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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

  • White House Supports Additional Type of Group Health-Care Insurance Plan

    Jan 17, 2018
    Late last month, the White House proposed new rules that would make it easier for small businesses, sole proprietors, and individuals to group together in “association” to buy insurance in the large group market. These association plans, as they are known, would be exempt from many of the consumer protections—including required mental health coverage—that are mandated by the Affordable Care Act, which now provides coverage for some of the same types of customers.
    Read More
  • ACA Weighs In on Wording Restrictions at the Centers for Disease Control

    Dec 20, 2017
    According to recent press reports, officials at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have been told to not use the terms “diversity,” “transgender,” “evidence-based,” and “science-based,” among others, in the upcoming budget request for 2019. This prompted American Counseling Association Chief Executive Officer Richard Yep to write the Acting Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) about the directive.
    Read More
  • Tax Bill Compromise Under Way

    Dec 15, 2017
    The House and Senate have approved different versions of tax reform and now the conference committee is preparing to release the final compromise version, which both houses must then pass before the measure goes to the President for signature. There has been a strong effort to move these bills through the legislative process in order to put a bill on the President's desk by December 25.
    Read More
  • Take Action: Insurance, Mental Health Coverage in Peril

    Nov 22, 2017
    A bill proposing revisions to the nation’s tax structure is now in the Senate. That measure contains a provision that would negatively affect the clients professional counselors serve, in terms of their access to early intervention, preventative care, and affordable insurance and mental health care costs. Ultimately, that provision would affect the ability of clients and prospective clients to see professional counselors and to obtain mental health care.
    Read More
  • American Counseling Association Foundation Offers Grants of Up to $500

    Oct 19, 2017
    The American Counseling Association Foundation is seeking proposals from American Counseling Association members for grants of up to $500 in three areas: Disaster-Relief Efforts, Growing Healthy and Confident Kids, and General Needs.
    Read More
Click here to read past Latest News stories from ACA.

ACA Government Affairs Blog

December Federal/State Update: Washington Was Busy But Punted on Funding the Government

by Scott MacConomy | Dec 30, 2017


Tax Reform and Repeal of the ACA Individual Mandate Signed into Law

  • President Trump signed tax reform legislation, which includes repeal of Obamacares individual mandate, into law.  (See the blog for more info.)

Congress passed a Continuing Resolution (“the CR”) to keep the government running through January 19tlh, giving itself yet another extension on passing the bill to fund all the federal agencies through September, 2018.     

  • $2.85 billion to keep the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) funded through March 31


  • Authority for CMS to help states deal with CHIP-related funding shortfalls

  • A four-week extension of spy powers under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Program


  • Money for community health centers and other health programs (made possible by a $750 million cut to the ACA Prevention and Public Health fund)

  • A waiver to ensure that automatic cuts to mandatory spending programs doesn’t go into effect because of the cost of the tax bill.


  • Extra funding for some defense programs

Executive Branch

Center for Disease Control (CDC) Releases Updated Mortality Rate Reports

  • Topline Summary: U.S. life expectancy fell again for the second year in a row while opioid misuse is up  


  • CDC found drug overdoses killed 63,600 Americans in 2016, a 21 percent surge in overdoses. driven by a doubling in the rate of deaths from synthetic opioids like fentanyl report


  • Where drug deaths are highest: West Virginia had the highest rate of drug overdose deaths last year, with 52 deaths per 100,000 people, followed by Ohio, New Hampshire, the District of Columbia and Pennsylvania, all of which reported nearly 40 deaths per 100,000 people.

ACA Open Enrollment Surges to Almost 9 Million Sign-Ups in Final Days

  • CMS announced that 8,822,329 individuals had either selected plans or been passively reenrolled for 2018 through This number is only slightly below the 9.2 million plan selections for 2017, even though the open enrollment period was half as long and much less widely publicized.
  • Administration Likely to Release New Regulations Regarding Short Term Health Plans

  • The Trump administration is expected to release regulations that will expand access to inexpensive, relatively skimpy short-term health plans — a move that could further destabilize the Affordable Care Act's insurance markets on top of the pending repeal of the individual mandate.


  • Currently, consumers can only keep a short-term plan for three months. The new rule is expected to extend that to a year.


