This past year I have had the opportunity to speak to several seminary students, and I have another similar talk coming up. For the most recent talk, I had been asked to provide two lectures. One was on the etiology of sexual orientation; the other lecture was on whether orientation can change. At the end of the second lecture, I introduced the Sexual Identity Therapy (SIT) approach to working with people in my clinical practice, and I was reflecting with them on how it might be adapted for pastoral care.
I assume that pastoral care is different than professional counseling in any number of ways, but one way would likely be that there is more direction, more of a sense of a normative endpoint or something toward which the person is to move. I don’t know if all pastoral care providers function in this way, but it is an assumption I have about the nature of pastoral care.
In any case, this reminded me of the difference between telic congruence and organismic congruence as defined in the APA Task Force background document on appropriate therapeutic responses to sexual orientation. Recall that telic congruence has to do with who the person wants to become and aligning one’s choices with that, while organismic congruence has to do with aligning one’s choices with who one experiences oneself to be.
It would seem to me that most pastoral care would rely more on telic congruence and have some say in what that congruence ought to look like. In contrast, much of mental health care has probably been based more on a sense of organismic congruence, but some clinicians may recognize the difference and may work with people who are interested in either type of congruence outcome.
An implication, then, might be that pastoral care ends up adapting SIT by not having as much of an open-ended quality to the various ways in which congruence might be experienced. Again, I don’t know that this is the case, but I would be interested in how pastoral care providers approach their work and consider these different ways of understanding congruence. It would seem to impact how sexual identity and religious identity conflicts are navigated.