The gist is that clergy may publicly represent themselves as counselors and provide counseling so long as they do not use the title “licensed professional counselor” or hold themselves out as such. Using the terms “Pastoral Counselor” and “pastoral counseling” help to avoid this confusion. Clergy must be affiliated with a denomination or official church body, and be under a professional code of conduct. (See Disciples of Christ Ministerial Code of Ethics as an example). Consideration also should be given to liability insurance, whether part of the congregational insurance policy or some other coverage.
From the Texas Department of State Health Services
Rules and Regulations include:
(13) Recognized religious practitioner–A rabbi, clergyman, or person of similar status who is a member in good standing of and accountable to a denomination, church, sect or religious organization legally recognized under the Internal Revenue Code, §501(c)(3) and other individuals participating with them in pastoral counseling if:
(A) the counseling activities are within the scope of the performance of their regular or specialized ministerial duties and are performed under the auspices of sponsorship of the legally recognized denomination, church, sect, religious organization or an integrated auxiliary of a church as defined in Federal Tax Regulations, 26 Code of Federal Regulations, §1.6033-2(g)(5)(I) (1982);
(B) the individual providing the service remains accountable to the established authority of that denomination, church, sect, religious organization or integrated auxiliary; and
(C) the person does not use the title of or hold himself or herself out as a professional counselor.
TITLE 3. HEALTH PROFESSIONS
SUBTITLE I. REGULATION OF PSYCHOLOGY AND COUNSELING
CHAPTER 503. LICENSED PROFESSIONAL COUNSELORS
SUBCHAPTER B. APPLICATION OF CHAPTER
Sec. 503.054. COUNSELING BY OTHER LICENSED OR CERTIFIED PROFESSIONAL OR BY RELIGIOUS PRACTITIONER. This chapter does not apply to an activity or service of any of the following persons performing counseling consistent with the law of this state, the person’s training, and any code of ethics of the person’s profession if the person does not represent the person by any title or description as described by the definition of “licensed professional counselor” in Section 503.002:
(1) a member of another profession licensed or certified by this state, including:
(A) a physician, registered nurse, psychologist, social worker, marriage and family therapist, chemical dependency counselor, physician assistant, or occupational therapist; or
(B) an optometrist engaged in the evaluation and remediation of learning or behavioral disabilities associated with or caused by a defective or abnormal condition of vision; or
(2) a recognized religious practitioner, including a Christian Science practitioner recognized by the Church of Christ Scientist as registered and published in the Christian Science Journal.
Acts 1999, 76th Leg., ch. 388, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1999.