Why Pastoral Counseling?
Pastoral counselors pursue a dual vocation, training extensively in pastoral ministry and counseling. I have been an ordained pastor for over 31 years. My training in psychotherapy has occurred in the past 13 years. The order in which my development as a pastoral counselor has occurred ensured that I held a strong sense of pastoral identity, knowledge, and experience along with extensive study in theology, biblical studies, and pastoral care before I began an intensive, formal study of psychology. The former impacted the latter, vastly enriching the experience of understanding human psychology from the perspective of the Creator of humans as revealed in his Word. I have worked hard to integrate my theology with what I have learned about psychology; both rejecting principles of psychology that contradict biblical teachings and experiencing the illumination of Scripture on psychology research and theory.
Pastoral identity forms the central characteristic of the pastoral counselor. Pastors, as leaders in the church, are charged with responsibility for the care of its people. This sets them apart with a unique identity. As such, I am responsible to Eastmont Church as a church member. I am responsible to CB America as my endorsing body and to the American Association of Pastoral Counselors through which I hold certification. Ultimately, I am responsible to God and will give an account to him for my work as a pastor as stated in Hebrews 13:17. Central to the pastoral identity is the pastor’s love for the people of God. The Scriptures define this love as the deeply sacrificial love a shepherd has for his very own sheep (John 10:11). As undershepherds of the Good Shepherd, Jesus, the pastor lives this love out through his relationship, his bond, with the people God has entrusted to his care (Acts 20:28-29).
Another vivid description of a core responsibility of a pastor lies in the expression “care of souls” found in pastoral care literature. The care of souls requires that pastors look at a person not just in the context of time, but primarily from the context of eternity since the soul lives on through the event of death. This means that the pastor is not just concerned with improvement of negative psychological or relational symptoms but with the effects of the present life on a person’s eternal state. Such a view originates from a knowledge of the Bible since God has revealed himself through his Word along with the nature of the human beings he created in his image.
I have been trained as a Bible scholar in both my undergraduate and graduate studies. I have avidly studied the Scriptures since I was a teen. This means that I won’t just hand out a couple of verses as a remedy for a problem, or thump the counselee on the head with the Bible. My understanding of human psychological and relational problems is steeped in a biblical understanding of humanity as beings created in God’s image but tragically marred by a sin nature.
Such an understanding also includes the redemptive message of the Scriptures, that God did not leave us alienated from him in our sinful state, but sent his Son to seek and to save those who were lost. By God’s grace and mercy, he is at work in the lives of his people to restore us to the state we lost by the fall into sin and alienation from him. This original, perfect state is embodied in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. My purpose as a pastoral counselor is to partner with God in this work to make those I counsel more like Jesus in their personal and relational lives. As a person attains growth in this, personal and relational healing occurs as issues are addressed from a holistic biblical perspective.
By this discussion I in no way intend to denigrate or dismiss Christian counselors who are not pastoral counselors. A trained psychotherapist who is a follower of Jesus can serve a vital role in helping Christians address personal and relational issues. The bond of love between fellow believers can enhance the therapeutic relationship and therapeutic work. However, there is a difference. The pastoral counselor forms a unique bond with the person seeking help that differs from the therapeutic bond formed with a psychotherapist. That unique bond springs from the authority and subsequent responsibility inherent in the call and ordination to pastoral ministry. This is the bond of love the shepherd shares with the sheep - the responsibility for pastors to love as entrusted by the Good Shepherd, Jesus, to his undershepherds. This love is carried out in the pastor’s care of souls. So, the pastoral counselor forms this unique bond with the counselee melding together that call, plus training and experience in ministry with the training and knowledge to understand and address more complex psychological and relational issues.
Brad West's Bio:
God called me to serve him in vocational ministry when I was only nine years old. Later he focused that call to serve him as a pastor in civilian life and in the military. He has provided me with education, training, experience, and gifted me with a unique skill set to serve him within his church as a pastoral counselor.
- Bachelor of Arts degree in Theology from Baptist Bible College, Springfield, MO
- Master of Divinity degree in Chaplaincy Studies from Western Seminary, Portland, OR
- Master of Science degree in Counseling Psychology, Marriage and Family Therapy from Texas A&M University - Central Texas, Killeen TX
- Doctor of Ministry degree in Pastoral Care-Marriage and Family Counseling from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Charlotte, NC
- Military Education includes: Chaplain Officer Basic Course, Chaplain Career Course, Combined Arms Services Staff School, Family Life Chaplain Training Course, Intermediate Level Education, Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training, Family Advocacy Staff Training, and Critical Incident Stress Management.
- Thousands of hours of experience counseling military couples and individuals throughout 13 years of war
- Extensive experience conducting marriage seminars, workshops, and retreats
- Focused research, writing, and speaking on relational intimacy in marriage and other relationships
- Trained, supervised, and mentored six chaplains and seven chaplain assistants as we deployed to combat in Afghanistan with our Infantry Brigade Combat Team
- Ordained to the Gospel Ministry September 15, 1984.
- Church Planter 1984-1989
- Seminary Student 1989-1992
- Chaplain Candidate 1991-1993
- Minister to Single Adults 1992-1994
- Chaplain - United States Army 1994-2015
- Battalion Chaplain 1994-2003
- Family Life Chaplain 2003-2007
- Brigade Combat Team Chaplain - 3rd IBCT, 10th Mountain Division 2007-2010 (Afghanistan 2008-2009)
- Deputy Senior Chaplain, Fort Bliss, TX 2010-2012
- Installation Chaplain, White Sands Missile Range, NM 2012-2015
- Endorsed by CB America (Conservative Baptist Association of America) since 1993 as a chaplain
- Chaplain (Lieutenant Colonel) (Retired) Bradley A. West served 22 years of active duty with the United States Army before retiring September 1, 2015
- Married to Susan West for 38 years.
- Two Children
- Six Grandsons