When given a choice to turn to mental health professionals or clergy, many individuals turn to clergy. This behavior is more pronounced for people of color and socioeconomically disadvantaged groups. Yet, few researchers have published about counseling service provision in the pastoral context. Moreover, the assumptions that we make as researchers are that we must educate pastors in the manner in which we were educated to handle mental health issues. In truth, as researchers we should step back to obtain an empirical understanding about the phenomenon of counseling as pastors view it - their strengths, their struggles, their needs, and the training, if any, they’d like to receive.

The goal of this study is to interview 48 pastors (38 pastors have been interviewed, 10 remain) with churches in two urban cities to identify the universal nature of their lived experience of counseling in the pastoral context. Qualitative interviews will explore the decision making processes that pastors go through when counseling and how the experience relates to their views of purpose and calling.