Wiccan Pastoral Counselling
By Crystal Morris (a.k.a Crystal Arianhod)
Any Wiccan helping another Wiccan or a lay person can offer Wiccan pastoral counselling. Some Wiccans do this unconsciously without ever labeling it as pastoral counselling. Wiccans sometimes use pastoral counselling when someone comes up to them and asks for a spell or healing energies. Wiccan teachers or mentors use pastoral counselling with their students. Wiccan healers use pastoral counselling alone or in combination with another healing technique with their clients. Coven and other pagan groups use pastoral counselling with their fellow members. Wiccan pastoral counselling is a frequently used but often under looked or unrecognized tool that Wiccans can utilize to help others to heal and develop both emotionally, practically and spiritually.
This article has been written for those who wish to help others through the use of Wiccan pastoral counselling skills and aims to explain what is Wiccan pastoral counselling and how Wiccans can develop this tool to benefit others. In most cases throughout the article the terminology for the Wiccan doing the pastoral counselling will be named as the ‘helper’ and the person receiving the pastoral counselling will be named as the ‘client’; gender will be interchangeable or termed as he/she respectfully. The period of time when the Wiccan pastoral counselling takes place is termed as a ‘session’. Although this article has been written for face to face contact in mind most of the skills and methods described in this article can still be used over the phone or internet (including chat rooms, email or message boards).
Types of Helping
As you can see by the diagram above there are four basic styles of helping. Let’s go into a bit of detail about each:
= Helpers who tell the client what to do are more concerned with the problem itself rather than the client as a holistic person. Holistic means looking at the client as a whole person (their physical, sexual, spiritual, social, emotional wellbeing) rather than just looking at one or two problems. When the helper tells the client what to do the client is excluded from the problem solving process and therefore is unlikely to develop the skills to solve the same problem if it reoccurs. Helpers who use this style often believe that they have expert knowledge and can come up with the correct solution. People who you may find using this style include lawyers and some doctors.
= This is essentially an unfair use of influence and the manipulative helper uses the guise of helping the client to satisfy the helpers own needs or desires. The manipulative helper often has a low opinion of the client and needs the client in a submissive role. People who you may find using this style include religious cults.
= Advising helpers are more concerned with the problem than the client but waits to include the client in the problem solving process. The advising helper normally comes up with the information that the Client needs to make his or her own decisions on how to solve the problem or the helper suggests alternatives or possible solutions to the problem so that the client can chose the most appropriate. People who you may find using this style include business consultants or career advisors.
= The helper using counselling skills is more concerned with viewing the client holistically (as a whole person) than focusing on one or two problems and involves the client directly in the problem solving process. The helper dose not formulate a solution but empowers the client to find their own solutions. The helper using counselling skills wants the client to learn as much as possible through the problem solving process so that when another problem occurs the client is much better equipped to deal with it themselves. People who you may find using this style include professional counselors.
Counselling is the major part of Wiccan pastoral counselling and will be discussed in greater depth further into the article. But don’t be fooled that pastoral counselling is solely about counselling as helpers can and do incorporate other useful styles of helping such as advising and occasionally telling. Manipulative helping is however frowned upon.
What is Counselling?
Counselling is a process that helps people to understand themselves and their situations, to help them to take responsibility for their lives and to find solutions themselves to solve their own problems. It is not something you do to, or for your client, its what you do WITH them. Counselling is….
• Enabling the client to make decisions and solutions which she believes is right for herself; it is not always about the helper finding the “right” solution
• It is the helper and client working together to help the client clarify his own ideas and beliefs; it is not always about the helper already knowing the answer
• It is the helper listening and encouraging the client to be free to talk and express their feelings; it is not always about the helper doing all or even most of the talking
• Counselling is the giving of support in a controlled and directed manner and having empathy, rather than just sympathy with the client; it is not an opportunity for the client or helper to have a self-indulgent emotional romp
• It is being able to allow the client to have his own beliefs, standards and values; it is not about the helper imposing her own judgments and theories upon the client
• It is an awareness that there are many conscious and unconscious factors which influence the clients feelings and behavior; but it is not the helper probing into deep unconscious motives which he is untrained for
• It is the ability to recognize the need for referral to others who are appropriately qualified, at the point when it comes necessary; it is not the helper possessing all the knowledge and skill about each person and every situation
There are several counselling skills which the non-professional helper can develop to improve his or her Wiccan Pastoral Counselling. Each will be described in depth further into the article, but these include:
*Unconditional Positive Regard
*Open Ended Questioning
Counsellor or Someone Using Counselling Skills?
The helper need not have specialist knowledge, experience or qualifications to carry out counselling skills. The helpers success depends on their ability to genuinely care and have empathy for the client. This dose not however make the helper a professional counsellor or some one who can pay for their services. This is where there is a difference between a counsellor and someone using counselling skills. A counsellor is someone who is officially designated as a counsellor, is appropriately trained in counselling, abides by a code of ethics and practice and that the client knows that the service being offered by the counsellor is counselling. A helper carrying out Wiccan pastoral counselling must never mislead others to believe that he or she is a professional counsellor (unless trained and officially designated as one) but can define themselves as being someone using counselling skills.
