This chapter explores how pastoral counselors might work with queer-identified persons. It reviews theories of sexual orientation and literature establishing gay/lesbian-affirming approaches to pastoral counseling. The chapter considers emerging theories regarding “queer” identities and how such identities are related to prevailing constructs of gender and sexuality in psychotherapeutic discourses. Pastoral counselors working with queer-identified persons especially in couples and family therapy are challenged to critically reflect on and intentionally deconstruct the ways in which dominant discourses of gender and sexuality have become embedded in operative psychotherapeutic approaches. It is critically important for queer-affirming pastoral counselors to clearly identify the theological, scientific, psychological, anthropological, and sociological conclusions about human sexuality because each of these assumptions shapes the clinical practice. Pastoral counselors are encouraged to seek continuing education and specialized training before working with persons who are transgender, especially those who are actively seeking gender transition.
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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.