Pastoral Counseling as an Ordained Minister

One of our ordained ministers, a Licensed Interfaith Minister and Pastoral Counselor, posted to our alumni forum about pastoral counseling in his state. Because the government does not control a minister, rabbi, priest, etc., clergy are exempt from the licensing requirement. They are offering religious / spiritual counseling, usually called in legal circles “pastoral counseling”, and not mental health counseling. No license other than legal ordination of course, is required for a clergy-person to be able to give spiritual / religious guidance.

Our alumnus asked:

Legal Question: Georgia does not license pastoral counselors. But I’m wondering what the legal parameters of pastoral counseling entails and if my minister’s license allows me to provide this service.

I’m also wondering if anyone has sought pastoral counseling / psychotherapy licensure through the Pastoral Medical Association.”

A faculty member (who knows the Law) responded:

You may want to review the licensing exemptions in GA Code 43-10A-7 and contact the appropriate state agencies for any needed clarification, especially as to (11). As usual, this is not legal advice, seek counsel in your state, etc….

a) Except as otherwise provided in this chapter, a person who is not licensed under this chapter shall not practice professional counseling, social work, or marriage and family therapy, nor advertise the performance of such practice, nor use the title “professional counselor,” “associate professional counselor,” “social worker,” “marriage and family therapist,” or “associate marriage and family therapist,” nor use any words, letters, titles, or figures indicating or implying that the person is a professional counselor, associate professional counselor, social worker, marriage and family therapist, or associate marriage and family therapist or is licensed under this chapter.

(b) The prohibition of subsection (a) of this Code section shall not apply to the following persons:

(9) Active members of the clergy but only when the practice of their specialty is in the course of their service as clergy;

(10) Members of religious ministries responsible to their established ecclesiastical authority who possess a master’s degree or its equivalent in theological studies;

(11) Persons engaged in the practice of a specialty in accordance with Biblical doctrine in public or nonprofit agencies or entities or in private practice;

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