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Looking Forward

For decades the American Association of Pastoral Counselors served as a certification and licensing body for the profession. Today that role is fulfilled by state and provincial governments. With this in mind, AAPC has discontinued offering certification or levels of membership and is currently reviewing and clarifying our ethical guidelines to align with our changing and growing association and profession. 

AAPC continues to develop the field of pastoral counseling and to offer continuing education, workshops and professional development opportunities. In the interim, we provide the following ethical guidelines that all members are expected to honor.


AAPC Ethical Guidelines

As members of the American Association of Pastoral Counselors, we are respectful of the various theologies, traditions, and values of our faith communities and we are committed to the dignity and worth of each individual. We are dedicated to advancing the welfare of those who seek our assistance and to the maintenance of high standards of professional conduct and competence. As pastoral counselors and pastoral counseling students we are accountable for our work regardless of our professional functions, the settings in which we work, or the populations which we serve. This accountability is expressed in our conduct of relationships with clients, colleagues, students, our faith communities, and through the acceptance and practice of the principles and procedures of these Ethical Guidelines. 


As members of AAPC we recognize our responsibility to:

  1. Affirm the importance of being both spiritually grounded and psychologically informed.
  2. Maintain responsible association with the faith group with which we identify and in which we may have ecclesiastical standing.
  3. Avoid discriminating against or refusing employment, educational opportunity or professional assistance to anyone on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, health status, age, disabilities or national origin; provided that nothing herein shall limit a member or center from utilizing religious requirements or exercising a religious preference in employment decisions.
  4. Stay current with research that affects our understanding of clinical issues and the conduct of our practice. We agree to continuing education and professional growth including supervision, consultation, and active participation in the meetings and affairs of the Association.
  5. Seek out and engage in collegial relationships, recognizing that isolation can lead to a loss of perspective and judgment.
  6. Manage our personal lives in a healthful fashion and to seek appropriate assistance for our own personal problems or conflicts.
  7. Assess/evaluate, diagnose or provide treatment only for those problems or issues that are within the reasonable boundaries of our competence.
  8. Establish and maintain appropriate professional relationship boundaries. We will make every effort to be transparent with congregations and other public constituencies about the boundaries we hold.
  9. Remain abreast of and to comply with appropriate regulatory statutes that governs our pastoral counseling activities and any state licenses we may hold. Should clients be in a different state than the pastoral counselor, we will comply with regulatory statutes in that state as well. Whenever the AAPC Code differs with legal mandates, pastoral counseling licensure laws, or with ecclesiastical policies, the more stringent of the two applies.
  10. Promote racial justice and develop multicultural competence as part of our practice.


The Ethical Guidelines are not intended to be a basis of civil liability. Whether a pastoral counselor has violated the Ethics Guidelines does not by itself determine whether the pastoral counselor is legally liable in a court action, whether a contract is enforceable, or whether other legal consequences occur.