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What is Spiritual Counseling?

By Felicia Dye
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Counseling generally refers to a service where a person provides advice or guidance to another person or group. Spiritual counseling refers to such a service when the advice or guidance provided is based on spiritual principles. This does not have to be associated with a major or organized religion. The focus could simply involve connecting the benefits of spirituality with the improvements that a person wants to see in her life.

People generally seek counseling for one of two reasons. First, a person may be trying to overcome one or more problems. These could include substance abuse or depression. Second, the person may want to make some type of change or improvement. This could include career advancement or spiritual development. In either of these situations, counseling is often a resource that provides guidance and assistance in recognizing obstacles.

Spiritual counseling is sometimes based on the principles of major organized religions such as Christianity or Islam. In these instances, it is usually religious leaders of these organizations that offer guidance. They use principles that are derived from holy books such as the Bible or Koran.

This is not always the case, however. Many spiritual counselors are non-denominational. This means that they do not subscribe to or encourage the philosophies of any particular religion. These counselors often claim that they can help individuals who follow a particular religion without imposing on or violating their beliefs.

Those who advocate spiritual counseling tend to believe that the connection between a person and a greater force can produce numerous life benefits. It can help a person to grow and achieve in ways that she previously found difficult or impossible. It is also believed that spiritual counseling can help people overcome emotional problems such as those caused by bad relationships or abuse.

Spiritual counseling helps a person accomplish her goals by reinforcing ideas that there is a force greater than each individual. Recognizing this often leads a person to also recognize that she may be more successful if she relies upon the greater force instead of believing that she must try to accomplish everything on her own.

There are numerous ways that a person can receive spiritual counseling. She can interact with a spiritual counselor in person on an individual basis or as part of a group. Some spiritual counselors also offer telephone and video conferencing services. There are also books, CDs, and DVDs that are widely available.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By aLFredo — On Oct 20, 2011

I have never been to a spiritual counselor or taken a spiritual counseling course but it sounds so interesting and fulfilling as a profession.

I have however, been to a spiritual retreat. It was for a particular religion that I had grown up in and although it was fun and well meaning, in the end a funny thing happened - I decided that organized religion was not for me.

It was tough at first, but after talking to a few of my very understanding friends who were very involved in their various churches, they just reassured me that it was okay, that they felt that spiritually different ways of worship work for different people and therefore it makes sense that organized religion might not be for everyone.

By bluespirit — On Oct 19, 2011

My friend was having relationship difficulties with her boyfriend and she ended up going to couples counseling and then also attending individual counseling, but the counseling had a spiritual counseling focus.

My friend's spiritual counseling was Christian counseling; because that was the organized religion she was a part of. She really enjoyed this counseling and felt fulfilled after the sessions.

In the end however, her relationship did not make, but she and her boyfriend and the time learned a lot about themselves even in the couples counseling set-up.

By kylee07drg — On Oct 19, 2011

Spiritual counseling can alter your entire view of existence. It can be a good thing if you find the right counselor, but it can also be very damaging if you trust the wrong person.

My sister went to her pastor for spiritual advice. He ended up getting her into all sorts of legalism, and she became really judgmental. My family and I staged an intervention, and we convinced her to seek help elsewhere.

I went with her to find another church with better views. We found one that was very accepting, and they focused on forgiveness, grace, and love. She found several people to counsel with her here, and the pastor helped her out a great deal.

By shell4life — On Oct 19, 2011

@turquoise - I totally agree with you. I, too, was experiencing extreme anxiety, and panic attacks came along with it. My friend told me to visit her counselor.

Though he didn’t label himself a spiritual counselor, he was Christian, like me, so he could see things from my point of view. My anxiety sprang from an error in my belief system, and he pointed this out to me.

Instead of being fearful and scared of God, I needed to simply accept His love and set myself free to love Him. My counselor helped me see this, and he also suggested I find a church with like-minded people.

So, I received spiritual counseling from a regular counselor, but it had a profound effect on my life. I found a church where I belonged, and that also has shaped me in a positive way.

By Mykol — On Oct 18, 2011

When I was going through a divorce, my ex-husband and I attended some counseling sessions, but I think things were too far gone for us.

In order for this to be successful, it really takes both parties to be willing to work at it, and it won't work very well if only one person wants to make it work.

