Counseling Liability Coverage

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What is Counseling Liability Coverage?

Counseling Liability insurance is a type of coverage that protects churches and ministries from claims arising from counseling activities. This type of insurance is designed to cover bodily injury, emotional injury, and personal injury resulting from counseling activities performed by a policyholder’s pastoral or lay counselors. This type of insurance can also mitigate the financial and reputational risks associated with counseling-related claims. 

Counseling Liability Coverage is an essential part of your ministry’s risk management plan. Pastors, ministers, and lay counselors offer guidance, support, and hope to those in need. Unfortunately, this counseling can also produce risk for your ministry. 

Your faith-based organization should consider the potential risks that can arise from your pastoral counseling or lay counseling. These risks include:

  • Alleged breaches of confidentiality
  • Claims of emotional distress
  • Allegations of malpractice

Counseling-related claims can be costly and damaging to your ministry’s reputation. That’s why Counseling Liability insurance is so important.

Understanding the Types of Counseling

Regardless of the type of counseling provided, churches and ministries should have appropriate insurance coverage in place to protect themselves from potential claims arising from counseling activities. 

When seeking coverage, its important to understand the three main types of counseling: pastoral counseling, lay counseling, and licensed counseling. 

Pastoral Counseling

Pastoral counseling is typically offered by ministers or church leaders who have usually received training in providing spiritual counsel. Pastoral counselors offer spiritual guidance, emotional support, and practical advice to their congregants, within the context of their theology and moral ethics.

While pastoral counseling can be an important source of support for many individuals, pastoral counselors may not have the same level of training or expertise as licensed mental health professionals.

Lay Counseling

Providing spiritual care to church attendees and staff is a responsibility that should not fall solely on the pastor’s shoulders. Lay counselors are non-pastoral members of a congregation who have received some form of training in counseling or pastoral care. To meet the growing need for spiritual counseling, many churches are are building lay counseling ministries in order “to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up”1 —Eph. 4:12

Lay counselors may offer emotional and spiritual support to their fellow congregants, often under the supervision of a licensed counselor or a pastoral leader. However, like pastoral counselors, lay counselors may not have the same level of training or expertise as licensed mental health professionals.

Licensed Counseling

Licensed counseling is provided by mental health professionals who have received advanced training and education in counseling or psychology. Licensed counselors hold a master’s degree or higher in counseling, psychology, or a related field, and have completed supervised clinical work and passed a licensure exam. Licensed counselors are trained to diagnose and treat a wide range of mental health issues using evidence-based practices and therapeutic interventions.

What are examples of Counseling Liability claims?

These are a few Counseling Liability scenarios that we see ministries face. While every situation is unique, these scenarios help illustrate the types of counseling-related risks that this coverage can protect against.

  • Your pastor reveals to a counselee’s husband that the counselee has been seeing other men. As a result, the husband files for a divorce. The counselee learns that the pastor conveyed confidential information to her husband and sues the pastor for emotional injury resulting from the breach of confidence.
  • Your ministry employs a professional counselor to serve as a trained lay counselor and provide free counseling services. A member of the public meets with the counselor on several occasions to address a number of ongoing emotional problems for which the member received prior secular counseling. Your counselor does not have experience with the man’s psychological disorder and uses standard Christian counseling techniques without apparent success. The member eventually returns to the secular counselor. This counselor tells her that the church counselor “set her back emotionally” and now she is in worse shape than when she started counseling at the church. A claim for counseling malpractice and emotional injury is made against the counselor and the church.
  • Your trained lay counselor tells a teenager during a session that he should stand up for himself when bullied at school. The teenager takes this advice and brings a pocketknife to school. He seriously injuries another student who was teasing him. The injured student discovers that the boy brought the knife to school as a result of the church counselor’s advice. The injured student then sues the trained lay counselor and the church for bodily injury resulting from counseling.
  • Following a church service, attendees are encouraged to come forward to pray with your church elders. One of the attendees tells an elder that she is being physically and emotionally abused by her husband. The elder tells the attendee that she should stay with her husband and prays with her that things will work out. Rather than leaving her husband, she takes the elder’s advice and later is beaten by her husband. The woman’s family files a lawsuit against the elder and the church alleging bodily injury and emotional distress connected to counseling activity.

Next Steps

In summary, Counseling Liability coverage provides vital protection for your ministry against claims of bodily injury, emotional injury, and personal injury arising from counseling-related activity.

Worried about the cost? A ChurchWest Ministry Insurance Advisor can bundle your Counseling Liability coverage with other ministry specific coverages as part of a comprehensive insurance package. By bundling your coverage with ChurchWest, you can get the best protection at the most affordable price.

Click the “Get a Quote” button at the top of this screen to contact your local advisor, or explore our other coverage pages to learn more about guarding your ministry’s finances and reputation.