The association defines a pastoral counselor as "a minister who practices pastoral counseling at an advanced level which integrates religious resources with insights from the behavioral sciences" and pastoral counseling as "a process in which a pastoral counselor utilizes insights and principles derived from the disciplines of theology and the behavioral sciences in working with individuals, couples, families, groups and social systems toward the achievement of wholeness and health." The association is nonsectarian and includes members from a variety of faith groups.
AAPC certifies different levels of pastoral counselor, accredits pastoral counseling centers, and approves programs to train pastoral counselors. As of 2008, AAPC had a membership of over 3,000 pastoral counselors and 100 pastoral counseling centers.
The association was founded in 1963 with the purpose of establishing standards for professional preparation and professional ethics in what was then the relatively new field of pastoral counseling.
In 2004, AAPC joined with five other religious mental health professional organizations (Association of Professional Chaplains, Association for Clinical Pastoral Education, National Association of Catholic Chaplains, National Association of Jewish Chaplains, and Canadian Association for Pastoral Practice and Education) to establish common standards for ethics and professional conduct.
- "Definitions". American Association of Pastoral Counselors. http://aapc.org/content/definitions. Retrieved 2010-10-12.
- Buckholtz, Alison (December 6, 2005). "Having Faith, Demanding Credentials". The Washington Post (Washington, D.C.). http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/12/02/AR2005120202402.html. Retrieved 2010-10-12.
- "Other Professional Pastoral/Spiritual Care Organizations". Journal of Pastoral Care Publications. 2008. http://www.jpcp.org/other_prof.html. Retrieved 2010-10-12.
- Dugan, George (April 21, 1963). "Pastoral Counselors Organize Group to Establish Standards". The New York Times: p. 60. http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20B15FA355413718DDDA80A94DC405B838AF1D3. Retrieved 2010-10-12.
- Buice, Allison (June 27, 1987). "Pastoral Counselors Increasing in Numbers". Spartanburg Herald-Journal (Spartanburg, SC): p. B3. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=iLAeAAAAIBAJ&sjid=jc4EAAAAIBAJ&pg=5118%2C3469279. Retrieved 2010-10-12.
- "Common Code of Ethics for Chaplains, Pastoral Counselors, Pastoral Educators and Students" (PDF). Spiritual Care Collaborative. 2004. http://www.professionalchaplains.org/uploadedFiles/pdf/common-code-ethics.pdf. Retrieved 2010-10-13.
- Snorton, Teresa E. (June 2006). "Setting Common Standards for Professional Chaplains in an Age of Diversity". Southern Medical Journal 99 (6): 660-662. doi:10.1097/01.smj.0000222404.81215.03. http://journals.lww.com/smajournalonline/Fulltext/2006/06000/Setting_Common_Standards_for_Professional.34.aspx. Retrieved 2010-10-13.