What is a Christian Counselor?
Some people go visit with their pastor and he/she counsels them. These visits are within the pastor’s “scope of performance of their regular or specialized ministerial duties and are performed under the scope of their denomination, church, sect, religious organization or an integrated auxiliary of a church as defined in Federal Tax Regulations.” TAC, Part 30, Chapter 681 Section 681.21(19) (For more information you can go to The Texas Administration Code Part 30, Chapter 681 Section 681.42 (19) for the definition of “recognized religious practitioner”)(https://texreg.sos.state.tx.us/public/readtac$ext.ViewTAC?tac_view=4&ti=22&pt=30&ch=681). Generally, the person visiting their pastor does not pay for those services. Your pastor is there to minister to your spiritual needs and sometimes they can help coordinate some assistance. After all, the first social workers were ministers. Also, most ministers I know are not able to see someone for an extended period of time due to the responsibilities of ministering to the whole congregation. Your minister might refer you to a Christian counselor if you need more intense help.
A Pastoral Counselor who is a member of the AAPC
There are some Christian Counselors who have a theological education such as a master of divinity and have met the requirements for accreditation by the American Association of Pastoral Counselors. The way I understand the TAC it appears this person needs to also have a state license in counseling to be able to hold himself or herself out as a professional counselor if the person is in Texas. I’m interpreting the term “professional” as meaning charging a fee. I am not an attorney so I would encourage you to read the TAC for yourself.
Counselors who are theologically trained and are state licensed
Some of us who have a theological education including a master of divinity degree focused on pastoral counseling in seminary in our studies. Then we took additional classes to fulfill the requirements for a state license as a licensed professional counselor or other type of professional counselor. However, we didn’t go on and get the AAPC certification. But that was a few years ago.
Now the state prefers that a person who wants to be a license professional counselor has a masters degree in counseling or a counseling-related field. A degree in theology doesn’t fit into either one of those definitions any more. So it depends on the age of your counselor as to what education they have for their license.
The Difference between a Pastoral Counselor and a Secular counselor
When I was browsing the internet about pastoral counseling, I noticed a blurb that stated supposedly the difference between a pastoral counselor and a secular counselor was that pastoral counselors would pray with their clients and could discuss spiritual matters.
Why The Difference May Not be that Great Anymore
Over ten years ago, there were continuing education classes offered for secular counselors regarding spirituality. It was training on how to be open to discussing the spiritual aspect of a client’s life if the client wanted to. This was because there was a realization that the spiritual part of a person is as important as the physical, mental, emotional, financial and occupational sides. In other words, counselors needed to treat the whole person.
Some counselors are not comfortable with a discussion of spirituality or belief systems. They may be a searcher themselves and don’t really know where they are in regard to their own spirituality. Or there may be other reason they aren’t comfortable discussing spiritual issues.
There are licensed secular (meaning not trained in a seminary) counselors who are Christians who are secure in clients discussing their spiritual journey and willing to help them along the way. Some counselors have experience in working in substance abuse programs that use the 12-Steps of AA/NA which tends to be spiritually based. So discussing where a person is along their relationship with God doesn’t bother them.
As a consumer of mental health services, you have the right to ask your counselor whether they are comfortable with discussing spiritual matters if that is something that is important to you. You can look for someone who will meet you where you are and not try to convince you to believe a certain way.
For further information about Christian Counseling, please take a look at my Christian Counseling page.
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About the Author
Gay A. Hunter, M.Div., LPC-S, is a licensed professional counselor who graduated from Brite Divinity School at TCU. She is committed to partner with you to transform your life from being a prisoner of PTSD , Anxiety problems., or a shaky relationship with God. She owns a private practice in Fort Worth, TX. She specializes in online therapy. She is trained in Cognitive Processing Therapy for PTSD and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. To find out more about Gay click here: