Protect yourself from legal and ethical dilemmas:
Keep a list of phone numbers for:
A. Suicide hotline – Different states have different guidelines
B. Abuse (for children and elderly) – find out the time limit to call, etc.
C. Domestic violence hotline (know where to call for shelters)
D. Aids Prevention
If the person you are seeing is going to harm someone else – in some states you must call the police and the person that might be harmed. In other states you can only call the police. Know your state’s policies.
Keep a written plan for each of the above. Keep the numbers and plans available to whoever is at the church taking messages.
Always document each part of your plan for the above mentioned as you carry it out. Write down the dates, times, who you called, what was said and then your next step.
Keep records of each person you see. It is good to keep simple records stating the person’s name, why they came in and briefly what was said. Example: A person is considering divorce. You give them pros and cons of a divorce, you show them scripture, but you don’t make their decision for them. Even if the person is being battered, their husband for example, is a homosexual, etc., don’t suggest that they get a divorce. Keep the information of what you said well documented for your own protection. Keep all records in a confidential place.
As a pastor, if you are not a licensed counselor, don’t call yourself professional, counselor, etc. Simply say that you will “minister” to their needs.
Don’t give advice outside of God’s word. Counseling is not advice. It is showing the alternatives and giving the counselee the keys to learn to cope and make his/her own decisions.
Don’t counsel anyone under 18 unless you have written permission from their parents.