The Evangelical Looks At Pastoral Counseling -- By: Glenn O’Neal

Journal: Grace Journal
Volume: GJ 02:3 (Fall 1961)
Article: The Evangelical Looks At Pastoral Counseling
Author: Glenn O’Neal

The Evangelical Looks At Pastoral Counseling

Glenn O’Neal

Professor of Practical Theology
Talbot Theological Seminary

This article was delivered as a paper at the Talbot Seminary Forum, April 21, 1961.

There is little doubt that the area of the pastor’s work which has received the most emphasis during recent years has been the subject of pastoral counseling. This has been largely caused by the impact of Sigmund Freud who about fifty years ago introduced psychoanalysis with the claim that it would cure all the ills of society. The psychoanalyst and his couch became standard procedure for dealing with neurotic disorders. It is logical that many of the counseling techniques which had gained such wide acceptance would have an influence on pastoral counseling.

Most pastors have recognized the need for gaining deeper insight into the complex problems which they face. Even though at that time I had very little background in psychology, very early in my ministry problems arose which emphasized the fact that the outward symptoms of difficulty did not necessarily indicate the deeper cause. A concerned husband brought to me his wife who had been severely disturbed over the fact that she had said something over six years prior to that time that had hurt the feelings of her pastor. I realized that this was not sufficient cause to produce this degree of anxiety for I had known many others who had hurt their pastor and seemed to be able to sleep without any difficulty! Since I felt my inadequacy in probing into the causes, my urgent plea was that she be taken to a psychiatrist immediately. The husband replied that he would rather bury her than see her face the possibility of confinement to a mental hospital. Ironically, her funeral was just one week from that day after she had taken her own life. After this tragedy, I asked the question that the pastor often asks, “How could I have prevented it?” This and many other experiences emphasized the need for a deeper insight into the workings of the mind.

My exposure to psychoanalysis come very unexpectedly. While in the graduate speech department at the University of Southern California I enrolled in a course in the Psychology of Speech. In the treatment of the stutterer it was found that the problem was not that he couldn’t make the sounds but that the mind would not allow him to make them. The conclusion was that something had occurred in the past of which the person was unaware which caused his mind to refuse to allow him to make the sound at that particular time. Thus it became the task of the speech therapist to probe beneath the surface in an attempt to discover the problem. This expresses the major premise of psychotherapy. All our actions are caused by previous learning whether it ...

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