General Question

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

What training does the typical priest, minister or pastor have to help those in distress, or suicidal, or in need of counseling?

Asked by RedDeerGuy1 (24453points) September 24th, 2022

Is the training on par with a psychologist or psychiatrist? Or EMT paramedic?

Also feel free to add different religions.

Have you a story of being helped by a cleric?

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7 Answers

SergeantQueen's avatar


Every time I have ever asked a religious person for help, or have heard a religious person offer help, they never say anything actually useful.

If I am suicidal, praying realistically isn’t going to help. Therapy and meds will. but it seems to go against religion to tell people that the only way to get better is (with the help of a professional, obviously) work on themselves and how to change their thinking. Possibly with the help of meds too as it isn’t that easy to just change the way your brain is.

My point is: I doubt they have any training. They just say to read the bible and pray

smudges's avatar

Most of those you mention have a minimum of a Master’s degree and a fair amount of their education focuses on counseling. Afterall, it’s a large part of what they do.

The ministers in my own churches all had doctorates.

A divinity degree is the degree that most pastors or priests will pursue. The emphasis is on leadership, counseling, and the fundamentals of a specific religion or denomination. It helps prepare individuals for service in the ministry.

Are there some with no training/education? I’m sure there are, but I’m glad I don’t know any. I’d bet they’re the snake charmers and speakers in tongues.

SnipSnip's avatar

It depends. Some churches hire someone with no real qualification or education to pastor it. In my denomination, the education is heavy and there are opportunities for hands-on work after you get your undergrad and master degrees and while in seminary. The skills needed for pastoral care, which is what you are talking about, require experience as much as knowledge. Your questions belong in a seminary career counseling session.

janbb's avatar

I got help from the minister in my Unitarian congregation when I was in a bad spot. I don’t think it’s a substitute for therapy but more like situational counseling. And yes, they certainly have training in pastoral counseling in most divinity programs.

You might way to try attending a few different religious services and see if they provide you with nurturance or comfort.

Jeruba's avatar

I’m acquainted with an organization that provides bereavement counseling. They contacted me when my husband was transferred from active treatment to hospice care while in his last days in the hospital. They offered 13 months of counseling, and more if needed, by way of a weekly one-hour phone call.

For the first year I had a male Episcopalian chaplain, and then I was transferred to a female Jewish rabbi. Both of them, and presumably their colleagues, had special training in bereavement work. They also visit the dying and stay with them if needed when their time comes. They have been very helpful to me over these months, and I will miss them a lot when their service ends.

I am not a religious person. I’m an atheist. But we don’t argue theology. Their traditions are wise, their insights are valuable, and their virtual presence is comforting.They don’t force anything on me any more than I do on them. I’m very grateful for their support.

Jeruba's avatar

Additional point: Both counselors emphasized to me that they were not trained psychologists but had pastoral training in the field of bereavement. When I asked a question that implied an expectation of a therapist’s response, one of them would respond, “That’s above my pay grade.” The other simply says, “I don’t have a psychologist’s training.”

kritiper's avatar

Nothing of note. How could they? They would have to be schooled in EVERYTHING!

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