ACAeNews for Mental Health, Private Practice and Community Agency Counselors  | Volume I | Number 1

ACAeNews for Mental Health, Private Practice and Community Agency Counselors is an electronic, members-only newsletter published three times per year by the American Counseling Association.

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Introductory Note

Dear ACA Member:

I am pleased to send you this first issue in our new series of Special Focus enewsletters: ACAeNews: Mental Health, Private Practice and Community Agency Counselors. It is one of four Special Focus enewsletters that will debut over the next several months. The other three are:

  • ACAeNews for School Counselors
  • ACAeNews for Counselor Educators
  • ACAeNews for Counseling Students and New Professionals

There is no subscription fee for ACA Members-this is a new member benefit. To ensure that all members are aware of this new series, we will send the first two issues of each enewsletter to all members for whom we have an email address. Upon receipt of the second issue of each title, you will be provided directions to opt-in to receive further issues. If you do not wish to receive a title after the second issue, no action is required on your part. All ACA members will continue to receive the regular biweekly ACAeNews.

We hope you find this new benefit useful and we welcome your feedback. Please email the editor at

Richard Yep, CAE
Executive Director
American Counseling Association

4 Questions 4: ACA President Brian Canfield on Mental Health in America

Dr. Brian S. Canfield
Dr. Brian S. Canfield
The National Institute of Mental Health has estimated 26.2 percent of American adults suffer from a diagnosable mental illness (57.5 million Americans in 2004), and 21 percent of children ages nine to 17 suffer from a mental illness or addiction disorder. These statistics become more telling when we realize that the US healthcare system is far from adequate in its treatment of these individuals.

ACAeNews: What role can the professional counseling community play in eliminating the stigma and discrimination about people with mental illness?

Brian: Professional counselors, in all specialization areas, can play a key role in helping society better understand the concept of "mental illness" and in doing so reduce the stigma and discrimination which often accompanies these challenges. Given a counselor's emphasis on the developmental capacity of humans to improve and overcome many of life's challenges, counselors are perhaps the best equipped group of professionals to play such a role in society.

For one thing, I think it important in many instances that we question the utility of the concept of "mental illness." Certainly there are physical diseases that influence brain functioning and affect behavior, but many of the processes we refer to or classify as "mental illnesses" are merely social constructs, reflecting the consequences of poor environment and/or poor personal choices. For the past century, our society has been moving down a path that "pathologizes" an array of behaviors deemed undesirable. There is of course a tremendous financial incentive to treating many problems through the medical model lens of "illness," because symptoms can be treated - often with medication - and reimbursed for payment under the current health system structure. While such an approach works for many, it falls short for many others.

We seem to dismiss or minimize the importance of personal responsibility and choice in adapting to life circumstances. Counselors can challenge this status quo and help people transcend unfortunate life circumstances by assisting them in making better life choices, by expanding options, and by developing skills for better decision-making and problem solving. I'm not advocating that counseling entirely replace traditional medical model approaches that emphasize pathology, but I do advocate that counseling offers a better alternative in many instances.

ACAeNews: What are the most significant challenges facing counselors in mental health and community agencies settings today?

Brian: I believe that scope of practice and professional competition from other mental health groups present the most immediate and significant challenges to the counseling profession. Counselors have fought for decades to establish professional counseling as a bona fide profession. Currently, there are more than 100,000 licensed counselors in 49 states, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. Though we hope this will change in the near future, California remains the sole hold out in recognizing and regulating the practice of counseling.

Because the mental health field can be characterized by increased competition among several groups (i.e., social workers, MFTs, psychologists) for many of the same jobs, it's important for counselors - through ACA, its divisions, and branches - to engage these other professional bodies and attempt to find common ground for cooperation and collaboration. The reality is that there are far more people who need help than there are qualified professionals. The energy and resources which professional groups deplete to fight professional turf battles is, in my opinion, a short-sighted strategy and poor use of resources.

ACAeNews: What tools do counselors need to be more effective in their work in mental health, private practice and community settings?

Brian: Competency is the most important aspect for effective work. Not just knowledge and technical skills, but a disposition and mind-set that respect clients and recognize the role of the counselor as a "helper." I think the profession has realized tremendous gains in this area, particularly in the past two decades, by building a solid educational and training core, which leads to licensure in 49 states. ACA, along with its affiliate partners such as AASCB, CACREP, NBCC, and various state branch organizations will continue to focus on ways to improve professional standards and competencies.

ACAeNews: What role can ACA play in the improvement and extension of a national mental health treatment agenda that includes a counseling dimension?

Brian: I think it important for us to realize that the entire mental health field is in many aspects a subset of the larger medical health field. Mental health treatment accounts for about 10% of the overall health field, so we will always be led by macro changes in the healthcare system. A clear example of this was the emergence of managed care in the 80s and 90s. Managed care came about in response to spiraling healthcare costs. The reasons for the emergence of managed care had little to do with counseling, per se, but managed care has had a profound impact on counselors, particularly those working in private practice and community settings. ACA will continue to advocate on behalf of counselors and the counseling profession to ensure that the public has access to the high-quality of mental health services available from professional counselors. I think such advocacy efforts are a good use of resources.

