How did you go from a pastoral counselor to owning a group faith-based private? How did you make faith a part of the hiring process? What should every Christain counselor know?
In This Podcast
In this podcast episode, Whitney Owens speaks with pastoral counselor, Tres Adames, all about his journey to owning a group faith-based practice.
Meet Tres Adames
Tres Adames is a Board Certified Pastoral Counselor and the founder, owner, and director of Arizona Christian Counseling, a pastoral counselling practice in Phoenix, Arizona. He holds a Master of Divinity from Wesley Biblical Seminary and Bachelor of Arts from Asbury University. Tres is an active member of ACPE (the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education) and was recently elected to serve on the ACPE Psychotherapy Commission for 2020. He also hosts and produces a weekly podcast called Ask a Christian Counselor is also the host and producer of Spiritual Care Today, the official podcast of The Journal of Pastoral Care Publications.
Where did your journey begin?
I started as a pastor and got interested in counselling as my favourite part was really talking one-on-one with people. So I started looking at what it would take to become a counselor. When I became a paster counsellor, I loved it so much that I decided I wanted to start my own practice.
I love one on one counselling and working with teenagers and young adults. I find couples counselling difficult because it is often the last resort for many people. It’s important to know what you like and what you don’t like. This helped me add clinicians to my group practice.
How did you know you wanted to start a practice?
I learnt a lot from Joe Sanok at the beginning of my journey. This meant listening to the podcast about marketing a private practice. I was curious because I was working for non-profit, I knew there wasn’t going to be a good financial decision too. Two years into my private, I added a contractor.
How did you make faith a part of the hiring process?
I looked at what are the most important elements are to me. Everyone’s faith is different of course and so I looked at how they integrate faith into counselling. Looking at where they were trained too.
Today, I have five other pastoral counsellors and two state-licensed counsellors. I kept expanding as we needed to reach different specialities. I went with that we were getting calls for and looked at what were people already asking for in my private.
To continue making faith a part of my practice, we have a two-hour staff meeting every month which starts with a devotion and prayer.
Tell us about your podcasts
Ask a Christian counsellor is a podcast which generally speaks on different topics and focuses on issues with mental health and spirituality.
Spiritual Care of Today is the newest one. Here we interview people in different settings outside the church. It’s for anyone that is interested in pastoral care.
What should every Christain counselor know?
Use your resources. There are a lot of free resources out there. Talk to other counselors. Get into a community with people that are like-minded.
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Meet Whitney Owens
Whitney is a licensed professional counsellor and owns a growing group practice in Savannah, Georgia. Along with a wealth of experience managing a practice, she also has an extensive history working in a variety of clinical and religious settings, allowing her to specialize in consulting for faith-based practices and those wanting to connect with religious organizations.
Knowing the pains and difficulties surrounding building a private practice, she started this podcast to help clinicians start, grow, and scale a faith-based practice. She has learnt how to start and grow a successful practice that adheres to her own faith and values. And as a private practice consultant, she has helped many clinicians do the same.
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[WHITNEY]: The Faith in Practice podcast is part of the Practice of the Practice podcast network, a network of podcasts seeking to help you start, grow, and scale your practice. To hear other episodes like the Imperfect Thriving podcast, Bomb Mom podcast, Beta Male Revolution, or Empowered and Unapologetic, go to practiceofthepractice.com\network.
Hi and welcome to the Faith in Practice podcast. Glad you can be with us today. I’m super excited to be interviewing Tres Adames. We have known each other for several years. We actually met through Joe’s Practice of the Practice mastermind, I guess it was two years ago and we were growing our practices together and over the past year Tres has just been really booming in his practice and other ventures that he’s working on and podcasts that he also has some super pumped about talking with him today. How are you Tres?
[TRES]: Good. How are you?
