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Relational Ministry

Integrating Ministry and Psychotherapy

Catherine Gibson

Historically, the relationship between religion and psychotherapy has been more negative than positive. Are there inherent contradictions between the two, or can advances in the area of mental health care offer insights that are useful for the work of those in ordained ministry? This book presents an analysis of the relationship between ordained ministry on the one hand and counselling and psychotherapeutic practice on the other. It draws on extensive interviews carried out with current and former clergy in three churches (the Roman Catholic Church, the Church of Ireland and the Presbyterian Church in Ireland) in order to clarify why some have stayed in ministry and combined it with psychotherapy, while others have left and continue their practice as psychotherapists. The book explores possible links between the sense of ministry in these two important areas of human experience – religion and psychotherapy – and goes on to investigate how combining these might lead to a different form of ministry.
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Afterword: Toward Further Dialogue


This research is offered as one step in a movement towards furthering dialogue between religious and mental health professionals. Counselling/psychotherapy and Christian ministry operate in many ways that overlap, but both the literature and the experience of the research participants suggest that levels of understanding by practitioners in both fields are in need of development. What follows are some suggestions that might usefully contribute to that movement.

Among the limitations I noted in reference to methodology was that only one clergywoman responded to the invitation to participate in this research. Further research into the role of women as clergy who are also mental health professionals, and women clients who attend them, could contribute significantly to our understanding of the mental health of women in religion and society.

Another limitation I noted was that those who accepted the invitation to take part in the research were mainly Roman Catholic. This was not intended by me. Further research using a sample more broadly based across churches could help to give a fuller account of how counselling/psychotherapy function in the context of ordained ministry within more varied ecclesial structures.

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