Drawing on psychological, theological, and cultural studies on suffering, Carrie Doehring encourages counselors to view their ministry through trifocal lenses and include approaches that are premodern (apprehending God through religious rituals), modern (consulting rational and empirical sources), and postmodern (acknowledging the contextual nature of knowledge). Utilizing strategies from all three perspectives, Doehring describes the basic ingredients of a caregiving relationship, shows how to use the caregiver's life experience as a source of authority, and demonstrates how to develop the skill of listening and establish the actual relationship. She then explains the steps of psychological assessment, systemic assessment, and theological reflection, and finally she delineates the basic steps for plans of care: attending to the careseeker's safety, building trust, mourning losses, and reconnecting with the ordinariness of life.
Doehring employs case studies, offers student exercises, and concludes with an in-depth look at a family situation in the novel Affliction by Russell Banks to demonstrate her method. The Practice of Pastoral Care is accessibly written for students yet thought-provoking for seasoned caregivers.