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State-Secular vs. Christian Counseling...

One of the most important decisions facing any Christian planning to practice in the field of counseling is whether they will operate under the authority of their state or under the church.

State licensed therapists and counselors typically must supportState licensed counselors "politically correct" notions of right and wrong.   State licensed therapists typically must be willing to accept homosexuality as a perfectly normal lifestyle, divorce as a desirable outcome of marital difficulties, and abortion as the preferred solution for inconvenient children. 

Recently, a counseling student at Eastern Michigan University filed a lawsuit as a result of her unwillingness to recommend homosexuality:

"(A federal lawsuit) alleges that Eastern Michigan University violated the civil rights of Julia Ward, a graduate student in school counseling, by dismissing her from the program because she would not affirm homosexual behavior in the context of counseling... The lawsuit says that Ward is 'a Christian who derives her beliefs and moral values from the Bible.'  'Based on her sincerely held religious beliefs, Ms. Ward believes that homosexual behavior is immoral sexual conduct, and cannot affirm or validate that behavior or otherwise use her counseling skills and abilities to facilitate homosexual behavior, without violating her sincere religious beliefs,' the suit states.

...Ward underwent an informal review during which she was asked to undergo a remediation program to change her beliefs relating to counseling about homosexuality, the suit states. When Ward refused, she went through a formal review process with counseling professors.  ...According to the transcript, ...Ward said she refused to compromise her religious beliefs.  'In essence, what the university wants her to do is affirm homosexual behavior within the context of a counseling relationship in order to get a degree there,' (her attorney) said.  'That's something she's unwilling to do.'"  *

Christians entering the counseling profession need to consider under what authority they will place themselves.  The question is not whether a counselor should be held accountable, but to whom. A license from your state requires you to abide by the state's regulations.  An ordination or commission from a church or religious institution holds you accountable to the organization that issues it. 

Pastoral Counseling Center offers everything required to become credentialed by the National Association of Christian Counselors (NCCA).  NCCA authorized counselors are ministering in every state of the USA and in many nations around the world.   

From the NCCA catalog...

Christian Certificationchurch

Each individual must decide if he or she wants to be an agent of the state or a servant of the Church. Biblical, Pastoral or Christian Counselors looking for certification, accreditation... please consider the following:  If you have a Divine call on your life to counsel and minister to the hurting, then a state license may inhibit such ministry.

The National Christian Counselors Association Program is not a state license and is, in fact, distinctly different. Most states have regulatory laws governing the practice of psychology. Many of them also legislate the practice of general counseling. The laws vary from state to state. For example, some states have a counselor category called "Licensed Professional Counselor." Therefore, the National Christian Counselors Association requires its counselors to clearly identify their credentials... This ensures that the NCCA counselor is operating within legal and ethical standards, and maintaining the public’s trust and confidence.

State regulatory laws help to protect the public and ensure professionalism within the counseling profession. The NCCA strives to attain a similar goal within the Christian community and, at the same time, operate within compliance with state laws. The state and federal governments also have jurisdictional boundaries. They cannot pass laws that prevent the Church from fulfilling its purpose and ministering to humanity’s needs. The state recognizes that counseling is one of the responsibilities of the Church and its clergy. For this reason, the state does not and must not interfere with the Ministry of Counseling.

The primary differences between state-licensed professional counselors and Christian counselors, who are credentialed by the NCCA and under the authority of the Church (Body of Christ), are clear and well defined. Counselors who have been licensed by the state are held to strict ethical standards that mandate an individual’s right to be free from religious influence. The state licensed professional counselor is forbidden to pray, read or refer to the Holy Scriptures, counsel against things such as homosexuality, abortion, etc. Initiating such counsel would be considered unethical by the state. In most states in the U.S., state licensed counselors "must not promote their personal religious beliefs" according to the code of ethics in each respective state. The only time a state licensed counselor can involve religious (Christian) principles, morals, activities, instruction, etc., is if the counselee initiates or requests counsel in this area. The state-licensed counselor may not have the education, experience and knowledge of Scripture that the NCCA counselor provides.

Opposite from that, Pastoral counselors are required to pray, share their faith, read the Holy Scriptures, etc. The fact that Pastoral and Christian counselors do these things creates a clear distinction. We are two distinct professions and govern ourselves accordingly.

As you can readily see, the state governs secular counselors and the Church is responsible to set standards and govern those who have devoted their lives to the ministry and to Pastoral counseling.

None of this is to say that the Christian counselor, minister or priest is not permitted to request fees and receive remuneration for the services they render, as long as they remain adherent to the state laws governing such procedures.

The NCCA requires all who are certified by its Board of Examiners to:

1. Be credentialed ministers (ordained or commissioned) whose goal is to evangelize and ease the emotional pain and suffering of humanity.

2. Provide their service under the authority of a legally organized local church, a national church organization or a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit ministry.

3. Complete specialized training provided by the NCCA.

4. Complete the minimum requirements for continuing education and annual license renewal.

5. Uphold NCCA’s Code of Ethical Standards.

NCCA’s published "Code of Ethical Standards" outlines all of the procedures involved in dismissal, revocation, probation and reinstatement of an individual’s membership and/or certification and is available for review at

Pastoral Counseling Centers Thoughts...

Do I need to be licensed by the state, the church, or both?

One must decide whether they are going into the business of counseling or that they have been called into the ministry of counseling. While it possible to be both a secular counselor and a Christian counselor, most people find it more satisfying to choose one or the other. Both are very "real" while the main difference lies in which authority you operate under.

When you decide to become a Christian counselor you will need to place yourself under the authority of a religious organization.  This does not mean you need to be a fully ordained minister.  It does mean that you will place yourself under the authority of a recognized religious organization and have written credentials to substantiate it.  If you will need ministerial credentials, Pastoral Counseling Center will provide you with suggestions that will help.  Our students find themselves blessed as they obtain their credentials.

If you decide to become state licensed, you must be credentialed by your state, and abide by the laws created by your state. Most, if not all, states prohibit the introduction of religious ideas into the counseling process, thereby severely limiting the counselor's effectiveness.  States will require the counselor to espouse abortion, divorce and homosexuality.  Most Christians find the ethical dilemma created by state laws regarding counseling to be unacceptable.   We continually help state licensed professionals become Christian counselors.

Pastoral Counseling Center, while not a legal authority, will help you discover which is the best path for you. Having worked in both state and Christian organizations, Dr. Young has a unique vantage point from which she can help you make these decisions.  She can assist you in finding ways to become educated, credentialed, insured and equipped to help others while not creating the ethical problems related to state licensure.

Next: How to Become a Christian Counselor

Ready to become a Christian Counselor? Apply Here


Credits and degrees earned from colleges in the State of Florida, which are authorized by the State Board of Independent Colleges and Universities, do not qualify the holder for a state teaching certification, nor do they qualify him or her to participate in professional licensing examinations. Any person interested in obtaining a state teaching certificate or practicing a regulated profession should contact the appropriate regulatory agency in the field of his interest.


Transferability of credits earned at the International Institute of Christian Counseling and transferred to another institution is at the discretion of the receiving institution.