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Kentucky to License Pastors as Mental Health Counselors

Kentucky to License Pastors as Mental Health Counselors

The state of Kentucky is set to start licensing Christian mental health counselors so they may be covered on insurance plans for those seeking religious guidance for a variety of struggles, including marital problems, addiction and behavioral issues.

Senate Bill 61, a law permitting the state licensing of pastoral counselors, will go into effect Tuesday and provide about 30 Christian counselors with licenses in the state. According to the Lexington Herald-Leader, those licensed as pastoral counselors must meet the requirements of other licensed counselors in the state, as well as have a pastoral counseling degree. The other requirements include a master's degree in counseling along with clinical hours and supervised practice hours.

Proponents of the newly-passed bill argue that allowing pastoral counselors to be licensed by the state will broaden the opportunities for Kentuckians to receive mental health counseling. Under the new law, insurance companies may offer the option of coverage for pastoral counselors, should their customers seek religious counseling.

"It's an opportunity for better mental health counseling," Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr (R-Lexington) told the Lexington Herald-Leader. "This will help Kentucky's shortage of mental and behavioral health service providers, which has been augmented by the federal Affordable Care Act's requirement that Medicaid and insurance companies on the health exchange offer mental and behavioral health benefits."

Kentucky is reportedly the sixth state to allow licensing for pastoral counselors. Some remain skeptical of the new law, arguing that it could create confusion for those seeking an "LPC," a Licensed Professional Counselor. The term used for religious counselors will be Licensed Pastoral Counselor, also described as "LPC" for short.

"It's a popular term throughout the country and our belief is that people will be confused by the term 'LPC' or 'KLPC' as they're trying to be known," Martin Cortez Wesley, chairman of the Kentucky Board of Licensed Professional Counselors, told the Associated Press.

Wesley, who is also the dean of the School of Counseling at the University of Cumberlands, added that the number of secular counselors far outweighs the number of religious counselors. "There are about 2,000 of us and about 30 of them. We do not want the desire of a very few to trump the current practice of thousands of our licensees."

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