[WHITNEY]: Doing well, doing well. Let me give you all some background on Tres here. He is a board-certified pastoral counselor, founder, owner, and director of Arizona Christian Counseling. It’s a pastoral counseling practice in Phoenix, Arizona. Tres holds a Masters of Divinity from Wesley Biblical Seminary and a Bachelor’s of Arts from Asbury University. He’s an active member of the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education and was recently elected to serve on the ACPE Psychotherapy Commission in 2020. He hosts and produces a weekly podcast called Ask a Christian Counselor and also is the host and producer of Spiritual Care Today, the official podcast of the journal of Pastoral Care Publications. That was a mouthful, but it’s awesome. So why don’t you kind of fill in the gaps? Anything I kind of missed on you and your background?
[TRES]: That’s all of it. I mean, that’s most of it for sure.
[WHITNEY]: All right. Well I’d love to hear kind of about how you started your practice, Arizona Christian Counseling and kind of the beginning of that and the story of how you are where you are right now.
[TRES]: Sure. So, my story is a little bit, probably different than most Christian counselors or faith-based counselors would be mainly because I went to seminary to be a pastor and so I have a Master of Divinity and pastoral ministry. And so that’s what I was planning on doing. Up until probably about the last year, I started getting interest in counseling mainly because you know, I was on staff at a couple of different churches and my favorite part was just sitting down with people one on one and just talking with them through their issues, their problems, their spiritual concerns. That was really the part I was the most passionate about. And I like preaching and I really like teaching probably more over than that, but really one-on-one and walking with people is what I really liked a lot. So, after seminary I looked into, well, what would it take for me to become a counselor.
And there was the American Association of Pastoral Counselors at the time and they had a certification program and they ended it after I got out of seminary. So, I was like, “Oh, great.” Well, I ended up still getting involved with them, but at the same time I was able to still be a pastoral counselor and for a couple of nonprofits in Phoenix and they specifically wanted pastoral counselors, which is not very common nowadays. So, I essentially got thrown in the deep end, is what I say. And that’s where I learned; most of my experience was just working with clients and were just talking about the general public and I just, I loved it the more I did it and eventually decided that I would like to start my own practice. I learned a lot of how to run just the clinical side from working for these two different nonprofits and started Arizona Christian Counseling. Let’s see, that would have been, well I essentially say it started in 2012 because that’s when I first started counseling. But my own practice really started in like 2015 and then —
[WHITNEY]: That’s awesome. So, I love how you said you got into the deep end. You know, I think a lot of us counselors feel that way. We just kind of get thrown into the thick of it and figuring it out.
[TRES]: Yes. No, it’s true. And honestly, I mean that’s probably really where you learn a lot of it. It’s just working with people and really kind of finding your flow and your counseling approach that you really connect with and especially your niche and your specialty, who you like to work with, what issues you like to work in and so I don’t know, I would feel like it’s really, honestly like takes, it took me definitely two years to really get it, I guess for me to kind of get into the flow where I felt comfortable.
[WHITNEY]: Sure, sure. And even I’ve found our specialties can change over time, right?
[TRES]: Yes, they can definitely. For sure, especially —
[WHITNEY]: Well, talk to us about that. What are your specialties, types of clients you enjoy working with?
[TRES]: So I really like one on one counseling I had done couples counseling for a while, mainly just because, well, when I worked for the nonprofits, I saw a lot of couples and couples counseling or marriage counseling specifically is just inherently so historically connected with pastoral counseling because that’s often where people first turn to as a church or you know, the person that probably even married them. And so premarital counseling is okay because you’re working with a couple that’s still, you know, it doesn’t have really have any issues yet. They’re still very much in love and they’re still in the infatuation stage. That’s not hard. But usually with couples counseling it’s just difficult because often it is often the last resort for a lot of people. And I’m not knocking couples counseling. I have people that do it for me that do a much better job but just for me, I just couldn’t do it anymore.
But, and I know some people are passionate about couples’ work, so I think it’s important to know what you don’t like to work with. And for me, couples. I don’t like to work with couples. I still have a few couples that I work with mainly because it’s a good fit for the most part, but I don’t take any new couples on. And so, it’s been a year since I stopped seeing couples. But I really like working with individuals, I really like working with teenagers, young adults, and pretty much anywhere from age 13 to probably, you know, retirement age.
