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Home » Expert Q & A » Counseling » Counseling: Rev. Christopher Smith

Pastoral Counseling and Bipolar Disorder

  • Asks ...

    Can pastoral counseling help me with my bipolar disorder?

  • Rev. Christopher Smith Says ...
    Rev. Christopher Smith

    Pastoral counselors are qualified as mental health professionals as well as having specialized qualifications and training to integrate the spiritual dimension into their work with those who come to them.  As a result, pastoral counselors are able to help someone who has bipolar disorder utilizing the same approaches that another counselor or therapist would use.  However, this does not mean that all pastoral counselors will be able to help someone with bipolar disorder.  Depending on the severity of symptoms (present or historic), some pastoral counselors may feel that they are not able to provide sufficient coverage for potential emergencies.  Similarly, a pastoral counselor may focus their training and experience on particular issues or diagnoses and may therefore chose not to work with people who have bipolar disorder.  These reasons could also be the case for other (non-pastoral) counselors.  Studies have shown that there is a positive correlation between both resiliency and long term functioning of people diagnosed with serious affective disorders (including bipolar disorder) and spirituality(both a well developed spirituality and engagement in spiritual practices) - as such pastoral counseling is well situated to help someone with bipolar disorder over the long term course of dealing with their illness.

    It should be noted that the above answer is speaking of pastoral counseling as described in the answer and not necessarily counseling offered by a pastor, where the pastor is not a qualified mental health professional.  Seeking the counsel of a pastor may be helpful, but should not be seen as a substitute for getting quality mental health care.

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