ACA Blog

Natosha Monroe
Jul 11, 2011

Ending Military Exclusion Of LPCs and LMHCs—What’s It Going To Take?

Let’s play a quick game. Choose the two terms that do not belong in this list: Military Behavioral Health Officer. Psychiatric Nurse. Licensed Professional Counselor. Psychiatrist. Licensed Masters-level Social Worker. Clinical Psychologist. Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. If you guessed, “Licensed Professional Counselor” and “Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist” you are correct. Why? Fact is, the two professions are excluded from the military. A year ago today I wrote the blog, “Why Aren’t Professional Counselors Allowed a Place in the Military?” Sadly, this situation has not progressed over the past year.

I encourage you to go back and read the blog’s comments which were made continuously over this past year. Here are a few: “I intended on earning a Direct Commission and becoming a Mental Health Services Officer. I was told, “No LPCs, just LCSWs,” “I live within 10 miles of Fort Hood where…I know social workers employed all over the..area who are doing long-term counseling and they readily admit they do not have the training to do so…but love the money!!” and “I emailed ACA over this issue and got a response that the VA is going to allow LPC…I specified that I was wanting to commission in the military but feel I was politely ignored.”

I received a similar response when I inquired about ACA’s interest and action in obtaining recognition: “Yes, I hear you about the progress with the VA which is wonderful. But what I just asked was what’s being done to advance our profession within the military?” The reply to my question was a brief, blank stare and then, “Well, I’m sure the military will follow.” My response was, “Are you really?” (met with a look of doubt and no reply) I sadly shook my head, saying, “That’s not how it works. We need to work on both simultaneously. Our Troops are overseas without our profession NOW—please, let’s not wait another few years.” I don’t like answers that aren’t answers. Let’s address it, not just ignore the issue.

Through the work of ACA and others, the VA updated its policy this past year and now officially recognizes and hires Licensed Professional Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists. However, they are only hired at a lower position/salary than the other professions and will not be promoted as highly as other professions. There are still offices refusing to hire. Hmmm…interesting, right?

Our position with the military/Department of Defense is even lower: Currently no military branch (not the Army, the Air Force, the Marines, the Navy, the Coast Guard) recognizes our profession; nor do they offer one single officer position for the professions of Counselor or Therapist. For example, a “Behavioral Health officer” or “Behavioral Health Counselor” in charge of staff at a mental health clinic or office may be a Psychiatric Nurse or a Psychiatrist or a Licensed Masters-level Social Worker. But no actual Counselors or Therapists.

Here’s something to think about: Troops deployed overseas are not receiving the same level of behavioral health care as someone back in the States. Why? Because they do not have the option of choosing our profession and benefiting from what we offer. Oftentimes, they are literally only offered medications—and no alternative. How do I know this? Because I just returned from Afghanistan and I witnessed this practice in some areas. Not all of course—there were some amazing military officers offering great expertise, various treatments to meet the needs of clients, and top-notch care such as my OIC, Dr. Sebastian Schnellbacher.

We have something of great value to add to the Behavioral Health services offered to Troops in the military. We are THE experts in counseling and therapy. So why are we still the only ones excluded? What do you think? Here are some suggestions that have been shared with me over the past year, to include quotes from readers’ comments:

1.It comes down to politics and territorialism
2.VA division heads continue to seek social workers and just because a new classification exists they don’t have to use it
3.Military branches do not want to use up officer spots already designated elsewhere
4.CACREP debate
5.ACA is not really trying to get the DoD or USDPH to commission LPC’s. Mainly due to a lack of knowledge about how the military really is
6.ACA is chiefly concerned with other issues such as school counseling
7.Many are “confused” about what an LPC is and we use the word “counselor” to describe Social Workers—it is misrepresentative
8.As a profession there is a lack of consistency among different states
9.The military is a cash cow for the pharmaceutical companies—adding our profession will slash profits

So why are vital professions still being excluded? How long will this be the case? And perhaps the best question to ask at this time—before another entire year goes by with no change—What will it take to change this?

Natosha Monroe is a counselor and PhD candidate passionate about increasing Troop access to counseling services. Her blog contents are not representative of the Army or Department of Defense in any way.

Contact Name

Contact Title

Contact Email

Contact Phone

Related Info


  1. 5 Jason 30 May
    Any hoops I can jump through to be commissioned as a LPC?

    Regards.  Jason 
  2. 4 Charles 11 Apr
    Thisis a major issue, I myself am a veteran and wanted to go back into the service as active duty with a commission and serve our troops. However, to my despair I found out first hand that only the social worker license is recognized at the master's degree level. Why is this? More importantly, what can be done to change it?
  3. 3 Shawn 22 Jun
    Good Points! I just retired out of the Air Force Reserve last year and am now finishing my masters in counseling. I would be a perfect fit for providing therapy to military members but decided against the MSW, so no dice. I wish there was something that could be done, but the military is so slow to catch up on anything. I work in a VA program and I am always surprised at the way the rules of various programs have unintended consequences or do not accomplish what they were originally designed for. The whole system is such a mess!
  4. 2 Jason Batten 22 Jul
    What could we do to pressure ACA into taking on this very necessary fight?
  5. 1 Yvonne 25 Jul
    Thank you for your advocacy in this area. I am an LPC who was interested in joining. Yet, (of course) was told NO. Even if I wanted to Enlist, I would still not be able to use my degree. I was told to go back to school for Social Work or PhD. It is so frustrating that every one else feels an LPC is worthy yet no MOS exists. I work with the military now providing counseling but I certainly wish I could join.


  1. RadEditor - HTML WYSIWYG Editor. MS Word-like content editing experience thanks to a rich set of formatting tools, dropdowns, dialogs, system modules and built-in spell-check.
    RadEditor's components - toolbar, content area, modes and modules
    Toolbar's wrapper 
    Content area wrapper
    RadEditor's bottom area: Design, Html and Preview modes, Statistics module and resize handle.
    It contains RadEditor's Modes/views (HTML, Design and Preview), Statistics and Resizer
    Editor Mode buttonsStatistics moduleEditor resizer
    RadEditor's Modules - special tools used to provide extra information such as Tag Inspector, Real Time HTML Viewer, Tag Properties and other.
Join Now

  • Learn more about your specialty—join a division
  • Maximize your Professional Development
  • Stay ahead of the educational learning curve
  • Advocate for the counseling care of tomorrow
  • Expand your networking connections
  • More Member Benefits