[WHITNEY]: Yeah. Wow. That’s great. So how did you decide that you wanted to start a practice? Like how can somebody know when the right time is?
[TRES]: So, a lot of it was what I had learned from Joe Sanok. So, this is back in about 2014, 2015 I started listening to his podcast because when I was working for these nonprofits, we would still have to market ourselves and get clients. And so, I started just listening to different podcasts to get ideas because I didn’t really know anything about marketing a private practice. And I came across Joe’s website and remember he only had four episodes at the time on his podcast. I listened through all four and just really started learning a lot from Practice of the Practice and then really realized, “Okay, I’m getting these clients through all this marketing. I could just start my own. I’ve learned how to do a lot of this.” And they also put a limit on how much we could charge, which was difficult because, you know, and they’re nonprofits, which I understand.
So, some people would come in for it, anything from, you know, usually 40 to $80 was the range for about both of them. But I realized I couldn’t probably make a living that way, I mean, I had to find a supplemental income. And at the same time, I was actually working at GCU, Grand Canyon University. So that’s where I was getting some of my other income but I wanted to just be full time doing counseling. And so that’s when I realized, “Okay, I got to start my own practice because I’m going to have to charge more than this.
[WHITNEY]: So, you are an early Joe Sanok fan?
[TRES]: Yes, yes [crosstalk]
[WHITNEY]: Yes, I remember when I started listening to the podcast, I’d walk away from every episode like, “Oh my gosh, I have so much work to do.”
[TRES]: Yes, exactly.
[WHITNEY]: Yes, but boy, podcasts can really help you level up and move forward. And it’s such an easy way to do that. So, I love that that kind of was part of your journey at the beginning.
[TRES]: Yes, definitely. Now I’m glad found his resources. So, and then that’s how we met because that’s when I did a mastermind. Actually, I did two masterminds, so —
[WHITNEY]: Yes. And so, you started your practice? How long were you solo before you started adding clinicians?
[TRES]: So, it would have been let’s see, two more years before I added one person. I added another pastoral counselor who worked in addiction and he actually was, actually had his own story of recovery, which was very attractive to me because though I had worked with addicts, it just seemed like somebody who had actually had personal experience with recovery, was really able to kind of reach them in a way that I wasn’t able to and so he did a lot of work with addicts just for years and years. And so, I added him first.
[WHITNEY]: So, you kind of went with the idea of adding someone who also was faith-based, that had a different approach, can see different types of clients than you could see.
[TRES]: Yes, exactly.
[WHITNEY]: So how did you go about your hiring process when you were trying to build a faith-based practice? Like how did you make that known kind of your view, your values when you were interviewing and hiring?
[TRES]: So, I took on a pretty acute medical approach, meaning that I didn’t prescribe to specifically one denomination’s perception of Christianity. So, I first had to kind of realize what are the theological things that are the most important to me. And it just came down to what are the core tenants of Christianity. You know, a lot of Christian counseling practices will have a statement of faith and that’s pretty easy to come up with. You know, most churches have a statement of faith, but if you have a statement of faith, you’re going to have your clinicians sign that. But I would keep it as generous as possible because you’re going to have people from various backgrounds and, moreover, it’s probably just more specifically important in just making sure how they integrate faith. And that was one of the interview questions I had; it’s just how do you integrate faith into counseling? How does this come into the counseling room with clients? So.
[WHITNEY]: Yes, great question. And you have contractors, correct?
[TRES]: Yes, I have contractors. I have one employee who’s our practice manager, so.
[WHITNEY]: Okay. That was always a tricky one for me because I was hiring employees so I can’t hire necessarily based on somebody’s religious background or their faith. So, finding ways to interview people without judging them or coming across that way, but making them comfortable in the hiring process. We kind of talked to them a little bit more, not necessarily what’s your faith, but like how would you feel if a Christian came in the room? Like, how do you work with that type of person? Making sure they felt comfortable with that.
