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The American Counseling Association (ACA) is a not-for-profit, professional and educational organization dedicated to the growth and advancement of the counseling profession. Founded in 1952, ACA is the world's largest association exclusively representing professional counselors in various practice settings.
Our Mission: To enhance the quality of life in society by promoting the development of professional counselors, advancing the counseling profession, and using the profession and practice of counseling to promote respect for human dignity and diversity.
ACA is on:
Facebook (American Counseling Association)
LinkedIn (American Counseling Association)
Counseling Today, the award-winning monthly magazine of ACA, is on:
Facebook (Counseling Today)
10 Things to Know About Counselors and Counseling
1. Professional counseling is a therapeutic relationship that empowers diverse individuals, families, and groups to accomplish mental health, wellness, education, and career goals.
2. Common specialties within professional counseling include mental health counseling, school counseling, career counseling, addictions counseling, and couples and family counseling.
3. Many counselors are specifically trained to support individuals or groups in the aftermath of natural or man-made disasters.
4. Professional counselors abide by ACA’s Code of Ethics.
5. Professional counselors can diagnose and/or treat mental health disorders.
6. Counselors do not prescribe medications.
7. School counselors must be certified/licensed by a state education department to work in a public school.
8. Counselors working in mental health settings (mental health centers, college counseling centers, hospitals, substance abuse centers, etc.) must be licensed in their state as a professional counselor.
9. Rehabilitation counselors typically must be Certified Rehabilitation Counselors, especially if they work in the traditional setting of a state Office for Vocational Rehabilitation.
10. The differences among counselors, psychologists, and psychiatrists can be summarized by differences in education and focus: Professional counselors have a graduate degree in counseling. A master's degree is the entry-level requirement. Counselors focus on client wellness, as opposed to psychopathology. Psychologists have a graduate degree in psychology, and licensed psychologists typically have a degree in clinical, counseling, or school psychology. Of all the mental health professions, psychologists are the best trained in conducting research. Psychiatrists are medical doctors who have usually completed a residency in psychiatry. Their niche is prescribing psychotropic drugs.
Facts and Figures about Mental Health and Professional Counseling
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services publishes statistics on mental health in America here.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes employment statistics on mental health counselors here. School and career counselors here.
ACA publishes state-by-state counts of mental health professionals here.
ACA Offers Condolences to Those Affected by the Tragic Events in Las Vegas
The American Counseling Association wishes to convey our deepest sympathy to those who have been harmed by the Las Vegas shooting that occurred Oct. 1, the family members and friends who have lost a loved one, and the entire community affected by this tragedy. We are holding each and every one of you in our thoughts.
“Our deepest condolences are with the families of those who were killed, and we send our well wishes for those who were injured,” ACA President Gerard Lawson said. “Counselors recognize the toll that violence takes, some of which can be seen and some of which is not observable to the outside world. Even those who witnessed these events from a distance through the media can feel affected by the trauma. Counselors are ready, willing, and able to assist those who may need support following this senseless violence, and are committed to continuing our work in schools and communities to prevent violence in the future.”
“Once again, ACA members are called upon to help children and adults cope with the emotional aspects of disasters,” ACA Chief Professional Officer David Kaplan said. “The shootings in Las Vegas show how crucial it is to have professional counselors on the forefront in assisting people with both direct and vicarious trauma. Healing will take time and we will be thinking of everyone affected in Las Vegas.”
Events like this can cause a ripple effect throughout the nation and will require long-term attention and support. One consequence that professional counselors across the country should watch for is vicarious trauma. Individuals may feel traumatized by the incident, even if they were not there when it occurred. Everyone processes trauma differently—and professional counselors must remain watchful to attend to the unique needs of each individual client.
We encourage professional counselors to lend support for those suffering from this devastating loss in any way they can. For resources related to trauma counseling, see the ACA fact sheet titled 1:1 Crisis Counseling (Fact Sheet 10).
Additional ACA fact sheets and resources that may be helpful include:
to read past Latest News stories from ACA.
Infographics for Use by the Media
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Endorsed Scope of Practice for Professional Counseling
The independent practice of counseling encompasses the provision of professional counseling services to individuals, groups, families, couples and organizations through the application of accepted and established mental health counseling principles, methods, procedures and ethics.
Counseling promotes mental health wellness, which includes the achievement of social, career, and emotional development across the lifespan, as well as preventing and treating mental disorders and providing crisis intervention.
Counseling includes, but is not limited to, psychotherapy, diagnosis, evaluation; administration of assessments, tests and appraisals; referral; and the establishment of counseling plans for the treatment of individuals, couples, groups and families with emotional, mental, addiction and physical disorders.
Counseling encompasses consultation and program evaluation, program administration within and to schools and organizations, and training and supervision of interns, trainees, and pre-licensed professional counselors through accepted and established principles, methods, procedures, and ethics of counselor supervision.
The practice of counseling does not include functions or practices that are not within the professional’s training or education.