Pastor Counseling- Case Studies- Difficulty in working with friends

Case Study 1  Dangers In Counseling Friends

A minister of a local church indicated a need for pastoral counseling. He was experiencing a great deal of distress. The pastor is a young man in his 7th year as pastor in an upper middle class white suburban neighborhood. This pastor has been so effective; that he has set a longevity record for the length of time the church has been able to keep its pastors. The average length of time is two years so the fact that this pastor had been at this site for seven years was significant. Crime is low, and most of the members of the church are seniors. A few years ago, a few young families moved into the neighborhood and joined the church. The young families were Asian and the minister is a member of a minority group. He therefore was delighted to receive the new addition to the congregation. The pastor was not prepared for the results of what can happen when expectations are not met, and pastors try to mix counseling with friendships.

Clinebell[1] suggest that a pastor should be sensitive to sign of distress, and use them as potential counseling opportunities. I noticed the individual was demonstrating signs of depression. Long-term interaction and friendship with the individual suggested that a significant amount of weight had been lost in a short period. It was apparent that the individual considered me as a confident and someone with who he was safe to express some concerns. It was clear that some conflict was taking place in the church in which the individual was serving as pastor.

The conflict, as reported to me, centered on a relationship that the pastor had with a member of the congregation. The pastor, being a caring person, had opened his home and his family to assist this member during times of crises. The factor, which caused the pastor to drop his guard and be more cautious with respect to new and unknown variables entering his church environment, as the ethnic identity of this man and his family. The man was from Africa, and he had a wife and two small children. He was also an educated accomplished individual reported to have a PhD. The pastor believes this was an opportunity to help a young family adjust to a new environment. The pastor had as a rule gone out of his way to welcome new people moving into the community and invite them to attend the Good Shepherd Church. The two families became very close, and the pastor and his family went out of their way to help the young family. The pastor encouraged the young man to share his gifts and talents and run for a church office. With the pastor’s assistance, the man became a leader in one of the church’s major office, and he was now in a position to do harm to the pastor unknowingly. The pastor had let his profession as a social worker motivate him to provide support services, where possible support and care for his family. The roles of pastor, social worker, and friend became mixed up, and the pastor would letter regret the problems, which can occur when friendships turn toxics. The pastor was requested to enter into a business arrangement with the member to do some repair work on the church. The friend, returning to his role as pastor with the responsibility of over seeing the operation of the church, became suspicious of the financial arrangements, and informed the member and friend that the church could not become involved in the arrangements.

The member took this refusal of assistance as an attack on the friendship. Bi Polar Personality Revealed The member, which the pastor later learned, had a history of emotional disturbance, and this rejection triggered emotional attacks against the pastor in the church. The pastor was not prepared for the verbal and character attacks of this individual, who would disrupt church service, and use his position of leadership in the church to attempt to destroy the pastor. Threats were made against the pastor and his family, and a steady writing of letter and phone calls to the superintendent’s office created an environment, which was uncomfortable for the pastor or the security of his family. The pastor became very distressed because he had reached out to help the individual and his family, and now it appears that the individual had forgotten about the entire pastor and his family had done for him. It was not clear how this matter could have been handled; most pastors are not prepared to handle severe emotional or psychotic episodes in its membership. My suggestion was that the pastor notify the local police department and put them on notice of the threats against him and his family. The pastor, elected, for the good of the church, not to use that approach, and instead for the safety of his young family, take the Bishop’s advice, and a leave of absence from the church for an extended period.

The pastor was very hurt, and had a great deal of difficulty accepting the idea that he had provided pastoral counseling for this individual, but he had made the mistake of bring the individual whom he was helping into his home and personal emotional circle. The Relationship Turns Dangerous Danger resulted when the individual decided to try to destroy the pastor and his ministry and attempt to have the pastor removed from the church. I suggested to the pastor that he remember that the member was a patient, and as a results of becoming too close to the patient, some of the patient’s spiritual and emotional illness was affecting him. The pastor continued to believe that he had failed the individual, and should do all that he could to help him. I suggested that it was important to know whom you can and cannot help, and when to refer clients out to other health care professionals. Pastoral counseling can include some dangers in current climates. The pastor had confused his pastoral duties, with his social work profession. The pastor, as a trained social worker, had attracted the client into his other field of work. Pastoral care suggests that there is a caring for individuals, and may mistakenly suggests that the pastor sacrifice all for his members. In today’s society of legal problems, it is necessary that the pastor and the church protect themselves from legal responsibilities resulting from social work with individuals with personality concerns and emotional needs that are outside of the responsibility of the pastor.