Counselling Within a Spiritual Context (The Wiccan Pastoral Bit)
The focus of pastoral counselling is to help people grow in all areas of their life (holistic) and to cope with life’s challenges in the context or with the assistance of their religious beliefs and/or resources. But remember that pastoral counselling is not just about the development of the spiritual side of the client is the development of all areas of the client. It is also very important to note that just because we define this as pastoral counseling the helper should encourage the client to look at practical solutions to solve their problems and not just spiritual. It is just as important for people to work on the physical plane just as much as on the spiritual plane; and neither one should be ignored.
A helper with some degree of knowledge and experience in Wicca can help other Wiccans to use their beliefs to assist themselves in the problem solving process and to find spiritual aid, comfort and clarification. The helper may suggest possible magickal workings or exercises for the individual to perform or help the client to come up with their own magickal ideas. The helper can also use her own Wiccan skills to help the client or to encourage the client to use their own Wiccan skills to assist the pastoral counselling session to progress and to work towards achieving goals and solving problems. Some Wiccan skills that can be used include:
= Divination tools can assist the helper to ask important questions which perhaps the helper may of overlooked. Divination tools can also assist in giving advise but you must remind the client that divinatory ‘answers’ are not carved in stone. If both the helper and the client is familiar with a particular divinatory tool such as the Tarot cards then the client may use the cards to help explain how she is feeling by choosing one or more cards that depicts how she feels and expanding on this to the helper. And also you can use the prophetic properties of divination to suggest possible consequences or prospects of plans of action. Divination can be a very useful tool but you must keep a watchful eye that the client is not becoming too dependant upon the tool. If this happens you will need to empower the client to take more responsibility for their own life and decisions.
Ground and Center
= Grounding and centering techniques can help stabilize a client just before and after the session.
Casting a magick Circle
= This can help create a place of security for the client
= This can help calm the client, clarify problems or face up to fears or situations.
= Balancing the clients chakras during the session can help the clients feel more apt to disclose information and to reflect on it with clarity.
Talismans & Amulets
= These can help the client to keep in touch or to ward off particular energies and correspondences
Sending Healing Energies
= This is a simple act of prayer and sometimes an act of lighting a candle. Helpers can make it as complex or simple as they wish. It symbolizes an act of whereby the helper is sending their own energies to help the client’s cause. This is used often online or over the phone because other methods of Wiccan workings are more difficult to perform without the face to face contact. Any acts that are to be used especially online should be described fully to the client first.
Invocation of character
= An invocation or call to a particular deity, patron or spirit with associated correspondences can help the client to use their inner strength and wisdom to achieve their goals and give the client comfort and support.
= Prayer is a powerful tool of not only bringing comfort and support but also in ending the session and summarizing the key points. It helps the client not to feel isolated too.
= This can help to raise energy towards the desired purpose, encourage change and to help the client focus on their goals and progress towards them.
= Affirmations and other phrases of power including specifically designed chants can help the client to remain focused, strong and to quell negative thinking.
= Forms of raising energy such as drumming, dance and chanting can help to vent and express emotion it can also be cathartic and if properly directed can assist the healing process.
Empathy is important as it brings understanding and a sense of the persons inner world of private personal meanings. Empathy will help the client to feel understood and cared about. Empathy is about the helper trying to imagine as though they were the client and as though they were in the clients situation. It may sound simple but this is an incredibly powerful tool. The helper also needs to be aware that they may have different cultural/sociological/religious backgrounds but the helper must try to be understanding and non-judgmental of this. As you listen to the client you are creating an image of that persons world in your head, try not to place your own influences and judgments on that image. It will also help to show the client that you are trying to be empathic by paraphrasing. Paraphrasing is repeating words which the client has said but re-wording it in a different manner. For example:
Client: “I feel so alone”
Helper: “You feel as though your on your own, isolated and lonely.”
Unconditional Positive Regard
Unconditional positive regard is a concept that was introduced in depth by a man called Carl Rogers (1951). The concept means to respect the client as a worthy individual without condition. It means to respect the client no matter how they behave, feel or how different they are from yourself. This doesn’t mean you have to agree with everything they do or say but it dose means that you respect that you both have differences and that you won’t let it get in the way of the client – helper therapeutic relationship.
When your in session the helper should normally listen more than talk. And when the helper listens then she should actually listen to them!! And do so earnestly! Take it in; not just in through one ear and out the other. Reflect on what their saying. This is actively listening. As you can see in the following diagram by Burnard there are 3 zones of attending. If the helper is in the’ fantasy’ zone then the helper is day dreaming or thinking about what she could do after the session is over. If the helper is in the ‘in’ zone then she is thinking about she feels right now both physically and emotionally, perhaps also reflecting on words that have been said. If the helper is in the ‘out’ zone then all her attention is on the world around her such as listening to a client. When in session the helper should be mostly within the ‘out’ zone of attending and occasionally within the ‘in’, but should try not to be in the ‘fantasy’ zone.
