There are a lot of needy people with troubled souls who need to be actively reached. This became clearer to me once I started pastoral or spiritual counseling in Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE); and through my affiliation with BUKAL Life Care and Counseling Center (BLCCC), serving in jail, hospital, school, church and community. Yes, counseling needs a missionary approach for its value to be fully acknowledged by the public as an indispensable resource. In the Philippine setting the term “counseling” still has a slight stigma attached to it because people have the idea that one goes for counseling only for mental and emotional disturbances. In order for the negative connotation to be dismantled, counselors ought to engage the general population and dispel these notions. I, for one, committed myself to pastoral counseling because I know what it feels like to be in great need of guidance yet ignorant and fearful about who to approach and trust. The times I faced crises, especially in my younger years, helped me know how helpful it would have been to receive counseling from someone who had dedication, sense of mission and good training.
It’s vital that counseling is delivered as a service accessible throughout the human lifespan because it is not only school-age children who need to be guided. At all phases of life, assistance in reflection; encouragement, and; informational services related to the counselee’s issues is essential to selecting best options in life. It is better if counseling is recognized as a lifelong resource, not merely “kid’s stuff.” Even adults and the elderly should feel comfortable to seek such help when necessary.
Healthcare services are trending towards the emphasis on prevention, including in counseling. It may be cliché to state that: “Prevention is better than cure,” but it holds true in any case. Soul ailments are not unimportant occurrences that we can be set aside without significant consequences. They must be addressed along with physical health. Through prevention we mitigate avoidable crises and the toll it takes on the individual, his family and others .
Now, in the Philippines, with licensure implemented, counseling has become a regulated profession. That is good in the sense that those who practice it can gain standard, credible qualifications. Counselees ought to receive the most professional and ethical guidance available. But passing licensure exams, getting continuing education, and having credentials does not guarantee that the counselor has therapeutic impact. In like manner, becoming a licensed physician does not assure that one is caring and beneficent to patients. I believe the competent counselor is one who applies wisdom in his own life, although not perfect, and utilizes his own challenges to minister to others’ needs. However, it’s also vital to the counselor to be part of an organization that continually motivates him to upgrade his counseling know-how.
It’s now 2011. I bet counseling still has a long way to go in the improvement of its services and delivery. I’m glad to be part of a counseling center, BLCCC caters locally to my own countrymen and is affiliated internationally with a larger organization, the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy (CPSP). I actually shifted my studies to prioritize counseling subjects although my MA in teaching major is in psychology and my BS degree is in nursing. This is because I strongly believe in the great value of encouraging words, and moral support, to a person’s being. Calling and self-actualization trumps monetary gain. I can bear with material limitations for now, but self-fulfillment is a constant longing and it must be appeased before practical living concerns.
When I was deciding on a Masteral course, I chose my major because I wanted to specialize in my own passion, psychology, since from a young age I’ve always wanted to know how the mind works. My plan was to merge my undergraduate degree with my Masteral degree and become a psychiatric nurse. Now, however, I feel called to pastoral counseling in this season of my life. I’m enjoying the fulfillment and “sense of this is me” despite challenges at home, at work and in me. I don’t know what my future in counseling entails. I leave my fate in the all-encompassing protection, responsibility and love of God; although uncertainties can be troubling if I let them worry me. But as for the future of counseling in general, I’m optimistic that its positive developments and influences shall be far-reaching.
<Jehny is a CPE trainee with Bukal Life, Master’s student at University of the Cordilleras, and our Ministry Coordinator>