Publication Date


Degree Granted


Institution Granting Degree

University of Sarasota


Counseling, Minister, Psychology, Religion, Virginia, Mental health


The purpose of this study was to ascertain which, if any, variables would effect how a minister felt about counseling and psychology, and what impact this may have on the possibility that he or she would refer to secular counselors for those in their congregations who are having difficulties beyond the pastor's expertise. The study investigated this possibility by examining the following variables: age, pastoral experience, educational level, and the amount of psychology class credits that a minister had in training. In addition, it sought to determine what influence a minister's theological belief and his or her denomination had on their perception of psychology and the decision to refer. A survey instrument was created, submitted to a pilot study, and sent to 250 randomly selected pastors in the State of Virginia. The instrument used a Likert scale to measure minister's positive or negative beliefs and opinions about counseling and psychology, and if he or she would be inclined to refer a troubled church member to a counseling or psychological professional. The resulting answers were tested with respect to the above named independent variables to determine if these influenced the minister's belief. Twelve null hypotheses stated that there were no significant differences at the.05 level in a minister's perception that members of their congregations can be helped by those who practice psychology and counseling, and whether they would refer a member to a professional counselor with respect to the above variables.

Twelve different crosstabulation tables were evaluated using the chi-square test for independence, and five null hypotheses were accepted while seven null hypotheses were rejected. The research indicated that theological belief, the age of the minister, the number of years experience, and the number of college-level credits a minister has earned in counseling, psychology, and/or pastoral counseling does matter for ministers in having a positive or negative influence in their belief that their church members can be helped by those who practice counseling and psychology. At the same time, denomination and the level of education did not appear to influence his or her belief. In determining if the variables affected the pastor's likelihood to refer a member going through difficulties to a counseling professional, it was found that theological belief, denomination, and the number of counseling credits earned do matter in this decision. On the other hand, the age of the minister, number of years in the ministry, and his or her level of education do not influence a minister's decision to refer a parishioner to a counselor or psychologist.