If your face to face with the client your speaking in another language to them other than through words….your body. People can subconsciously pick up messages from body language. If the helper is slumped in the chair not facing the client, eyes wandering with a bored expression the client will certainly not feel like she is being listened too. If however the helper is making eye contact with the client, leans slightly forward in the chair and making nodding gestures the client is more likely to think that she is being listened too. You can also make a person feel more welcome and calmer through your body language by keeping an open posture. This means getting rid of the defensive arm crossing and keeping your arms to your side relaxed or just slightly on your lap.
Open Ended Questioning
Helpers may use questions in ways that help clients to elaborate their internal viewpoints. Open-ended questions allow clients to share their internal viewpoints without curtailing their options. This means that open-ended questions are not restraining the choice of possible answers that the client can give or is not a leading question whereby the questions leads to a particular answer. Examples:
Open-ended question > How do you feel about your relationship?
Closed ended question > Your relationship can’t be that bad, can it?
Open-ended question > What do you think about her?
Closed ended question > She’s a great person, isn’t she?
Something as simple as praise can be very motivating for clients especially those who are feeling low in the first place. The helper should do their best to focus on praising clients when they achieve something (no matter how small) rather than making negative comments when clients fail.
How Many Sessions?
How many sessions a helper should give is normally up to the helper’s discretion. If you are a mentor or teacher then you could say that the client could have sessions throughout that period of teaching and mentorship. In a coven or other group a client could have one off sessions every now and then or a set schedule with a closure. Most Wiccan pastoral counselling sessions are usually a one off and these are fine. But you may find that some may need more help and a schedule of sessions such as once every week may be called for. However from the start you must set limitations. How long dose this schedule last? 1 month? 3 months? More? How long will the session periods last for? 15 minutes? Half hour? More? Can that client call upon your assistance between sessions? If so what times are appropriate to call and to what frequency? Don’t take this for granted. If Clients don’t have clear boundaries you may find yourself with 13 phone calls in the late evening from the same person.
If the sessions are to be face to face then the environment is important. The helper should ensure that they will not be disturbed or interrupted once the sessions starts. The environment should be warm, comfortable and with little distraction (so no busy workmen in the background please). It is also handy to keep a clock around so you can make sure when its suitable to end the session.
If the counselling is done on an open message board then you need not worry about this but if the sessions are indeed held in private between yourself and the client confidentiality is an issue whether this has been openly verbalized or not. As helpers we can never say that we will keep everything confidential for to do so we would be placing the client at risk in certain situations. Issues of confidentiality should normally be discussed from the very start and it should be clearly recognized that if the helper feels that the client is at risk to themselves or others then confidentiality may need to be broken. But you can reassure the client that this is the only circumstance whereby confidentiality may be broken unless you personally have other objections. What do we mean by when we say “at risk to themselves or others”? You may well get some serious cases within counselling such as threats of suicide, severe self-neglect, dangerous behaviors or sincere threats to harm others. If this is the case it may be necessary to inform others such as health professionals and therefore confidentiality is broken. Most helpers tend to agree however that before the act of breaking confidentiality that it should be discussed with the client first to see if the client willingly allows for this to take place or better yet for them to seek out professional help by themselves.
Unless you are a professional counsellor you cannot ask for payment for your services however as with all other Wiccan skills there is little objection to reimbursement of costs that the helper has paid to provide the session such as Wiccan ingredients if there is to be a magickal working, transport fees etc. Others however believe that there should also be a time exchange contract in place whereby for example if the helper was to give a half hour’s pastoral counselling session then the client would have to spend 15 minutes of his time to help the helper such as doing gardening work, babysitting or cleaning. Some say that this is unfair or that it is the equivalent as for paying for services. But the people who agree with it believe that it increases the client’s investment in the counselling process and encourages them to work seriously at it. In addition it is said to help both the helper and the client to feel that there is an energy balance which can prevent resentment and dependency.
As a helper you don’t hold all the knowledge and skill to deal with every situation you come across. There is no harm in being honest when you feel you cannot do your pastoral counselling session. There are several possible reasons to why this might be:
• The client needs help and support that you are not able to competently provide
• The relationship between you and the client is too close, heated or distant
• You are going through your own life difficulties and need to support yourself
• You are unable to commit the time and energy
• The client has become dependant or manipulative of the helper’s time
• There appears to me no sign of improvement or things have got worse
If this is the case then you may need to refer the client to another pastoral counsellor, a friend or to a health professional (the local doctor is always a good start and can refer the client to the most appropriate professional service).
All the best fellow helpers!
P. Burnard, Counselling Skills for Health Professionals
Carl Rogers (1951) On Becoming A Person
Amber K (2003) Coven Craft
E. Kennedy & S. Charles (1994) On Becoming a Counselor: A Guide for Nonprofessional Counselors
J. McLeod (2000) An Introduction to Counselling
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