Pastoral Counselors Seek Health-Plan Role

Article excerpt

With the Clinton administration poised to recommend sweeping changes in the country's health care system, the American Association of Pastoral Counselors wants to raise the status of its practitioners, making them eligible for insurance reimbursement for their services. And advocates of pastoral counseling say they have the ear of an influential participant in the President's Task Force on National Health Care Reform.

James Wyrtzen, director of the Institute of Religion and Health of New York and past president of the American Association of Pastoral Counselors, says he recently met with the chief adviser to Tipper Gore, wife of Vice-President Al Gore, and came away convinced that the Clinton White House is willing to listen. Tipper Gore, along with Hillary Rodham Clinton, serves as a member of the task force. A decision on the national health care program is expected sometime this spring.

Specifically, Wyrtzen said he hopes to convince the president's task force to include the more than 3,200 pastoral counselors--representing about 80 faith groups--as part of the nation's health care plan. Wyrtzen, who heads the Advisory Committee on Advocacy for the pastoral counselors' association, reported that the association has discussed the matter with members of the Clinton task force and that they seemed to be "very interested." The profession accounts for more than 3 million hours of treatment annually in both institutional and private settings, offering individual, group, marital and family therapy. …