This book offers suggestions regarding how pastoral counselors can navigate the changing landscape of mental health care in our current context to maintain unity amid our diversity. Pastoral counseling continues to evolve from its origins as a specialized ministry to an approach to mental health care offered in a wide array of contexts, including both religious and secular settings. The book first offers an introduction to the discipline of pastoral counseling by outlining a brief history of pastoral counseling as well as an understanding of how the discipline maintains unity amid the vast diversity of practices and practitioners. Then, it details pastoral counseling theory and practice according to three precepts: a way of being, a way of understanding, and a way of intervening. Next, the book reflects the religious diversity present among pastoral counselors and those they serve. It further illustrates special issues in pastoral counseling. These special issues further exemplify the distinctiveness of pastoral counseling as evidenced by the functions of referral, consultation, and collaboration, the education and supervision of pastoral counselors, and the use of both qualitative and quantitative research methods. In recognition of our increased technological abilities, as well as the dearth of mental health resources available in some geographic regions, the book guides the reader in understanding distance counseling and how to engage in an ethical distance counseling practice. Finally, the book builds on the theory and practice of pastoral counseling by offering a prophetic call for the future of the discipline.
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This chapter addresses the importance of understanding the dignity of human nature. The human condition is a complex theological, philosophical, and psychological term that refers to the nature of our human experience. Significant pastoral concerns arise directly from the givens of human existence, as well as the contexts in which those experiences occur. The organization and method of discourse cover six key contexts for understanding the human condition:human dignity and depravity, story, relational style, family, gender, and view of God. The essential unity of the human family with God is part of the dignity inherent to the human condition and is often described by the mystics. One’s view of God has direct implications on one’s understanding of the human condition and thus one’s counseling practice. One cannot truly understand the human condition without first examining how humanity views the divine.