Pastoral counseling is not a division of behavioral health. Pastoral counseling is a division of the cure of souls, that is, pastoral care and Christological cure.
I have found Dr. Scott Peck’s observations about pastoral counseling both helpful to me as a pastor-pastoral counselor and as a teacher of future pastors and counselors:
“I have been elsewhere for the potential for evil that is inherent in excessive specialization, which is why I exult in the fact that through their integration of psychology and religion pastoral counselors have become generalists. My only fear for the pastoral counseling movement is that it may slip backward into a more established and defined (and hence comfortable) specialized identity. I hope that pastoral counselors will continue to be willing to suffer the tension of an identity that is not always clear but remains open to new possibilities.” (M. Scott Peck, M.D., Clinical Handbook of Pastoral Counseling, “Introduction.”)
We who represent the Church in the goal of spiritual healing should be quite content in the “tension” that Dr. Peck mentions. We are merely shepherds of the soul equipped for our vocation with the tools God has given us in both special and general revelation.
All healing of the human soul comes from the Creator of the human soul, the Lord God Almighty. Pastoral counseling exists to help guide others to our Creator through the life of the Lord Jesus Christ.
“For by Him, all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through Him and for Him” (Colossians 1:16 ESV).
Pastoral counseling is a part of the ministry of pastoral care. But it is not pastoral care generally. Pastoral counseling is pastoral care intensively.
Pastoral counseling is the diagnosis and treatment of the pathologies of the human soul through wisdom drawn from the Holy Scriptures, Christian theology, and Christian tradition. (see Capps et al, Clinical Handbook of Pastoral Counseling, 2).
Pastoral counseling is not psychotherapy. But pastoral counseling integrates (from the word, “integrity”) God’s truth in both special revelation (the Bible) and general revelation (Creation). We are unconvinced of those counselors who assume the title “Biblical counselors,” who seek to find Platonic division between observed, experienced, empirical truth and Biblical truth. R.C. Sproul rightly asserted that “all truth is God’s truth.” (Sproul, “All Truth is God’s Truth,” Ligonier Ministries, 2009). E.A. Burtt chronicled the development of science from the metaphysical masters, like Galileo and Newton, noting that Christians are unafraid of the empirical data of Creation as being compatible with Christianity:
“’Nature . . . doth not that by many things, which may be done by few.’ He contrasts natural science with law and the humanities, in respect that the conclusions of the former are absolutely true and necessary, not at all dependent on human judgment. Nature is ‘inexorable,’ acts only ‘through immutable laws which she never transgresses,’ and cares ‘nothing whether her reasons and methods of operating be or be not understandable by men.'”
Thus, pastoral care, beginning with the special revelation of the Holy Scriptures recognizes the truth in science, experience, and other insights (that comport with God’s revealed Word). Conversely, he is careful to ‘test” observations in special revelation (again, referring to Creation, or, nature). Science by its nature changes—widens or narrows its understanding of Truth in general revelation—with more careful observation. God’s Word does not change.
Moreover, the pastoral counselor hopes to bring about spiritual therapeutic results. Pastoral counseling is not psychology (except in the sense that “psychology” is a study of the soul and the minister of the Gospel is a student of the soul according to God’s revelation informing pastoral practice). However, all truth is God’s truth and the pastoral counselor may draw from Biblical metaphors, allusions, and insights that could be considered “psychology.” Pastoral Counseling is not “Christian Counseling” per se. A Christian counselor is usually not a member of the Christian clergy. A Christian Counselor may use behavioral sciences, e.g., psychotherapy, to seek assessment, diagnosis, and healing. But a Pastoral Counselor is a minister of the Gospel representing the Church, the Body of Christ, in bringing wisdom, insight, and ethical decision-making rooted in the Holy Bible and the Christian tradition. Rather than therapeutic technique or medications the pastoral counselor differentiates between soul and body and aims to treat the soul with the means of grace available through Jesus Christ.
