Pastoral Psychology

, Volume 64, Issue 5, pp 663–680 | Cite as

Finding Language for What Matters Most: Hosting Conversations about Sexuality in Pastoral Counseling

  • Robert C. Dykstra


This article draws from intertwined Gospel accounts, in Luke 8 and elsewhere, of Jesus healing a hemorrhaging woman and a 12-year-old girl presumed dead, building on Capps’s (2008) claim that their physical symptoms manifested intense unconscious anxieties resulting from untenable sexual expectations of their culture. In these cases, healing derives from their capacity to believe in someone who has faith in them (Capps 2008, p. 124). The article encourages contemporary pastoral counselors to attend not only with strenuous professional ethicality but also with subversive moral generosity to minute differences among individuals marginalized due to sexual yearnings perceived to deviate from a presumed societal norm.


Sexual counseling Pastoral counseling Jesus’ healing ministry Sexual anxiety and marginalization Loneliness Somatoform disorders Somatic symptom disorder Luke 8 Jairus’s daughter Hemorrhaging woman Donald Capps C. A. Tripp Mark Vonnegut 



I am grateful to Donald Capps for the many contributions to this article gleaned from his Jesus the Village Psychiatrist and other works, as well as for his encouraging me to believe in his faith in me over many years; to Rubén Arjona-Mejía, a doctoral candidate in pastoral theology at Princeton Theological Seminary, for introducing me to Gultheil and Gabbard’s (1993) distinction between clinical boundary crossings and boundary violations; to Melanie Howard and Sarah Chae, also doctoral students at Princeton Seminary, for generous research assistance; to my former seminary student for permission to share a portion of his life story in this article; to Ryan LaMothe and members of the Midwest Region of the American Association of Pastoral Counselors for providing impetus to compose these thoughts; and to gifted friends in the Group for New Directions in Pastoral Theology, who learn and laugh with me along the way.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Princeton Theological SeminaryPrincetonUSA

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