[TRES]: Yes, and then you can also see even just in their training where they were trained, whether or not they have, you know, the integrated part. So, with licensed counselors, because that’s different because pastoral counselors, the base of their education is theological. But for licensed counselors, if you’re looking for, you know, specifically somebody who’s state licensed that’s where you want to check into whether, you know, they’ve got the integration part or if they’re comfortable talking about faith issues specific to any type of faith that you might be working with. So usually there are some really good programs out there like Christian counseling programs out there for state licensed counselors that integrate things really well. But others, yeah, I don’t think they are really necessarily as it was before, but there is now but yeah. So, it’s kind of a, it is such a specialty and that’s one of the things. Like even Christian counseling itself is already a specialty. Technically it’s a form of pastoral counseling because pastoral counseling is either clergy who are trained in counseling, so they already have the spiritual component or state licensed counselors who have integration, spiritual integration. So pastoral counseling is, kind of historically been kind of a big field that has encompassed both sides and Christian counseling is a form of that, one of those. So,
[WHITNEY]: Oh, great for saying that. I even wrote down here and wanted to ask you about the difference between pastoral counseling and Christian counseling. We get that question a ton from people. So, could you speak a little bit to the, like what’s the clinical training of a pastoral counselor, because that’s the part we don’t really know that much about as licensed professional counselors?
[TRES]: So that is in the, it’s kind of up in the air right now. Like I said there was the American Association of Pastoral Counselors and they stopped certifying several years ago and they just had a membership. So, I joined as a member and I got really active and was with them during their final years. And this year we consolidated with the association for clinical pastoral education. So, in a nutshell, the way I explain it is the association for pastoral counselors essentially merged with the association for chaplains, hospital chaplains. And so now there is within that the psychotherapy commission and we are in the midst of figuring out, you know, how can we certified counselors again, the old program was very similar to state licensure. In fact, a lot of states even kind of that model where you essentially had to get a certain number of, not only, you had to graduate from a certain master’s program and then you had a supervisor and you had a certain number of hours.
It was very similar but they haven’t been doing that for a long time. So now we’re looking at, okay, we may not be able to do that because all of these states have, you know, licensure requirements. So, we’re looking at more of like a spiritually, a spiritual integration type of certification where you can get certified in spiritual integration or as a pastor or you can become essentially a pastoral specialist, a pastoral care specialist. So, and it depends on the states. So, for some states they, I think there are only five states that have a license specifically for pastoral counselors. It’s Tennessee, Kentucky, New Hampshire, and I cannot remember the other ones. North Carolina is another one, and I remember the other one later, but there’s only five. And so usually with most other states you are exempt, though, if I were to go back in time and knew what I was going to end up doing, I would have chosen to go the licensure route.
It would have just made it easier for somebody like me who’s already gone to seminary. You just have to make sure whether or not you’re able to do it in your state. So, as you know, licensure requirements are different. But even then, I still find it really important to be accountable to some type of ethics board or association. Some type of ethical oversight is really important. And that’s what I require from my pastoral counselors. They have to be certified by an association and a member of an association with some type of code of ethics.
[WHITNEY]: Yes, I think that’s a great idea to have in place for your staff. But they make that licensing process as complicated as possible for everyone in all these different fields, right?
[TRES]: I know, yes. And I think, yes, it’s true. It’s hard to know because I even have like colleagues who have come over to Arizona and they’re licensed in another state and they’re still trying to get their license here even though they’ve been licensed for years in another state.
[WHITNEY]: Oh. And that happened to me when I got here from Colorado. I had to go backwards and become an associate again and get supervision again. And it was a terrible thing, but you know, you use those bad things to make something good happen. And so, I still did private practice and saw that I could do it all cash pay because I couldn’t take insurance. And I was like, “All right, I’m going to stick on this road even when I get my license.” So, it ended up working out but yes, it does get really complicated. It sounds like you’re pretty knowledgeable of the subject.
