I meet regularly with a spiritual director and a psychologist for my own growth. In my experience, everyone can benefit from spiritual direction and therapy.
I wear several hats. I’m an ordained minister, a certified spiritual director, a board-certified chaplain, and a board-certified life coach. I’m NOT a licensed psychologist or therapist.
The specialists on this list come in all shapes, sizes, genders, ages, and life experience. You can find practitioners from every spiritual and religious tradition. Most specialize in a sub-area within their specialty.
Want a deeper relationship with God/the Divine?
Spiritual directors help people get unstuck from unhealthy views of God, themselves, and others, and deepen their intimacy with the Divine by exploring emotional and spiritual depth. Qualified spiritual directors have been trained and certified by an established and recognized two-year intensive program beyond their graduate degrees. Most are members of Spiritual Directors International. They will also be spiritual “elders” who have walked deeply with the Spirit. Many are ordained or members of religious communities.
A good place to start if you have a faith community.
Clergy: Pastors, rabbis, and imams are ordained ministers. They preach, teach, guide, counsel, and lead faith communities. Most pastors have little training in counseling of any kind, but are generally wise, caring, and spiritual. Most know the experts in their communities and can make informed referrals.
Need specific spiritual guidance?
Spiritual life coaches provide short-term, goal-oriented spiritual guidance. Anyone can call themselves a life coach, so caution is advised. Life coaching began in corporations to help people advance in their careers. Spiritual life coaching is a relatively new specialty that’s not always clearly defined. Legitimate life coaches will be trained in a program accredited by the International Coaching Federation and board certified by the Center for Credentialing and Education.
Struggling with applying your faith to your relationships?
Pastoral counselors are seminary trained, ordained ministers with advanced training in counseling, especially relationship counseling. Many seminaries offer doctoral degrees (usually a D.Min.) focused on pastoral counseling. Pastoral counselors are endorsed by their denomination and usually credentialed by a pastoral counseling organization.
You or a loved one experiencing severe illness, prolonged rehabilitation, end of life issues, or bereavement?
Chaplains: Healthcare chaplains have seminary degrees (normally, M.Div.) and advanced training in meeting the emotional and spiritual needs of patients and their families in hospitals, nursing homes, and hospice programs. They are board-certified and endorsed for special ministry by their denomination.
Realize you would benefit from therapy?
Clinical Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists, and others who are similar, are Master’s level clinicians (some may have a doctorate in education) licensed by their state to treat most individual, relational, and familial problems. Most are highly skilled, intuitive, and compassionate. Most specialize in a particular kind of therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, EMDR, systemic family therapy, exposure therapy, addiction treatment, LGBTQ+ issues, women’s issues, etc.
Want deeper therapy?
Psychologists are doctoral level psychotherapists licensed by their state & the APA. Psychologists are the most highly trained clinicians who deal with mental disorders. They can administer and interpret a battery of tests, and use a variety of techniques in treating people. In addition to the treatments used by master’s level therapists, some psychologists are trained in depth psychoanalysis; others in neuropsychology, brain disorders, and so on.
Struggling with mental illness?
Psychiatrists are medical doctors licensed by their state & the AMA; highly skilled in dealing with severe mental illness and the only ones on this list who can prescribe and monitor medication. They oversee inpatient facilities, consult in hospitals, and practice privately like other physicians. Psychiatric nurses care for psychiatric inpatients, run support groups, group therapy, and evaluate progress.