I have formulated an approach that will help pastoral counselors to not only survive, but thrive in the midst of crisis pastoral counseling. The greatest challenge by far for us will be to minister to family members that are coping with a an unexpected traumatic event. This is a truly difficult and heart breaking part of crisis counseling. We must pray for God's strength and resilience when dealing with these unexpected traumatic events. In regard self-care, we must keep some critical aspects in mind as we all go forward.
Developing true empathy for others comes from an understanding and compassion for yourself first, which then can overflow onto others who may be in need. (Neff, 2011). If you have ever traveled on an airplane, you might remember the airline staff instructing the passengers that in the event of an emergency to place their oxygen mask on first before helping someone else. This ensures that you will not be part of the problem versus being part of the solution. It is far too common for people to help other others before helping themselves. This makes a person vulnerable to the same things they are trying to help other people with. Self-care ensures that we have the metaphorical oxygen to be helpful to others in the event of an emergency. If we choose to not care for ourselves, we will become fatigued and/or resentful at the people we are helping.
Self-judgment and criticism can be a good thing within reason, but what about people who have difficulty forgiving themselves for past mistakes? Self-compassion is a skill needed to be successful in life and personal relationships. It entails three essential ingredients and the first is self-kindness. This refers to our ability to let go of past mistakes and realize that life is a process of learning (Neff, 2011). Self-kindness is part of everyone's spiritual journey regardless of what you believe in. We must make peace with our lessons learned in life to move on to freedom and confidence.
The second facet of self-compassion relates to our ability to comprehend our humanity (Neff, 2011). This is where we join all other people in our imperfection. When we realize that every human being is flawed and makes mistakes, it takes away some of the sting of being imperfect and we realize that we are not alone. To attain more self-compassion we need to move from labeling ourselves and others to understanding ourselves and others (Neff 2011). When we can place more importance on being present for experiences versus performing in life, it can also take away some of our overly critical nature.