Moving Beyond Individualism in Pastoral Care and Counseling: Reflections on Theory, Theology, and Practice

By Barbara J. McClure

A closely argued critique of the individualistic ethos in pastoral counselling, offering constructive suggestions for reforming both theory and practice.

ISBN: 9780718892456


Despite astute critiques and available resources for alternative modes of thinking and practicing, individualism continues to be a dominating and constraining ideology in the field of pastoral psychotherapy and counseling.

Philip Rieff was one of the first to highlight the negative implications of individualism in psychotherapeutic theories and practices. As heirs and often enthusiasts of the Freudian tradition of which Rieff and others are critical, pastoral theologians have felt the sting of his charge, and yet the empirical research that Barbara McClure presents in this volume shows that pastoral counseling practitioners still resist change. Their attempts to overcome an individualistic perspective have been limited and ineffective because individualism remains embedded in the field’s dominant theological and theoretical resources, practices and organisational arrangements. Only a radical reappraisal of these will allow effective pastoral counseling practices to emerge in a post-individualistic mode.

Moving Beyond Individualism in Pastoral Care and Counseling makes a strong case for the failure of pastoral counseling to shake off its individualistic presuppositions, but goes beyond mere critique to offer a vision of a way forwards. McClure proposes several critical transformations of thought and practice: broadening and deepening the operative theologies used to guide the healing practice, expanding the role of the pastoral counsellor, reimagining the operative anthropology, reclaiming sin and judgement, nuancing the particular against the individual, rethinking the ideal outcome of the practices, and reimagining the organisational structures that support the practices. Only this level of revision will enable this ministry of the church to move beyond its individualistic limitations and offer healing in more complex, effective, and socially adequate ways.

Additional information

Dimensions 229 × 153 mm
Pages 304

Trade Information LPOD

About the Author

Barbara J. McClure is Assistant Professor of Pastoral Theology at the Graduate Department of Religion and the Divinity School at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. Before teaching at Vanderbilt, she spent seven years as a practicing pastoral counsellor in Atlanta, Georgia.



Part One: The Development of Pastoral Care and Counseling as a Professionalized Practice
1. Contemporary Pastoral Care and Counseling: Definitions of Terms and Descriptions of Practices
2. The Development of Professionalized Care and Counseling in the U.S.: History and Sociocultural Context
3. Limits and Costs of the Current Model

Part Two: Accounting for Individualism’s Persistence in Pastoral Theology, Care, and Counseling
4. Examination of Theory, Theology, and Organizational Arrangements

Part Three: Moving Beyond Individualism in Pastoral Care and Counseling:
Theoretical, Theological, Practical, and Organizational Proposals

5. Imagining a Synergistic Relationship between Persons and Society
6. A Broader Mission for Pastoral Theology, Care, and Counseling: From Insight to Engagement
7. Proposals for the Field of Pastoral Theology: Aligning Mission with Theory, Theology, and Practice

Appendix: Methodology and Research Protocol


Endorsements and Reviews

In this lucid, critical, and constructive book Barbara McClure moves the whole debate about the nature and locus of appropriate pastoral care and counselling on to a new level of analysis and sophistication. The implications of her careful arguments and studies are nothing short of revolutionary. This is a book that should be read and acted upon by anyone who really wants to see pastoral work make a difference in the contemporary world.
Stephen Pattison, University of Birmingham

There is simply no finer new scholar working in this field today. All readers will profit substantially from this work, since McClure’s vision of an ecclesial mission committed to social transformation far exceeds the particular issues of pastoral counselling.
Rodney J. Hunter, Emory University, Emeritus

McClure makes important points with passion, determination, and rigour.
Revd Jenny Francis, in Church Times

This book is a stimulating and informative read. It poses a fundamental challenge to all who participate in the activity of pastoral care: ‘Does this engagement with the individual make any difference?’ … The book asks what it means to care as it struggles to connect social theory, psychology, theological reflection, and caring practices. McClure’s scholarship guides the reader with an admirable ability to be clear and concise. … I hope with others that this book will accelerate an important paradigm shift to move beyond individualistic ideologies in supporting persons to become more healthy and whole.
James Woodward, in Modern Believing, Vol 54:1