Joshua Tree offers counseling by both licensed counselors and board-certified pastoral counselors. There are similarities and differences between licensed counseling and pastoral counseling that we want you to understand so you can make an informed decision about your care.

As a faith-based group practice, Joshua Tree hires Christian counselors who value working together as a team to support each other and provide the highest quality counseling services to their clients. Whether or not a counselor can ethically integrate their faith into counseling and when depends of whether they are licensed by the Arizona Board of Behavioral Health Examiners (AZBBHE) or ordained member of clergy, certified by the International Board of Christian Care (IBCC).

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Licensed Counseling

It’s important to know that bringing faith and spirituality into the counseling experience by a licensed counselor is at the client’s preference and comfort level. If faith is important in counseling, the client and counselor discuss to what extent including a client’s preference for prayer and the integration of scripture.

If a counselor is licensed, it means they are approved by the AZBBHE to provide psychotherapy to clients located in the state of Arizona.

In order to become licensed to practice psychotherapy an individual must:

  • Meet education requirements of at least a master’s degree in an approved curriculum
  • Pass a national exam – National Certified Counselor (NCE) exam
  • Complete (and prove) extensive supervised work experience – 1600 direct client hours
  • Complete (and prove) 100 hours of clinical supervision before practicing independently
  • Renew their license every 2 years
  • Complete 30 hours of continuing education every 2 years
  • Fingerprinted/Background Checked
  • Report any changes in legal status or criminal charges to the Board
  • Cannot counsel clients located (or vacationing) in any other state unless they are also licensed in that state

Who Holds Licensed Counselors Accountable?

Licensed counselors are held accountable by the AZBBHE the rules/statues they have set forth. Licensed counselors adhere to the ethics code of their counseling discipline: Counseling, Social Work, Marriage and Family Therapy, or Substance Abuse Counseling. This means that ethical and/or licensing violations by a licensed counselor/therapist/social worker can be reported to the Board and/or to the ethic’s board of the association to which they are a member which may result in disciplinary action against the counselor or the removal of their license.

What Can Licensed Counselors Do?

Because licensed counselors have demonstrated specific education requirements (including training in various counseling models and interventions) and have practiced under clinical supervision, they are equipped to provide psychotherapy, addressing most mental health issues and diagnoses, including serious mental health concerns.

Licensed counselors:

  • can diagnose
  • can conduct assessments for the purpose of establishing diagnoses and/or treatment goals and objectives
  • can treat mental, emotional, or behavioral disorders
  • can bill health insurance for treatment
  • must develop treatment plans and update at least annually
  • are held accountable to their state’s Board of Behavioral Health
  • can only bring their understanding of faith into counseling when this is the client’s preference and benefits the client in accordance with their identified counseling goals

The Christian Faith and Licensed Counseling
Licensed counselors adhere to their ethical code which all address counseling imposing their personal beliefs upon clients. The ACA Code of Ethics states the following regarding personal values:

Counselors are aware of—and avoid imposing—their own values, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. Counselors respect the diversity of clients, trainees, and research participants and seek training in areas in which they are at risk of imposing their values onto clients, especially when the counselor’s values are inconsistent with the client’s goals or are discriminatory in nature. ACA Code of Ethics, 2014, A.4.b.

This means that licensed counselors cannot impose their beliefs on you during counseling unless you specifically request the integration of faith into counseling.

Many Christians prefer to work with a counselor who share their faith orientation. This could be because they want their counselor to integrate spiritual principles into counseling, or it could be that they just want to know their counselor looks at the world with a similar lens/worldview. Sometimes clients seek a Christian counselor because they were raised Christian but struggling with those beliefs or questioning their faith. It is not uncommon for clients who have been spiritually wounded to prefer to see a counselor with similar beliefs even though they may not wish to have this prioritized or integrated into counseling. Some clients seek a Christian counselor because their Christian faith is THE most important thing in their lives, and they want to pray with their counselor and hear their counselor’s guidance about the interplay among psychological distress and mental health; spirituality; and the Bible. Others choose a counselor because they specialize in the issue they are bringing to counseling and the counselor’s faith orientation is not important to them. It is important that, despite your shared beliefs, you feel like your counselor explores the way you understand the Christian faith and not assumes that it is the same way they understand Christianity.

During the intake session, your faith preferences and history are usually explored as one aspect of a biopsychosocial assessment. This is a good opportunity for you to share your hopes and preferences regarding faith and counseling. It’s okay to ask your counselor how they might bring faith, prayer, and the Bible into counseling before you decide what your preferences are and it’s okay to tell them you are okay with some things and not others. For example, if you are okay with them talking about God and the Bible during counseling, as it applies to your distress and healing,  but you don’t want to pray together, that’s perfectly fine. Counseling is about you and what’s important to you and if you feel like your licensed counselor is forcing their personal beliefs on you, you have options: you can tell your counselor how you feel and work it through with them; you can ask for referrals or seek services elsewhere; or you can contact the AZBBHE or the ethics board of the association to which your counselor belongs, if you believe a formal complaint is warranted.

