Non-licensed Counselingby Dennis Demuth on 10/29/18
An area of legal risk associated more in Christian schools than in public schools is non-licensed counseling. Most Christian schools are unable to employ a full range of counseling staff. Thus, this task is often assigned to teachers, administrators and sometimes, non-licensed volunteers. In Christian schools that are closely associated with a ministry, counseling activities may be passed along to the pastoral staff. Caution is in order in any case where those providing "counseling" services are not licensed. In these cases, it is better to identify this service as "personal ministry" rather than "counseling." There are times when teachers hear about personal family issues during parent-teacher conferences and find themselves providing advice on non-related school issues. Avoid this and refer them to the appropriate trained professional.] Consider the following actions to reduce the legal risk associated with counseling type activities, especially in Christian schools.
1 Stay Spiritual. Do not say what you are not. If not licensed, do not communicate you are a counselor. Stick to addressing spiritual truths and using spiritual tools (scripture, prayer, God's power, and presence, etc.).
2 Be Upfront. Make sure the counseled understands that you are not licensed to provide medical or psychological counseling or therapy and that you would be happy to refer then counseled to such a professional.
3 Medical Matters. Acknowledge that some surface problems of the counseled may be caused, in part, by physical, hormonal or environmental influences. A physician, therefore, might be the better professional to minister to such needs.
4 Insurance. Ask your insurance agent to look into obtaining professional liability insurance for your personal ministry actions.
5 Avoid Misconduct. Anyone, including clergy, is answerable for intentional or outrageous misconduct - as opposed to negligent failure to diagnose or refer.
6 Provide an Explanation. Explain to your staff the legal concerns of providing "counseling."
7 Limit Topics Addressed. Limit topics – sexual abuse, alcohol, and drug abuse should be covered by the appropriate licensed professional.
8 "Don't Tell." Do not ever say, "Don't tell your parents." When students begin to talk about confidentiality, let them know that there are things that if they tell you, you are obligated to share if they have legal ramifications – items that may be considered as privileged communication shared to pastors, counselors, etc.
9 Multitude of Counselors. Prov. 11:14 tells us to take critical issues to a multiple of counselors.
10 State Requirements. Check your state for exemptions to license counseling.