Dr. Brian S. Canfield is Professor of Counseling at the University of San Diego. His email is:

SAMHSA Funds Pilot Programs to Enhance Mental Health Systems

Mental health counselors will want to watch what transpires in 11 pilot programs funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and announced in December. Initiatives in Alabama, Florida, Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Minnesota, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico and Tennessee are intended to support new and expanded efforts to improve the capacity and effectiveness of mental health systems that foster recovery and meet the multiple needs of consumers. The pilot programs will explore new ways of getting mental healthcare services to everyone in need - a critical public health challenge. Counselors in these 11 jurisdictions should monitor the extent to which professional counseling and counselors are included in the strategic plans that will be created for these efforts.


Ten Kid's Issues to Watch in 2008

The physicians and editors at KidsHealth have completed their annual examination of health issues that will have an impact on children and have chosen ten important trends that counselors in mental health, private practice and community agency settings will want to watch in the new year. The KidsHealth website is sponsored by the Nemours Foundation, founded in 1936 by philanthropist Alfred I. DuPont.


The Business of Counseling: SBA Tool Answers Startup Questions

Since 1953, the US Small Business Administration (SBA) has been about helping American's start, build and grow businesses. The assistance of this federal agency has aided many tens of thousands of individuals with an entrepreneurial spirit get answers to some of the fundamental questions that stand between them and the world of competitive enterprise.

Counselors interested in establishing a private practice may find a business assessment tool at the SBA website a good place to evaluate their readiness for starting a small business. The tool will prompt you with questions and assist you in evaluating skills, characteristics and experience - as they relate to your preparedness for starting a business. It is simple to use and will take less than five minutes to complete. What you learn may guide you in the next steps required to make the dream of having a private counseling practice a reality.


ACA Members Sound Off!: Universal Counseling Licensure Title

It has been argued that consolidating the many counseling licensure titles that currently exist across states into one standard title would promote licensure portability and reduce public confusion. If counselor licensure boards were to move to one licensure title for all states, what should that title be?

Please take a moment to voice your opinion by clicking on the link below. The poll will be open through March 15 and the results then posted on website and in ACAeNews.

Take the Survey...

News You Can Use: Serving Survivors of Mass Violence and Natural Disasters

Every year, millions of people are affected by both mass violence and natural disasters, such as earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and wildfires. Survivors face the danger of death or physical injury and the possible loss of their homes, possessions, and communities. Such stressors place survivors at risk for behavioral and emotional readjustment problems.

A fact sheet developed by Bruce H. Young, L.C.S.W., Julian D. Ford, Ph.D. and Patricia J. Watson, Ph.D., for the National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder of the US Department of Veterans Affairs considers three questions often asked by survivors, including what they can do to reduce the risk of negative psychological consequences and to best recover from disaster stress.

Researchers are beginning to conduct studies to answer the "what can survivors do" question. Observations by disaster mental-health specialists who assist survivors in the wake of disaster suggest that the following steps help to reduce stress symptoms and to promote post-disaster readjustment. The following construct was developed by Diane Myers.

  • Protect: Find a safe haven that provides shelter; food and liquids; sanitation; privacy; and chances to sit quietly, relax, and sleep at least briefly.
  • Direct: Begin setting and working on immediate personal and family priorities to enable you and your significant others to preserve or regain a sense of hope, purpose, and self-esteem.
  • Connect: Maintain or reestablish communication with family, peers, and counselors in order to talk about your experiences. Take advantage of opportunities to "tell your story" and to be a listener to others as they tell theirs, so that you and they can release the stress a little bit at a time.
  • Select: Identify key resources, such as FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, or the local and state health departments, for clean-up, health, housing, and basic emergency assistance.

View the entire fact sheet...

ACA Has It! Revision of Youth at Risk Now Available

Youth at Risk: A Prevention Resource for Counselors, Teachers, and Parents. Fifth EditionA revision of Youth at Risk: A Prevention Resource for Counselors, Teachers, and Parents. Fifth Edition, is now available from ACA.

The latest version of this best-selling text examines the challenges that can arise during the often difficult transition between adolescence and adulthood. Editors David Capuzzi and Douglas Gross and 25 contributing authors provide the most current information and techniques for addressing dysfunctional family dynamics, low self-esteem, mood disorders, stress and trauma, eating disorders, suicidal behavior, teen sexuality, the needs of queer youth, gang membership, school violence, substance abuse, homelessness, and school dropout.

A new chapter, "'I'll Cry Tomorrow': Diverse Youth and the Scars That Don't Show," provides a detailed look at the unique stressors faced by ethnic minority youth. A complimentary test manual and PowerPoint presentation for instructors' use are available by written request.

2008 | 515 pages | ISBN 1-55620-275-X | ISBN 978-1-55620-275-9
Order #72856 | List Price: $62.95. ACA Member Price: $44.95.

Order Online...