[TRES]: Well, you eventually, I mean essentially have to, especially when you have other counselors, you have to know what credential they may need and also what to do if there are complaints and so with pastoral counseling, you hope that people don’t have complaints, but they do come up. So, I’ve never had a complaint filed against me, thankfully, but it’s still important to know what happens if somebody does.
[WHITNEY]: Sure, sure.
[TRES]: And it’s important to still have insurance. Obviously, that’s really important.
[WHITNEY]: Yes. Well, talk a little bit about your practice, where it’s at now and kind of how you went from one person to, I don’t know, you have seven, eight clinicians now?
[TRES]: Yes. So, I have, I think it was five, six, five or, well there’s, roughly say five other pastoral counselors. I have one other person who kind of had a drop off for some personal reasons, but five pastoral counselors. And then I have two state licensed counselors as well. One of them being a psychologist. And so, I eventually just added that one person, like I talked about, and then I added another person who did a lot of couples work because I didn’t want to do couples work anymore. And so, I just kept expanding as we needed to reach more kind of specialties and I just went off of what were people calling about. You know, eventually it got to the point where we had a lot of people that wanted couples counseling and then we had a lot of people that wanted a therapist who work with children, which I didn’t do and neither did two of the other counselors at the time. So, we added somebody who did play therapy and so I just went with whatever the need was and that’s how I decided to add who I added. What were people already calling about. So, you didn’t have to bring somebody in and then market toward a new specialty. You already had that specialty coming to inquire about services. So, that’s how I —
[WHITNEY]: Yeah, I love that model. And you’re thinking about the needs of clients, not necessarily the needs of your practice, even though if you think about the client needs, you’re going to meet the need of your practice ultimately.
[WHITNEY]: But that’s really great and you’re tracking your calls and I think a lot of counselors take all those calls with an unnecessarily tracking what are the needs that are coming up that I’m not meeting? So, it’s really great to encourage people to track those calls, make numbers and see what’s the biggest need, the growing need in the community and being able to meet that.
[TRES]: Yes, definitely. For sure.
[WHITNEY]: So how do you make faith a part of your practice as far as, do you do anything with staff development or is, are you all talking about faith within the group?
[TRES]: Yes. So, we do a staff meeting every other month. We used to do it every month, but that was harder to schedule with everybody so I do every other month a two-hour meeting rather than a once a month, one-hour meeting because we can kind of go deeper into that. So, I usually open with some type of devotional, we will pray with each other, we’ll go over kind of business stuff that we need to go over, and then we also have workshops that we’ll put on. Usually I’m the one who just, and so with my association ACPE, we’re looking at launching these certification programs. And so, I plan on teaching one here in Phoenix just on the integrative part but for the most part, I just encourage everybody to continue integrating the faith aspect in their practice, especially as they have to get continuing education hours. There’s a lot of really good resources out there already.
[WHITNEY]: Definitely. Now let’s talk a little bit about, you have some other ventures that you do. You have the podcast as a Christian counselor and then it sounds like you also host another podcast. Actually, didn’t know about that one until you sent the information ever. And so, I’d love to hear kind of about both of those podcasts and what they’re about.
[TRES]: Sure. So, Ask a Christian Counselor, it has that title because it’s kind of at first took on a bit of a Dear Abby format where people would ask questions and I would specifically, well more generally speak on different topics regarding mental health and spirituality. So, I’ve had that podcast for over seven years now. So, it’s been a long time. And so again, it mainly just focuses on issues regarding mental health and spirituality and usually the overlap or integration of those two things. And so sometimes I interview people, sometimes it’s just me on the mic. And yeah, I’ve had that for a long time. And then the other one is Spiritual Care Today. That is a new podcast. That one has only been out for a few months and that’s one that has been started by the Journal of Pastoral Care & Counseling, which is the academic journal for essentially pastoral counselors and chaplains. So, we’re just primarily just interviewing people in different settings, usually outside of the local church, whether it’s somebody who’s working in hospitals or academic settings or clinical settings. So that’s primarily just interviews, but you know, for anybody who is interested in pastoral counseling or care, that’s our primary audience for that one.
