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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)
Twitter (@CounselingViews)
LinkedIn (American Counseling Association)

Counseling Today, the award-winning monthly magazine of ACA, is on:
Facebook (Counseling Today)
Twitter  (@ACA_CTOnline) 

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.

Latest News From ACA

  • ACA Asks White House to End Forced Family Separations at U.S. Border

    Jun 20, 2018
    The American Counseling Association called on the Trump Administration to immediately end its practice of separating children from their families at the international border and ports of entry. The practice, part of the Administration’s new “zero tolerance” policy, has separated more than 2,000 children from their families and placed them in facilities at multiple sites throughout the United States.
    Read More
  • Gun Violence Trauma: ACA Offers Free Resources for Counselors

    May 21, 2018
    ACA members—and all professional counselors—are fully prepared to assist anyone in need of support following an episode of trauma.
    Read More
  • American Counseling Association and the American School Counselor Association Announce New Collaborative Relationship

    Mar 21, 2018
    The American Counseling Association (ACA) and the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) are pleased to announce a new collaborative relationship that will support continued growth of both organizations as we continue to serve the best interests of school counselors nationwide. As of April 1, both organizations will operate independently and autonomously – a formal recognition of the existing relationship, which was voted on by the ACA Governing Council on March 21, 2018. ACA and ASCA will continue to work together on common advocacy issues that strengthen the work of school counselors to support children and adolescents.
    Read More
  • In Support of Counselors and Students Seeking a Reduction in Gun Violence

    Mar 14, 2018
    The American Counseling Association recently adopted a resolution calling for more school counselors to support children affected by gun trauma.
    Read More
  • ACA Calls for More School Counselors to Support Children Affected by Gun Trauma

    Mar 01, 2018
    On Tuesday, Feb. 27, the Executive Committee of the American Counseling Association adopted a resolution supporting and highlighting the role that school counselors play in addressing the anxiety, stress, and trauma students experience after a school shooting. The resolution underscores the vital role that school counselors play in helping students cope with adverse conditions.
    Read More
Click here to read past Latest News stories from ACA.

ACA Government Affairs Blog

O Bamacare, O Bamacare, How Long Will You Sur-vi-ive?

by Scott MacConomy | Dec 28, 2017

Rumors of Obamacare’s demise are greatly exaggerated.  It took a hit from the tax bill Congress just passed, but the health insurance program is still on the books.  The just-completed enrollment period reached 96 percent of the enrollment from last year despite the period being half as long and the advertising budget being slashed.  Enrollment was also surprisingly strong given the rise in premiums in many areas of the country. The expanded Medicaid benefits in many states are also still in place.

Premiums are rising for various reasons.  One reason is structural problems with Obamacare that could be fixed by Congress if a majority wanted to.  Another reason is that health insurance premiums have been rising every year for decades.  A third is the uncertainty insurance companies have to deal with when they set annual rates for Obamacare plans.  Insurers don’t like uncertainty so they price it in.  They have not known from month to month if the White House will continue to make the payments to them that help them provide discounts to low income Americans, or if Congress will pass legislation that solves that problem for them.  The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that premiums for silver plans will rise 15 percent in 2018 simply because of this uncertainty. 

The tax bill ended the individual mandate, the penalty for those who do not have health insurance from Obamacare or any source.  CBO estimates that this will result in 13 million more people being uninsured by 2027 than under the individual mandate, and that insurance premiums will rise ten percent for all people in the individual market (not just Obamacare) because it will have fewer younger, healthier participants.   But the loss of younger, healthier people will definitely be a problem for Obamacare, likely exacerbating the rise in premiums. 

Obamacare helps counselors by providing insurance for low income Americans through the insurance exchanges, by ensuring that preexisting conditions including mental health issues do not preclude people from finding insurance, and by requiring that Obamacare policies cover mental health.  Obamacare has also made mental health treatment available to millions of low income people through the expansion of Medicaid benefits.  Prior to the implementation of Obamacare requirements, 38 percent of individual plans did not include mental health benefits. 

It is not yet clear whether further attempts to repeal the entire program will be on the Congressional agenda in 2018.  Some members of the majority believe they could be successful with a different approach, such as scrapping Obamacare and sending most of the money it costs to the states in health care block grants.  This idea was gaining traction last summer before Congress decided to turn to tax legislation.  Others believe that it would be more productive to work on a bill that stabilizes Obamacare’s finances, or an infrastructure bill, or something else that can get bipartisan support.  The political calculations change in an election year. 

The American Counseling Association will continue to represent the interests of counselors as Congress considers Obamacare and other healthcare legislation.  


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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.