pastoraltraditions and also the preferred types of worldly psychotherapeuticstrategies which are currently in use. This integration has to becomea huge part of professional enrichment for several purposes. In fact,individuals within the pastoral counseling profession have tounderstand that they have to bring their therapeutic strategies intoconformity with quite a large assortment of clients, culturalbackgrounds, faith traditions, and many ways of life (Sperry, 2013).

Sincethe objective in pastoral counseling is to facilitate change, as aperson the pastoral counselor must understand how to adjust theirpersonalities to fit their client’s needs. One common feature whichconnects all counseling theories is the fact that counselors mustcreate an accepting and supportive atmosphere. Therefore, thepastoral counselor must understand how to properly express theirempathy and respect for their clients they must understand their ownvalues and also, they must understand how to maintain the mostappropriate boundaries with the clients on all these matters.

EthicalBoundaries for Pastoral Counseling

Ethicalboundaries are quite important for this profession because theyregulate how individual counselors relate to their clients. Ethicalboundaries in this case are entrenched within biblical principlesconcerning life. Wavering from these principles can take placewithout proper ethical boundaries since out of empathy or concernsome counselors may choose to adopt secular attributes for the sakeof their clients’ needs. Nevertheless, while the pastoral counselorprofession is particularly driven by concern and desire to helpothers, this duty is first obliged to the yoke of Christian service(Sperry, 2013). Therefore, at any stage this profession should neverbe subject to human emotion or counsel rather individual counselorsshould only hold to what is biblically founded.

Cheston’s“Ways Paradigm” for Pastoral Counseling

Thereare many different paradigms in the pastoral counseling professiondue to differentiating ideas among counselors. Some believe infollowing one paradigm while others believe in borrowing fromdifferent theories without necessarily sticking to one type of model.However, it is quite important to have conformity in the pastoralcounseling realm because this is not a multicultural associationrather it is an association built upon a biblical foundation. SharonCheston’s waysparadigm attemptsto organize practice and theory under three critical principles whichaccording to her the principles play an intricate role inessentially all counseling modalities and philosophies. The threeprincipals include: the way of being with clients, the way ofunderstanding the client’s perspective on the world, and the way ofintervening into their lives (Cheston, 2000). Subsequently, havingsuch a paradigm for pastoral counseling allows the professionals touse different therapeutic techniques and theories while finding thedifferences and similarities between them, all without deviating fromthe cohesiveness and consistency associated with working within adefined structure.

Wayof Being with the Client

Beingwith the client refers to the counselor’s being there with theclient and also, his or her ability to provide a therapeuticenvironment (Cheston, 2000). Within this structure, the pastoralcounselor is able to use their best- perceived theory of creating anaccommodating environment for the client. There are various differentways pastoral counselors use to present and relate themselves totheir clients in an attempt to smoothen the progress of therapeuticchange. For example, some counselors appear quite engaged anddecisive on issues if the client is withdrawn. Other counselors takea stance of being more observing and reactive if the client seems tobe quite articulate and wanting to open their hearts.

Wayof Understanding the Client

Understandingthe client refers to the counselor’s ability to use differentcounseling disciplines such as assessing human development,personality structure and theories, and different perspectives whichinfluence change (Cheston, 2000). Through these tools, counselors areable to conceptualize how their clients form belief systems, howtheir conscious and unconscious mind works, and also why clientsbehave the way they do. Way of understanding works on the basis thata person’s sense of reality is much influenced by anintersubjective and social construction which is analyzed andinterpreted by the lenses of the mind as the mind also continues togather and process information. Nevertheless, this way ofunderstanding is always greatly influenced by a counselor’sparticular school of thought something which is acquired throughoutthe clinical training tenure. Utilizing all these different facets ofhuman nature, counselors are able to intrinsically make a connectionbetween the client’s problems and their general makeup.

Wayof Intervening into the Client’s Life

Theway of intervening refers to the work and specific array oftechniques which the counselor decides to utilize in facilitating theclient to optimal wellness. This way is actually a framework oftreatment which also encapsulates the healing process which theclient will undertake as well as the goals and milestones which needto be reached along the way. Nevertheless, the way of interveningessentially refers to the counselor’s ability to disrupt theclient’s dysfunctional mental, emotional, spiritual, andpsychological cycles (Cheston, 2000). In fact, the counselor offersthe client better alternative ways of behaving, feeling and thinking.The intervening procedure can be conceptualized as the actualapplication of a specific speculative orientation in a counselor’smode of administering care and it may entail a pastoral focal point.

ImplementingParadigm into Pastoral Counseling

Acloser look at the pastoral counseling role indicates that pastoralcounselors use many different types of counseling for theirrespective clients. Nevertheless, the adoption of the way paradigmcan prove to be beneficial because it is a guiding framework for allforms of counseling. However, for pastoral counseling, this frameworkacts as an outline to incorporate the more relevant spiritual aspectof the recovery process because healing becomes much easier when thesearch for transcendence is fulfilled in a person’s spirit. Withinthis paradigm, pastoral counselors will operate under the premisethat indeed the counseling has to address spiritual matters since thehuman spirit has direct relationship with the soul, mind and physicalbody.