Here again it is necessary to return to Theories of Personality, and seek to understand how we bring our own personality needs into pastoral counseling, and how the different theorist can assist with this understanding. Adler developed a theory of personality that was different from Freud’s idea of the individual. Adler brings back the idea of individuals seeking to better themselves by helping others. He restored the idea of self worth of the individuals, which psychoanalysis had almost destroyed.

Adler offers ideas of humans and their behaviors, which are more satisfying and more hopeful and respectful to the human conditions. I am interested in following in this path, and since my personality and traits tend towards building up the individuals and respecting them where they are, the Adlerian approach would be the approach that I would select in my practice and religious work. It is my belief that we are made in the image and likeness of God, and as such, we are capable of outstand things that we may not be aware of at this time. I also have learned that the personality that draws me to the Adlerian approach may be the results of my own history. Dr. Johnson[2] suggests that it is important to have a field of separation between yourself and the client. It is important not to take on the illness of the client, or feel responsible for the illness or the cure. He further suggests that it is important to know when to refer clients. Each pastor should have a list of support services available to assist with any services rendered. There maybe individuals who present themselves for help, who may not benefit from Christian counseling.

Integrating theory with practice, Johnson (2005) provided practical guides for becoming effective counselors. He suggest that the Humanist Manifesto[3] can be

helpful in pastoral counseling. It provides tools for dealing with people on all levels. The pastor may be called upon to assist people who may or may not be Christian. He suggests that pastoral counseling is psychotherapy dealing with people in education, family and social situations. What the schools counselors fail to do and the guidance counselors could not do, the church is expected to do. Pastors within the church are expected to deal with all social and psychological issues. Pastors must at times become a referral agent, and prepare for themselves a desk reference for their geographical region. Government agencies welcome the referrals since funding depends on the number of clients served. Johnson suggests that pastors develop close and positive relations with directors and or assistant directors of these agencies, in order that they are familiar with services provided, if and when an emergency need arises. Clinebell[4] states that the heart of pastoral care is helping the individual to achieve spiritual wholeness.

   As you ought not attempt to cure the eyes without the head Or the head without the body, neither ought you attempt to cure the body without the soul…for the part can never be well unless the whole is well…And therefore, if the head and body are to be well, you must begin to cure the soul. (                                                                                         —-PLATO[5]

Johnson suggests that the safety and security should be the prime concern. You should not let your religious beliefs cause the life of anyone. If it is suggested that an individual is in physical harm in a marital situation, do not think first about keeping the unit together. Lives have been lost because pastors have advised individuals to stay in abusive situations for the sake of scripture obedience.

If someone is going to destroy the essence of your soul, you should walk away. Johnson states that the secular world is demanding that people take a larger role in servicing society. States are requiring that pastors obtain licenses before providing services. It is also important that pastors continue to update

clinical pastoral counseling and chaplaincy courses. Pastoral counseling is on the cutting edge of behavioral counseling. Many pastors do not understand what Shepherding is. It is much broader than pastoral ministry. The law requires that individuals be certified in pastoral counseling. Many insurance companies are demanding that churches have special licenses and coverage in order to do some programs specifically if the churches plan to work with the government. The secular world controls the financing, and they want to know that individuals involved in the programs have specific competencies. Johnson suggests that spiritual leaders have not prepared themselves for the challenges of the 21st century. Johnson states that when a therapist is dealing with certain issues, he or she is dealing with the whole family. When issues relating to alcohol or drugs are involved, you are dealing with the whole family. With respect to issues of abuse, research suggests that people who grow up in abusive families tend to become abusive. There are individuals who relate love making with abuse. In some cases, according to Johnson, sexual abuse can be genetic. He further states that it is important and necessary to obtain the permission of individuals who may come to you to pray for them. Do not pray for anyone without first securing their permission. It is wise to enter into private pray with yourself and for yourself before entering into some situations. The pastor and or the counselor should arm himself or herself with the covering of prayer before encountering problematic situations.

[1] Howard Clinebell, Basic Types of Pastoral Care and Counseling, Abingdon Press, Nashville, Tenn.

