Carolinas HealthCare System

Pastoral CounselingWhat is Pastoral Counseling?

Pastoral counseling moves beyond the support or encouragement a religious community can offer, by providing psychologically sound therapy that weaves in the religious and spiritual dimension. "It is interesting to note that not only is this a time of increased emphasis on therapy, but also a time of increased interest in spirituality," said Gerald DeSobe, PhD, past president of AAPC. "Combining these two areas in a person's life in helpful and healing ways is what pastoral counselors do."

"AAPC affirms as a moral imperative that the American people, without exception, must have access to quality health care," says Roy Woodruff, PhD, past executive director of AAPC. "That imperative refers not only to mental health resources, but also the quality of services."

Under the auspices of AAPC, pastoral counseling adheres to rigorous standards of excellence, including education and clinical training, professional certification and licensure. Typical education for the AAPC-certified pastoral counselor consists of study that leads to:

  • A bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university
  • A three-year professional degree from a seminary
  • A specialized masters or doctoral degree in the mental health field

A significant portion of this education is spent in clinical training. Post-graduate training involves completion of at least 1,375 hours of supervised clinical experience (that is, the counselor provides individual, group, marital and family therapy) and 250 hours of direct approved supervision of the therapist's work in both crisis and long-term situations.

"As a result of this extensive study, pastoral counselors are among the most educated of mental health professionals," notes Woodruff. "Pastoral counselors also possess a depth of training that is significantly more intense than that of many other mental health professionals of the core disciplines."

Beyond education and training, certification is also key in ensuring excellence in pastoral counseling. Candidates seeking certification as a pastoral counselor by AAPC are thoroughly tested and evaluated to assure that AAPC certifies only the most competent individuals who not only have the required education and clinical training but who possess the highest personal standards.

Integrative Pastoral Psychotherapy Programs


The CMC Department of Pastoral Care and Education and these graduate programs collaborate to offer internship placements of nine to twelve months:

  • Gardner-Webb University Graduate School and Divinity School
  • Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
  • Hood Theological Seminary
  • New Life Theological Seminary
  • Pfeiffer University Graduate School
  • Union Theological Seminary and Presbyterian School of Christian Education
  • University of North Carolina at Charlotte Graduate School

Students from other graduate programs may apply through a special contract to be established with their academic program.

Pastoral Psychotherapy Internships are integrative and holistic through addressing the perspectives of medicine, psychotherapy, psychopathology, resiliency, development, formation, isomorphism, spirituality, and theology as well as use of self and the initial discovery of one's own theory of psychotherapy. In addition to clinical supervision participants may draw upon consultation psychiatry, family medicine, psychology, social work, and pastoral theology.


Post-graduate students who already have completed a psychotherapy internship and are pursuing any these licenses, certifications, or multiple credentials simultaneously may apply to the Integrative Pastoral Psychotherapy Residency Training Program through the Carolinas Medical Center Department of Pastoral Care and Education. These residency placements can range from nine to 12 months.

These psychotherapy residencies are integrative and holistic because the students address simultaneously the perspectives of medicine, psychotherapy, psychopathology, resiliency, development, formation, isomorphism, spirituality, and theology in addition to the use of self and the formulation of a personal theory of psychotherapy practice. Auxiliary to clinical supervision participants may draw upon consultation with faculty from the fields of psychiatry, family medicine, surgery, psychology, social work, and pastoral theology.

Placement Locations

  • Family Practice Residency Program at CMC-Mercy: Family Practice
  • CMC-Horizons First Step in Monroe: Addictions
  • Carolinas HealthCare System Huntersville Oaks: Gerontology
  • Carolinas HealthCare System Behavioral Health - Charlotte
  • CMC-Trauma Center-Spinal Cord Injury

Application Process

The applicant must submit a formal application attaching the final evaluation(s) as well as other required materials. The formal application process included the following steps:

  • A Screening interview with the Faculty
  • A Screening interview with the respective placement site
  • The CMC background check
  • The CMC Medical screening
  • The CMC volunteer orientation

View Course Flyers
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What If I Have Further Questions?

James W. Pruett. Ph.D.; D.Min. Director, Integrative Pastoral Psychotherapy Training Program

Office Phone: 704-577-5862 Email: