Do you have a job which involves pastoral care?
On the face of it some jobs do have pastoral care. Many do not. Pastoral care means caring for people’s pain and loss. Worries and anxieties. This would be usually in the helping professions. But there is an element of pastoral care in all work. Employed staff are people suffering joys, happiness, pain and loss in their lives. Colleagues and managers are surrounded by this all the time. Companies gain reputations as good employers by the way they treat their staff. The ‘care’ of their staff is at the heart of their ethos. Ironically the helping professions are not so good at supporting their staff. Overworked, overloaded with little resources the ill, sick and unable are tended by staff with honourable intentions.
The psychodynamic view is the helper is motivated to help others. This displaces the need to help themselves. There are two sets of people to look after. Themselves and the people they are caring for. There is no time or energy to look after anyone else. How much easier it is to help others than ourselves. We can feel so unknown and frightened of ourselves. To focus on ourselves and to realise the pain of our strengths and weaknesses is profound. We are not who we think we are. Where is the pastoral care for ourselves?
Pastoral Care has a historical association with the ministry. To counsel is a part of pastoral care. To associate the verb to counsel to the word counselling is inevitable but misleading. To counsel is to give advice or learning from one wise person to a less wise person.
As counsellors are part of the helping professional professions: they have much work to do on themselves. Hopefully they have! This work gives insight. As counsellors we have to do so much work on ourselves it would be hypocritical and patronising to give advice on how others should be. So why not help the person go through their own reflective experience for themselves. Not to lay out the path but be led by the person’s own personality and life experience. This is a privilege and humbling experience for the helper.
But note that it can only be properly begun when the helper has helped themselves.