AAPC & ACPE Explore a Common Future
ACPE News | October 11, 2018

On October 11, 2018, the American Association of Pastoral Counselors (AAPC) and ACPE issued a joint statement announcing the two organizations have signed a Letter of Intent to become one organization in 2019.

Below you will find documents, useful links and other background on our conversations to date as well as a list of Frequently Asked Questions. AAPC will update the FAQs as our planning progresses.

Key Communications, Documentation & Other Information

In addition to the Frequently Asked Questions below, here are links to key communications and other information related to the exploration of AAPC’s common future with ACPE


What is AAPC? What do they do? What kind of jobs do their members have? What does it mean for someone to be a certified pastoral counselor? How might their work be similar or different from ACPE’s work.

AAPC is an association committed to spiritually-integrated psychotherapy. Until a few years ago, they certified pastoral counselors and pastoral counselor trainers as Fellows and Diplomates. Their certification became extraneous when states began licensing counselors and psychotherapists. Most pastoral counselors have private practices or work in smaller institutions compared to ACPE Certified Educators. The content of their work is very similar to ACPE; the difference lies primarily in the practice. Learn more on their website: www.aapc.org.

What will happen to AAPC if ACPE does not consolidate with them?

About the same time AAPC stopped certifying pastoral counselors, they also closed their central office. The association adopted a purely regional, volunteer-run model of governance with the assistance of an association management company (AMC). AAPC has struggled to innovate and grow because of their organizational infrastructure.

If the consolidation does not happen, AAPC will most likely revert to their regions with some regions continuing as long as possible and others dissolving within the year. Ultimately, AAPC is not sustainable as an independent organization.

Is ACPE acquiring them or is this a merger and what does this mean? Is ACPE taking on their employees or giving compensation packages to their executives?

The legal language is a "consolidation." AAPC will vote to dissolve and ACPE's board will decide whether to invite them to join based on the referendum from ACPE members. AAPC closed its central office a few years ago and no longer has paid employees. AAPC has been managed by volunteers with the assistance of an association management company (AMC). The contract with the AMC will expire this year.

When will ACPE and AAPC be one?

If both associations approve the consolidation, legally by the end of AAPC’s fiscal year on June 30, 2019, however, the entire process will be incremental with changes continuing throughout 2019 and beyond.

How large is the AAPC? How many of their members will join ACPE?

AAPC currently has about 1,100 members. They will not be automatically transferred to ACPE membership. AAPC members will be invited to join ACPE in newly created membership categories if both organizations vote affirmatively later this month. It is unknown how many will accept the invitation to join ACPE.

What is the new financial model? How will budgetary priorities be set? How will this affect ACPE’s current dues or student unit fees going forward?

ACPE will create three new member categories for AAPC members to join:  ACPE General Member ($100/annually); ACPE Psychotherapist ($200/annually); ACPE Spiritually-Integrated Psychotherapy Trainers ($300/annually). Dues calculations for the new member categories took into consideration that pastoral counselors already pay on average $300/annually to maintain their state licensing. AAPC funds being transferred to ACPE and ongoing membership fees are expected to cover the needs of the new members. No impact on ACPE dues or student unit fees is anticipated.

How will ACPE governance structure change? How will voting, committee/commission membership, annual meetings, membership rights/responsibilities, and important differences in mission/vision/scope potentially be navigated? How will ACPE manage members dually-affiliated with other associations and organizations?

ACPE will create a new Psychotherapy Commission to oversee the soon-to-be-released Spiritually-Integrated Psychotherapy curriculum. AAPC members who join ACPE will be full ACPE members with all the rights and responsibilities as other ACPE members:  to run for ACPE boards/commissions/committees as their competencies align; to vote in ACPE elections and bylaw referendums; to create/join Communities of Practice; and to submit workshop applications for conferences and other educational events. The merging of identities will take time and attention. ACPE already has dually-affiliated members.

Does AAPC have debt? How will this affect ACPE’s national staff?

AAPC has no debt; in fact, they may transfer as much as $1 million. The ACPE office will hire one more full-time team member.

Will ACPE Certified Educators be able to enroll in the curriculum that is mentioned in the AAPC notice or work toward AAPC certification

AAPC stopped certifying members a few years ago because it was no longer required to practice pastoral counseling. Counselors or psychotherapists are now licensed to practice within their respective states according to their state’s requirements. The Spiritually-Integrated Psychotherapy curriculum was developed to assist counselors/psychotherapists integrate spirituality into their practice.

Former AAPC members who join ACPE could be mentors for ACPE Educators navigating state licensing for counseling and locating programs in counseling most complimentary to ACPE certification and education.

There is no direct reciprocity. AAPC members will not become ACPE Educators and most ACPE Educators have not trained as counselors.

What are the advantages to ACPE of this consolidation? How will AAPC enhance ACPE?

ACPE and AAPC are two of the oldest spiritual care associations with a common history and shared values such as inclusivity, diversity, and acceptance. The world needs the type of spiritual care and education both associations provide. A consolidated, larger association will strengthen ACPE’s voice in a world growing noisier.

A consolidated association will also diversify ACPE’s scope of work with new members, products, and services. Cross pollination and new curricula could assist ACPE with new educational tools and to achieve current outcomes, such as, “intensive and extensive education around pastoral counseling.”

New members from AAPC may become ACPE Certified Educators and their pastoral counseling centers may seek ACPE accreditation. Former AAPC members could be a resource for long-term care for ACPE students, colleagues, and patients. Because AAPC no longer certifies and because state licensing requires specific educational degrees, it is unlikely current ACPE members will be certified as ACPE Psychotherapists.

How will joining with AAPC hinder or dilute the current work, organization, and structure of ACPE? Does ACPE have the capacity to absorb AAPC?

As with all change, challenges will arise during the consolidation. The ACPE Executive Committee and staff have been working to anticipate the needs of former AAPC members joining ACPE including the hiring of an additional staff member. The ACPE Executive Committee believes the association will be enriched and the long-term benefits of consolidation are greater than the short-term stress.

How might this benefit AAPC members?

AAPC current governance model is not sustainable so they will most likely cease to exist if the consolidation fails. AAPC members will benefit from ACPE’s infrastructure including a professional staff and technology upgrades.

What are some of the long-term objectives after this consolidation is complete? Might this spur us to greater consolidation with other groups?

While nothing has been formally stated, many chaplaincy leaders view this process as a test case for a larger merger of the other professional chaplaincy associations, i.e. the strategic partners.

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