American Association of Pastoral Counselors (AAPC):


Pastoral counseling moves beyond the support or encouragement a religious community can offer, by providing psychologically sound therapy that weaves in the religious and spiritual dimension. "It is interesting to note that not only is this a time of increased emphasis on therapy, but also a time of increased interest in spirituality," said Gerald DeSobe, PhD, past president of AAPC. "Combining these two areas in a person’s life in helpful and healing ways is what pastoral counselors do."

"AAPC affirms as a moral imperative that the American people, without exception, must have access to quality health care," says Roy Woodruff, PhD, past executive director of AAPC. "That imperative refers not only to mental health resources, but also the quality of services."

Under the auspices of AAPC, pastoral counseling adheres to rigorous standards of excellence, including education and clinical training, professional certification and licensure. Typical education for the AAPC-certified pastoral counselor consists of study that leads to:

  • a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university
  • a three-year professional degree from a seminary
  • a specialized masters or doctoral degree in the mental health field

A significant portion of this education is spent in clinical training. Post-graduate training involves completion of at least 1,375 hours of supervised clinical experience (that is, the counselor provides individual, group, marital and family therapy) and 250 hours of direct approved supervision of the therapist’s work in both crisis and long-term situations.

"As a result of this extensive study, pastoral counselors are among the most educated of mental health professionals," notes Woodruff. "Pastoral counselors also possess a depth of training that is significantly more intense than that of many other mental health professionals of the core disciplines."

Beyond education and training, certification is also key in ensuring excellence in pastoral counseling. Candidates seeking certification as a pastoral counselor by AAPC are thoroughly tested and evaluated to assure that AAPC certifies only the most competent individuals who not only have the required education and clinical training but who possess the highest personal standards.

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