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Clergy Stress and Depression

Leo Christie, PhD; Robert Gauger, DMin

CE Credit: 4 Hours

Target Audience: Psychology | Counseling | Social Work | Marriage & Family Therapy

Learning Level: Intermediate

Course Type: Online

Course Abstract


According to the Schaeffer Institute, the ministry is perhaps the single most stressful and frustrating working profession, more than medical, legal, or political careers. Most statistics say that 60% to 80% of those who enter the ministry will not still be in it 10 years later, and only a fraction will stay in it as a lifetime career. One study found that over 70% of pastors are so stressed and burned out that they regularly consider leaving the ministry. What are the elements that conspire to produce such dire statistics? In addition to the job stressors that will be discussed in this course, the essential rub may be found in the daunting challenges of trying to accommodate two entities – the human being and the minister – within a single skin.

Clergy stress and its links to depression have been identified in numerous studies and dissertations. However, the authors believe little research has been done linking the internal, external, and spiritual factors that are involved in stress and depression in clergy. This course, which is an adaptation of a doctoral dissertation, proposes to examine the role of these three factors in clergy stress and depression from a Judeo-Christian foundation, which would include Jewish rabbis, Catholic priests, and Protestant pastors. It is likely that most mental health professionals will encounter clergy among the clients they treat in their practices. The purpose of this course is to provide clinicians with an understanding of the complex factors that cause stress and depression in clergy, along with recommendations for prevention and treatment.

Course #40-32 | 2013 | 52 pages | 30 posttest questions

Learning Objectives

1. Identify training issues that leave many clergy ill-prepared for the realities of their profession
2. List conditions in the ministry that place it among the most stressful occupations
3. Distinguish among external, internal, and spiritual stressors that are common among clergy
4. Explain the effects of the introversion-extraversion personality dimension on stress in clergy
5. Identify common irrational beliefs that are sources of stress and depression among clergy
6. Name the three elements of the “triple threat” that results in high attrition rates in the ministry
7. List strategies suggested by the authors for reducing stress and depression among clergy

Professional Development Resources is approved by the American Psychological Association (APA) to sponsor continuing education for psychologists; by the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC) to offer home study continuing education for NCCs (#5590); the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB #1046, ACE Program); the Florida Boards of Clinical Social Work, Marriage & Family Therapy, and Mental Health Counseling (#BAP346) and Psychology & School Psychology (#50-1635); the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker & MFT Board (#RCST100501); the South Carolina Board of Professional Counselors & MFTs (#193); and the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage & Family Therapists (#114) and State Board of Social Worker Examiners (#5678).


This online course provides instant access to the course materials (PDF download) and CE test. After enrolling, click on My Account and scroll down to My Active Courses. From here you’ll see links to download/print the course materials and take the CE test (you can print the test to mark your answers on it while reading the course document).

Successful completion of the online CE test (80% required to pass, 3 chances to take) and course evaluation are required to earn a certificate of completion. Click here to learn more.

About the Author(s)

Leo Christie, PhD, LMFT, is a Florida-licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with a doctorate in Marriage and Family Therapy from Florida State University. Past President of the Florida Council on Family Relations, Dr. Christie is currently CEO of Professional Development Resources, a nonprofit corporation whose mission is to deliver continuing education credit courses to healthcare professionals throughout the United States. He has more than 20 years' experience in private practice with a specialty in child behavior disorders and as an instructor for over 500 live continuing education seminars for healthcare professionals.


Financial: Receives a salary from Professional Development Resources, Inc., where he is president and CEO.
Nonfinancial: No relevant nonfinancial relationships exist. 

Robert Gauger, DMin has served as a full time minister for over twenty-six years. His own personal experiences of depression and stress in ministry have drawn a special interest and focus on the topic in his life. Bob holds a Masters degree from Southern Seminary (KY) and a Doctorate Degree from Regent University (VA) with honors. Bob enjoys playing the trombone and through the years has played with many professional orchestras. 

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