  • Short Term plans don't have to abide by the ACA's protections for people with pre-existing conditions, and they often don't cover a comprehensive set of benefits. That means they're really only attractive to healthy, younger people. The risk with short-term health plans is that they'll pull healthy people out of the risk pool for ACA coverage, further de-stabilizing state marketplaces

Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act -- Signed Into Law

  • Sponsor: Rep. Susan W. Brooks (R-IN) / Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN)

  • Summary:

    • This bill directs the Department of Justice (DOJ) to report on Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs mental health practices and services that could be adopted by law enforcement agencies.


    • DOJ's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services must report on programs to address the psychological health and well-being of law enforcement officers.

    • Amends the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 to expand the allowable use of grant funds under the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program to include establishing peer mentoring mental health and wellness pilot programs within state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies.


    • DOJ must coordinate with the Department of Health and Human Services to develop educational resources for mental health providers regarding the culture of law enforcement agencies and therapies for mental health issues common to law enforcement officers.


    • DOJ must also: (1) review existing crisis hotlines, recommend improvements, and research annual mental health checks; (2) examine the mental health and wellness needs of federal officers; and (3) ensure that recommendations, resources, or programs under this bill protect the privacy of participating officers.

SAMHSA Announces New Chief of Staff, Mary Fleming

  • Mary Fleming has served as SAMHSA’s Director of the Office of Policy, Planning, and Innovation (OPPI) since 2013. Ms. Fleming later served as the Branch Chief of the National Liaison Branch within OPPI, which focused on special topics in behavioral health such as veterans and emergency response. Prior to joining SAMHSA, Ms. Fleming was the chief executive officer of Allegheny HealthChoices, Inc., where she was responsible for fiscal, clinical, and quality oversight and reporting for the Medicaid managed behavioral health care program. In previous positions, she helped manage federal, state, and county resources and was responsible for providing services for persons with mental illness and/or substance use disorders.

CMS Names New Head of CMS’ Innovation Center (CMMI)

  • CMS named Adam Boehler, a California startup executive, as the new head of the CMS Innovation Center. CMMI would likely take a turn under Boehler's leadership. Republicans were sometimes frustrated by the perception that providers were being dragooned into novel value-based pay reimbursement strategies, and earlier this year the agency solicited comments on how it might contribute in the future.


Alexander-Murray Still Talking ACA Stabilization Deal

  • Sen. Alexander (R-TN) and Sen. Murray (D-WA) said in separate interviews that they want to resume their bipartisan talks on a package to prop up Obamacare markets and that the legislation may expand.
  • President Donald Trump called Alexander to "reaffirm his interest in a bipartisan health care bill and [to] get it done in January"
  • Trump's backing could prove pivotal to getting the support of deeply skeptical House Republicans.


The Bipartisan 'Problem Solvers' To Announce Legislation to Help Stabilize Individual Markets

  • This bipartisan House caucus announced a bill backed by 26 House members, including Reps. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) and Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), although it has little chance of being brought to the floor in the near future.

  • The Bipartisan Market Stabilization and Innovation Act would fund Cost Sharing Reduction (CSR) payments, establish a 10-year $115 billion fund for states to stabilize the insurance marketplace; repeal the medical device tax; and narrow the employer mandate so that it only applies to businesses with more than 500 employees.


CMS Approves Five-Year Extension of Texas’ 1115 Medicaid waiver and an Unprecedented Ten-Year Extension of Mississippi’s 1115 Waiver

  • Texas


    • CMS approved a $25 billion, five-year extension of a Medicaid waiver that has funneled  nearly $37 billion to Texas hospitals since 2011.


    • The $3.1 billion pool of money that state hospitals use to fund charity care will remain level for the first two years of the waiver, according to a letter from HHS to the state health commission. Starting in October 2019, CMS said it will "resize" that pool to more accurately reflect the hospitals' charity care


  • Mississippi


    • Renews the waiver for the first ever 10 year extension of the Medicaid Section 1115 demonstration


    • Allows MS to continue providing family planning services for people with income of up to 194% of the federal poverty level.


    • The CMS said the 10-year extension is part of the agency's effort to give states greater flexibility in running their Medicaid programs, without having to ask the government for frequent approvals. Up to now, the agency typically granted Section 1115 waivers, which are supposed to be budget-neutral for the federal government, for five-year periods.


    • The waiver program offers benefits for family planning and related services for low-income women and men ages 13 through 44 who are not enrolled in Medicaid, Medicare, the Children's Health Insurance Program, or other qualifying health plans that include family planning services.


    • Mississippi has not expanded Medicaid to people with incomes up to 138% of poverty. If it did, many of the waiver beneficiaries would be able to receive family planning along with comprehensive health benefits through the regular Medicaid program.


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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.