Christian EMDR Therapist Tucson

Pastoral Counseling

People have been hurting ever since the fall of humanity in the Garden of Eden. Much of the hurt is due to the tragic reality that we live in a fallen world. Another source of the hurt is the intended or unintended consequences of the sins of others. And if we are honest, some of the hurt is due to our own sinful choices. When Christians are hurting, they often seek biblical guidance and spiritual help from their pastor through pastoral counseling.” (Grace Theological Seminary, 2021).

Pastoral counseling is the intentional integration of psychological and spiritual principles into the counseling experience to bring client hope, healing, and growth. As ordained ministers, pastoral counselors are open about their faith and clients generally choose pastoral counseling because they want Christianity at the center of counseling and want the assurance that their counselor will approach mental health from a Christian lens. They draw upon spiritual components such as scripture, prayer, and spiritual gifts to point you to the truth of who God is and to guide you through mental health issues from a Christian perspective.

While your pastor may provide pastoral care for various issues, pastoral counselors have specific training or education in psychological or counseling principles that pastors do not. Pastoral counselors have varying degrees of education and experience and at Joshua Tree Counseling, our pastoral are ordained by the National Association of Christina Ministers; board-certified by the International Board of Christian Care (IBCC); and hold a master’s or doctorate degree in counseling, along with various other certifications and credentials. They are mature Christians with extensive ministry, social work, and counseling experience.

If a counselor is a certified to provide pastoral counselor through the IBCC, a recognized segment of the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC), they have met certain requirements deemed necessary to offer pastoral counseling.

In order to become a BCPC, an individual must:

  • Meet education requirements of at least a bachelor’s degree in an approved curriculum
  • Be ordained or hold a religious license
  • Identify and practice as a Christian counselor
  • Complete (and prove) 1 year of experience in counseling-related activities/care-giving
  • Complete at least 60 hours of the “incorporation of biblical principles and counseling skills with theory, knowledge, and practice” (IBCC, 2021)
  • Complete 20 hours of continuing education every 2 years
  • Fingerprinted/Background Checked
  • Report any changes in legal status or criminal charges to the Board

Who Holds Pastoral Counselors Accountable?

Pastoral counselors follow that ethical code set forth by the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC) and are board-certified through the International Board of Christian Care. Dr. Marybeth Steigenga, BCPC at Joshua Tree Counseling is ordained by the National Association of Christian Ministers. Tammy Furrier, BCPC is ordained by the International Fellowship of Chaplains. If you believe your counselor is acting outside of their ethical code, you have options: you can tell your counselor how you feel and work it through with them; you can ask for referrals or seek services elsewhere, perhaps with a licensed counselor; or you can contact the ethics board of the association to which your counselor belongs or through whom they are ordained, if you believe a formal complaint is warranted.

What Can Pastors Counselors Do?

Pastoral counselors can provide soul care in the form of Christian counseling for a variety of issues causing emotional, psychological, and relational distress. They work with a variety of mental health issues ranging from anxiety and depression, relationship distress, grief and loss, and trauma to spiritual abuse, growth, and development. They are not equipped to treat serious mental health diagnoses and will refer to a licensed counselor when these issues are evident.

Pastoral Counselors*:

  • openly and intentionally integrate the Christian faith into counseling
  • are ordained members of clergy with specific religious training who provide counseling as part of their duties of ordination
  • understand human suffering from a Biblical perspective
  • cannot diagnose
  • cannot bill health insurance for services
  • cannot treat mental health diagnoses

*Pastoral counselors are not licensed to provide psychotherapy, diagnose, or treat mental health disorders. They are ordained members of clergy who provide counseling as part of their ordination duties.

The Christian Faith and Pastoral Counseling

Pastoral counselors tend to work with clients who consider themselves Christians however they do and will counsel non-believers if this is the client’s choice. It’s important to know when working with a pastoral counselor, they have the freedom to openly talk about and weave the Christian faith and Biblical principles into counseling. This is a key difference between pastoral counseling and licensed counseling.

You can expect pastoral counselors at Joshua Tree to be professional, compassionate, and nonjudgmental, regardless of the issues you bring to counseling. They desire to create a safe space for you to explore your struggles with an experienced Christian counseling professional.

Pastoral counselors at Joshua Tree Counseling believe in the Trinity: God is triune in nature – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God the Father, through whom all things come, sent his son Jesus to die on a cross to pay the price for the sin for which we cannot by ourselves atone, to be raised from the dead and ascend into heaven to prepare a place for all those who choose to receive his gift of salvation and eternal life (John 3:16-17; John 10:30; John 15:26; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Romans 5:8). When you accept Jesus into your heart and as the Lord of your life, you receive the gift of the Holy Spirit who helps you to respond to God in ways that you away turn from sin and towards the life God has you (John 14:16).

