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 presents common research methods, both qualitative and quantitative, including how the researcher influences what is being measured, challenges and opportunities in measuring religion and spirituality, and cultural implications of the measurement of religion and spirituality. When reading reports of research on the impact of religion and spirituality on psychological constructs, pastoral counselors must consider what the researcher intended to capture, as this may be different from the pastoral counselor’s personal definitions of religion or spirituality. Pastoral counseling falls in the broad category of the social sciences. There are two general categories of social science research: quantitative research and qualitative research. Research in religion and spirituality must consider the cultures of those who devise the research and the cultures of those who participate. Pastoral counseling research is complex because it crosses multiple disciplines and encompasses concepts that are difficult to define and conceptualize: religion and spirituality.