[2] Dr. C. Phillip Johnson, Th.D., D. Min, Pastoral Care & Counseling, U. Theology Seminary, New York, Spring 2005

[3] Humanist Manifesto, American Humanist Association, 1777 T. Street NW, DC

[4] Howard Clinebell, Basic Types of Pastoral Care and Counseling, Abidgon Press, Abigon, Tenn

[5] “Charmides,” The Dialogue of Plato., Benjamin Jowett ( New York: Random House, 1937


Care Study 2

A minister writes:

Recently, an individual who had been in my life for a sustained period was having trouble. I had been what I considered to be a supportive friend and confident. I had used the person-centered approach that Rodgers speaks of, and was very concerned in all areas of this individual’s life. An outside person would have observed that I had watched and supported, behaviors that were hurtful to members of her family. I had watched and supported decisions with respect to her own life. I provided the emotional support during her difficult times. She was dependent on our supportive relationship. I must admit that there was a great deal of satisfaction interacting with an individual who appeared to be accepting your views in considerations they were making with their lives. It was not my style to make any judgments on any of these decisions. I am beginning to believe that this may not have been an effective position to take in a relationship, which should have been based on honesty. In truth I believed that most of her decisions were self-centered without regard to the effect those decisions would have on other people in her relational world. We would discuss her positions, and I would always be supportive of her, not the behavior or the decision. Recently we have had a splitting of the ways. She has made some decisions, which could significantly hurt her family members. She has been listening to other individuals who have persuaded her to give them all of her funds and property. She has placed herself in medical facilities that resulted in the turning over of large sums of money. He doctor did not agree with her decision, as results she changed doctors. Her daughter did not agree with her decision, and as a result, she stripped her daughter of property that she had planned to leave her. She sold the property and did not share any of the resources from the sale of the property with her children, but elected to give the funds to outside individuals. It was difficult for me to continue in the relationship. One of the reasons for my concern, and back off, was the fact that she had asked that I be a legal witness to her decision to turn over the house to her daughter. She expressed her dislike of her children, and as results of my support for the children, she began to express some break in what she expected from me. Our relationship related on my supporting her in all decisions, she decided to make without any expressed view that was contrary to what she wanted to do. I feel that I have failed her as a friend. I wonder how could I better serve her as a counselor, when I was making judgments on some aspects of her behaviors.


This brings me to other concerns with respect to my effective work as a counselor. I am concerned about my ability to take an objective view in my work with individuals with whom I may have some personal interaction. If I were not personally involved with my friend, then perhaps I could have been more effective. Perhaps, I could have given her time to work out her concerns with respect to her feelings about her children and her family, and permit her to come to a decision that would not have resulted in so much hurt to so many people. I will have to look further research in Rogers’s theories of Person Centered Therapy. However, this relationship has gone on for 30 years, and the factors that are disturbing to me at this stage, were always visible, but were considered a “trait” and representative of personality. Adler would probably be the more effective method to use in a situation such as this. Adler would have suggested that it was important to have the whole family in the counseling sessions. Adler would suggest that perhaps some factors, which may or may not have occurred in the life of my friend, could have contributed to this self-centered personality that my friend had developed. She was the second oldest girl born into a large family. Her mother had died early in her life. Her father re married to an insensitive woman who resented the children, and went out of her way to make the lives of the children miserable. I was impressed with the life story that my friend told about her difficult early childhood. I was impressed by the fact that regardless of the fact that she had experienced a difficult time during her formative years, she was able to marry, have children of her own, and a professional career as a teacher. It is only after taking courses in the field of family counseling, that I am able to look back and see that my friend was not very affectionate with her own children. I can see now and understand why she was having considerable difficulty relating to the young children in her charge during her years as a kindergarten teacher. I was happy to write most of her lesson plans, and design activities, which would assist her to be a more effective teacher. I could not see that there was a disconnect between her and the class she taught, and also a disconnect between her and her own children. She was self-centered, and I, as her friend supported her in this behavior and attitude. Adler could help the individuals in this family to had better understand what has happened over the years, and perhaps provide workshops and techniques to help them meet the needs of the present which taking into consideration the variables of the past. My friend could be helped to see that she can no longer punish her stepmother for being an insensitive person. She must also forgive her father for not protecting her and her

sisters and brothers from the harsh treatment they received. She is repeating the attitudes and the feelings conveyed by her stepmother to her children, and the relationships in her life. I was tolerated, but cause I was completely accepting of her. I protected her from possible failure as a classroom teacher, and I provided silent support of all of her financial activities. When I think back over the relationship, she never gave me a gift or any expression of external appreciation. She did however, feed my ego with expressions of “how smart I was.” I said good-bye to my friend recently. I told her that I could no longer support her in attitudes and behaviors that are hurting others. This was very difficult for me. We had formed a symbiotic relationship that fed the needs of my ego to be needed. I did not criticize her in anything, and she praised me for doing all of her work. This would suggest that in the process of becoming an effective counselor, I should use some of Adler’s techniques and look into my own life to determine what factors may have influenced the development of my own personality and traits. I tend to be non confrontational and supportive of individuals who are not challenging. My birth order as the second child would suggest, according to Adler, that I would have a competitive nature, and be an over achiever. This is true. Other Theories of Personality could suggest why I may have a need to serve others who may not be serving me.


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