They also believe that mankind is created and beloved by God, as was the Earth and all it’s inhabitants (Genesis 1:1); that the Bible, all 66 books, is the living word of God – written by man as inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16); that the Bible tells the story of how sin entered the world and separated us from God and how he wove the plan of salvation throughout history so the we could be restored into a relationship with Him (Romans 6:23); that salvation and eternal life is free and available to anyone regardless of the life they’ve lived or choices they’ve made because God offers this by grace and not works.

If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” Romans 10:9-10 (NIV)

Make an Informed Decision
We hope this helps provide you the information you need to make an informed decision about which is right for you, licensed cousnelor vs pastoral counseling. If you are ready to take the next step, complete the form below and we’ll reach out to you as soon as possible. Or if, after reading about our counselors, you are ready to book an appointment, you can do so here. If you need more help deciding, please call us at (520) 308-4999.

Counseling Inquiry

Rachel Lohrman, LPC Trauma Therapist Christian Clinical Supervisor

Rachel Lohrman, LPC

Trauma Therapist, Licensed

Rachel is the founder of Joshua Tree Counseling and a licensed professional counselor who specializes in the treatment of trauma and dissociation; PTSD and DID; suicidality; anxiety; spiritual wounding, and childhood abuse (verbal, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse). She works with clients towards developing tools and strategies to use in the here and now while also helping clients better understand and untangle those early messages from childhood holding them hostage. Rachel is EMDR trained. When faith and Christian values are an important aspect of therapy to the client Rachel weaves this into the counseling experience.

Dr Chet Weld, LPC Joshua Tree Counseling

Dr. Chet Weld, LPC

Christian Therapist, Licensed

Chet is a licensed professional counselor who specializes in marriage counseling, working with couples toward communication skills, relationship building, and problems that relate to family issues. Chet also specializes in working with individuals struggling with anxiety, depression, stress, self-esteem, and family-of-origin issues. He’s an ordained pastor who attributes dignity and extends radical acceptance to every client. He values being “warm and human first; professional always.” He holds a doctorate in counseling psychology and has 40 years’ experience as a Christian-based therapist, pastor, and pastoral counselor.

Dana Denney, LPC Tucson Addiction Therapist

Dana Denney LPC

Therapist, Licensed

Dana is a licensed psychotherapist who has a passion for working with individuals stuck in the cycle of chemical or behavioral dependency and the family members who love them. She helps clients overcome depression and anxiety, intrusive thoughts and OCD. She supports clients through grief and loss and has a specific passion for helping women in abusive relationships. Dana helps clients unravel and repair faulty thinking errors causing distress and dysfunction through a variety of treatment approaches. She offers faith-based counseling for clients who prefer a format based on Christian values.

Shari Kirschner Tucson Trauma Therapist

Shari Kirschner, LCSW

Trauma Therapist, Licensed

Shari Kirschner is a licesned clinical social worker with over 20 years experience. She works with clients toward hope and healing from trauma and abuse. She is EMDR trained and uses an integrative approach based on the client’s unique needs and goals. As a Christian, Shari is devoted to helping other believers make sense of mental health from a spiritual and Biblical perspective. If faith is not important to you in the counseling experience, Shari offers the same safe and validating relationship which we you can explore psychological distress and learn new coping strategies. Shari treats trauma, depression, anxiety, dissociation, disordered eating, and bullying experiences/relationships.

Stacy Roden Christian Counselor

Stacy Roden, LAC

Christian Counselor, Licensed

Stacy is a Licesned Associate Counselor who works with clients struggling with general mental health concerns such as depression, anxiety, relational conflict, marital distress, codependency, boundaries, parenting issues, grief and loss, spiritual wounding/faith crises, and trauma. Stacy will help you identify the goals you want to work towards and walk alongside you and gently guide you to where you want to be. She offered Christian counseling to clients who prefer this option.

Dr. Marybeth Steigenga, BCPC

Christian Counselor, Pastoral

Marybeth is a Board Certified Pastoral Counselor who specializes in Christian counseling with married couples, engaged couples, teen girls, and adults. With couples, Marybeth offers practical strategies to re-connect, communicate, and heal. She works with individuals struggling with anxiety/depression; grief/loss; life transitions; and child/relationship issues from a trauma-informed perspective. Marybeth is an ordained minister of pastoral care and has a PhD in Christian counseling. She values the integration of faith into the counseling experience. She is also a certified life coach, Enneagram coach, and therapeutic art coach.

Tammy Furrier Trauma Informed Christian Counselor

Tammy Furrier, BCPC

Christian Counselor, Pastoral

Tammy is a Board Certified Pastoral Counselor and Ordained Chaplain who specializes in Christian counseling with adults – men, women, young professionals, pastor/ministry leaders, and adult children of pastors. As a trauma-informed soul care provider, Tammy works with individuals towards healing from trauma, sexual abuse, sexual brokenness, spiritual wounding and general mental health concerns. She approaches counseling from a faith-based perspective and enjoys working with believers toward their God-given potential. Tammy has been trained by the Allender Center and also uses Neuro Affective Relational Model, and narrative coaching.