Spiritual counseling is a branch of counseling in which psychologically trained ministers, rabbis, priests, imams, and other persons provide therapy services. Spiritual counselors often integrate modern psychological thought and method with traditional religious training in an effort to address psycho-spiritual issues in addition to the traditional spectrum of counseling services.
Spiritual counseling had its beginnings a separate discipline in North America in the first half of the twentieth century, as various religious organizations began to incorporate the insights and training of psychiatry, psychology and social work into the training of clergy. In 1925, Dr. Richard Cabot, a physician and adjunct at Harvard Divinity School, published an article in the Survey Graphic suggesting that every candidate for the ministry receive clinical training for pastoral work similar to the clinical training offered to medical students. In the 1930s, the Rev. Anton Boisen began a program of placing theological students in supervised contact with mental patients. In time, many seminaries and other training programs for religious professionals began to include clinical pastoral education as part of clerical training. Also in the 1930s, the minister Norman Vincent Peale and the psychiatrist, Dr. Smiley Blanton, collaborated to form the American Foundation of Religion and Psychiatry, now known as the Blanton-Peale Institute. Today, hundreds of mental health centers with links to specific religious traditions may be found across North America. In 1963, the American Association of Pastoral S Counselors was founded to provide professional certification for spiritual counselors and spiritual counseling centers.