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“Many counsellors use one preferred approach in doing counselling, be it a cognitive, narrative approach, etc.  The problem with one preferred approach, is that it may bring harm to clients who are expected to fit all the specifications of a given theory.

Counsellors need to challenge and tailor their theory and practice to fit the unique needs of their client/clients or family. This requirement calls for counsellors to possess knowledge on various theories, cultures, be aware of their own cultural heritage, and have skills in dealing with the many diverse problems that clients bring into the room”.

According to Hurding (2003: 249) approaches to counselling, which imply purely a biological or mechanistic way of seeing people, or over-emphasize autonomy and individualism are deficient in their basic anthropology. He argues, “In our evaluation of different approaches to counselling it is worth asking how adequately men and women are viewed in terms of their essential plurality-in-unity. Do questions of personal sin, true guilt and individual responsibility give way to a deterministic emphasis on the power of the instincts and the neurotic nature of all guilt; or within a more humanistic framework, are human beings seen as essentially good and well-motivated for constructive change; or is their propensity for self-centeredness acknowledged”? At this point,

Hurding, (2003: 248) stresses here the importance that; “In assessing methodologies of counselling, we need to ask whether the assumptions behind their theory and practice fit with the biblical view that people have supreme value in that they are special creations of God, made for a special relation with their Creator, from which they are called into relationships with others as they exercise a responsible stewardship over God’s world”.

Preston (1998: 3) contends that no one theoretical model can adequately address the wide range of problems clients will present in therapy. For him, the pivotal assessment question is, “What does this particular person /family most need in order to suffer less, to heal, to grow, or to cope more effectively?” Each theory has its unique contributions and its own domain of expertise. By accepting that each theory has strengths and weaknesses and is, by definition, “different” from the others, practitioners have some basis to begin developing a theory that fits for them. Olsen (1993: 14) concluded in this regard “Despite the difficulty of trying to integrate all the different therapies, I firmly believe one must undertake it if one is to work effectively with individuals and families.”

A Holistic approach towards Pastoral Counselling.

Pastoral care and counselling often occur in the context of human dilemmas in which some external event or internal chaos threatens families and their members’ physical, social, psychological, and spiritual stability. As pastoral counsellors, we allegedly have “expert” religious knowledge. Clients are aware of this situation. Clients may feel that they are not a hundred percent familiar with the contents of Scripture or their own denomination or tradition’s specific doctrines. Some counsellors or pastors may believe in and use a confrontational approach toward counselling – where the use of the Bible as an authoritative pastoral resource is used in interpreting, diagnosing and responding to clients and their crises.

Other counsellors may use a “client-centred and holistic approach towards counselling, which calls for human beings to become whole: a positive view of humankind, which reaches beyond salvation back to creation, and focuses on the psychological potentials of a person. Sin becomes secondary: inner potential becomes the key to all pastoral therapy.

A Pastoral approach draws to the fact that the attitude and approach of the counsellor is more important than the use or non-use of Scripture or doctrine in the counselling process. By engaging in a conversation characterised by reflective questions and at an appropriate time introducing alternative voices (passages from Scripture, the healing attributes of God, the importance of community, the respectful way of dealing with differences, forgiveness as a way of life, the creation of meaning and hope, etc.), the client or family comes to an alternative understanding of themselves, members of the family and of who God could be.

Clinebell’s growth model (1984: 28-45) refer to the spiritual dimension of our lives that consists of the ways in which we satisfy seven interrelated spiritual needs, the need for;

  • a viable philosophy of life
  • creative values
  • a relationship with a loving God
  • developing our higher self
  • a sense of trustful belonging in the universe
  • renewing moments of transcendence and
  • a caring community that nurtures spiritual growth

Louw (1998: 18) concludes that: “The ultimate purpose of the entire pastoral encounter and model is the fostering of a mature faith and spirituality, which includes, change, responsible choice of behaviour, growth, empowerment and mutual support and anticipation.

He sees a pastoral model of counselling which reflects the following four stages: Trust (feelings), perspectives (thinking), responsibility (doing) and empowerment (believing).

For him this model should not only deploy an individualistic approach, but is compelled to approach problems contextually. To take into consideration not only the intra-psychic dynamism with its one-sided emphasis on autonomy and self-realisation, but also a psycho-systemic dynamism which emphasis the network of connections and structures within a social and cultural context”. According to him, the following basic components of context should be taken into consideration:


  • people’s needs in life – the degree to which these are met or not (material security, safety, and experiencing value, self-actualization and love) will determine the measure of emotional pain and immediate frustrations;
  • the community with its social structures (education, economy, technology, politics, etc.) will determine the degree of freedom experienced by people in their community;
  • significant relationships (marriage, family, social environment, politics, security in relationship) will eventually determine the degree of isolation and whether people will have to deal with the problem of loneliness and alienation; and
  • philosophical perspective (people’s philosophies, values and views of life) determine their behaviour – positive concepts lead to constructive action, irrational thoughts and ideological perspectives have a negative effect on peoples reaction. Norms and values play a decisive role in philosophical thinking and attitudes.



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