Rising Trends: Clergy Seek Psychotherapy

While there is no “typical” psychotherapy client or lifestyle that automatically suggests a need for psychotherapy, there are certainly some fields of work and walks of life which, being subject to especially high or enduring levels of stress, commonly benefit from a positive counselor relationship. One such profession is that of the clergy. While often seen as a stigma, the ability of clergy members to approach and seek growth from psychotherapists is an emerging trend that highlights a growing global appreciation for the potential and power of psychotherapy.

Many ministers and leaders of faith-based communities experience large amounts of stress due to their administrative duties, as well as the pressures of serving as a very public and scrutinizable figure. Long hours and a sense of great responsibility combined with a tendency to work around a fair amount of human suffering—whether as part of a hospital visitation program or simply accepting prayer requests or visits from troubled congregants—add to the psychological load endured by such people.

Adding to the basic “stresses of the cloth,” many clergy members from religious traditions of all backgrounds experience difficulties with ego. Struggling to reconcile their work with their own self-image, many religious figures may develop narcissism, or come to find that negative comments or situations prevent them from functioning normally. Whatever the specific trigger, however, it is clear that religious professionals are faced with everyday challenges and tests of the spirit and self that can easily benefit from therapy.

As more and more clergy members open their minds to the potential benefits of psychotherapy, the tendency for the spiritual community at large to embrace the mental health profession and its ability to heal and empower is experiencing an exciting—and much needed—leap of faith.

© Copyright 2009 by By John Smith. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • LE

    March 15th, 2009 at 6:26 AM

    In my own personal experience with members of the clergy I have found many of them to have over inflated egos due in large part to the value they are given by their congregations and the self worth that they derive from this. I do not think that this makes them bad people i just happen to think that this is strongly related to being in that line of work. Many of them develop overblown egos simply because of how important the congregants make them feel. It is no wonder that so many of them now feel the need to seek therapy as a way to not only get some of this under control but also due to the strains that this has to put on their lives. I think that it is fantastic when churches have dynamic leaders but I think it is even more fabulous when these ministers remember that they are only human and that they too can make mistakes and must sometimes seek help outside of the church to rectify those mistakes.

  • Grace

    March 15th, 2009 at 10:51 AM

    I can certainly understand why the clergy is under a lot of stress and needs therapy… I am sure everywhere they go, they get so many bad people judging them and giving them their own opinions of religion. I feel for these clergy men but applaud them for what they do.

  • Julia

    March 15th, 2009 at 10:53 AM

    I agree with Grace in a way… clergymen have to face many challenges and i am sure stress comes very easily to these men. I think many clergymen would benefit from therapy

  • Nadia

    March 16th, 2009 at 2:02 AM

    LE made a great point…Clergymen are only human, just like the rest of us and if under stress and depression, should see nothing wrong in getting therapy if needed.

  • Jean

    March 16th, 2009 at 10:53 AM

    It is still such a taboo almost though for clergy to admit that they need help too. My father was a minister and you cannot imagine how many of the older people especially in the congregation would have looked down upon him if he had ever had to admit that he needed help!

  • Kevin

    March 17th, 2009 at 12:25 PM

    Why not seek therapy as a member of the clergy? There are always going to be those who think that this is weak but I think that there are many others who are far too knowledgeable to allow them to think this way. These are people who not only have to deal with their own problems but those of others as well, in addition to helping their church members get right in their lives the things they have been unable to do alone. Clergy members and ministers have far more stress in their lives than many of us even realize and if they need outside help besides their faith to help them then who are we to say whether they need that or not? I know that I certainly would if ever in that position to lead and guide so many others.

  • Callina

    March 18th, 2009 at 12:59 AM

    I agree, Kevin.. we don’t understand what the clergies have to go thru and I can’t even imagine having to deal with the problems they have, let alone other peoples problems they have to listen to on a daily basis.

  • Justin

    March 18th, 2009 at 3:34 AM

    clergymen seeking therapy??? So this is where they confess? The church is one of the world’s most corrupt bodies and it is sickening as it hits right at the faith system of most of the world.

  • Steven

    March 18th, 2009 at 6:52 AM

    It is hard to even think about my preacher needing to seek counseling. So I guess I have to realize that I am part of the problem why so many in these positions feel so weird about seeking out therapy even when it is offerred to them.

  • Brea

    March 20th, 2009 at 3:21 AM

    I know that it seems like a lot of churches are corrupt, Justin, but we can’t blame or judge all of the clergymen, priests, etc, just by a few bad ones.

  • brie

    March 20th, 2009 at 3:23 AM

    Justin, I’m sure not all churches are corrupt, just because of a few bad ones we hear in the news. yes, they are under a lot of stress and i believe some need to seek counseling

  • Jonny

    March 20th, 2009 at 4:36 AM

    I am often amazed by just how much we all continue to hold our clegy members to some level of humanity that really is not attainable for most. They are people, they have emotions, and like us all they make mistakes. Why not allow them the same freedoms that the rest of us enjoy and seek guidance and counseling when they need it? Not all clergy members who seek therapy are bad people but they need an out let that is safe and positive to express their feelings too.

  • Paula

    March 21st, 2009 at 9:33 AM

    Absolutely, Jonny… why can’t we remember clergy’s are human beings just like the rest of us. they make mistakes, just like us, they have feelings just like us.. lets give the good ones a break.

  • Joan

    March 23rd, 2009 at 12:00 AM

    I’ve been in India recently and the clergy there have a lot more to contend with than the clergy in the West. Prosecution for the sake of faith seems to be a very real thing. Also, lack of resources, poor living conditions and so many other things. Given the glimpse of what I saw I am not surprised clergymen need psychosis to cope.

  • Sam

    March 23rd, 2009 at 3:42 AM

    Thanks for that Paula- I agree with you and Jonny.

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