Pastoral counseling is an ancient form of diagnosing and treating the pathologies of the human soul through the practice of Biblically-informed and Spirit-guided Gospel ministry. Through Word, Sacrament, and Prayer the pastoral counselor and the parishioner (a more appropriate word than client or patient for the pastoral counselor) seek to remove themselves of the residue of the Fall and more fully embrace the life of Jesus Christ. One pastoral counselor wrote,
“The pastor’s working premise is that spiritual growth is both foundational to all human wholeness and related to all other aspects of wholeness. There is no sphere of life that is not included within the spiritual. There is, therefore, no sphere of life that is irrelevant to pastoral counseling. Whether the focus is on grief in the face of bereavement, conflicts in a relationship, matters of vocational direction, struggles in prayer, addictions, or anxiety in the face of illness or impending death, the challenge is to assist the one seeking help to bring theological reflection to life experiences as a way of aiding spiritual growth. (David G. Benner, Strategic Pastoral Counseling, p. 36)
Pastoral Counseling involves shepherding others in need of the Counselor, the Holy Spirit. He is the healer of our souls.
The Six Steps of Pastoral Counseling
Faith for Living, Inc. offers pastoral counseling to those in need of spiritual guidance to the source of all life, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Our counseling goals are strategic:
- Arrangement: You prayerfully decide to see the Pastoral Counselor. You read the provided material and if you agree, you will sign the Informed Consent Form. You provide information to help facilitate your first appointment. You contact the Assistant to Dr. Milton to arrange for your assessment visit, which is your first visit.
- Assessment: You and the Pastoral Counselor locate the point of need. Together, you name the presenting issue and its impact on your life.
- Pastoral Counselors practice “differential counseling.” This means your Pastoral Counselor may ask you to see a medical doctor or to consider another helping professional. Without ever giving away the primary work of the care of the soul, the Pastoral Counselor recognizes that the spirit and body are connected. Spiritual pathologies may become a physical disease. Sometimes physical problems can create spiritual problems. Part of our work is to differentiate and refer when needed.
- Diagnosis: Through prayer, wisdom, and listening to the Spirit, you and the Pastoral Counselor agree on the predicate for the problem. Is it from the World? The Flesh? The Devil? Or is it a combination? Your spiritual condition is verbalized in a narrative. This narrative provides the way forward through Jesus Christ and His Gospel.
- Treatment: The narrative of pain is located and the source of healing is identified. You and the Pastoral Counselor go to the Lord Jesus and find a pathway into His presence. Pathways must be identified. You must rise and walk to follow Christ. This often involves emotional or spiritual pain but brings a cure to the wounded soul. Confession, forgiveness, repudiation, discipleship are all active words we use in Gospel treatment. Our goal is a recalibration of your life back to the cross of Christ.
- Reflection: Together, you and the Pastoral Counselor consider your plan. Adjustments may need to be made. Mysteries unsolved may need to be placed before Christ. Others in your life may need to be “lowered through the roof” to Jesus for Him to heal. Victory sometimes comes through an awareness of our powerlessness and God’s faithfulness. We must always come to rest in His sovereignty. We might discover the ruling motif of the Gospel: that the very thing that has sought to hurt you has become the thing that God uses to heal you.
- Conclusion: You and the Pastoral Counselor close your time together with prayer. You are walking with Christ. You may forever walk with a limp, but like Jacob (Genesis 32:22-32), you have experienced the presence of God. Your place of struggle has become holy. You are—for the first time, or once more—moving towards the home you always wanted.
Pastoral Counseling at Faith for Living is limited to six visits. Pastoral counseling is not an ongoing dependency on the “means,” but rather a strategic journey that sees an “end.” You and your Pastoral Counselor can mark a beginning and a conclusion. This is not a God-limiting (as if we even could) exercise, but rather a series of moves that is focused on outcomes: perhaps, a pattern of new life to replace a familiar but toxic existence; a resurrection of hope where there was once a tomb of despair; a healthy identity in the life and love of Jesus, where once there was a poison-pool-reflection of self-condemnation; or spiritual resources for sustainable spiritual health in Jesus Christ.
Dr. Milton is a retired Presbyterian minister (PCA; ARP), Army Chaplain (Colonel), and a professor at Erskine Theological Seminary. Faith for Living, Inc., a nonprofit ministry under board oversight, provides the fiscal framework for this work. However, any gifts come only in the form of a donation to Faith for Living, not Dr. Milton. So, Dr. Milton charges no fee for his ministry. But the Faith for Living board of directors expects that the ministry will be funded through the support of those who benefit or care about the ongoing need for pastoral counseling.