After my divorce, I went through some divorce counseling as a way to help me cope and get my life back on track.

This seemed to be much more beneficial for me than the marriage counseling. My ex-husband wasn't interested in counseling or in spiritual things. The spiritual counseling I received after my divorce was some of the best counsel I have ever had.

By bagley79 — On Oct 18, 2011

When I have been faced with difficult issues or am going through a tough time in my life, I find so much help when I get some spiritual counseling.

For me this has always been through the pastor at the church where I am attending. Since I know them and they know me, I feel comfortable sharing with them and seeking their spiritual advice.

If it was someone I did not trust or feel comfortable with, I would find somebody else. When I am looking for some relationship counseling I think it is helpful when they already know something about me.

Because I am active in my church and my faith is important to me, I want the counseling I receive to be spiritual and make sure to specifically seek out this type of counseling.

By SarahSon — On Oct 17, 2011

When my daughter and son-in-law were having some troubles, they sought out some spiritual marriage counseling.

There is a pastoral counseling center in our city where they went for their counseling. With something like this, you know up front that you will be receiving spiritual counseling, but not a specific faith or denomination.

Seeking out this counsel was the best thing they did for their marriage. Both of them knew they wanted this to be a part of the counsel they received as it was in important part of their lives.

It was just beneficial to have an objective third party who could help them work through their issues.

By bear78 — On Oct 17, 2011

@wander-- The counselor I went to had an education in psychology and experience in faith counseling. So I don't think that just anyone can do it.

Religious leaders generally give counseling even though they don't have an education in psychology or psychiatry. Why don't you visit your local religious leader if you are a member of a religion first? You might be able to receive the counseling and inspiration you need from there without having to go to a private spiritual counselor which costs a lot.

By SteamLouis — On Oct 16, 2011

I'm an open-minded person and I wouldn't mind trying spiritual counseling. But I don't think it would be very helpful for me since I'm not spiritual or religious at all.

I grew up in a very secular family and even though we are Christian, we don't go to Church or really practice our religion. I honestly don't feel any connection with a 'higher being' and it seems like this is a prerequisite to getting some results with spiritual counseling.

What kinds of things does a spiritual counsel talk about anyway? If it sounds like a sermon or a religious lesson, I know I'll just storm out of there. I know there are non-denominational ones and that would be the one I would go to if I decided to. But how non-denominational can spiritual counseling be? Isn't spiritual and religious the same thing after all?

By turquoise — On Oct 15, 2011

I completely believe that religious and spiritual counseling is the best way, or maybe the only way to overcome difficulties and psychological issues.

I used to suffer from anxiety disorder and have seen many psychologists and counselors about it. None of them have been able to provide long-term relief for me. In fact, some of the counseling felt like it was making my condition worse since it required digging up the past and even going back to childhood problems.

I finally gave spiritual counseling a try and it has completely changed my life. Spiritual counseling concentrates on the present and the future and it relies on faith and trust in a higher being for comfort and healing. Anxiety disorders have a lot to do with being fearful and stressed and the only way to completely get rid of those emotions is to believe and trust in a greater power that protects us and decides everything.

Spirituality and religion is a beautiful thing. This is why God has given us religion and faith, so that we can get through our bad days and overcome our illnesses with courage and patience. I recommend spiritual counseling to anyone who's having similar issues.

By wander — On Oct 15, 2011

Does anyone know if those who do spiritual counseling have an education on the matter, or can anyone do it?

I have seen a lot of new age spiritual counseling courses pop up recently and am curious about what really goes into spiritual counseling training.

Over the last 10 years I have been really struggling with quitting smoking and am willing to give just about anything a try. I saw a poster offering spiritual counseling for a variety of addictions and am wondering if it would be worth my time or not? I really don't want to spend money on something that just anyone can do.

By popcorn — On Oct 15, 2011

When I was younger I was struggling a lot with who I was and feeling really down. My friend recommended I try spiritual counseling so that I would be able to work through my problems. I ended up finding an aboriginal spirituality counseling program in my hometown.

While the program I took had roots in aboriginal culture and religious traditions, it was open for anyone who wanted to join. I found that the counselor I talked with really helped me with spiritual living. I felt much more connected to everything around me after our talks. I would recommend spiritual counseling to anyone who needs a little meaning in their life.

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