Email Addresses: Arresting the Time Bandits

Have you ever opened your email and found 50, 75 or more messages waiting? To keep their email from becoming a time bandit, busy practitioners across many professional settings are finding that multiple email addresses are necessary to deal with the increased number of connections they need to maintain. A survey conducted by Ipsos for Habeas in 2007 found the following among adult Internet users: One email address: 42%, two or three: 48%, four or five: 5% and six plus: 5%. Multiple addresses allow busy professionals to separate "must see" and priority emails from those that can be reviewed at a more convenient time.

Pass It Along: Rates of Bipolar Diagnosis in Youth Rapidly Climbing

A paper published in the Archives of General Psychiatry reports a 40-fold increase in the rate of diagnosing bipolar disorder in youth over the past decade. This paper raises several important questions:

  • Were physicians under-diagnosing bipolar disorder in the past?
  • Are they over-diagnosing currently?
  • Are more children developing behavioral disorders than in the past?

Over the same time period, the number of visits by adults resulting in a bipolar disorder diagnosis almost doubled. The cause of these increases is unclear. Medication prescription patterns for the two groups were similar. A review of the study, sponsored by the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities Center of Excellence could reveal significant implications for the counseling community.


Numbers & Trends: Suicide Statistics in the US

In any given year in the United States, approximately 30,000 individuals die by their own hands and thousands more attempt suicide. The Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC) offers ongoing information, research, grants and resources for counselors and other mental health professionals.


Inside the JCD: "Heads Up" for MH, PP and CA Counselors

The winter 2008 edition of the ACA's Journal of Counseling & Development, as always is packed with valuable practice and research articles, but the following may be of particular interest to mental health, private practice and community agency counselors.

The Effectiveness of Individual Wellness Counseling on the Wellness of Law Enforcement Officers
by Holly Tanigoshi, Anthony P. Kontos and Theodore P. Remley

Serving Clients With Hearing Loss: Best Practices in Mental Health Counseling
by Linda Fusick

Best Practices for Counseling in Cardiac Rehabilitation Settings
by Alia I. Sheikh and Sylvia A. Marotta

Book Review of The Evidence-Based Practice: Methods, Models and Tools for Mental Health Professionals and Evidenced-Based Practice Manual Research and Outcome Measures in Health and Human Services
by William A. Maesen

Watch your mailbox for the winter 2008 edition of the JCD!

Websites That Work for You: Cyberspace as a Counseling Resource

Internet websites that help counselors working in mental health, private practice and community agency settings are growing in content, usability and number. Each quarter, this newsletter will feature a select group of sites designed to help counselors. Readers are encouraged to refer their personal favorites for future reference in this feature. Send your website recommendations to:

Counseling in the Spotlight: Increasing Your "Newsworthiness"

Ever watch a television piece and think that you are equally knowledgeable and experienced as the person being interviewed? Ever read a newspaper story and wonder how the interviewee had been determined to be the "expert" on the topic? Your puzzlement could be well founded and you may be surprised to learn that the distance between you and the media may be closer than you think.

Why is media attention important to counseling and counselors? First, an essential aspect of counseling advocacy is making our publics fully aware of the needs of clients and the myriad ways counselors serve those needs. In the case of public funded agencies and organizations, improved understanding of counseling can have a positive effect sustaining that support and strengthening those programs. For counselors working in private practice settings, public awareness activities can be one dimension of how counseling services are marketed to prospective consumers.

ACA has encouraged counselors to promote their profession and sponsors Counseling Awareness Month each April as a time of celebration and communication about our important work. Take a few minutes to review the ACA Counseling Awareness Month Celebration Guide and learn how you can do a more effective job of communicating the importance of counseling to your publics. Then don't be surprised if you are the one standing before the camera or responding to the reporter's query.


SAMHSA Database of Evidenced-Based Programs

Mental health counseling practitioners and researchers will find the National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices (NREPP) a valuable database for the treatment of mental and substance abuse disorders. Sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMSHA), the NREPP is a searchable online registry of interventions that have been examined and rated by independent reviewers. The bottom line: the NREPP purpose is to assist the public in identifying approaches to preventing and treating mental and/or substance use disorders that have been scientifically tested and that can be readily disseminated to the field.


About the New Member Benefit: ACAeNews Special Focus Editions

ACAeNews for Mental Health, Private Practice and Community Agency Counselors is one of four new electronic newsletters that will be published three times per year each by the American Counseling Association for the benefit of members working in these unique settings. It is disseminated as an opt-in subscription enewsletter and is a free benefit of ACA membership. The next issue will include information on how to opt-in as a subscriber.

The other three special focus enewsletters are:

  • ACAeNews for School Counselors
  • ACAeNews for Counselor Educators
  • ACAeNews for Counseling Students and New Professionals

Any reference to a product, service or activity or listing of a website in this publication does not imply endorsement by ACA. Any views and opinions are those of the sponsoring organization and may or may not be shared by ACA.

Direct comments, questions and submissions to All submissions will be subject to review by ACA for accuracy, timeliness and relevance to the readership and may be edited.

Brian Canfield, President

Richard Yep, Executive Director

Debra Bass, Interim Director of Marketing

Frank Burtnett, ACAeNews Editor

ACA Website:

© 2008, American Counseling Association, 5999 Stevenson Avenue, Alexandria, VA 22304. Telephone: 703/823-9800. Email:

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