There is, therefore, a suggested donation schedule:
- Initial Assessment for one person: $150 (subsequent sessions, if necessary, are $125);
- Initial Assessment for a married couple, an engaged couple, or a couple contemplating marriage: $220
- Initial Assessment for a family of more than two: $300
- Subsequent counseling sessions, if needed, for one person: $125
- Subsequent counseling sessions, if needed, for a couple: $180
- Subsequent counseling sessions, if needed, for a family of three or more: $250
- Pre-Marital Counselling is treated as a whole (4 sessions) at $500. Additional sessions for ceremony guidance and preparations are suggested honoraria of $150 per session. Dr. Milton conducts wedding ceremonies according to the doctrinal standards of the Presbyterian Church in America. Suggested honoraria for presiding at a wedding should be no less than $300.
- All pastoral counseling appointments take place at Dr. Milton’s pastoral study and office in his home at 4006 Ainsdale Drive, Matthews, NC 28104.
“The main goal of pastoral counseling is the facilitation of spiritual growth.”—Dr. David G. Benner, Strategic Pastoral Counseling (p. 35). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
No one will ever be turned away from pastoral counseling with Dr. Milton for lack of ability to donate to the ministry, otherwise, it would be fee-based. For those who desire to give for the ministry but cannot, they may contact Trinity Chapel ARP, Weddington, North Carolina (http://trinitychapelclt.org); Church of the Redeemer PCA, Indian Trail, North Carolina (http://redeemerweb.com). Their deacon boards will consider your request.
Please contact Dr. Milton’s assistant, Mrs. Christine Hartung, at [email protected]. To avoid scheduling conflicts, all scheduling for appointments is handled via email with Christine. Ordinarily, pastoral counseling takes place on Tuesdays and Thursdays in Dr. Milton’s study. Special exceptions are made upon request.
For the sake of integrity, when Dr. Milton counsels females, a woman will be present in the home, usually Mrs. Milton or Mrs. Hartung. Nevertheless, strict confidentiality is assured.
- Donations may be made by check to Faith for Living, Inc, a 501c3 North Carolina nonprofit corporation. Please bring your check with you for your appointment. Alternatively, you may make your contribution through PayPal (see point # 2 or the PayPal button at the bottom of this page).
- Credit card payments may be made via PayPal to Faith for Living. For secure online donations go to https://www.paypal.com/us/fundraiser/charity/1644218
- Parishioners (known otherwise as “patients,” “clients”) should follow these steps for appointments:
- Pray to the Lord, “Father, who gave Your Son Jesus as a sacrifice for my sins and as the righteousness I need to know new life, guide me to Your servant who might best walk beside me as I seek to find my way back home to You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”
- Read the material on this page.
- First-time counselees should download and sign the Consent form and complete the Intake form.
- First-time counselees should download and complete the Intake form. This allows for a more in-depth assessment session.
- Contact Mrs. Hartung by email and make an appointment.
- If you are unable to make your appointment, please email Mrs. Hartung.
- About Dr. Michael A. Milton
- Pastoral Counseling Credentials
- Board Certified Pastoral Counselor (BCPC)
- Association of Certified Christian Chaplains (ACCC)
- Board Certified Chaplain (BCC)
- Spiritual Care Association (SPA)
- Board Certified Pastoral Counselor (BCPC)
- Ministry Biography
- Military Biography
- Faith for Living Statement of Faith
- Code of Ethics
- Dr. Milton is a full member of the Christian Association for Psychological Studies (CAPS) and subscribes to the Code of Ethics.
- Informed Consent Form (must be signed and brought for the first session only)
- Limits of Confidentiality
- Pastoral Counseling Intake Form
- If you are asked to take the MBTI® personality assessment instrument, go here.
- A free assessment based upon the 16 personality types on the MBTI® is here: The TypeFinder® Personality Test.
- A free spiritual gifts inventory is offered by SpiritualGiftsTest.com. The Spiritual Gifts Test® is one of the only quantitative research-based spiritual gifts assessments available for no cost.
- Books by Dr. Michael A. Milton may be accessed here.
- Music composed and recorded by Michael Anthony Milton is available on iTunes.