Partnershipsto Support Professional Growth and Development

Growthand development for prospective pastoral counselors can take place byequipping them with supervisors. Supervisors can play a critical rolein facilitating functional and ethical behavior. For proper growthand development in counseling, there are many internal issues whichcan pose risk to counselor and client relationships during meetings.For example, counselors without proper emotional and psychologicaldevelopment or counselors with unresolved issues can become tooresponsive to the needs of the client. Therefore, for there to be adevelopment in the counselor’s mind there has to be a supervisorwho acts as a support structure. Essentially, this relationshipbetween a counselor and the supervisor is characterized by quite anin depth interpersonal relationship because any arising matters haveto be resolved from within their respective cores.

Thebiggest problem faced by younger counselors is counter-transferencewhereby the counselor gets affected by the clients own problems. Whatactually happens is that the client’s experiences of struggle moreoften than not arouse the counselor’s own past experiences (Sperry,2013). This occurrence can be quite dangerous and it needs acounselor to be able to vent in a functional manner in the presenceof a supervisor who subsequently provides ways of dealing with suchproblems. Unsupervised cases of counter-transference lead toovercompensated interventions which are quite dangerous because itcreates a window of opportunity whereby the counselor can overstepethical boundaries which in this case relate to biblical principles.

Onthe other hand there instances whereby manipulative clients can bringa host of problems but with the supervisor’s aid, a counselor isable to create more transparent relational principles particularly insituations where the counselor is becoming too entangled withclients. According to realm of pastoral counseling, the presence ofGod is important because it is him who provides grace for healing andthat grace manifests in the counselors. Nevertheless, that impartedgrace must transform the beholder as well as the person who laterreceives counsel. So really, supervision begins with God holding thehand of the supervisor, and the supervisor holds the hand of theprospective pastoral counselor. Local associations of peers are alsoessential professional partnerships because they can offer adequatesupport. Most of the prospective or active counselors in theseassociations tend to have similar problems or difficulties andtherefore by joining such organizations a person gains much insighton how to deal with the common problems.

Synthesisof Issues to be addressed by Ethical GuidelinesConfidentiality

Maintainingconfidentiality with clients is a huge issue that needs to beaddressed by ethical guidelines because it also involves rights toprivacy laws. The only exception to breaking confidentiality occursonly if there is ethical and legal compellation. A good exception tothis kind of law would be such things as notions of child abuse.Nevertheless, pastoral counselors have to get acquainted with lawswithin their respective states pertaining to privilegedcommunications with their clients.

Manipulatingthe Client

Manypeople who seek pastoral counseling are usually quite vulnerablebecause some counselors have been known to take advantage of theirclients particularly both financially and sexually. Therefore, it isimportant that ethical guidelines address this issue because themanipulation is leading to a growing level of mistrust concerning theChurch’s activities.


Mostclients come to pastoral counselors with the assumption that thepastor has more biblical knowledge and a better founded prayer life.Within this premise, most people come to the pastor expecting toreceive divinely orchestrated answers. However, some pastors do takeadvantage of this fact and they actually tell their clients what todo out of their own opinions. Nevertheless, pastors should take adirective role in counseling in order to be of better aid to clients.

NoRomantic Relationships

Romanticrelationships or even sexual relationships for that matter arestrictly forbidden. The organization/church does not want to beanswerable to any scandals which may take place due to suchoccurrences. It is highly recommended that pastoral counselors onemember of the clergy present to be in the vicinity if the pastor iscounseling a person of the opposite sex. Studies indicate that amongministers who have adulterous affairs, over 70 percent of thoseaffairs began via pastoral counseling sessions (Sperry, 2013).


Inassociation with the no romantic relationship rule, if sexual detailsmust be discussed it is counterproductive, inappropriate and veryunfair to directly or indirectly seek sexual information for thepurpose of excitement. Requesting such information from clients canbe quite degrading particularly taking into account that they arethere to receive help.

MaintainBiblical Boundaries

Itis very important to maintain biblical principles when dealing withclients as a pastoral counselor. Even when dealing with nonChristians, the commands and principles in the bible must not losetheir leading effect. For example, divorce should never be condonedby any pastoral counselor because that is a deliberate act againstthe will of God. Abortion or assisted suicide should never becondoned because they are contrary to God’s law which strictlyforbids the act of killing even when death is seemingly the only wayout. Furthermore, homosexuality, bisexuality, or transgenderedmanners are forbidden by the word of truth and therefore pastoralcounselors are forbidden to condone such acts.

NoCounseling to Family members, Friends or Acquaintances

Providingcounseling to family member, friends or acquaintances are prohibitedbecause such issues are bound to bring about negative entanglementswhich might end up involving the church. However, this provision islimited to the confines of this organization and the counselor maycounsel significant others outside the church. But counselors areadvised to maintain ethical behavior even when outside the church.


Inconclusion, the pastoral counseling role is quite an importantposition and it is necessary to create a competent framework whichgoverns the activities of this individuals. The paradigm outlineabove is a good framework for counseling services because it providesa structure for dealing with clients. Nevertheless, ethicalguidelines are quite necessary to prevent embarrassing outcomes forthe church. Proper certification and background checks should beconducted to make sure that only ethical individuals are being giventhe opportunity to serve people in such an intimate matter and sacredenvironment.


Cheston,S. E. (2000). A new paradigm for teaching counseling theory andpractice. Counselor education and supervision,39(4),254-269.

Sperry,L. (2013). Distinctive approaches to religion and spirituality:Pastoral counseling, spiritual direction, and spiritually integratedpsychotherapy.