Connect with Us

Live Chat

chat live with aihcpHave questions? Join us on live chat now! One of our advisors will be happy to assist you and respond to your questions.


Please visit our interactive web blog. Here you will find frequently added information on our programs, articles and news by practice specialty, and much more. Register and become a part of our professional health care community.

Pastoral Thanatology FAQs


Welcome to the FAQs section for the American Academy of Grief Counseling. This area is provided to you as a source of information that may be more clarified, related to questions you may have in regards to our certification and our fellowship programs specifically for our Pastoral Thanatology Certification program. Information regarding recertification, as well as information about our online continuing education courses, is also provided. We highly recommend that you first thoroughly review all of the information on our website, under the main page for Pastoral Thanatology Certification and Fellowship. Access main page. If after reviewing all of the provided information and this FAQs section, any other questions may be addressed by completing our request for information form online here. Thank you for your interest in the American Academy of Grief Counseling and our Pastoral Thanatology Certification program.

PASTORAL THANATOLOGY BLOG: Please visit our Pastoral Thanatology interactive web blog. Our blog contains articles, news, events and information related the Pastoral Thanatology Counseling field.


What is Certification?

Answer: Certification is a voluntary process  provided by via an organization that through its qualified advisory boards develops comprehensive and quality standards for the practice of a type of specialty. The developed standards address high quality requirements for the practice of a certain specialty. The defined standards outline educational and/or practice requirements, any required prerequisites, and the need to adhere to a defined code of ethics for the practice specialty. Certification is different than any type of licensing. Certification is one means by which professionals may be publicly recognized as achieving a high level of education, knowledge base and practice skills for a certain healthcare related specialty. Certification also assists employer organizations and clients in their assessment of appropriate qualifications for candidates seeking positions in organizations and/or involved in private practices. It is commonly held that certification through an organization is fast becoming a “gold standard” for specialty practices. Certification testifies and provides a verification of defined educational requirements, adherence to a solid code of ethics, and in many instances prerequisites of practice experience for the practice in a variety of fields.


What Are the Criteria/standards I Will Need to Meet to Achieve Certification?

Answer: The educational criteria and standards are well and clearly defined within our website. Please access our main page to preview these requirements. Access here.


May I Apply for and Be Conferred Certification in Pastoral Thanatology if I Have Been Practicing This Specialty in a Clinical Setting or Private Practice, With Out They Need to Meet the Educational Requirements?

Answer: No. The Board that oversees the development and approval of defined criteria and standards for certification will not consider only practice experience as meeting requirements in full. This decision was made as those who are already in counseling practices have varied and different experiences related to grief counseling and there is no insured uniformity that all who have practiced grief counseling have the same knowledge base and skills attainment. The evaluation of one’s past practice experience in grief counseling is highly variable and subjective. As such, the Board has developed objective criteria/standards for the conferral of certification. For these reasons, practice experience without the attainment of education will not be considered as fulfilling criteria and standards for our certification.


Over the Years, I Have Completed Many Seminars and Continuing Education Courses Related to Grief Counseling. Will These Apply Toward the Education Requirements for Certification?

Answer: Please send in any transcript for review to determine if they can be utilized and an AIHCP course waived. You can contact us here.


What is the Major Practice Focus of a Pastoral Thanatologist?

Answer: a pastoral thanatologist is one who is very knowledgeable in the area of death and dying, specifically with a focus on working with dying clients and their spiritual, sometimes social needs, and works with clients and families experiencing normal & typical grief reactions. A pastoral thanatologist specifically works with the dying, while a grief counselor more often works with families/loved ones of the dying patient or the patient who is deceased. This is the distinction that the American Academy of Grief Counseling embraces and supports. The pastoral thanatologist is also a pastoral care provider. As such, pastoral thanatologist are involved in a “ministry” to the dying. While working with clients, they frequently represent a religious affiliation or an organization that supports a certain religious or spiritual belief. While many are clergy/ministers, many are also “lay people” working with clergy/ministers and/or churches or organizations to provide a focused spiritual care and spiritual support service to the dying. Inherent in their work is the provision of pastoral care and support to the families/loved ones of the dying. Pastoral thanatologists are not therapists and do not routinely perform any types of psychological therapies. They may, if properly trained work with the dying to teach them relaxation techniques, visualizations, etc to assist them in their spiritual practices. Overall, the pastoral thanatologist is a specialist in death and dying, and with that specialty provides pastoral care and support to the dying. Some pastoral thanatologist are health care professionals who work with the dying in a pastoral/spiritual care role. The role is a broad-based specialty and often is designed around the more specific religious affiliations or spiritual belief systems of the thanatologist and the clients served.


Where Do Pastoral Thanatologists Practice?

Answer: they practice in many varied settings today. The services of pastoral thanatologists are in much demand throughout our country and throughout the world. Again, as provided in the information above concerning their roles, the majority are clergy/ministers, and/or church or religious organization affiliated. You may see pastoral thanatolgists working with clients in hospitals, nursing homes, hospices, community and social agencies, in the homes of the dying, etc. You may also see them presenting lectures to other professionals, church groups, community groups, etc. Some specialize in thanatology education, research, writing, etc. The role can be very unique to a particular religious or spiritual affiliation, or it can be designed more broadly to include a wide array of clients/patients who are dying. Pastoral thanatologists may also be seen participating in grief/bereavement support groups and after-care programs. The American Academy of Grief Counseling sees the role of the pastoral thanatologist as a needed and sought after component of over all health care delivery. We believe the role, with its focus on spiritual care and support is conducive to the growing models of health care that provide a more holistic approach to care and to dying.


What is the Process for Achieving This Certification?

Answer: There is a two-phase process. In order to provide clear and sufficient information on the process we have developed a separate page that defines the process. You may access this information on the certification process at this link: click here.


How Can I Submit an Application?

Answer: Making application is easy. We provide an online application form and a printable application form as well. Those wishing to make application can find these forms at this link. Please note that incomplete applications will not be reviewed. All applications that are submitted must include all required documents and verification as specified for review and consideration of certification conferral. Before making any application, you must meet the defined pre-requisites for a given program and have successfully completed the full continuing education curriculum, or a curriculum from a program that AIHCP, Inc. has officially approved.


After Certification is There a Recertification Process?

Answer: Yes. The American Institute of Health Care Professionals provides a full program for recertification. Detailed information on the criteria to be recertified, after the four-year initial certification period, is provided on our website. Access here.


I Am Currently Certified by the American Institute of Health Care Professionals. I Know I Am Required to Achieve Additional Education in Order to Qualify for Recertification in the Future. Do You Offer Any Continuing Education Courses That I May Take to Meet My Recertification Requirements?

Answer: Yes, we offer recertification CE courses. You can view them all by category at the following link.  Access here.


Do You Have Any Testimonials From Professionals Who Have Become Certified Through Your Programs?

Answer: Yes. We have a testimonials page on our website that you may view at the following link. Access Here.