5 Spiritual Counselor Characteristics

  • Highly Educated
  • Maturity of Spirit
  • Solid Interpersonal Skills
  • Strong Understanding of Self
  • Compassionate Heart

Clients who seek out a spiritual counselor do so out of a desire to heal their whole selves, mind, body and spirit. Therefore, the therapists who serve them must possess solid training and knowledge of the spiritual principles that guide spiritual counseling. While each counselor brings something slightly different to the table, an effective spiritual counselor will have the five following characteristics.

1. Highly Educated

Any counselor, including the spiritual counselor, should have undertaken rigorous training before becoming a counselor. As Ministry Magazine points out, the spiritual counselor is the counseling equivalent of a physician. Where the doctor heals a sick body, the counselor heals an unwell heart and soul. Spiritual counseling requires the therapist to possess not only a solid understanding of counseling but also of religious texts. Some counselors will specialize in a specific spiritual tradition, like Christianity in order to prepare for this aspect of the job, while others will take broad training in a number of faith traditions.

2. Maturity of Spirit

A spiritually mature spiritual counselor understands how the principles in religious texts can be applied to daily life. Someone who has spent some time grappling with difficult issues of faith, particularly when that faith has been challenged, is in a better position to counsel a client who faces a similar predicament. This counselor leads by example and with conviction because he or she has walked through the fire, so to speak.

3. Solid Interpersonal Skills

Correcting illness of the heart and spirit requires a counselor who possesses solid interpersonal skills (in addition to strong spiritual training). Clients who seek out a counseling professional can at least expect the therapist to have skills, like verbal fluency, warmth and kindness, empathy for the client, spiritual and interpersonal perception and a focus on the client, according to the American Psychological Association.

People who seek out the services of a therapist often feel vulnerable. Having a counselor who is sensitive to this fact makes building trust in the counseling setting possible: The spiritual counselor who possesses these skills makes a client feel safe and understood.

4. Strong Understanding of Self

It’s impossible to effectively treat clients without a solid understanding of self. For the counselor, this means taking an honest assessment of both his or her strengths and weaknesses. The counselor also needs to understand what motivates him or her to do the job. While it’s good to have wisdom on the job, some counselors have an almost codependent need to save their clients. This puts them in a one-up position that’s counterproductive in a therapeutic session. In these cases, the client serves the spiritual counselor instead of the other way around.

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5. Compassionate Heart

The best spiritual counselors possess the heart of a servant. They become involved in the profession due to the love they have for their fellow man. For many clients, a good counselor exhibits the best qualities of Christ or other notable religious figures, like the Dalai Lama, according to Counseling.org. For many clients, this is very healing, particularly if their religious experience outside of counseling has been less than positive.

The most effective spiritual counselors can address the mind, body and spirit of a client. As such, the counselor’s training should be such that it allows the counselor to adequately meet the challenges a client brings into the counseling setting. Finally, a spiritual counselor must have had sufficient time to grapple with his or her own views on spirituality: This allows the counselor to develop wisdom and understanding because such a counselor understands firsthand how problems of the spirit can affect every aspect of life.