[WHITNEY]: That’s great. I’ll have to check that one out. I’ve listened to several of the Ask a Christian Counselor podcast and encourage you guys if you are looking for more information on Christian counseling, it’s a great podcast to be following. And you also are doing some stuff with the DISC? You want to talk a little bit about that?
[TRES]: Yes. So, one of the things that started happening was people kept asking me, “How do I get certified to be a Christian counselor?” Which, you know, they don’t, the question is one coming from usually somebody who just knows nothing about the field. And so, a lot of people were like, “Could you certify me to be a pastoral counselor?” I was like, “Well, no. I can’t. Like not even my association does it.” So, but sometime there was this desire for some type of course. And so, I started making online courses and one was just a version of the DISC profile, which has been around for a very long time. So, I did a lot of research on the nuts and bolts of the DISC until I realized, you know, we could create our own version and integrate the Christian elements into it. And so that’s what the Christian DISC is. And if you just Google Christian DISC, D I S C, it will come up. And we got trademarked this past year. And so, there’s a course that goes along with it where, essentially has a lot of different tools and resources that can be used in Christian counseling or Christian coaching or just teaching generally. And so, we really just use the DISC profile as like a springboard to talk about what we really want to talk about, which is usually just emotional health and spirituality.
[WHITNEY]: That’s great. I love personality tests. They are so effective. So, we’ll have all that in the show notes so people can go to the website and check it out. And then Tres, how would people be able to get in touch with you?
[TRES]: So, if you just go to our website, arizonachristiancounseling.com, that’s the easiest way. Or you can go to my personal website, which is just tresadamas.com, T. R. E. S. A. D. A. M. E. S.
[WHITNEY]: Great. And then a final question here. What is something that you wish or you think that every Christian counselor needs to know or understand better?
[TRES]: Let’s see.
[WHITNEY]: I actually had warned you it was coming.
[TRES]: Oh, no problem. Probably one of the best pieces of advice that I have ever heard is just to use your resources. I think a lot of times we are tempted to think that we have to know a lot of this stuff and that’s why it can be daunting. I know for licensed counselors who want to learn the spiritual integration part, the first thing I hear is like, “I don’t have a Theology degree.” You don’t have to have a Theology degree. There are a lot of really good resources already out there. Just learn them and then just have them on hand. You know, if you’re working with a client and you’re like, “I have no idea about this,” they’ll start to have an existential crisis and they’re doubting their faith and they’re asking me questions I don’t know. There are a lot of really good resources to consult. I would even find other Christian counselors or faith-based counselors that you can consult with on a case by case basis. So just use your resources, recognize that you don’t have to be an expert on this, but as long as you’re able to use the resources that are available to you or find the resources so that are available to you, you’re just going to be in a much better place.
[WHITNEY]: That’s awesome. There’s so much to be said about getting in the community, you know, with other people that are like minded and learning those resources from one another. Tres also has a Facebook group for Ask a Christian Counselor, right? It’s the Facebook group?
[TRES]: So, the Facebook group is just Christian Counselors in Private Practice. So, if you go to Facebook and just look that up, it’s grown we’ve got a few hundred people in there, but we talk about a lot of this stuff. It’s free to join. It’s just one that I started because I saw a lot of other Christian counselors that were interested in private practice and you know, a lot of private practice people that were interested in the Christian component. So that’s why we started the group.
[WHITNEY]: So, it’s a great group to be a part of if you’re wanting to find a community and be able to get some resources, get some encouragement, yeah. So, well Tres, thank you so much for your time today and being on the podcast and we will definitely be in touch and you all should check them out.
[TRES]: Thank you.
[WHITNEY]: Thank you for listening to the Faith in Practice podcast. If you love this podcast, please rate and review on iTunes or your favorite podcast player. If you liked this episode and want to know more, check out the Practice of the Practice website. Also, there you can learn more about me, options for working together, such as individual and group consulting or just shoot me an email, [email protected]. Would love to hear from you.
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