Pastoral Counseling is a specialized form of spiritual guidance that is vastly different from therapy. Clinical counseling is a great place to deal with past trauma or identify patterns of thinking, feeling or relating that you would like to change. And this can obviously also include religious trauma. But as helpful as this can be for the emotional side of working through your struggles, it is very limited in its ability to help you sort out your religious identity. Therapists – even Christian therapists – are not theologically trained or professionally oriented to help you decide whether you’d like to remain a Christian or wrestle through specific beliefs and practices you may be having difficulty with. Sometimes we have so much baggage tied to these beliefs and practices, based on previous experiences, it is difficult to know how to continue carrying them.
For these reasons therapists will often refer you to your religious community and their leaders in order to work these things out. But the problem is that often our religious leaders have a vested interest not only in whether we believe, but in what we believe and how we act upon it. This makes going to our own pastors and leaders to work these things out practically impossible. Often we leave our religious communities when the internal burdens get to be too much. We are forced to choose between our identity and our community, our honesty and our friendships, our believing and our belonging. This stage in the life of faith is sometimes called “the wall” – a critical moment of decision.
What many people need to get through “the wall” is another space to work out their struggles with their beliefs together with a theologically informed but pastorally neutral figure to help navigate all of the struggles of identity, community and spirituality that come from doubt or changing religious beliefs. It’s my hope to be able to help you grieve the change, draw out your deepest held values and priorities and to re-assemble your identity around what you can honestly and passionately believe while authentically relating to others who are used to a previous version of yourself.