Sex and Sexuality for the Developmentally Challenged, continued

Sex and Sexuality for the Developmentally Challenged, continued

Guidelines for Pastoral Counsellors

by Carolyn Holderread Heggen,

( Sexual Abuse in Christian Homes and Churches .

Published by Herald Press, Scottsdale, PA, 1993)

  1.   Be honest about your power.  Acknowledge that as a man in a patriarchal culture you have more power in general than women.  You have more economic power, more political power, and more social power.  Your pastoral position gives you additional role-specific authority and power.  Commit yourself never to abuse that power.
  2.   Be honest about your susceptibility.  Even though your pastoral role places you on a spiritual pedestal, acknowledge your own susceptibility to inappropriate sexual thoughts and behavior.  Face and confess the seductiveness of authority and power.  The myth of pastoral invulnerability makes ministers susceptible to self-deception and flagrant sin.
  3.   Face your woundedness [Remember that many people who want to help others have come from dysfunctional childhood homes or have suffered other traumas along the way].  Find the courage and resources to understand and face the brokenness and pain you carry from childhood.  Do everything possible to be healed.  Beware of wanting to find a female within the congregation to nurture you and heal your pain.  Learn to identify and care for your emotional needs in appropriate ways.
  4.   Nurture your own spirituality.  Don’t let your responsibility for the congregation’s spiritual well-being distract you from the need to cultivate your own spiritual life.  Take the time and energy necessary to practice spiritual disciplines which enrich and nurture your inner life.
  5.   Tend your personal life and develop intimate friendships with other men.  Take time to develop outside interests and friendships.  If you are married, make your relationship with your spouse a top priority.  Build communication, romance, and fun into your intimate relationship and stay sensitive to its health and vitality.  Learn to relate to other men in deep friendship and emotional intimacy.
  6.   Be aware of sexual energy within the congregation.  Because spiritual and sexual desires are so closely related, you cannot have one without the other.  Be honest about this relationship.  When denied and repressed, sexual energy within the church becomes dangerous and destructive.
  7.   Develop counseling guide lines and safeguards.  Consider taking along a friend or spouse when making pastoral visits.  Limit yourself to doing short-term counseling.  It may not be appropriate or wise for a male pastor to undertake counseling with a female on sexual or other deeply personal matters.  Ask your church board to consider hiring a woman pastoral counselor to join the staff.  Find a professional counselor to provide supervision and feedback for your counseling ministry.  Get the training you require to be aware of and appropriately manage issues of transference and countertransference. [ 1 ]
  8.   Be sensitive to danger signs.  Know what the indicators are of possible movement toward an inappropriate relationship.  Beware of frequent thoughts about a parishioner, of sexual fantasies and tendencies to want to spend more time with her.  Beware of comparing her to your wife.  Watch yourself for physical sensations of sexual arousal when you are with her or think about her.  Watch for tendencies to turn conversations into talk about “us” or about sexual matters.  Watch your dreams.
  9.   Develop a mechanism for accountability and mentorship.  Find another Christian brother or pastor with whom you can meet regularly in honesty and transparency.  Develop a relationship of spiritual mentorship with a spiritually mature man and commit yourself to being accountable to him.  Share with him your temptations and acknowledge your susceptibility to abuse.
  10. Learn to relate to women in healthy ways.  Commit yourself to developing wholesome, nonsexual relationships with women.  Learn how to have mutual, non-exploitive relationships with women where respect is mutual and power is shared.

NOTE that these guidelines were written for male pastoral counselors.   They apply, with the obvious modifications, to female pastoral counselors as well, since female pastoral counsellors are also human .

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